Surfing, Skateboarding, Music, Photography, Travel, Culture and general antics of the youth on the run.

Conversation With: Kai Borg The Interview

01.24.19 – TAGS: , ,
Portraits: Tom Carey

Kai Garcia embodies respect. A respect well earned and honored.

But much has changed for Mr. Garcia in recent years as different things took on new meanings and what used to be important in life just wasn’t anymore. Kai has been going through some significant life changes, some documented, some not, so we jumped at the chance to catch up with the man himself and to hear first hand what he’s up to and where he’s headed. What Youth’s, Tom Carey, who happens to be a close personal friend, sat down with Kai while he was in So Cal on some business and simply hit record. Hope you enjoy it. – WY

How did you break onto the surfing scene?
I grew up in Hawaii. I grew up with everyone. I come from the 80’s generation.

Who are the guys you came up with and looked up to? In the 80’s Kauai was pretty far off
the map, right?
Yeah, I basically grew up with a lot of local guys that nobody had heard of. A couple guys that people
would know is Byron Wong, Titus and Ali Kai Kinimaka, and Terry Chung. There’s a
whole bunch of them but those are the ones that made a name for themselves.

What were the things they taught you growing up?
It was really old school back then. It was pretty hardcore. Black and white with everything.

Dog eat dog, respect your elders?
It was respect your elders but you know, it’s a ‘you’re in or you’re’ out kind of deal. You have to
earn your way. Nothing is given and everything is earned. It was hard knocks. It wasn’t easy
that’s for sure.

Was there an annual pilgrimage to the North Shore every year? Did you have to prove yourself there
before anything else?
No, there was Titus, Max and Ali Kai. They were known on Oahu back then. Ali Kai brought me
and my brother over in ’86 for our first trip to the North Shore. We stayed at Max Medeiros’ house
right next to where Foodland is now. We basically met everybody. All our idols, our heroes and everyone
at the mags. All the Hawaiians. All the Aussies. It was an eye opener. I wanted to come back as soon as I left! I
already had an intro and had met all the hardcore guys already and had one foot in the door but
didn’t even realize it.

Was that Kauai crew there to help pave the way?
It was more like this is Hawaii. This is our place and you’ve got to hold it down. You’re in or
you’re out.

The North Shore has changed so much since the Volcom house days. It obviously
used to be much wilder in those days. Do you still see guys that go over there and try and be
a tough guy, or whatever? What do you say to kids like that? There’s got to be a pecking order no matter what. There has to be respect. When people come to surf Pipeline, they think they’re tough. I don’t see that. There’s no tough kids that want to come
here and surf Pipeline. If you’re tough, you’re a full-time fighter. There’s no time to do that and
still go surf. If you are claiming to be tough, you are a wannabe. A poser. Who wants to be
tough? There’s always someone tougher than you. It’s a big facade and it never ends well.

Do you like the scene on the North Shore more now or 20-years ago? I think everyone is nicer now probably because of social media.

Everyone gets along. I think it’s fine. It wasn’t exactly fun back in the day when you had to do what you had to do. Times change
and you have to evolve with it. I’m not living in the past. Before is before. Now is now.

Switching gears a bit, at what point did you pick up jiu-jitsu?
I picked it up because there was a lot of Brazilians coming to Hawaii at the time and an influx of
them in the surf. I got introduced to it and I loved it from the beginning. It was go surf and then
go train. I loved it and never stopped.

Tell me about your time in Brazil.
In jiu-jitsu everything was in Brazil back then and I wanted to go to the motherland of training. I started
training there and Royler Gracie had me enter the state tournament. I won that and he wanted me
to enter the Brasileiro against all of Brasil. I broke my foot in the final but that ignited it. I came
back the next year and did a couple more tournaments. Worlds came along and I won that. That
was 97 and 98. It was just a blur. Feels like so long ago. I don’t even look back on it anymore to be

What do you think has given you more. Surfing or Jiu Jitsu?
Surfing has given me everything I have in my life. It has given me a job. It has given me a life. A
passion. Healing. Free of stress. It’s a really pure moment to be out there in the water. Grappling
was just an add on to it all. It has been a getaway and escape for me from everything that was I
dealing with internally. It helped me not get it out on the streets or with the wrong people or anything like
that. It was an outlet for me.

What are some of the things you might mention an up-and-coming surfer from California that is super-green and knows nothing about jiu jitsu and wants to learn?
You got to be consistent. No matter what you do, you have to practice. You have to drill. You
can’t just bang your head and roll, roll, roll. You drill to instill.

When did it become competitive for you and when did you feel like you had a future in it?
I never knew I had a future in anything. Everything was day-to-day all the way till I was 29 or
30. There was no plan for the future. Everything was blooming and happening but I had never
been a real ambitious guy, to be honest.

What is your biggest achievement in your eyes?
To be able to raise my kids and love my wife. Giving them the love and guidance that I never
had. What you do in life, that’s not your legacy. Your legacy is your kids. Whatever you do in
life, if you’re a top athlete in the world, that’s your God-given talent. That doesn’t mean anything.
You were born with it. What matters is when the rubber hits the road and how you carry yourself
and how you treat people. It’s about how you treat your family.

I’ve had the chance to hang out with your son, Kaikoa, he’s such a humble and nice kid. What are the things you try and instill in him?
I try to instill humility and to appreciate what you have. There’s no handouts in life. Everything
you get you have to earn and keep moving forward. Learn from your mistakes because they are
all life-lessons. It’s not what you did, it’s what your doing today. As long as you keep moving
forward and progressing, even if its baby steps, you’re still moving forward. Don’t have any
regrets in life. All of your regrets are stepping stones to where you are today if you are lucky
enough to learn from them.

Do you have any regrets?
I have zero.

Do you think your family is proud of your achievements?
I have no idea to be honest. They are just happy that I’m married and healthy. That I have a house
and am paying my bills. Being a good a member of society. That’s all you can really hope for in
your kids.

What’s your role now with RVCA? What have they allowed you to do in regards to
growing as a person? How happy are you to be with a company that has the same passions
as you?
It’s a blessing. To go to RVCA and see Pat Tenore’s vision and the direction he’s going in is a
blessing. I don’t have to be apart of surfing or go babysit anyone anymore. Being apart of RVCA
Sport and having launched that brand and being an advocate for them on the North Shore and
how they have their hands on the pulse, I love it. I have access to all the top grapplers, boxers
and fighters in the world. Since the day Pat started RVCA, its been incredible.

Did you ever envision surfing and jiu jitsu becoming so intertwined?
No, but in retrospect, I should have because when I was in Rio everybody surfed. I didn’t connect
the dots at the time. Even if they aren’t affiliated with RVCA, they come to the North Shore to
surf. We get to train and pass knowledge. It’s incredible. We get to train and meet so many high-
caliber people from every aspect.

What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to know about the real Kai
That I’m a God fearing man and that I’m a good father, husband, and uncle. Everything else doesn’t
matter. You don’t have to be blood to be family. I try and treat everyone as kind and evenly as I
can nowadays. I still look how I look but I can’t help that. God made me look like this. I can’t
help my old reputation, it is what it is but what I can do is control myself and how I treat

Last question. Who gave you the nickname “Kaiborg” ?
I have no idea.




don nyugen what youth conversations with

Conversation With: Don “Nuge” Nguyen On Volume 4, his band Arctic, and living heavy and traveling light

Nuge shreds both on a board and on an axe. He also owns his own company, Volume 4, with Sammy Baca. “It’s the best thing ever. To get to do your own shit, and not have to ask somebody if it’s cool. Let’s fucking make a teepee. Whatever.” What Youth hung out with Nuge in his…

Conversation with: Cosmonauts Live from The Echo, with a Hollywood Video reference!

“I’m gonna go hide for a while.” It’s almost 1 a.m. The Cosmonauts just finished slaying the Moon Block show at the Echo, and Derek Cowart – singer/guitarist for the band – is done. The night was an end to what was a 10-day-long tour that took the band up the West Coast and through…

what youth napkin

Conversation With: Napkin Apocalypse Behind the scenes with Courtney

Editor’s note: A few months a go we went to Dane and Courtney’s house to film a For the Love episode on Napkin Apocalypse  We talked at length with Courtney about how Napkin Apocalypse, animal obsession and sewing have created this new world. Below is the extended interview and it is filled with awesome. And we’re also…

Conversation With: Warren Smith Ex Homeless Laser Tag enthusiast

“…And then laser tag came in the last few years of high school and it almost won. It almost took over all of them. But thank god our laser tag center burned down because I might be the manager of a laser tag center instead of surfing or whatever the fuck it is. “ –Warren…

Conversation With: The Shrine Chatting with one of the heaviest bands of our time


Conversation With: Mike Piscitelli Fucking Awesome, photography and Ozzy Osbourne

“I dropped out of school at the end of ninth grade and I pretty much ended up working in the porn industry (behind the scenes).” How did you get here? I’m originally from the Valley, outside Los Angeles. I dropped out of school at the end of ninth grade and I pretty much ended up…

Conversation With: Kevin Terpening On moving from Ohio, working on his Huf part and celebrating his dog’s birthday at Petco

Kevin Terpening is a pro skater for Huf. He’s said that he gets psyched to skate by watching Marine Layer. We went to his house to work on an upcoming Fairly Normal part. And we lucked out, it was his dog’s birthday. So we partied at Petco and talked about how a small town boy…

conversation with reposar what youth

Conversation With: Photographer Jason Reposar “I guess I can say all this now that I’ve been convicted and deported.”

Former Transworld photog who vanished from the U.S. reappears…with Metallica.

christian fletcher what youth

Conversation With: Christian Fletcher “Live fast and die last.”

Interview by: Leo Maxam | Photos by: Herbie Fletcher Editor’s note: By now you’ve hopefully had a chance to watch our Fairly Normal on Christian Fletcher that we shot in Bali. On the back of his motorbike. Proving ourselves. Nearly dying. But getting the interview. And hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to get a copy…

pontus alv polar skateboards what youth issue 6

Conversation With: Pontus Alv & Arto Saari At Polar Skateboards, Malmo, Sweeden

Committed to creativity

craig anderson dear youth what youth

Conversation With: Craig Anderson Snowboarding, boogieboarding and new shades

Craig Anderson has been a busy man. He did a strike mission to Samoa with some boogieboarders for last minute Cluster clips. He just designed and released a new sunglass frame with Electric called the Txoko. He’s joined the Huf footwear team. Dropped his Cluster part. And then went snowboarding for the first time in…

conversation with frank ockenfels what youth issue 9

Conversation With: Frank Ockenfels From What Youth Issue 9

He’s shot everyone. From Jenna Jameson to George Clooney to Lemmy from Motorhead. But what truly interested us about Frank Ockenfels (FWO3) was his process. Because photography seems to be in a bit of a transitional predicament. As more and more people gain access to and are inundated with imagery on phones and computers, the…

Sign up for letters from What Youth

By enabling this page, you are acknowledging and accepting our privacy terms and conditions.