You may know Derek Dunfee as the hard-charging, heavily-tattooed San Diegan who frequently sends it on grossly-thick sets at Mavericks. But the guy isn't a one-trick pony. He's been a competent photographer for years, and has lately poured more and more of his time and energy into honing his skills behind the lens, capturing world-class big-wave surfing and publishing his images in print (you know, the gentleman's media, the one that pairs well with a glass of old scotch and Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours").

His latest print offering, "Dekka: Kai," is the product of a set of strike missions with the baby-faced poster child of big-wave futurism, Kai Lenny. It's a bit of a departure for Dunfee, as his previous "Dekka" volumes have been more generalized postcards from the big-wave world. This zine, however, points the lens squarely at Lenny, charting his course through XXL surf over the 2017/18 season.

"I'd been doing the same type of 'zine for a while, and I thought it'd be interesting to change it up," says Dunfee. "Kai seemed like the best person to do this with, because I really think he's the future of big-wave surfing. He's fearless, he's very calculated and he's just so non-stop."

On Dunfee's first trip for the project, shadowing Lenny to the Puerto Escondido Challenge in Mainland Mexico, Lenny ended up winning the entire event. From there, they hit Nazaré, Mavericks and Lenny's backyard coliseum, Jaws. At every venue, Lenny brought an approach to oversized waves and swell preparation that Dunfee had never seen before.

"Kai's got such an amazing group of people that he works with on every big swell," says Dunfee. "At Jaws, he heads out before sunrise with a boat and all these skis and it's so well organized. He's got safety people, he's got a ton of different boards in the boat for whatever the conditions do, and he shows up prepared to surf all day long. Most big-wave surfers plan for one session, maybe for 4 hours, and they commit to a handful of waves. Kai's out there all day, and he's got this energy that's hard to explain. He'll take beatings and get caught inside just like everyone else—it's not like he's completing every wave—but somehow he manages to surf all day on these massive swells."

The key to Kai's heavy-water fortitude? Taco Bell. Just kidding, but sort of not.

"It's funny, he shows up at Jaws with a cooler full of bean and cheese burritos," says Dunfee. "He'll bring like 40, eat a bunch of them between sessions, then go back out and charge 50-foot waves. He keeps the extra on hand to give to the other guys in the lineup. It's pretty classic."

Whatever his secret is, Lenny has spent the past year proving time and time again that he's going to be one of the greatest big wave surfers of his generation, and "Dekka: Kai" offers a unique and intimate look into that period. Find a sample of the images below along with backstory from Dunfee, and click here to pick up a copy of the 'zine.

"This was at Nazaré, right before his heat and he was super fired up," says Dunfee. "I was standing with him, because I really wanted to capture a photo of him on the beach with a 50-foot wave behind him. He was so pumped, just kicking the air, psyching himself up to go surf these massive waves with 20- to 30-knot sideshore winds—really challenging conditions. A lot of guys get pretty quiet and in their heads before these sessions, but he was just going nuts, practically dancing."

"This was the most scared I've ever been in the water shooting photos," says Dunfee of this early-morning tow session at Jaws. "I jumped off the boat with my camera and my surfboard to shoot from the water, but I jumped off too early. The captain yelled, "Are you clear from the boat? There's a huge set coming." Before I could say, "wait," he took off. But luckily I was fine, and Kai got towed into three waves that were probably the biggest waves I've ever seen in person—maybe 60 to 70 feet on the face. I probably could have shot this better, but I was snapping a few photos of each wave, then putting the camera down and paddling for my life. It was intense."

"This photo is from Nazaré, the second day of the really big swell during the contest," says Dunfee. "It was about 5 a.m., and the fog was really bad that morning. I got to his house and I didn't even have to knock, he just opened the door and stepped out like that, completely ready to go, in his wetsuit and everything. I almost started cracking up. It was just funny to see someone suited up in the fog two hours before light. So I snapped a quick photo of him in the street before we took off toward the beach."

"This was the same day as when he was towing, during the biggest swell of the year at Jaws," says Dunfee. "This was after the sun went down, and it was just Kai and a handful of other guys still out. Kai was paddling when he caught this thing, which was a monster, but hardly anyone even saw it because it was so late and most people had already left. Like I said, Kai surfs literally all day even when no one is there watching."