We get to try a lot of fun gear. It’s one of the perks of the job. When we are testing things we have to think about not only what we are excited about, but what is going to be appropriate for our customers. We really don’t love everything we try, and usually that stuff doesn’t make it into our shop. But sometimes we find a piece of gear that makes our time on the water that much more fun, or efficient, or easier, or just makes us giddy at the thought of getting to use it each time we go out. The Ke Nalu Mana is one of those things.
Ke Nalu began several years ago with one blade style in three sizes the Wiki 84, Maliko 95, and Molokai 105. It is a low aspect blade that provides an efficient, and somewhat aggressive catch, a nice clean entry and exit from the water, and relatively little flutter. With a low, concentrated center of power it is not for everyone
The Ho’oloa followed, it is a higher aspect blade so the power center is drawn out somewhat making it less aggressive and a little easier for most people to paddle.
Then came the Ke Nalu Konihi. This blade introduced the paddleboarding world to winglets. These are borrowed from aviation technology to help reduce flutter and divert vortices away from the back of the blade that make paddling less efficient. This means you have a more stable blade with increased drive. It is designed as a race paddle. When we got the Konihi last year we realized it was special. When you hear something like winglets it’s easy to imagine it’s all just hype. But when you try them, you can feel the difference.
This year the Ke Nalu Mana was released as the follow up to the Konihi. While it is based on the Konihi, it has some improvements. The winglets start a little further down the blade. This seems to eliminate a weird sucking feeling/noise that some people experienced with the Konihi. The two sizes are slightly smaller than the Konihi coming it at 82 or 90 square inches vs 84 and 95 for the Konihi. The smaller sizes do not seem to result in any sacrifice of power. The concaves on either side of the dihedral are deeper. They hold more water, and direct it up to provide more power. And the scoop in the tip is more pronounced than the Konihi
This blade is all that and a bag of chips. The swing weight is crazy light so it feels like you are swinging nothing. But don’t let that fool you. The catch is smooth like a warm knife through butter. When you dig in with this blade, you have a solid catch and all of that water that you grab holds tight to the blade through the power phase. Because there is so little flutter with this blade, you aren’t losing water to either side. When you are ready to release, the paddle pops happily out of the water and is immediately ready to start all over again.
While it’s doubtful you can go wrong with any Ke Nalu paddle, the Mana really takes things up a level. It is a beautiful combination of lightweight, powerful, efficient, and easy on your body. It is not inexpensive, but none of the good paddles are. But we have yet to run into anyone who could not appreciate the extra awesome you get for your money. If you are in the market for a top quality paddle, this should be on your short list.