KIALOA paddles has been making Outrigger Canoe and Dragon Boat paddles for quite some time. And when Laird Hamilton approached KIALOA owner Dave Chun for a paddle to paddle a big surfboard in 2003, KIALOA unwittingly entered the SUP paddle arena.
Since 2003, a lot has changed in the world of SUP. SUP is now widely recognized. The days of “what’s that thing where the person stands on the big surf board and paddles it around?” are pretty much gone. Even if everyone doesn’t have a name for it yet, most people are getting used to seeing it. Equipment has come along way in those 10+ years since and there are big advancements being made regularly. KIALOA is at the forefront of all of this improvement.
When Dave was paddling outrigger canoes in Hawaii there wasn’t a lot of equipment available. So he got adept at fixing paddles and eventually began building them out of wood. He never aspired to be a paddle maker, it just kind of happened. Over the years, he has shifted from working with wood to working with plastics and carbon, where most of the paddle technology is these days.
KIALOA offers a full line of paddles, from recreational paddles for people who merely dabble in paddling to paddles for elite racers and surfers. The line is growing and 2014 marks the release of a couple of remarkable additions.
Dave’s goal when creating a paddle is to make something high performance, durable, affordable, and which will last a long time. The most exciting addition for 2014 is the Insanity series. Theses paddles are available in carbon, fiberglass and carbon/fiberglass combinations. By using polypropelene (rather than epoxy) as the resin they are able to keep the cost down and the durability up. Carbon , while very strong, is somewhat brittle and can chip or shatter if you hit something hard enough. Adding polypropelene makes it so durable that you could smash it on a table and not have to worry about damaging it without adding weight.
The combination of Carbon and Polypropelene in the blade, because of its strength, also allows for a very thin blade. This means you get a very clean entry and the slightly concave powerface provides excellent catch and adhesion. It is also incredibly stable in the water. The blade comes in two sizes, there are two handle options, and it comes fixed length or adjustable. The full carbon version starts at 17 oz and the Carbon/Fiberglass adjustable weighs in at 23 oz…that’s super light for an adjustable paddle! The ABS Lever Lock Grip on KIALOA adjustables is the best system I have seen. They are easy to adjust and stay put once locked down. There is a micro-adjustment if your shaft does slip, but it’s not anything that needs to be done regularly, and we have not had to do it more than once on any of our paddles.
The Fiberglass Insanity paddle is designed for people who aren’t racers, which equates to approximately 99% of all paddlers. It is a little less expensive and a little heavier than the carbon, but it has nice flex which matches up really well with the power output from most recreational paddlers.
Premium all around paddles are the hardest to build. They need to do a lot everything well. And it’s tough to build a paddle that will fit the varied criteria for each discipline. Usually “all around” paddles are merely mediocre at everything. Dave does not want to settle for that and this is why he has created these paddles that are comfortable, forgiving, durable and affordable. He is concerned with what the paddle feels like at hour three of your paddle. The KIALOA mainstay all-around paddles pipes, methane and shaka puu are classics for good reasons. They are lightweight, durable, have an effortless catch and are smooth and stable in the water.
There is also a new price point paddle in the line for 2014 called the Bacon. This is a Fiberglass/Nylon blade that provides entry level pricing while still offering a well made, good performing paddle. This is another adjustable and it is the perfect option if you are just getting into paddling, are leisurely paddling around the lake, a variety of people are going to be using your paddle, or if it’s going to get knocked around. If those describe your paddling tendencies, you really don’t need the additional features of more expensive paddles.
For premium race paddles, the Hulu (with two blade size options) are built to go straight and fast. They are stripped down full carbon paddles featuring a minimum of material to keep weight down. They are designed to do exactly what you need when racing and nothing more.
Premium surf paddles need to be stronger than race or recreational paddles. There is contact with the board, with your body, reefs, rocks, the ground, and whatever else you encounter when you are getting tossed around by the waves. Shaft walls are thicker and the blade is beefier with rounder edges. The beefier, rounder blade edge is less likely to damage your board when you whack it. Outrigger Canoeing taught Dave that a bubble trail produced by a rounder, beefier blade helps with steering and when the bubble trail is not present, the rider is in for a wild ride. The paddle reactions are very quick and hard and can be harsh and jarring. The new Gerry Lopez surf paddles are the cream of the crop!
For whitewater paddles, the Lau Lau and Hapa provide the durability you need when running rapids. The Lau Lau has a carbon /fiberglass polypropelene cored blade. It is designed to be light, stable and have great impact resistance. The Hapa is Fiberglass and Polypropelene and is a bit less expensive and just slightly heavier.
KIALOA paddles offers a paddle for everyone from the casual lake cruiser, to the elite of the elite surfers and racers. Dave Chun is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and he takes KIALOA’s commitment to building quality products that are accessible to everyone very seriously.