Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kenalu Ho'lau Stand Up Paddle

SUP Paddles
We get many emails asking for recommendations for SUP boards, Fins, Leash, straps, etc... but we constantly ask the same question to all our writers: Which paddle do you own?... I learned a few years back, that a good paddle is the number one priority on SUP, prior to buy anything else. We always respond in the same manner to all our writers, "get a good SUP paddle first". 

The average is that a person who buys an SUP board has a big probability of wanting to acquire new SUP board and/or add another one to his collection in less than a year. Of course, all depends how deep you go into the SUP Life style, cash flow and the space to have more boards in your house. The SUP paddle works in a different way, this tool has a long lifespan with their owners. People who end buying a cheap paddle, spend more in the end; compared to the ones who invest in a serious paddle since day one.

The paddle is too personal, an extension of your arms and body. It is the first SUP item that you need adjusted and customised based on your physical body; sometimes you can find some paddles around for sale that may match your length requirements, but is rare to see paddles for sale as often compared to SUP used boards. If you bought for the first time a SUP combo (board with a paddle) or a entry level SUP board, always ask for a paddle upgrade (yep, cost a little more, but in the end you will save more). Most stores allows buyers to get a better quality paddle for an extra fee in their combo specials. There is a hight chance that you will start doing SUP and will stay in the sport (over 90%), that is why SUP is the fastest growing sport worldwide. There is a great chance to stay doing the sport and worth the effort to do a little research prior to buy anything. We have three rules before you buy: read, ask and try. We also recommend our readers to hold off their urges to run and buy (happened also to us); go out and rent SUP boards, save a little bit of more money and get a better product (this will give you a long life product and in the end you spend less money).

People rent boards for many reasons (space, fun, testing, curiosity, etc...) and sometimes induce the urge to run and buy their SUP equipment; we always recommend to have a personalised and good quality SUP Paddle first. Just imagine, you can share your clothes, but not your toothbrush? the paddle is your toothbrush, your nice underwear, a partner in crime for years to come...The probability to change or add more boards to your collection is three times compare to run and buy a new paddle, why? A paddle is way too personal and some, expensive.

Paddles shapes, colors and materials
The market has many nifty options, styles, colours, size, brands... Werner, Quickblade, Kialoa brands at the top on the food chain. In recent years other brands arrived to the paddle volatile market; names like Hippo stick, Starboard, Yolo, Sawyer and Kenalu are some of many paddle brands who started to Werner Nitro for SUP Surf, a Werner Gran Prix for Touring/Flat water racing; sometimes I use my wife's Quickblade super fly paddle for long distance. All great top notch paddles; Werner a very conservative (like me), experienced and strong paddle brand; Quickblade the biggest SUP paddle brand in the marketplace.
capture the attention of SUP lovers. I had the opportunity to try some of these paddles (not all yet) and I learned one thing, you get what you paid. As a conservative paddle user for years, I use

Now that you understand or philosophy regarding paddles, let's move us to the review we want to do regarding one new paddle.

Kevin De Armas
A couple months back, we were doing a downwind with a group of friends. One of them had a Kenalu paddle. I was curious to try something new and I heard good stories about this new paddle. I am not a Kai, Ching or Baxter kind of guy; just a normal SUP lover who do some open racing, touring and sup surf. I noticed in racing events of more than 3 miles, that sometimes I got too exhausted with my grand prix (I know, too big; that is another story). I ask my friend and ASUP team of rider Kevin de Armas (btw: he is PR junior and Elite champion) about his new Kenalu paddle, he enjoyed it and give it to me for a try. The feeling was different, quite fast and extremely light. I noticed right
away the difference compared to my other paddle, specially the cadence (how many paddles you do to propel the board), at that moment I decided to give it a try for real.

I contacted the local rep of Kenalu in our arena, ask for pricing and he gently explained the difference between paddles, uses, etc... (a complete science). At the same I started a research online and found out how many great elites competitors changed their blades to small ones...hmmmm, I wonder why? Cadence. Also, I contact a few friends who owned Kenalu paddles to learn about their experience with this new paddle. You may question, why so much research for a paddle? this SUP instrument need to remain with me for years. My other SUP paddles has been with me for almost three (3) years already and are in well shape. I do paddle a couple of days a week for some years already and my paddles looks great; except two things. I have them full of stickers (love it) and my Werner Nitro have a little dent, that I fixed with resin and another sticker (I hit it the paddle against a reef doing Sup Surf); that was my fault and I am sure a cheap paddle will be destroyed.

I was not sure in which model and size was the perfect one for me; so many alternatives. I talked with some SUP Elite racers who use this paddle, specially the ones like me (5'6" height); small guys like us without the body of Thomas Maximus it is not advocated to have huge blades. The research is need it to induce a good decision on this investment. Finally I decide to buy the new Kenalu Ho'oloa paddle 84". I grab the phone and order the paddle from the local Kenalu rep; they explained me how the exchangeable parts works and they Warrior of the Paddle 2014).
Ke Nalu Ho'oloa 84
cut/adjust the shaft to my arm size (top). Sadly, I had to wait for a week to try this new paddle because I was commissioned to do some SUP downwind photo shooting that week and I was not going to paddle (photos: -

Finally I had the chance to get to the water in a family SUP fun day, as usual we went to an open ocean. At the begining using the new paddle the feeling was strangely nice, was so light that I imagined I was using my kids paddle at the beginning. The paddle was extremely fast; the construction of the shaft was amazing, Kenalu Ho'oloa paddle has a reptile skin!...(joking). The shaft allows you to move your hands from the upper side to bottom very easy and smooth, at the same time the paddle has something that I called "reptile skin", allowing you to stay in the position you wanted without wax and any additament (bottom to the top). After a pair of hours doing paddle at open sea, I finished like new; my arms was and body was not tired compared to my old big paddle. Overall the paddle performed great and the new blade size made a big difference for me.

Paddle shaft
A couple of days later I decided to attempt the same Kenalu Ho'oloa paddle configuration for a SUP Surf session... The story was different. I tried to sprint fast to catch a wave, then I noticed that my Wide point Starboard 9'.5" x 32" was not proceeding in the way I was used to. The waves that day was small and slow; plus the wind was terrible; I need to move more water super fast in a little period of time. My SUP Surf board has a great performance but is slow due to the nose and size. Of course a 84" blade was too small vs. a 94" blade; sounds like a modest difference, but for me, the board, the wind and small 3' waves in my little white whale was a big difference. I consider worth to try and test the paddle in different conditions and learn from that experience in the future. Perhaps in other faster waves (off season right now) 4' - 5' the small or different blade will help. I decide to stay with my Nitro or get a bigger Kenalu blade for Sup Surf. A week after I return to the water for a upwind and downwind adventure with one hairy friend of mine (yep, he paddles and trow hair all over, hehehe) with some ugly side wind. I practiced it with my new Kenalu 84" Ho'oloa... We paddle for an hour at normal speed. After we finish our paddle, I felt like new; ready for more SUP. This new paddle was for racing and Sup from now on...
Paddle size?

I know what you think, diferent paddles for different conditions? yep. 

If you play golf, the driver do not help much in the green or running shoes in a mudding hiking will be hard (shoes are shoes and clubs are clubs but at the end are not the same). A normal day of paddle need to be different than your SUP Surf session, diferent paddles... (that is why you envision so many different boards for different conditions). Of course you can habituate the same paddle for all conditions, but the experience and efficiency will not be the same. Remember the running shoes in the hiking mud?, yes you can run with running shoes in a mudding hiking day, but you will fall less if you apply the correct shoes (just a comparison) and you will do a better score in golf if you use the right club. Paddles are the same...

Hot glue fitting
I found very practical and economical be able to vary the blade for diferent conditions instead buying a collection of paddles. The Kenalu Ho'oloa blade can be removed easily from the shaft with hot air (hair blower) and put back the heat glue gun (the heat gun is relative cheap and it is for sale in Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon, etc...). This feature of this new paddle brand will bring new fans in the hereafter. Definitely I will try other Kenalu blades in the future, I think the Kenalu Ho'oloa was a good choice; now I have to wait and use it a lot to see how is the durability of this new paddle compared to the major brands, let's see...
blade with simple