Dave Chun of Kialoa Paddles answers questions about paddling technique, paddle design and performance, his all-new Shaka Puu paddle, and general concerns about the stand up paddle surf culture. Dave also talks about choosing the right paddle, which all boils down to intuition that tells what type of paddle is best for the stand up paddle surfer.
We get to learn more about paddles and why design and performance are always relative to individual surfers.
The is the third and last installment of the Shaka Puu three-part series where Dave mentions that “paddle design is a compromise”.
Evan Leong: …from the Shaka Puu, the bottom is really flat. You don’t put any dihedral whatsoever on that. What’s your thought on that? Does it still track straight?
Dave Chun: I think dihedrals are good. I think paddles without dihedrals are good. I never try to make the ultimate paddle. All paddle design… all design is a compromise. The paddle, the ones we sent to Mel, and all of our other products for guys like Blane Chambers and stuff, they like to paddle that way. Their reports were, “Don’t change a thing”. So that’s why there is no dihedral on this paddle. There’s some paddles on our line that have a dihedral. Our Nalu paddle hasa dihedral. Generally speaking, the larger the… I don’t know if it works, to be honest with you because if you look at the paddle, this doesn’t have a dihedral. This one has a dihedral but it’s way up here. Remember I said the paddle strokes start down here, so the paddle starts way down here and it gets way up here. It’s supposed to stabilize the paddle. I don’t know if it works or not. Sometimes my racers tell me the dihedral works, I put it on the design. They tell me, “No need”, and it doesn’t have it, I leave it out. I take a pretty simplistic approach to this stuff.
Evan Leong: So you’re doing a lot of custom paddles then. It’s not production going out or you make them yourself?
Dave Chun: The custom paddles, those are the R&D stuff. That’s what I do for a year, and what we do is a simpler tooling. Something I need to do fast and dirty. When I say fast and dirty that’s probably a hundred hours or so to get the mold done. I’m pretty quick at this point because I have done a lot of tools. For about a year, we see how it goes, do a little market testing, do a lot of feedback from our guys. If it works, we bring it back in and we do our production tooling and that is a much more permanent… actually builds a better part for the customer.
Evan Leong: These are the questions I got from the guys on the Internet. First guy is asking. He is just getting in to this sport. He is curious about the pros and cons on elbowed or bent paddles at the blade. Are they better for surfing and then what angles are people using and things about that?
Dave Chun: The bent shaft paddle was originally designed by a guy named Eugene Jensen. He was a flat-runner marathon canoeist. Jensen was a brilliant man… and also a fantastic canoe designer, open-canoes. A lot of innovations come from this guy –got to give him credit. Is it better? It’s up to the guy. No magic really comes from your paddle. It’s really how it feels. I can see the pros and cons of both of the paddles. The angle of the paddle actually is for the mid to the back part of the stroke. Paddle works best for short… because…
Evan Leong: That one right there is really short… with the green thing.
Dave Chun: If you look at the angle of the paddle, it’s basically arched at 10 degrees. Why 10 degrees? Because we have tried five, seven, 10, 15 when we originally did this thing and a guy said, “Build it with a 10”. Ok, that was that. But the paddle has more traction when it’s standing straight up and down. That’s when it has more surface area. As the paddle starts to slant over, this way, or in the case this way, this being totally slanted and having no traction, you can probably visualize that, right? The paddle is less effective. This angle keeps that paddle, as you can see as it comes back in the stroke, through this back part of the stroke it keeps it straight up and down longer. On a stand up, it’s questionable if you need it because the shaft is so long. And you can see the angle probably… the straight shaft would work. Why do we build them with an angle? Because that’s what we’re used to when we first started building these paddles. Laird’s one was a five-degree paddle but we did these at 10 degrees and the guys like them. I try not to, even though I may have some ideas a lot of times, I still trust my product testers a whole lot. They tell me they like something, I’m going to leave it there. We will experiment with straight paddles in thing and see where it goes and like I said, talk to me next year at this time, I may have a totally different opinion. But use what feels good. There is no right and wrong with paddles. Another thing, at least in outrigger paddling, what we do know is the more the paddles are used for steering, the less angle we usually use. So the things that I make for the guys when they surf four-man cruise at Makaha, no angle at all, zero degree versus outrigger paddles, when used with a lot of things, five degrees. No one has said they had any problems with 10 degrees when they use my stuff but then again that’s why they’re with me, they like my stuff. It may not be the answer to the world but I only attract people who like what I do.
Evan Leong: I think it’s kind of like everything else. You find the thing that fits you right; and riding style, your weight, your condition, or someone in Oregon would not probably want the same surfboard as somebody out here in the North Shore. It’s going to be way different.
Dave Chun: I really like to tell people, trust your judgment. Use something that feels comfortable and use something that fits your budget. I don’t know that your experience out there is any better using the most expensive or the cheapest stuff. It’s just kind of fun being out there.
Evan Leong: Mentally, it makes you feel better using expensive stuff.
Dave Chun: Well, it helps me since I build high-end things.
Kialoa Shaka Puu Stand Up Paddle (Part 3) [6:00m]: Download