Review written by: Darin Leong
The Blue Planet Kai Zen paddle comes in two blade sizes, 88″ and 98″. I was lucky enough to try both sizes out.
The most impressive aspect of the Kai Zen paddle is the catch. For both blade sizes, the blade slips into the water super clean. I had been using a $200 paddle previously and the difference is noticeable. When you stick the Kai Zen paddle into the water, it enters without a lot of bubbles or turbulence. Both the 88″ and 98″ blades are similar in this respect.
Both size paddles also use the large ergonomic handle. The large surface area of the handle really allows you to “lean” on the paddle and put forward and downward pressure through the stroke. Again, the 88″ and 98″ inch blade paddles are similar in how the ergonomic handle impacts the paddle.
After the catch is where the similarities end. The 88″ blade feels very smooth through the power phase of the stroke. It’s not too strong and not too weak. You can move the blade through the water quickly and efficiently, and the 88″ blade is great for high cadence, quick strokes. I found it to work exceptionally well in downwind conditions. The 88″ blade moves through the water with minimal effort and no flutter. It’s great for long distances.
The 98″ blade, in contrast, is pure power. The stiff oval shaft, large ergonomic handle, and 98″ blade combine for a paddle with an extremely high maximum power. It is the most powerful paddle I have tried to date. The tradeoff, of course, is that it takes a bit more effort to move the 98″ blade through the power phase of the stroke, although the power/effort ratio is still really high. I love the 98″ blade for surfing. There are occasional moments when you are paddling out, a wave is approaching, and you want to turn quickly, take one hard stroke, and drop in. The 98″ blade is exceptional in that situation. Also, when conditions make it harder to get enough paddle power to pull your board into a wave, the 98″ blade is super useful.
In summary, both the 88″ and 98″ blades capture the ultra-clean catch that the Kai Zen blade design offers. The Kai Zen is a paddle with a super clean catch leading to an efficient power phase. Through the power phase, the 88″ blade is balanced, smooth, efficient, and requires minimal energy. The 98″ blade through the power phase is powerful.