Foti, Biscuit, or Hawaiki? Which is the correct outrigger steering model for you? In this blog I'll share the back story on their design and the feedback from KIALOA product testers, in the hope that the information will help with your selection. In a sense, these steering paddles are a reflection of changes in canoe design, steerer skill, and myself as a designer. The paddles are described in chronological order.
I have been building this outrigger steering paddle since the early 1990's. The outline profile is based on the paddling blades used by Lanikai Canoe Club in the late 1980's.
Back in the 90's I hand shaped all the paddles in wood. Warping was a constant problem as wood expands and contracts with humidity changes. Warped paddles were inconsistent in how well they stuck to the hull. Thusly, I became obsessed with getting our steering paddles to stick. The design focus of the molded Foti Hybrid was a reflection of my concerns during this period. I built the Foti to stick.
Designed for all the situations a Hawaiian steerer will encounter: regatta turns, ocean swells, wind and current, the Foti is a good all-around steering paddle and particularly good for beginners that control the canoe with on-hull corrections. In my opinion, it is better to "poke" and go straight, than paddle steer and veer off course.
The Biscuit Hybrid Steering Paddle was added to the Lanikai CC steering quiver for the 2005 Molokai Hoe. In this race won by Lanikai, the Biscuit was used during the start and end of the race, during the flatter sections. A Foti was used in the rougher mid channel section. The Biscuit was designed for small to medium Hawaiian conditions, which means rough just about anywhere else. The goal was to build a blade for off-hull corrections. Compared to a Foti, the Biscuit has sharper edges which enter the water cleaner for a better paddling experience when stroking straight ahead. The blade is also slightly thinner in thickness a.k.a. blade cross section.
The Biscuit is a good choice when a steerer is able to maintain course using off-hull strokes, be that through skill or the water conditions. The Biscuit is a good regatta paddle, but the steerer needs to set up the turn well and go in with speed, as it does not stick to the hull as well as a Foti. Beginners that train on glassy bodies of water favor the Biscuit. If you regularly encounter chop, swell, current and wind, a Foti is a better choice for a novice.
The Hawaiki Steering Paddle
The Hawaiki is a Tahitian inspired outrigger steering blade offered in double bend carbon or wood shaft, and a traditional single bend wood shaft. This model was introduced in 2017.
Relative to the Foti and the Biscuit, the Hawaiki blade is tall and narrow. The tall blade allows the blade to be placed deeper into the water which effectively corrects the canoe. The narrow blade makes for fatigue free paddling when stroking straight ahead despite the large surface area. Advanced steerers vary blade depth when using the Hawaiki, reducing drag on the canoe or stress on the body. The Hawaiki excels in all aspects of steering and in all conditions. It is regatta and Moloka’i Hoe tested.
The Hawaiki Carbon Double Bend outrigger paddle is for advanced steerers. The carbon shaft is very strong but does not hold up as well as the wood shafts for gunnel rubbing or prying. The Hawaiki Hybrid Double Bend shaft will endure more impact and abrasion as it is solid and wood is more forgiving. The Hawaiki double bends are perfect for steerers who paddle stroke for stroke with their teammates, the assumption being that the team is using double bends. The 13-degree blade angle plus the double bend shaft, approximates the paddles used by the crew more closely than a single bend.
The Hawaik Hybrid Single Bend is a good choice for steerers who are new or have ingrained muscle memory from years of single bend use. For most steerers, it is easier to control the canoe with less blade angle. The single bend Hawaiki Hybrid has a blade/shaft offset at 5 degrees and is an excellent choice for beginners or elites.
The design of the Hawaiki reflects the current trend in the selection of steerers. 20 years ago, steerers were often chosen based on a low body weight. The modern day steerer is chosen on paddling prowess. Often the fittest and most experienced member of the crew, today's steerer needs a paddle which excels in all facets of steering. The Hawaiki is this paddle.
- Dave Chun, Designer
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