The Hawaiki series of steering paddles started with a "gift" from canoe builder Tiger Taylor. He sent me a broken warped wood Tahitian steering paddle that he loved and said, "Build this in carbon fiber."
The first Hawaiki we molded was a full carbon double bend with a blade angle at 13 degrees. Though designed for small to medium water conditions, we decided to test the paddle in the Kaiwi Channel during the 2015 Molokai Hoe. Our Hawaii based testers, armed with an arsenal of different KIALOA steering models, all chose the Hawaiki on race day, a good omen for a new design.
The Hawaiki blade, tall and narrow compared to a typical steering paddle, proved to be extremely versatile. The 9" wide blade made for easy paddling, allowing the steerer to paddle, stroke for stroke, with the crew. The tall 22 ½" length blade corrected the canoe quickly. It was a "best of both worlds" scenario.
A skilled steersperson straddles a line between control and freely letting the canoe run. It's a feel thing and the best steerers appear to be blessed with a heaven-sent skill. Like Thor's hammer or King Arthur's Excalibur, the paddle of the steerer is an extension of their body. No matter the water conditions or the racing situation, a steering paddle should disappear in the steerer's hands. No thought needed, just action. But while the blade of the Hawaiki Double Bend seemed near perfect, not all steerers felt connected with the double bend shaft. With the Hawaiki Single Bend Hybrid, we reduced the blade angle to a more familiar 5 degrees and used a traditional straight wood shaft for those with years of ingrained muscle memory. Our goal, to tailor the Hawaiki blade to different steering styles.
The Hawaiki steering series currently includes 3 variations: Full carbon double bend, Hybrid double bend, and Hybrid single bend. All 3 models pay homage to the wisdom of Tahiti and Tiger Taylor, with a dose of carbon technology from the USA. While I wish KIALOA could take full credit for the brilliance of the Hawaiki blade design, to do so would be without honor. Sometimes the smartest thing a designer can do is listen.
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