Necessity is the Mother of Invention
As you've probably noticed, many outrigger paddlers are forgoing the pedals and rudder. My journey into the world of V1 paddling began with the impulsive purchase of a Tiger Canoe Fai 3X. I was visiting Tiger at his "Up Country" Big Island shop, where livestock are a landmark. "Turn left after you see the goats," he directed, "GPS is useless."
Useless is a good description for my early sessions in the V1. I am a hopeless steersman. Because I was making massive corrections, my little OC1 Otoro blade would make all kinds of gurgling noises. I tried a Hoku carbon and reduced my paddle length by an inch. The larger blade definitely helped, as well as the shorter length. My next experiment was to build a custom all-carbon Nehu with 3 degrees - less blade angle than the 16 degrees on my Otoro and Hoku. As my skill level was increasing with each session, I would take multiple paddles with me each time I went out. This was an attempt to control the variable of my skill vs. paddle design. My conclusion after all that testing? A bigger blade with less angle makes it easier to control the va'a. Which is what a steering paddle is – duh.
My buddy Gerry Lopez told me he would build a board a day when he was developing his Pipeliner model. I couldn't build quite as fast, but I figured out a method for building a "strong enough for a few sessions" prototype. Because I expended minimal effort on each prototype, I didn't have any emotional attachment to it. If a blade didn't work, I took off the shaft to reuse, and tossed the blade in the trash. I even tried one at 20 degrees, when in my haste to cure the epoxy, I overheated the blade and it melted. 20 is not the secret number.
The Ekahi (Hawaiian for One) is my take on a V1 paddle. The blade is 9 5/8" X 18". Surface area 119 square inches. The shaft/blade angle is 11.5 degrees. The blade is stiff, with near zero flex. And the powerface is completely flat. Construction material: all-carbon. Shaft: round, double bend.
Hawaii product tester Keola Wright, had this to say about the Ekahi after his first test run:
"I was catching waves and trying to see if I could paddle steer instead of poke to test the stiffness. It held like a champ. Didn't have to poke at all. When I did, it stuck to the hull perfectly. I really like the catch of that thing. Wish I had it in the solo channel crossing!"