Kevin Cullen

KIALOA 'Elele in New York State

Ambassador: Kevin Cullen

How did you come to know of KIALOA and how did you team up – what was the evolution of this relationship?

I first heard of Kialoa at the inaugural Ultimate SUP Challenge on the Ottawa River. My wife Christian won the whitewater event and we were looking for a paddle sponsor after getting our first sponsorship with Pau Hana Surf Supply. Having learned to surf in Hawaii Kialoa was my top choice and they were seeking representation in the Great Lakes so it was a great fit off the bat.

What does being a steward of the KIALOA brand mean to you?

Being a steward of Kialoa brand to me means to always act as a role model for the keiki which is pretty simple and embedded in the spirit of Aloha. Be kind, be healthy, and have fun. Surfing on Maui a few years ago Christian and I were out longboarding on a small day at Launiupoko with a local Hawaiian family. I was paddling back out, Christian was dropping in on a wave and we heard the father say to his young daughters, “Hey Girls look out for auntie!” I was blown away by the values being taught through surfing by the Father; to share waves and that we, non-Hawaiian strangers, were considered family. After surfing we hung out with the family and watched the sunset from the beach. That experience has really stuck with me and we have always been treated with so much love and hospitality while visiting Hawaii. Kialoa really embodies that spirit of Aloha and it shows in the way they treat us as athletes and their customers. Being an ambassador for Kialoa you feel compelled to share that spirit of Aloha through paddling and being active on the water with others.     

2017/2018 Events you participated/will participate in?

In 2017 we had to take a break from competing to grow our SUP lesson, rental, and guide service on Lake Erie to help more people in our region get together on the water. We focused on expedition paddling and spent a lot of time on Pau Hana’s new touring board the Endurance with our Kialoa Hulu paddles. The highlight was a three-day backcountry paddle along Canada’s Bruce Peninsula National Park. We’re spending the fall/early winter in Hawaii training and making media content. In January of 2018 we are paddling around the island of Barbuda to raise funding for reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Irma and making a film about the Island and its amazing people! Spring of 2018 we will be back on the Whitewater SUP circuit on Pau Hana’s new whitewater SUP board we helped design called “El Diablo.” We’ll be at Tuckfest in Charlotte, GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, and Fibark in Salida to name a few.  

What community events, charity participation or other organizations are you a part of?

We recently hosted a Yoga and Paddle for Hurricane Harvey relief in our hometown. We also host the local Boys and Girls club for an annual free paddling day, did a demo SUP paddle evening for the Great Lakes Alliance and are working on launching our own non-profit focused on creating access to outdoor activities.


What's are some of your favorite things to do? Paddle, Surf, Kite, Climb

What's your favorite food? Steak.

What is your favorite restaurant in Hawaii? Iron Imu BBQ in Napili on Maui.

What music are you listening to these days?

Either Reggae or Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.

Favorite place to visit?Hawaii or Jamaica. 

How did you get started in Paddle sports?

I was really into climbing and living out of my truck in California looking to climb in Santa Barbara but it was raining so I rented a surf board and a wetsuit and broke the board in half in head high surf within an hour. I was so hooked I spent the rest of my money on a board and a wetsuit. After moving back to Buffalo, NY I met my wife and we both got really into stand-up paddling quickly from there because there is so much paddling opportunities where we live!

What is your pre-race meal? Smoothie and a cereal bar.

What do you like to eat/drink after paddling? Burritos and Lemonade!

Proudest paddling moment?

Paddling the Lower Gauley River with Christian! We didn’t know what we were getting into…

What was your scariest paddling experience?

Paddling the Lower Gauley River with Christian! I almost died at the Lower Mash rapid.

Tell us a little about how you train for paddling races?

Just paddle a lot in all sorts of paddling conditions! We’re lucky living on Lake Erie – weather changes fast and we get all sorts of conditions to paddle in! Surf is a great way to train for whitewater and whitewater is a great way to train for flat water racing. I think its important to be well-rounded.

Where is your favorite place to paddle? Clean waves in Hawaii!

Any paddlers you look up to? Kai Lenny and Garrett McNamara.

Were did you grow up and what was it like?

Buffalo, NY – It was fun, people partied a lot… Growing up there was this sentiment that “there’s nothing to do around here” but after moving back home from being out west for 6 years Christian and I started to discover how amazing Western New York is. You can surf, kite, SUP surf, run whitewater, and ice climb within a 30-mile radius in one day. That’s pretty special!

As a child did you have pets? 

Yes a Black Lab that would jump our 6 foot fence and run into the grocery store to the deli section on a regular basis.

What were some things that you and your friends did as kids?

Mountain biked and fished almost every day in the summer in the local creek!

What did you get in trouble for most when you were young?

Being a daredevil!

What did you do for fun as a child?

I was seriously into mountain biking and trials.

Something you want out of life?

Raise a family with my wife by the water.  

What are some qualities that you value in a person?

Honesty and joy.

What inspires you to do ‘good’ in the world? Because we can.

Proudest accomplishment? Meeting and marrying my wife Christian!

If you could re-experience one thing in your life, what would it be?

My wedding Day! Christian and I got married on the beach near our home on Lake Erie. She flew in on a sea-plane and it was a surprise to everyone!

What is something your really proud of and why?

Becoming a pro-stand-up paddle board athlete. I spent 4 years riding the bench playing D-III college football and thought that was the end of my athletic career so I’m very proud to be paddling at this level.

What are some goals your still trying to accomplish?

Moving onto a sailboat with Christian in the Caribbean.

Who are your heroes?

My parents, Christian Edie, Kai Lenny, and Garrett McNamara.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words? Fun, Loyal, Honest.

What time of day do you like best and why?

Sunrise – there is so much beauty, the day is new and the whole day is ahead of us.

If you were an animal, what would you be? Owl, fly silent and see much!

Would you rather be able to fly or to breathe under water?

That’s a tough call – kiteboarding comes pretty close to feeling like you’re doing both!

Any nicknames you go by? Kdude.


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