OC Manufacturer Kaiwa’a to Build Surfskis

Saturday, 05 May 2018 18:01 | Written by 
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Kaiwa'a Surfski Kaiwa'a Surfski Credits: Kaiwa'a

Could an Outrigger Canoe manufacturer bring radical innovation to the surfski market? One of our forum readers noticed a short blog on the Kaiwa’a website announcing the surfski project. I emailed Kai Bartlett to find out more…

Hello Kai!
There's some discussion on surfski.info's forum about your prototype surfski, and I was wondering if you might give us an update on where you are with the development...!

Right now, we are still in the development phase with our surfski. We will come out with several surfskis of the same design to perfect all the components and once set we will start production. When that starting date is, I’m not sure. Depends on how well our components like foot brace and drains work on the first go around.

You're famous for your OC1 designs, why are you getting into surfski?

I’ve been wanting to play with a surfski since 2007. At the time I was paddling a little bit of ski so I was curious on playing around with the designing of one. Fast forward to today and I no longer manufacture so I have that time it takes to play with shaping and creating more. At the moment we have a successful OC-1 and OC-2 so I felt it was a perfect time to play with something new without stepping on an already producing design. The surfski was a perfect fit.

I always felt (with my time in a ski) that the surfskis were missing something that the OC-1s had. I’m not saying that OC-1s are a better design because that would be nonsense but with paddling both I felt that there was more to achieve. It has been a fun challenge because of the different properties between the two (OC-1 & Surfski). Trying to understand what makes a ski work with speed and balance also picking people’s minds with what works and what doesn’t was a lot of fun. Basically, I’m trying to broaden my horizon in the sport of paddling if I had to sum it all up in one sentence.

Kaiwa'a Surfski

What length and width is the boat?

The length of our surfski is 21 feet (6.4m) and the width is 16 13/16 inches (42.7cm) wide. Similar width to a lot of the top surfskis out there today.

What weight paddler is it designed for?

So far with our prototype we’ve had guys in the 170lbs (77kg) range up to 240lbs (109kg) range and the waterline looks great. Flat water tests have been good and downwind tests as well have been great. Those who have used it in a downwind run say it’s the funnest run they’ve had and I too felt the same experience.

Do you use CAD/NC Machine for your designs, hand shaping or both?

I hand shaped my plug from foam. Everything from hull, deck, to seat and footwell were shaped by hand then glassed. I actually shaped two cockpits (seat and footwell), one male and one female. I liked the female shape better that was shaped into the plug, so I stuck with that one.

I took photos thru the process in case anyone questioned my design, as well because I want to show people that I’m legit and my creations come from me, my experiences and my hands. We have the prototype scanned and will CNC the final master at the Ozone facility in the near future.

What boat(s) would be the inspiration for the design?

Watching the evolution of the ski was my inspiration along with the evolution of OC-1. I saw some ideas I liked in a couple older surfskis as well as some of the newer ones then took some of the ideas from our most recent design, the Ares, and somewhat mashed them all together to create our prototype.

How does your experience with OC1 influence the design of your surfski?

We wanted to have a great all around performing surfski. We want it to surf really well in small and big downwind yet also run smooth in the flat. Something we’ve been working on for years in the OC-1 market.

Much of the speculation in the forum posts about the boat are about the expected weight - given the incredibly light OC1s that are manufactured these days, the writers speculate that your surfski will also be record-breakingly light! What do you expect the ski to weigh?

With the construction techniques at Ozone, we can achieve super light weights with great quality. It really depends, on how light can we go with a surfski. Some paddlers tell me that you can’t have it be too light because it will be hard to control, but we shall see thru testing the product.

I’m not an everyday ski paddler but I can tell you with OC-1s the lighter the better the performance has been. Right now, our lightest OC-1s are coming in at 16lbs (hull with all the hardware). I’m curious to what we will find out with playing with weights like that in a surfski and if that would help performance or hinder it.

At the moment we are toying with the idea of two different layup options, but nothing is really set yet. We want to play with several molded surfskis with different layups and like I said earlier also play with the new components we’ll have to make sure we have the right fit in weights and that our components are solid and easy to use.

When do you expect to have the surfski in production?

We won’t be rushing into production, we want to be thorough with what we are giving to our customers so that when we do come to market we are offering you something of great quality, tried, tested and ready to be proven. It is incredibly important to me to ensure we maintain the high level of quality in our products that Kaiwa’a customers are used to.

What are you going to call it?

I’m not releasing her name yet, but we have one. I’m letting someone close to me help me with that. As much as this is my creation he gave the inspiration to take on the task. We will release her name with the first test skis to come out of the mold.

Will it be available elsewhere in the US, in the world?

Once we do hit production with the surfski we will distribute thru Ozone and their network of dealers world-wide as well as across the US but will also have to find new dealers in markets where the OC-1 hasn’t reached.

The surfski world is new territory for me so I find it exciting but will tread slowly thru the water to find our place. Hopefully our product will speak for itself as it does in the OC-1 market and we’ll gain some help threading thru it all.

About Kai Bartlett

Kai has been building outrigger canoes since 1995 and started Kaiwa’a, his own company, in 2001.

He’s a champion paddler too: 5 Molokai World Championship Solo titles as well as 9 Molokai World Championship Relay titles…

His OC-1 and OC-2 designs are world renowned – so it’s going to be fascinating to see how the OC manufacturing techniques and designs translate to surfski…



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