Buying a V1 Va’a (rudderless outrigger canoe) for Grannies

Active over 60, Waka Ama
Jan paddling her Fai Va'a V1 Rudderless wak at the National Waka Ama Sprints 2019

From OC1 to V1

I bought the OC1 nearly 3 years ago and it’s made such a difference in my life. It made it easier to train for World Sprints when my crew was spread from North Cape to the Bluff (one end of New Zealand to the other). However, in Tahiti at Worlds I saw the rudderless Va’a in action. We had a hard race that didn’t exactly go as expected; And then there was this tent… with lots of beautiful va’a and… well, I came home having purchased a Fai Va’a performance model. It’s a mix of SGlass and carbon fibre and they assured me a Granny could carry it easily.  The specifications say the hull weighs 12kg.

Weight is definitely a factor

Turns out it’s heavier than the Ehukai OC1 (which is full carbon). I just couldn’t justify buying full carbon at the time and wonder if that was a good decision for me at my stage of life (I’ll be Masters 70 next year). I can still carry it, but it’s a stretch on a windy day when the tide is out and I have to walk up the beach after a long paddle. I’m not sure exactly what it weighs rigged. With the same configuration it weighed in at 13.6kg at Regional Sprints, my friend weighed it at 14.2kg, and at National Sprints it weighed in at 16.12kg (thank goodness I left the bailer in so it just got me over the regulation 16kg).

Fai Va’a V1

I decided on a Fai Va’a because they had a container load coming to New Zealand right after the World Sprint Championships in Tahiti. It would arrive in time for me to get some time in it before Sprint Nationals. I knew all the customs clearance etc. would be taken care of and that someone could pick it up for me while we organised delivery to the South Island. See Fai Va’a on Facebook or see Carmel Barrett as she is the South Island rep for Fai.

I am happy with the ‘fit’ and feel of my Fai. It was made specifically for me. The measuring process caused much hilarity as I had no idea what size I take in mens’ trousers (which determines the width of the cockpit). I probably won’t be changing anytime soon unless I win the lotto. I have to say I was really disappointed with the finish on on the Fai Va’a. I can see the carbon fibre through the gel coat in places and the gel coat finish has some blemishes. With the price I paid, I would have expected a higher quality of finish. The gel coat finish on the Ehukai (from Puakea Designs) is immaculate and that is what I was expecting. I have just had to refurbish the wooden iato (kiato) after 3 months as the varnish was completely gone off most of the surface. However, I do like it to paddle. On the water, the weight of it feels good. I feel very comfortable in it and absolutely love the V1 experience. In fact, the V1 is now my waka of choice for paddling.
Jan Blythe

Fai are now making V1 with click-in Kiato as well as the traditional lashed version and could be something to explore. Me, I like the tradition and feel that there is a lot more leeway with lashed kiato.

Va’a Factory V1

Since then I have paddled the Va’a Factory V1 (thank you Andrew) and, once I got used to the different feel of it, I really, really liked it. It’s cheaper than the Fai, the finish looks better and I think it is faster. It seemed a bit more ‘shallow’ in the cockpit than the Fai  I was used to, but very comfortable once I’d paddled it for a few minutes. It is fibreglass and core-mat to make it lighter. My friends have just bought a beautiful two toned blue, full carbon fibre Va’a Factory V1 which is 12.5kg fully rigged. It’s beautiful. Talk to Andrew Priest at Va’a Factory on Facebook or to Carmel Barrett as she is the rep for the South Island.

Tehuritaua Va’a V1

The other choice at the time would have been a Va’a Tehuritaua. They had some really pretty ones at the Va’a tent in Tahiti, but I was not sure of how it would clear customs in New Zealand as I am a long way from Auckland. I have since found out that Dale Masters (Paddling Addiction) is the representative and he will organise all of that for you.
Paddling Addiction on Facebook

Are Va’a Tahiti V1

Dale Masters (Paddling Addiction), the importer, says “ARE are kicking butt in Tahiti at the moment and a new model is being made currently“.  Are makes 4 styles of V1 Including the Timi.

Hot off the press: Are Va’a Tahiti have a new canoe shape that will go into production this week (May 2019), so from here on in Are will probably be only making 1 model for the averaged sized paddler and another for larger paddlers….

Our friend Callum in Motueka paddles an Are Timi V1. Here’s what he thinks

I’ve paddled a number of different v1 and the ARE Timi is by far the one that suits me. I like the high cockpit, gives you more of a locked in feeling and good brace with your knees. Very stream lined and tracks well on up and down wind. The classic, however, is a bit trickier on the downwind. Tahitian made and they have a great rep over there.
Callum O’Leary

Try before you buy (if you can talk someone into letting you into their precious Va’a)

As you can see everyone loves their own va’a. My advice would be try a variety of models out before you buy to find out what suits you and feels really good to paddle – that is if you can find someone willing to let you paddle their precious va’a (which they may not want to do – I know I am very careful about who I let paddle mine). I had only paddled a fibreglass Fai once briefly before I bought mine. Now I wish I had been able to paddle a few others before I bought. If you can’t try one out, talk to as many people about what they like and why.

If all else fails buy the pretty one!

V1 or OC1 – that is the question

Actually, the real question is “What is your end goal?”

Want to compete at Sprint Nationals?

If the answer is to compete at National Waka Ama Sprint Championships then buy a V1. You will need to experience and get to know your waka. Learn how it handles in calm conditions and how it handles in the wind and, most of all, how you can keep it straight in all conditions within a 15m lane. Mastering the art of V1 paddling will make you a much better paddler (and steerer) in the long run.

Want to get on the water and have some fun?

If you are just wanting to get out there on your own, compete in a few longer distance races, train for W6 paddling (sprints or long distance) in between W6 crew practice times, have a lot of fun riding downwind or surfing the bar with the lads, then the OC1 is the waka of choice.

Buy one or the other:

I personally wouldn’t recommend buying a dual purpose waka that can be both ruddered or rudderless (I know Sonic are making a dual purpose V1/OC1 with a removable rudder). V1 and OC1 are very different style canoes, with different hull shapes, different lengths, different dynamics and built for different purposes. If you can’t afford two, buy the one for the purpose you intend to use it for. Both will improve your technique.

The main thing about oneman paddling is that if you don’t paddle, you go nowhere. Unlike in paddling in a W6 where you are not sure of how strong your paddling is because there are 5 other people helping to propel the waka.

Carmel paddling a Va'a Factory V1 at national Waka Ama Sprints 2019
Carmel “in the Pink” Va’a Factory V1 (fibreglass) at National Sprints 2019
Jace Hulena paddling a Tahuritaua V1 at Waka Ama Sprint Nationals 2019
Jace Hulena in his carbon fibre Tehuritaua V1 at National Sprints 2018
Callum in an Are V1 at Long Distance Nationals, 2019
Callum in an Are V1 at Long Distance Nationals, 2019
Zoe in the Va'a Factory full carbon fibre V1 on the Haven
Zoe in the Va’a Factory full carbon fibre V1 on the Haven
Jan with her new Fai Va'a V1 on top of the Corrolla
Jan with her new Fai Va’a V1 on top of the Corrolla

There are a couple of V1s being made in New Zealand now, the Sonic V1 and a V1 from Tai Paddles so the choices are getting more varied.
Sonic on Facebook

Buying the Va’a is just the start of the $$$$

Remember that buying the rudderless canoe is just the same as buying a ruddered canoe in terms of the accessories required. You need a roof rack, some sort of cradle for the roof rack, a spare paddle, a safety bag, a leash, life jacket, over sized flag as these va’a are around 7 metres long! And, maybe, some carbon iato (kiato) and a foot pump.
See the list in at the bottom of my OC1 post.

Don’t think you have stopped spending money just because you have bought the OC1! There is still a heap of things you need. Other things you will need are (and the list is not definitive)…

  • Second spare paddle and a lashing for tying it on (I use those stretchy physio bands and they are great)
  • Roof rack and system for the car (I ended up with a Thule rack) and 4-5m tie downs
  • Cradle for the waka which fits the roof rack (several iterations later I have an aluminium cradle from Mark Cresswell in Christchurch as it supports the waka at the strongest point – under each taumanu.)
  • Dry bag with emergency stuff (multitool, flare, radio or phone, eats, zinc lipstick, spare lashing and coffee money)
  • Life jacket (high viz)
  • Stool, as I am short and this makes it easier to get on the car and to do the tie downs
  • Bucket and cloth for washing down after paddling (I have heard of people dealing with rust in the car from not washing the OC1 down after paddling).
  • A over-length flag (an orange high viz vest is a great idea). The Ehukai comes with a cover with flag included. I added an extra flag with reflectors on for higher visibility.
  • A bailer, if your canoe has a cockpit and no foot pump to get the water back out.
  • And, as my back got really sore, a trolley. I got a very lightweight kayak trolley and it works well. (I still feel like I am doing the walk of shame down the boat ramp but it certainly has made a difference:)

Carbon fibre Iato (kiato)

Dale Masters (Paddling Addiction) is also the contact for carbon fibre Viper Iato if you are looking to lighten the weight of your V1. I have just ordered some very pretty ones. I got the matching Viper paddle which is a great paddle. I generally use this in the V1 and the Kialoa Paea in the OC2 and W6.

Viper Waka Paddle and Viper Kiato for V1 waka


  • Charles

    I want to buy a vi rudderless but who is the contact

  • Hi Maui
    Sorry to be so long in responding. I asked Andrew from the Va’a Factory for his opinion about the difference as I don’t know enough to comment. Here is what he said…

    The difference between Fai and Va’a Factory is in the design if the hull. They are both V1’s but in most ways that is where the similarity stops. The Va’a Factory hull was designed by Lemmy Lambert to be faster and surf better than other hull designs. V1 hulls have a V shape at the front and back with a flat area (rocker) in the middle. The angle, size and how they correspond to each other is different in each hull design. Other design differences are in the spacing and placement of the Taumanu and where the balance point is. I believe the Va’a Factory hull is superior to the Fai, but it can be an individual thing, some prefer the Fai and do well with them. We have a new design now which is better again so I’m hoping to see some good results in the coming season.

    I would ask around to find out what paddlers in your area are using and why they chose them. It’s a very personal decision. Try to paddle a few different sorts before you make your final decision.

  • Hi is there a difference between Fai Factory and Fai Va? What if any are the differences?

  • Andrew Priest

    Hi Jan. Great review and if you decide you want to give Va’a Factory a go I will do the grannie price for you
    Andrew Priest

    • Jan Blythe

      Hi Andrew, Great to see you at LDNs. Not sure I can change my va’a at the moment and the carbon one went really quickly to a very happy couple of paddlers. They tried it yesterday in perfect Nelson conditions and absolutely loved it. Thanks for offering the ‘grannie price”, I’ll certainly think about it.Cheers Jan

Leave your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.