Buying Waka Paddles (Outrigger or Va’a Paddles)

Waka Ama
Viper Waka Paddle and Viper Kiato for V1 waka

Waka Paddles are A very personal choice

Getting the right paddle for you can be a bit of a challenge. I started off using our club paddles. They were wooden, heavy and well used, so they ‘plopped’ a lot. There was only one 47″ paddle and it was often out when I wanted to use it. I really needed to get my own paddle. At that stage, I had no idea what to buy. A very generous paddler let me try her Tai paddle, I liked it and that is what I bought. They don’t make that particular paddle any more. It was a really good all round paddle.

Paddles are constantly changing, new models come onto the market so I have tried to use the most common blades in use at this time.

First – Know your paddle length

Choosing a paddle is a really personal decision. It depends on feel, blade size, length and purpose. Choosing the length of your paddle is VERY important. Kialoa have this great video on how to choose the right sized waka ama/outrigger paddle.

I started using a 47″, then went to a 48″ and then a 49″ paddle. I was getting quite a lot of shoulder and elbow problems so I have gone back to using a 47″.  I don’t get sore joints these days. Maybe it’s just my technique improving, but I also think the paddle length helps a lot.

Try before you buy (if you can)

There are heaps of different paddles out there. Everyone will have an opinion and so it really is worth trying a few different paddles before you buy if you can. Not everyone is willing to lend their precious paddles, but someone might. It is worth asking.

Here are some of the paddles me and my paddling buddies have tried. There are plenty are out there. If you have a favourite send me your review.

Paea – Hybrid Double Bend Outrigger Paddle from Kialoa

I now use a 47″ Kialoa Paea that I got from Rob Smith of Waka Paddle. It’s one of my favourites.

“Battle tested by Lanikai Canoe Club during the 2017 Molokai Hoe, the Paea is designer Dave Chun’s interpretation of a Tahitian V-6 paddle. Featuring a tapered PVC foam core carbon fiber epoxy blade, the Paea has virtually zero flex for a quick catch and efficient energy transfer. Paired with a triple laminated wood hybrid slim shaft, the ergonomic double bend is comfortable in the hand and easy on the body.”
Kialoa Paddles

“The Paea suits me (and, of course, it is pretty). I used it for the first time in high wind in my OC1 and noticed that it had a really smooth, clean catch. I could feel the pull right the way through my stroke. This paddle is almost ‘flat-backed’ as it has a minimal ridge at the back of the blade where the handle inserts into the blade, making it great for V1 paddling as well as W6. It is the paddle I chose to take to Tahiti for the World Sprints. I love the slightly larger blade area.”
Jan Blythe

Construction: Blade – carbon/epoxy with wood/foam core, internal carbon reinforced edge banding for durability, dihedral for stability, thin tip for a clean entry & solid catch, Shaft – Triple laminated wood for strength & durability
width=9.5″, surface area=120 sq in, blade angle=16°, shaft=Slim Double Bend
Contact: Rob Smith of Waka Paddle.

Hoku – Hybrid Double Bend Outrigger Paddle from Kialoa

For a while I had a Hoku, but I found the blade area a bit small when I was paddling the V1. I sold it after I got my Paea and the new owner is very happy with it.
Contact: Rob Smith of Waka Paddle.

Puakea Paddles

Johny Puakea was in Nelson recently taking a paddling technique session with 8 of us out at Kaiteretere. He has some really nice full carbon paddles that a few of the OC1 paddlers are using now. They either have the Polu or the Maika’i. I quite liked them when I tried them, but there are only so many paddles one can buy.

Contact: Shane Anderson @ Raglan Roast/ Kite Surf Nelson 

Hybrid Broadbill – Tai Paddle

Tai have a great range of paddles. They have the big advantage of being New Zealand made. The broadbill is one that is becoming popular in Nelson. The angle has been adjusted slightly for a cleaner entry and increased catch. The blade have new in-mold logo’s and abs edging to improve the durability.

“I use Tai Aito for all long distance and sprints, but the new broadbill is super nice. I used a Marere Va’a paddle and it was really nice…light and could grab lots of power from it, But overall I’m a Tai fan.”
Callum O’Leary, Motueka Waka Ama Club

Construction: Blade: epoxy, carbon fibre, fiberglass, pvc foam, abs edging, Shaft: laminated timber
For those who love specifications: width=width: 9.5″, length: 18.5″, comes in double or single bend shaft
Contact: Shane Anderson @ Raglan Roast/ Kite Surf Nelson 

Viper Blade

I have a Viper Blade and I love it. It handles well in the V1 (and it matches my iato). I like the fact that it comes from Tahiti and that some of the price of the blade goes towards conservation of a rare flower found only on Raiatea. Viper blades come in both hybrid and full carbon and with double or single bend shafts.

Construction: Blade: epoxy, carbon fibre, fiberglass, pvc foam, abs edging, Shaft: laminated timber
For those who love specifications: width=width: 9.5″, length: 18.5″, comes in double or single bend shaft
Contact: Dale Masters, Paddling Addiction

Quick Blade

A lot of Nelson paddlers use Quick blades.  I still have one but, its out on loan to someone who loves it.

Contact: Shane Anderson @ Raglan Roast/ Kite Surf Nelson 


  • Connie Adams

    Awesome info, I’m looking for paddle NZmade or to purchase within NZ, mainly because of delivery times.

    • Jan Blythe

      Kia ora Connie
      Tai Paddles ( are NZ Made. However, delivery times will probably be an issue for any paddles at the moment because of the supply challenges due to Covid.
      My first paddle was a Tai and I loved it. However, my preference now are my Kialoa Paea and my Viper. I still have my Tai. It’s always a very personal choice. If you can try one out before buying to see what suits you best.
      All the very best and maybe we will meet on the water sometime 🙂

      • Connie Taiheke Adams

        Hi Jan just saw my msg, for myself I was desperate to get a paddle the wait time was too long, and Conan didn’t have any in stock at that time, but his own paddle…oh yes that’ll do me just fine thank you, well that’s me I absolutely love my 2nd hand paddle…we are now checking out the hybrid carbon broadbills for our 6 fantastic wahine. Have you any reviews on these please.

        • A
          Jan @ AvocaWebDesign

          Hi Connie
          Sorry I don’t. But I’ll ask around.
          Cheers Jan

  • Irene Loh

    Hi Jan,

    I wonder if you have time to give me advice on paddle purchase. I am 68, 55 kg. and 165 cm. I have been paddling OC1 for 5 years. I now paddle quite frequently, 4 times a week (plus or minus 2 depending on the season – I live in Canada). I have 2 single bend Kialoa paddles, the Nehu and Hollyakala which are both 48″. I think that is too long for me as I have quite short arms. I am looking to buy a shorter double bend for OC1 and may use the paddles I have for OC6. I have done the Kialoa sit test and according to that, I should get a 46″, but have been advised that is probably too short. I am considering the Kialoa Mekana and the Viper Fusion in 46″ or 47″, double bend. Your opinion would be very much appreciated. Irene

    • Jan Blythe

      Hi Irene
      I’m 70 and 165cms. I now use a Kialoa Paea 47″ and a Viper 47″ which has a Bamboo shaft and Carbon Fibre Blade 23.5mm x 47.5mm. I love them both.

      I use the Kialoa Paea in the W6 for sprints as I currently sit in seat 1 – it’s great for the turns. I tried them both and there was not much difference at all.

      I normally use the Viper in my V1, but there is not much difference except that the Viper seems to be slightly shorter and therefore, more suited to the V1 (how that can be as they are both 47″ I have no idea). I prefer the double bend, but in saying that, I have never used a single bend. I have tried a straight shaft and didn’t like it much. It just comes down to personal preference. If you are paddling in a competitive crew, our coach recommends everyone having the same shaft type; (e.g all straight shaft, or all single bend or all double bend).

      The Paea has a very flat surface on the back. Other hoe I have used have a rib down the centre on the back where the shaft fits into the blade. The Viper has this, but it is not as pronounced as on other hoe. When I first switched to the Kialoa Puaea I noticed I had a lot more ‘catch’.

      I moved from a 48″ Tai Paddle (New Zealand made) to a 49″ Quick Blade which I ended up getting cut down to a 48″ and from that to a 47″ Kialoa Hoku. The blade area on the Hoku was smaller than I liked, the length was great. Once I moved to the 47″ I never looked back. I had started to get shoulder and elbow issues and these have disappeared since moving to the 47″ hoe.

      Kialoa have a video on how to measure for your paddle length and it seems to be very good as we are all different shapes, arm lengths and body lengths.
      I hope that helps.
      Kia Kaha

Leave your comment

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