Stand-Up Paddle boarding has exploded in popularity recently. There are countless options for boards for all applications and abilities on the water. The vast majority of people are very casual users and in most cases, brand new paddlers. It is not a new sport, as it has roots in surfing big waves, but most users now opt for calmer, flat water.
Paddle boards are usually huge, some are over 14 feet long and 30” wide but most are in the 10.5” to 12” range. Logistically speaking, transportation and storage can be quite challenging. “Hard” boards are also relatively fragile and intolerant of rough handling and rocky shorelines….Inflatable SUP’s address these two issues with their compact nature when deflated and stowed using river-raft-like construction materials. Of course there are always tradeoffs, the biggest ones being paddling efficiency, tracking and speed. Hull shapes are fairly limited when dealing with an inflatable board, whereas composite boards can essentially be whatever shape the builder desires. The inflatable boards are not as “slippery” and have a higher drag coefficient in the water due to the rougher surface finish and basic shape. Increased drag combined with a flexing hull contribute to lower paddling efficiency.
Construction and Features:
Kahuna is a Whistler BC based company that manufactures a line of stand-up paddle boards and paddles. While nothing is actually made in Whistler, products are produced in Asia and the office is headquartered in Canada. All decent Inflatable SUP’s use a drop-stitch construction method where there are thousands of threads integrated into the construction between the top and bottom sides. Without these stitches, the board would inflate like a football and balloon out. The pic below shows the small dimples that reveal the locations of all of the stitch locations on the inner layer of the board.
Above Photo Source: http://www.supinflatables.co.uk/info/jp-sup-board-construction
Above photo shows the surface of the board in the background under the paddle shaft. The dimples due to the interior drop stitches are visible.
The thickness is maintained by the tension in the threads during inflation. 15 psi is the standard pressure for most boards. This pressure makes them feel pretty rigid, but still flex while bouncing on the water and paddling through chop. 2015_KAHUNA_iSUP_TOURING.jpg. Kahuna claims 4 layers of PVC tarpaulin material for construction. The material is quite durable as the odd contact with rocks and logs seemed to not leave any damage. It’s inevitable that during an adventure you are going to need to put your board down on the shore or during a rough landing will hit the rocks to some extent, iSUPs are ideal for touring because they are rugged! On the Kahuna 12′ Touring the fin is easily removable and attaches in the US Fin box with a small rectangular backing washer and a thumbscrew. Spare hardware is provided in the included repair kit if you decide to drop yours in the drink. I personally find the small hardware a bit of a pain and in all likelihood will get lost, so maybe plan on getting a few spares.
The fin box does have a few inches of fore-aft adjustment. Having the fin more rearward makes the board track better and forward makes it more maneuverable.
The included fin is 11″ long and if you find yourself always in shallow water, then you may want to get a shorter fin, or you could in reality just profile and trim the standard one down a bit. I like the longer fin since it tracks better. If you are in shallow enough water to warrant a shorter fin, you cannot paddle properly anyway.
There are D ring mounting pojnts and a basic stretchcord retention system front and back. There are also 3 metal D-rings, one each fore and aft and a third on the bottom near the front for attaching an anchor for fishing. The Top Aft D-ring is visible in the second picture down from here below.
Kahuna “rates” this paddle board to carry 350 lbs. At 6″ thick and 12″ long, it seems more than capable.
The whole kit includes:
- Board, Rolled up and retained with a webbing strap and D-ring buckle.
- 3 piece carbon/Composite paddle.
- Pump, High/Volume low pressure and Low volume/High Pressure. Includes pressure gauge.
- Repair Kit with patches, glue and spare hardware
- 11″ Fin
- Mesh Storage Bag/Back Pack
The pump hose attaches to a valve at the front of the board with a bayonet style fitting. A simple insert and twist attaches the hose for inflation.
The main valve is a two position one for inflation/deflation. It is a spring loaded check valve that you push and turn to allow free flow.
Valve in Closed or Inflate position.
Valve in Open or deflate Position
The pump has a nice feature for going from high volume to high pressure. Around 5 psi on the gauge, you can remove a small red plug that vents the high volume stroke and only fills with the high pressure stroke. Normally with the plug in, the pump fills with the up and down stroke. You can also reverse the hose to suck the air out of the board during deflation to make rolling easier.
With steady pumping, it takes around 6-10 minutes depending on your motivation to bring the board up to 15 psi. It is actually more difficult than you might think to fill to this pressure, but the foot pump and two stages make it easier.
Fit and Finish:
While by no means perfect, the construction is of decent overall quality. I found the seam right at the bow, where the side “rand” wraps around the whole board is a bit puckered and not perfectly laid down. I looked at a few other boards and they all some degree of blemishes/defects here. It’s a difficult area to lay up smoothly but perhaps Kahuna has realized this and is looking at improvements. The board also does not lay perfectly flat and has a very subtle twist along its length when inflated to proper pressure. Again, I observed 3 other identical boards and including mine, 2 of the 4 in total showed the slight twist along the length. being somewhat of a perfectionist, this was a bit troubling, but does not seems to affect the tracking or paddlability of the board.
Although not the lightest or stiffest paddle on the market, the included 3 piece paddle is decent enough to satisfy most paddlers. It is adjustable in height with paddler height indications marked out on the top handle for easy setting for different people to use. The blade is bent for efficient strokes and is a pretty standard shape for SUP use. The cam lock fasteners are really nice and easy to use. The handle sections are a bit rough where the “carbon” wrap is laid up. I cannot decide if this was on purpose for grip or just an anomaly with the construction…Either way it was ok to use.
At 6″ thick and 12′ long, this is a very buoyant board. You sit high in the water and the nose or bow has a sleek pointed shape compared to other standard iSUP’s. Kahuna calls this a displacement hull, and it is, but the bow rides higher than true displacement hulls. I find the 12′ Touring great to paddle and tracks well over long distances. I prefer the fin in its most rearward setting and I can paddle all day on one side, easily initiating left or right turns. Leaning the edge in a bit to get the board to bite allows it to track nice a straight with little effort in light winds. Most SUP’s are a handful when heading into the wind or with a string crosswind. The paddler acts as a sail and it can be really difficult to make headway. The 12′ Touring is no different in that it does get pushed around a bit in the wind so you have to pick your route carefully during the windy days. There is decent flex when paddling through chop but the only way to eliminate that would be to go to a rigid board.
The board reacts very quickly when you want to make a pivoting turn and hop on the rear deck and use a pivot stroke. With a quick shifting of your weight and some paddle control, you can maneuver in some pretty spaces when exploring.
All in this board has great value and I recommend it to anyone looking for a board that they can paddle all day and take on trips. My only gripe is with the fit and finish and the twist in the board, But neither seem to affect the performance and fun factor.
Katie loves paddle boarding too!