Paddle for Life – Dave Chun, Kialoa

Paddle for Life – Dave Chun, Kialoa

If you’d asked me 3-4 weeks ago if I knew who Dave Chun was, I’d be lying if I told you I knew. After the clinic with him this weekend, I am surprised and ashamed that I had never encountered him before. For those of you who are in the situation I was in those weeks ago, Dave Chun is one of the creators and designer of Kialoa Paddles, a company that started about 25 years ago in Dave’s parents’ backyard in Hawaii.

Dave Chun with staff from Deep Cove Outdoors

Dave with the DCO Crew

Dave came up to Vancouver from his home in Bend, OR to give a clinic on paddling in our store. In our store. This immediately indicated that he was going to do something different as we’ve never had a clinic on paddling take place on dry land before! It was also open to all kinds of paddlers – this was going to be interesting.

 “Whether stand up paddling had come along or not, I’d still be making paddles.”

Dave tells that in 2002/3, Laird Hamilton came to him and asked him to make a paddle to use while standing up, and from then on things have been very different. Prior to that he had been making outrigger paddles in his parents’ backyard because there was no industry back then. Stand up would come to be a huge part of the current business, but as was shown by the mix of outrigger and dragon boat paddlers as well as SUP’ers in the audience on Saturday, the other elements are strong too, if not more so.

Dave Chun during paddle clinic

Dave Chun demonstrates paddling technique.

On technical details, Dave doesn’t tend to mince his words – he’ll call a spade a paddle. Narrow and tall with a teardrop shape feels the ‘cleanest’ to him, but he knows that people’s tastes are always different and are always changing so he makes all sorts of designs. He loves the paddles that he makes, and talks with such authority on all aspects of paddle design he made it easy to understand. The mark of a true master.

One of the most interesting parts of the clinic was about biomechanics. Learning about how paddling affects your body and things you can do to minimise the strain was fascinating. The double bend in Dave’s newest paddles put less strain on your shoulder and utilises your core muscles. It’s amazing that no-one thought of this before. Come to think of it, it’s not. It is Dave’s history and knowledge that led to this breakthrough, no-one else seems even close to his depth and breadth.

If that’s not enough, Dave’s environmental stance is also something to aspire too. He’s now making paddles from scraps of unused diaper material – yes, really – and is always aiming for that 100% recycled and recyclable utopia we should all strive for. We’re expecting a run on his paddles next season at Deep Cove Outdoors.

I’ve waxed lyrical about Dave’s talents for long enough – I’ll end with words from his good buddy and surfboard shaper extraordinaire Gerry Lopez:

“Dave Chun builds paddles because he knows how to do it right. KIALOA Paddles are state of the art. When I watch Dave working or just talking about paddles, I can sense some very heavy feelings. The Hawaiians call this Mana and I believe it is a cosmic energy that flows through everything in the universe like the wind, the waves, rocks, plants and animals. Mana in humans is manifested as great skills, talents, strengths, intelligence and character. When using a KIALOA Paddle, that electric sensation one feels is the Mana. Keep Paddling.”

– Gerry Lopez

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