Puakea Designs Kahele Review vs Ehukai and Kahekai OC1

Kahele OC1 Review Kahekai EhukaiLate last year, the team at Puakea Designs announced the new Kahele and Cali Paddler did our best to give you the OC1 preview scoop on this new, significantly shorter, canoe design. Well demos are out there and folks are excited to share their thoughts. Below are three paddlers with various backgrounds, experience and home waters who graciously gave us their reviews and impressions. Big thank you to Ryland Hart, Candace Rogers and Andrew Chen. ~CP

Ryland Hart

Kahele OC1 Review Kahekai Ehukai

What was the biggest design change you noticed?
The biggest design change was for sure the shortness, at first I was pretty skeptical about it because that seems very counter intuitive being that the length usually means more glide due to enhanced surface area, but once I hopped on it I was amazed that my flat water speeds were just as good if not better AND in the bump it made super critical transitions that the longer nosed boats would get stuck in.

A lot of people talk about the shorter water line being a game changer, with some good and bad resulting from this change. Can you share your thoughts on this?
I think that the short waterline allows it to jump a little easier because it feels as if it accelerates just a bit quicker. I also noticed enhanced steering and maneuverability on waves.

How does this compare to the Ehukai and Kahe Kai (in any ways, including perhaps various conditions)?
In all my testing so far both Danny and I have been breaking all of our records set on both the Kahe Kai and Ehukai with this boat. Flat, downwind, upwind, sidewind, it just feels very comfortable and I’ve always felt when I’m comfortable: I’m paddling the fastest.

What size paddler would probably enjoy this canoe the most?
I think most sized paddlers should enjoy it. I thought maybe more the lighter paddlers like me and Danny would like it, but my Dad hopped on it and instantly felt comfortable. But I have noticed with the big guys, the short waterline in bump could cause them to pearl the nose if they aren’t very nimble. 

How did it feel during the initial start? Does it hold glide or fall off pretty quick?
The biggest improvement I’ve felt is in the glide. Once I burst and then settle, it holds its speed a lot easier which makes bursting a little more rewarding.

Tell us about the comfort of the canoe
So comfortable I’ve fallen asleep on it at 6 AM practice before pieces started! I have noticed that compared to the Ehukai especially, my legs feel a lot more relaxed and awake after long days on the water.

Where did you notice a drop off in performance compared to other canoes you have paddled, if any, and how did you correct for it?
I have felt that the learning curve in the upcoming bumps is a little more technical than past bumps, but once I figured it out it was able to hold some crazy lines and not lose speed once I redirected back down swell.

Where did you notice a pickup in performance, if any, and how do you maximize it?
The ability to hold a speed for a sustained amount of time, but the only thing that may be tied to that is the increase in training I’ve had this year. But I did definitely feel it immediately when I got on the boat.

Any final surprises, thoughts or take-aways?
This boat is such an eye opener for anyone trying to improve their paddling in all conditions. I’ve noticed that this boat makes me excited to go paddle multiple times everyday even when I’m sore and tired!

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Candace Rogers

Kahele OC1 Review Kahekai Ehukai

What was the biggest design change you noticed?
The biggest design change I have noticed in the Kahele is of course the length. You can certainly see that when you first see the new canoe. It is very notable when you sit in the canoe, it feels short. Something to just get used to.

How does this compare to the Ehukai and Kahe Kai?
I have noticed the Kahele is very fast off the line and quick to get up to speed. She slows down a bit faster on the glide than the Ehukai but not much.

The Kahele is very stable, feels more stable then the Ehukai. I would say the stability feels like the Kahe Kai. The cockpit is larger like the Kahe Kai so it has a nice big platform to drive off of. I am 5'4" plus and weigh about 135. I feel like I don't have the power to drive the Kahe Kai as well as the Kahele.

My favorite canoe has always been the Ehukai so I am very excited to get some more time and races under my belt on the Kahele. From my first few hours on the Kahele I feel like this canoe could be what I have been searching for ever since I sold my Ehukai. I do struggle a little with the larger foot platform and the pedals being up high like the Kahe Kai (my feet are not that big) but the easy fix is a layer of surfboard decking to raise the level of my feet so I can reach the pedals a bit more comfortably, not just the tip of my toe on the pedals.

[ Photo gratitude and credit to the Puakea Designs team for providing this photo. ]

What size paddler would probably enjoy this canoe?
I think this canoe will be great for anyone under 190 lbs. I had a friend paddle my Kahele next to me the other day and at 225 I think he would do better in the Kahe Kai as he "sank" the Kahele the water line was very low. I have paddled all 3 canoes a lot and we are really splitting hairs here. They are all fun and fast and we need to tweak our paddling a little for each individual canoe. I have run races and time trials on multiple canoes and they are all great canoes. I really like how the Kahele runs on small swell. It picks up the small bump really well. I haven't had a chance to paddle it in larger swell yet but am really looking forward to getting out there soon on her for some downwind runs. I will reserve comment on swell until I get a chance to spend some time in larger swell. 

Final take-aways?
I am not sure how to explain it, but when I have paddled the larger Kahe Kai and other canoes at my size and weight (except the Ehukai) I feel like I have a training bungee on all the time. Always fighting to move the canoe forward, with the Kahele I feel like I did paddling the Ehukai again, fast and strong with more get up and go and maneuverability than the Ehukai.

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Andrew Chen

Kahele OC1 Review Kahekai Ehukai

What was the biggest design change you noticed?
I noticed the bow of the Kahele has a plumb bow design. From an engineering POV, this is more efficient in cutting through the water compared to the high-chin bow design of the Antares, Ares, and Kahe Kai. The plumb bow also maximizes the waterline on the boat. The high-chin bow design also pushes down on the water more so than the plumb design. I also notice the deck is lower than the Ares and Antares. I'm not sure, but I felt the Kahele had a wider cockpit than the Ares and Antares.

How does this compare to the Ehukai?
I haven't paddled too much in the Ehukai. From what I've noticed, the cockpit feel (feet position, depth, seat positioning and contours) is very similar to the Ehukai. The Kahele pick-up speed is faster. The Ehukai feels similar in terms of how much the canoe cockpit angles towards the ama.

How about the Kahe Kai?
I haven't paddled in the Kahe Kai. I'm trying to downsize as I feel the Antares is a big canoe for me. In chop, I get bullied by the water easily.

How did it feel during the initial start? Does it hold glide or fall off pretty quick?
Kahele pick-up/initial start is good and feels better than the Antares and Ares. However, the boat doesn't hold glide as well when the paddle isn't in the water. I suspect this boat would be good for paddlers who like to keep the boat moving and have the paddle spend more time in the water than the air, or paddlers who like to keep a high cadence to their stroke.

Tell us about the comfort of the Canoe
The canoe feels more stable compared to the Antares and Ares. I was definitely less nervous in the Kahele than my Antares, and that's with 1.5 hours in the Kahele vs the many hours in the Antares. I'm not a fan of the seat contouring, but that could be changed with a different seat. I also may have had the seat too far back for me.

What situations benefited the most from the new design?
I can't say anything about surf. The most I got in terms of bumps was going through boat wakes and windiness within the BIAC channel. The boat picks up speed rather easily and as long as I had kept paddling, I can easily maintain speed.

Where did you notice a drop off in performance?
The boat doesn't hold speed as well. I'm fairly sure this is due to the shorter length of the boat, causing a shorter waterline.

What size paddler would probably enjoy this canoe?
I imagine a wider range of paddlers could enjoy this canoe. I can't really say much about others. I'm about 168 lbs.

Final take-aways?
I haven't spent time in the Kahele in the surf. However, in terms of stability, the boat feels similar to the Ehukai. Accelerating the boat and maintaining active speed is good. Inactive glide among all canoes I have tried continues to be best in the Ares or Antares with this running slightly behind.

Puakea Designs Kahele vs. Kahekai

[ Photo gratitude and credit to the Puakea Designs team for providing this photo. ]

So, there you have it from three folks who have had some time in the saddle that were willing to share their impressions. Different paddlers and backgrounds, in hopes of matching the questions YOU would have. We welcome your thoughts too! After all, a canoe is a big investment, and the more folks we hear from, the more we can decide which canoe is best for us. ~CP

To learn more about this exciting new canoe, visit the Puakea Designs website at

Other helpful OC1 articles:

Big thank you to Focal Box Productions for your continued help in connecting us to paddlers in the state (like Candace and Andrew) who were willing to share their story. For anyone looking to obtain the best paddling video work (from capture to editing and production) we have ever seen, look no further than Focal Box Productions.

Thank you to Puakea Designs for putting us in contact with Ryland who was excited to share with us his impressions.

Thank you to the three paddlers. It is always important to hear from actual paddlers and not always just companies when new products are released. Your time and contributions are extremely appreciated.

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  • Bob C - July 23, 2018

    appreciate the review!

    one point of clarification, while the Kahele has a shorter overall length compared to the Kahe Kai and Ehukai, it actually has a larger waterline than the Ehukai and a slightly smaller waterline than the Kahe Kai (rationale explained on the designer’s website)

    from: https://www.puakeadesigns.com/oc1-canoes

    KAHELE, Length at 19 ft. 3 in., Waterline: 19 ft.
    KAHE KAI, Length: 20 ft. 8 in., Waterline: 19 ft. 2 in.
    EHUKAI, Length: 20 ft. 8 in., Waterline: 18 ft. 6 in.

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