Austin Kalama's Paddle Power

You say hand, he says paddle

stunet's picture
By Stu Nettle (stunet)
Photo: MROD MAUI

Austin Kalama's Paddle Power

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

Late December saw Peahi break twice. The swells were a week apart - arriving on the 17th and the 24th - both swells were mid-range for Peahi standards, and both broke under relatively light winds.

Great warm up swells, in other words. Ideal for testing new boards and equipment, which is exactly how Austin Kalama approached the December swells. "It was a great size for testing things out," Austin says when I finally reach him via a scratchy international phone line.

I'd been very keen to chat to Austin since viewing footage of those swells. You see, it wasn't just a new board design Austin was trialling, but a whole new technique for getting into waves. During both swells, he paddled out with a set of Kalama Performance hand paddles. During the first session he wore a black set that were inconspicuous, at least for those watching on video, but then switched to a white set that made clear just what he was up to.

It was Webs 2.0 but in 20 foot waves.

 

Two damn good waves caught on Christmas Eve. Scroll to 2:10 if the video doesn't start there (MROD MAUI)

The hand paddles weren't strictly made for big waves but arrived in the lineup via a roundabout way. About two years ago, both Austin and his old boy, Peahi pioneer Dave Kalama, were experimenting with downwind foiling. At the time they were using a SUP paddle to generate enough speed to catch ocean waves, however once the foil kicked in the paddle was redundant; a useless tool they were forced to carry on long downwind runs.

So they did away with the SUP paddle and tried to catch waves from a prone position, occasionally having luck though more often the waves would pass them by as they couldn't paddle fast enough.

A great thing about the alt-surf movement - a term I've used to cover crafts such as SUP, foil, wing, and all the hybrids in between - is that it's so new no-one feels hidebound by tradition. There's a willingness to experiment with shapes, materials, and even with how things are done. In that vein, Austin and Dave figured they could get the assistance they need by using hand paddles.

The kind of hand paddles they use are not disimilar to what swimmers might use for resistance training in the pool. The face of the paddle has approximately double the surface area of a flat hand, and it attaches to the person with elastic at the wrist and middle finger (though that can change).

Subsequently, the Kalama boys had success using them on their downwind ventures, after which the SUP paddle stayed in the garage and they were free to glide unencumbered.

Austin couldn't quite pin down when the idea came to him to push the idea further, yet he began testing the paddles in a surfing - that is, tradititional surfing - environment. "I tried them out a few times at some outer reefs near home," says Austin, "and they worked for surfing."

Unlike webbed gloves of the 1980s, the paddles are hard plastic. For the sake of paddling efficiency they don't allow any movement. Now, have a think about how many times you grab your board in the course of a session, and how you might go when your hands - replete with opposable thumbs - are replaced by two picnic plates.

"At first, I found simply manovering around the lineup a bit tricky," says Austin, "but I can get in and out of them in a half-second, so I've gotten better at that." By this stage, he and Dave had begun producing them for the family company - Kalama Performance.

The big question, of course, is taking off. Will a flat plastic surface hold against the fibreglass? "I've found I've had to sort of stagger where I put my hands when getting up," explains Austin, and if you watch this video clip you'll see what he means - his left hand goes forward, right slightly back. "It feels less risky getting up that way."

As for performance, Austin's finding they work the same as when downwind foiling. "Oh yeah," he says excitedly, "I'm getting into waves earlier."

"I've been looking for those slightly smaller ones that go under the pack," says Austin, "What I've found is I can catch those waves with just four or fives strokes, rather than seven or eight strokes."

The difference may only be a small number of paddling strokes, but in the water it means not having to sit as far inside, which is a dangerous game at Peahi.

"I've seen what they can do on small days," says Austin about the hand paddles, "my goal now is to get a bomb set from out the back."

Rather than the subtle shifts in board design that take a keen eye to spot, Austin's new adventure is all on show. "I've had a few people in the lineup come up to me and ask about them," admits Austin, "though I don't know if they'll take off."

"Perhaps we'll see after I get a set with them."

Comments

spaceman's picture
spaceman's picture
spaceman Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 3:44pm

Ready and waiting. Popcorn in hand.

HaleOhana's picture
HaleOhana's picture
HaleOhana Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 4:11pm

Rotator cuff injury in 3.....2......1

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 4:52pm

Make em in brass like cymbals for the best after barrel claim ever.

Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 6:05pm

early frontrunner for SN comment of the year

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 6:53pm

Thanks Gra. I appreciate the accolades coming from the likes of you.
I posted that comment while necking a CC and soda in the 5mins I had between coming home from work and taking the boy and bikes to the skaet park. Wooohoo.
I'm sure I could have more [comments] but I'm really shit at TyP1nG.

Major kong's picture
Major kong's picture
Major kong Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 7:13pm

Actual laughed out loud...

Shaggydagz's picture
Shaggydagz's picture
Shaggydagz Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 12:04am

Beer out both nostrils, that's a cracker mattock....

carmo-dee's picture
carmo-dee's picture
carmo-dee Monday, 9 Jan 2023 at 2:22pm

Absolutely nailed it

Redmond Clement's picture
Redmond Clement's picture
Redmond Clement Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 7:22pm

I tried the webbed gloves, they tuckered my arms out real quick.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 7:28pm

First of all, he’s surfing way bigger waves than I ever will so I should just stop here.
But am I the only one who really dislikes gimmicky stuff like this? Jet skis included..
Especially in big waves.
Padded and inflatable vests I get, no one wants to drown, but stuff like this seems so corny.
I just want to see man/woman against nature paddling in with bare hands and whatever happens happens.

FYI I also dislike foils, tow ins, wavestorms ;-)

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 7:59pm

I with you goofyfoot, I can't see these getting too far down the runway...

theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 8:51pm

Good luck pulling your inflatable vest cord

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock Wednesday, 4 Jan 2023 at 9:28pm

Or the safety pin on your leggie.

Although, could sometimes come in "handy" in the bedroom.

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Thursday, 5 Jan 2023 at 9:03am

I’ve been using webbed gloves since the early 90 and love them, when paddling out your fingers close so the resistance is similar to a hand, then when paddling into waves or when a burst of speed is needed you stretch out your fingers, plus they are great for duck diving higher volume boards.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Thursday, 5 Jan 2023 at 1:58pm

Woah....steady on mate. Strictly for pussies. Peter Mel is a poof and his 50 foot barrel at Mav's is just the Gay-est wave of all time

Nugs's picture
Nugs's picture
Nugs Thursday, 5 Jan 2023 at 5:33pm

For extra utility they could maybe supply an attachable sheet of velcro, then you could rip into a bit of the old grip ball with the kids.

MidWestMonger's picture
MidWestMonger's picture
MidWestMonger Thursday, 5 Jan 2023 at 7:03pm

Might try the old wicket keeping gloves, should give me double the surface area for paddling by my calculations.

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam Thursday, 5 Jan 2023 at 7:22pm

you would call flippers / fins gimmicks when you first saw them on some surfers feet?

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 8:52am

What’s wrong with pussies and poofs, perhaps it’s you who needs a steady on pal.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 10:45am

Just kidding mate. Takes all types to make a World. Power on!

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 2:33pm

Yeah just remember comments disguising toxic masculinity and homophobia with humour can be just as damaging to the young confused queer kids who aren’t lucky enough to grow into old queers as the out right hate speeches other places on the net. 23 years into the new millennium it’s not been funny for a long time.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 4:34pm

Right you are. I live in a redneck town and was "In character" re. that first statement. Apologies for any offence taken.

groundswell's picture
groundswell's picture
groundswell Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 5:01pm

You're wrong about hating queers and eating steers- if you kill for the thrill of the hunt. You're wrong for wearing fur and not hating Anne Coltur.
You're wrong fighting jihad, your blind faith in God your religions are all flawed....You're wrong and will probably never know.

As far as the paddles go...kind of seems like handless bodyboard air rolls..Lame..Not gay just lame..Cause some gay people i know are bloody cool and funny talented champs...However i have seen a straight friend raped and possibly drugged etc by a random gay guy we trusted too much in a Gay club oxford street.
Aslo a guy i worked for once always grabbed me on my cock and almost ruined my life..Oh well assholes of every gender even lesbians or straight Christians..Guess im even an asshole sometimes to religious people.

Anyway the paddles seem like a fad and id rather webs, also webs are great in cool water when your hands are so cold you cant keep your fingers together.

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Friday, 6 Jan 2023 at 5:06pm

No worries mate, it takes balls to apologise. Opps I mean courage.

mixie six's picture
mixie six's picture
mixie six Monday, 9 Jan 2023 at 5:45am

Living permanently in Philippines now, I thought the whole poof comment was hilarious and miss that casual Aussie shit talk. Great stuff. Poofs here are good value, they don't need anyone elses approval or whatever, but are certainly not shy in asking to see your cock. "Queers" well, that's a western thing, and their own personal problem to sort out, no need to blubber in public to try to garner some attention or sympathy or whatever the hell they're on about, because tbh the vast majority of people really could not give a fuck either way. If the dinner plates on the hands help someone get a pumping jaws barrel rather than going over the falls on the same wave then why the hell not??

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Monday, 9 Jan 2023 at 1:17pm

Farken oath ya carnt. Most advances in XXL surf equipment in recent years seem to be focused on surviving getting smashed...but surely it makes more sense to minimize getting smashed in the first place