Dave’s Design Principles

Daves-desing-btnDesign Innovation KIALOA has been building products for paddlers for over 24 years. Where does the inspiration for paddle design come from? To answer this question, I had a conversation with designer and owner Dave Chun.


Question: Where does your inspiration for paddle design come from?

Dave: I owe a debt of gratitude to the sport of Outrigger Paddling. Paddling gave me a life direction. I repay my debt, by designing the best paddles possible for the paddlers.

The Paddler Equation 

Question: When you build, how do you know ‘what’ to build?

Dave: I listen to the paddlers, they tell me what to build. When paddlers tell me what to build, it is rarely specific. Most times the image of what they desire is not clear to them. The comments I get are really about themselves, the paddler. Not the paddle. My job is to take their feelings and translate it into the paddle.

Question: Where does your information you gather come from to determine what to build?

Dave: I believe in “The Wisdom of Crowds”.  James Surowiecki, writes in his book that a group of people with average intelligence will tend to be better at solving a problem than a single expert. Because of this, I try and get information from all levels of paddlers. Individually, the information has limited value, as it is only one person’s opinion. But when I put the entire piece together, it becomes my road map for what I need to build.

When I am shaping a new paddle model, I think about the people who will use it. It’s like a video loop that repeats over and over in my head. How big are their hands? How much force will they apply? Will they be bracing? Will they be steering? Some of my thought is analytical and conscious; sometimes my hands just know what to do.

On A Personal Note

Question: Aside from customer feedback, what drives your decisions from within?

Dave: I have always been small. To compete with larger, stronger, athletes, I have always had to excel at the technical aspects of sport. The laws of Physics govern all things in the universe. All humans have similar biomechanics. So, I am always asking myself, “Does this make sense, considering Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion? “Is this how the human body works?” I study sports videos, mainly MMA, weightlifting, and paddling. Hitting a golf ball, throwing a punch, all human powered sports are about leverage and engaging the large muscle groups.

Question: What inspires you to create?

Dave: I am most creative when I believe I can improve the design of something. I enjoy the pursuit of perfection. Jiro Ono, the great sushi chef, said, “How will our customers know great sushi, if we do not know it ourselves.’’ I am inspired by art, music, and craft, anyone who is willing to dedicate their life to being creative. Innovation is an outcome of being willing to fail.

Straight from the Designers Mouth – A Summary of Dave’s Design Principles

A paddle should become part of the paddler’s body. A good paddle should “disappear” in the hands of the paddlers. If the paddler doesn’t have anything to say about my paddle, then I have done my job. What’s the best pair of running shoes? The one that doesn’t give you blisters.

Build it to last a lifetime. Yvon Chouinard says, “The poor cannot afford to buy cheap goods”. Meaning, if a consumer has to buy an item over and over again, it is not good for the customer, nor is it good for the Earth. Broken paddles ruin my day. I think, “Did someone lose a race because of me?” “Did I ruin a vacation?”

Simple is better. No frills, no gimmicks – only the bare essentials.

The Catch is everything. I build my paddles to enter the water like a Gold Medal Olympic dive. Clean, no splash. When I shape the tips of my models, I think about my hands and swimming. The tip is the most important feature to get right, where the catch is concerned. I like to shape the tips with a soft sponge backing the sand paper. It’s as if the curve in my hand becomes the shape of the tip’s power hook or arc.

Bigger isn’t always better. Get the blade surface area right. Paddles provide traction, or friction. They are like the tires on a car. Once maximum traction has been achieved for the horsepower or handling potential of a car, more traction is not of more benefit. A bigger paddle does not mean a paddler will go faster. Generally speaking, the faster the craft moves, the larger the blade that can be used. The only method to figure out what is the optimal surface area for a given paddler is trial and error.

The paddle must connect the paddler with the water. A paddle must “load” to give the paddler feedback on their technique. I believe there is a fraction of a second at the moment power is applied when the paddle loads. To feel this, the paddle must flex. This is why I design my blades to flex slightly. Feedback on technique is essential for continued progress in paddling efficiency.

There is no such thing as sprint racing in paddling. I believe all paddling races are middle distance to long distance races. At the finish of a 10 second, 100-meter sprint, the runners are slowing down. Thus, I design all my paddles for comfort. If the paddler is comfortable, they are better able to endure.

The ultimate paddle does not exist. Paddles are like golf clubs. If they excel at some aspect of paddling, they will be inferior at another. I design for a specific attribute. In the case of an all-around design, the attribute is to be neutral.

No matter the price point or skill level of the paddler, I will give 100% in my design process. Regardless of their skill level, fitness level or budget I believe that all paddlers deserve good gear.

—Thank you Dave Chun for your continued contribution to the sport of paddling and sharing your Design Principles.








The Queen Liliuokalani Race

This September I was slated to attend The Queen Liliuokalani Race (the Queen’s race) to work in the KIALOA booth. I had no intentions of racing. However, a woman named Annie McEveety Allen stroked the Napali race I had just done the month before and she was going to be in Kona. She said, “Come on – let’s do Kona”. So two weeks before the race, we called up friends and we put a masters crew together and decided to race Iron in a Koa canoe.

Left to right: Annie McEveety Allen, Mindy Clark, Julie Wolfe, Meg Chun, Cynthia Hahn, Lisa Jakubowski

Left to right: Annie McEveety Allen, Mindy Clark, Julie Wolfe, Meg Chun, Cynthia Hahn, Lisa Jakubowski

Annie – what a go getter. I arrived in Kona on Wednesday night and on Thursday I was at the airport picking up two employees when Annie called. She said, “Can you get down to the pier in the next hour to race in the 4 man race? I already registered you.” I told her, “Yep, I can make it but I’m wearing a dress.” Now here is where I have to plug Title Nine – a women’s clothing line. I was wearing one of their dresses and they had a marketing campaign this summer called “Do It in a Dress”. That cracked me up. Anyhow, I get down to the pier to learn that this race entails a mandatory huli – a flipping of the canoe. “Hmmmm….interesting. Guess I”ll be doing that in this dress too.”

On Saturday we raced iron for 18 miles in a koa canoe that was loaned to us by Kai Opua Canoe Club.   It was rigged, had padded seats and was sitting on the beach waiting for us. We can’t thank them enough! We took off from the line and never looked back. It was hot as hades and really challenging both mentally and physical due to the extreme heat and humidity. But we managed to pull off a First Place with our Masters crew in the Koa division.

Come Monday, I got to race again in the Ali’I Challenge with my home away from home Kailua Canoe Club. This is where my husband Dave and I learned to paddle 30 years ago. This is where we still have many deep bonds, many life long relationships. This is where KIALOA was born – through our love of outrigger paddling. Kailua Canoe Club will forever be in our hearts and racing with them in the Ali’i Challenge was one of the more fulfilling things I have done.

All in all, what a great summer of racing. To end the season in Kona was a gift.

— Meg Chun




The Bucket List

In December of 2014 I was given the go ahead to return to “working out” via Pilates after several years of neck problems and migraines. I immediately committed to 3 mornings a week at 6:30 am, rain, snow or shine. And at the same time, I set a goal to do one of my bucket list outrigger races – The Napali Challenge. One thing about setting goals, even if they are quietly living inside your head, the intention usually makes the goal come to fruition. Napali

Fast forward to August 2015 and I am flying down the Napali Coastline with 5 amazing women and a crew of 6 men cheering for us from the escort boat. And one of those men – my hero – Vic Allen was the one who brought this whole experience together. Vic is an amazing paddler, funny, driven, hard working, loving – and did I mention? He’s also blind. “NLP”, he tells me. “No light perception.” This means without even a shadow Vic Allen is jumping into the ocean and doing water changes. Then paddling miles at a time in rough ocean waters.   He truly is an inspiration. If you want to learn more about Vic, check out this videoNapali 2015

After the race, we did all of the typical team stuff. We talked story, we laughed, we shared meals, we took pictures, and we all formed new bonds. And we were lucky enough to have Whosane Sayre document our adventure in a video that we will all cherish. Check that video out here.



— Meg Chun

Travels to Europe by Gillian Gibree

This past June, I traveled over to Europe to teach some SUP Yoga & Fitness workshops in Switzerland, run a few rivers on my SUP, and hike through the beautiful Alps. I bought my inflatable and Kialoa travel paddle that fit inside the board bag perfectly.
I landed in Berlin, Germany where I visited my family for 3 days before flying south.
Once I got to Switzerland, I was lucky enough to travel around the entire country, starting with the Italian border for an 18K paddle race, a part of the Swiss SUP tour.
After the long paddle I enjoyed a true Italian meal – wine, salami, prosciutto, salad, pasta with spicy marinara, polenta with beef, different cheeses, dessert, and espresso!
Tree Pose

Tree PoseI

I met up with the coordinator of the tour Dani Reini, who is also the river expert of Switzerland, and ran the Weissnburg River in Bern. The water levels were high after a heavy rain the night before, so the water was moving!

Weissnburg River









After getting my adrenaline pumping, we found a nice calm area on the river to wind down with some SUP Yoga. The next stop was the French border – and after a challenging hike in the Alps  I headed to Montreax to teach a SUP Yoga workshop and it was by far the most beautiful yoga ‘studio’ I had ever seen!

After my Switzerland tour, I took the train to Chamonix, France to meet up with my friend Lauren for some hiking, cheese, and of course Baguettes!




SUP Yoga

Continue reading