Choosing A Canoe

Much like the purchasing of paddles, purchasing an OC-1 is all about preference. Unless you live in Southern California, then it’s just a question of, “what is Danny Ching paddling?”

Kidding aside, purchasing an OC-1 is a big investment. Typically, when one is ready to purchase an OC-1 they feel they are ready to take the next step to become a better paddler and get out and paddle and connect with the ocean on their own time.

Purchasing an OC-1 should be like purchasing your first motorcycle in that you know you are going to roll it, beat it up and probably ding it a few times. Even learning how to properly transport a canoe takes time and you certainly don’t want to go through that learning process with a brand-new canoe.

That said if you have money to burn then by all means knock yourself out. OC-1’s are designed to take a beating but they also need a lot of care and attention. It’s better to learn those nuisances on something that is used and not brand new and shiny.

My first OC-1 was a Kai-nalu, the previous owner gave me all that I needed to know about that canoe, how it rode, how to take care of it, etc. Had he not expressed his tips to me, I’m certain I would’ve broken it at some point.

I recommend purchasing a used OC-1 first. Not only because you may put some wear and tear on it (which would happen anyway new or used), but you will be able to get wisdom passed down to you about the canoe from the previous owner.  In my opinion, each canoe has its own unique personality that is important to know.

Currently there are a number canoe makers out there the more well-known canoe makers are:

Kamanu Composites

Puakea Designs

Kai Wa’a


Ozone (typically does molds for both Puakea and Kai’Wa’a but also produces Hurricanes and Storms)

Tiger Canoes (Fai Va’a) V1

For the first five canoe designer’s above, I have paddled all their latest canoes. Each has their own unique strengths and preferences.

It’s important to consider where the boat maker is from. For example, Kai Bartlett’s canoes (Kai Wa’a) are amazing out in Hawaii, especially out in Maui and doing a Maliko run. The reason for this is because Kai Bartlett is from Maui.

Paddling in Southern California presents a unique situation considering conditions here are not quite the same as they are in Hawaii.  At the same time conditions in SoCal aren’t entirely the same as the conditions in Northern California where Jude from Huki builds his canoes. So consider how the water conditions are in your neck of the woods before purchasing a canoe. With that said, all of the canoe builders I mentioned make canoes with versatility in mind. I’ve just personally found certain hulls are better suited to certain situations.

Another example of versatility is Johnny Puakea’s Ehukai, and Kamanu Composites Pueo X. Having owned both, I have found that these canoes really excel in southern California water simply because they don’t have  big volume at the back or under the seat of the canoe.

Having to contend with a lot of cross swell and changing winds these canoes work well in SoCal. However, if I was to put the Ehukai against the Pueo X in Hawaii, my preference would be the Pueo X.  Consider that when you look at the Molokai solo results it really isn’t about the canoe but more so about the engine and how much luck the ocean gave those competitors.

The bottom line is all the canoe makers are awesome individuals and I haven’t met one yet that was not a great individual that put their love of the sport into their crafts. I have paddled them all and all of them felt great in their individual ways. Again, it’s just a matter of preference and comfort when considering which OC-1 to purchase.


Paddling a V1, or rudderless canoe, is quite the experience. The first time I had a chance to paddle one I was with Manutea Owens out in Kauai at a clinic and the experience was quite profound. I found that paddling a V1 is really all about proper placement of the blade, being patient and feeling the stroke and how it impacts the canoe.

Manutea asked me what it was like paddling the V1, and I told him it as if I was a deaf man, but now I can hear for the first time. It was incredible and I would recommend everyone to give it a shot, but be warned there is a reason designers introduced rudders in the first place. Paddling a V1 is very much like painting on a very delicate canvas. Try it out to gain a better feel for the water and learn new paddling skills.


These 2-padder canoes can cost just as much as a nice OC-1. The price point typically doesn’t make much sense to buy an OC-2 unless of course you already have an OC-1, or you are going to split the cost with someone else.

If that someone else isn’t your better half, then it can be a challenge to work out a time to get out together to paddle it. At the same time the running joke is that OC-2’s can be a couple’s nightmare. Thankfully I haven’t run into that issue with my better half. Quite to the contrary, whenever we get ourselves into a rut we go out on the OC-2 and reconnect with each other.

OC-2’s are a great learning tool and phenomenal asset for someone who may be a coach or mentor to help another paddler build their confidence to get into a OC-1. Unless there is a sincere plan to use an OC-2, I would focus on purchasing an OC-1, or even two used OC-1ss before purchasing an OC-2.

By | 2017-03-25T11:30:49-05:00 March 13th, 2017|Categories: Equipment, Outrigger Paddling|