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Introducing the Kai Wa'a Lele OC-6 Ama

Recently, I finished designing an ama for our six-man outrigger canoe (OC6). This was a project that I wanted to have fun with and wasn’t too worried about rushing it or forcing the completion. Due to this, the reality was she sat unfinished for months in my shop. Which in hindsight became a blessing in disguise. By the time I came back to work on it, I decided to completely redo the hull shape due to some things I didn’t like. It also didn’t hurt that once six-man season was in full swing, the shaping bug got ahold of me and the excitement got me moving. Although, I did a bit of traveling during the summer months, the short time I spent at home was all about shaping. I was able to finish the ama in time for the first distance race on Maui. What perfect timing.

My purpose for designing this was to have an ama that was versatile like our OC-1 ama. I wanted an ama that could surf yet run well in the flat; an ama that would allow the steersman to steer as he or she wished rather than it being a controlling factor on what direction the canoe wanted to run. I did some research on the current amas on the market and there were some pieces to the design that I implemented to help with all-around performance. In the end, I felt that she looked really good and complete; time for testing!

Kihei, Maui offers unique conditions for six-man paddling. During our weekly practices, you can experience every condition in the book. One day can be a great downwind and brutal upwind; the next day sidewind, or glassy. The versatility allowed me to get some solid testing in for the Kai Wa’a ama. In addition to the conditions, we have veteran paddlers and an extremely experienced steersman, Kekoa Cramer, that gave some good honest feedback. Kekoa is one of the best steersmen here in Hawaii, so any feedback from him, whether positive or negative, is good feedback.

Our first run with the ama was in mellow water and right away it felt as if we were gliding on top of the ocean. As the workout went on, the wind picked up and created a hard chop to push through upwind. Still, the ama ran like a charm through the harsh troughs and allowed the canoe to maintain a better glide in the adverse conditions. At the end of the practice, Kekoa was pretty excited about the ama and wanted to give it an open ocean trial in the upcoming Great Kahakuloa race. The Kahakuloa run is some of the best and most crazy water you can get into here on Maui. At times it can make you feel like you are in a rodeo; the water has a lot of rhythm, but a lot of chaos at the same time. The great thing with testing out product on this course is that you have a good 8 miles of flatwater too, so you get to see many aspects of how your design works. At the end of the race, Kekoa said he was able to conserve his energy because of the way the ama reacted out there. He really wanted to find a way to get it to Kona the following weekend for the Queen Lili’uokalani race.

We did take the ama to the Queen Lili’uokalani race as well as all other races of the season, especially the Molokai Hoe; she was that good. We even took her to Oahu for the Henry Ayau race (which we won) because we were getting spoiled with her performance and felt under gunned if we didn’t have it.

With all the traveling and racing this ama has done this last season, I am pleased how well she held up. This ama prototype is a solid styrofoam plug so I had my doubts on how the pedestals would hold where the iakos tie down to the ama but she held together just fine.

Now I’m getting excited to get her into production for everyone else to enjoy what she has to offer. We will be releasing the ama for next year’s six-man season! And if all goes well, she will fit multiple styles of canoes.

If you would like to reserve a spot on our current waitlist let us know HERE.

Thank you,

Kai Bartlett

Here is a quick quote from Kekoa about his thoughts on the Kai Wa’a ama:

“I love this ama!! It gives the canoe stability in the sloppy conditions but yet is nice and loose in the open bump. I like how it gives you little bit more time to correct when surfing into waves goin’ left or right. And I especially enjoy how it stays dry when trying to get over the crest of one wave and transitioning down the face of the next one. This ama gives me confidence in any condition. 🤙🏽”


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