Kai Wa’a Surfski – Ozone Built
Ozone News / 2019 / By Naim Ferguson
In 2017 Kai Bartlett and Mike Giblin got together to discuss a new project, to build something new, but not a canoe. The idea was to take the lessons learned from canoe building and apply to a new vessel, a different sport entirely.
Kai Bartlett is known for his canoe designs and paddling accomplishments, with 5 Kaiwi Solo World Championship titles as well as 9 Molokai World Championship Relay titles, but he also loves the sport of Surfski paddling. The Surfski, a sleek single hull that requires finesse, technique and a powerful cardio system to maintain speed. Moving from the canoe paddle to the wing blade allows a variety in movement and application, all of which bring positive attributes back to OC1 paddling. Together with his top team rider, Pat Dolan, Kai has competed and placed well in Surfski races, such as the Molokai Challenge, Maui Paddling Hui and Kanaka Ikaika race circuits.
As Kai paddled different Surfski models and expanded his skills, something happened, his boat designer brain kicked in. “What about a bit more this, and little less that?” It was an itch that needed to be scratched. Mike Giblin also got bit by the designer bug. And as Kai began the hand shaping process, Mike began exploring the parts and other features unique to Surfki. Once the research was done, both Mike and Kai agreed that there was something the Outrigger world could offer to Surfski. From the beginning, Mike, Kai, and Brian decided they would do things in the way they know how, but also, they would be open to new ideas and methods.
It made sense to keep this project quiet, as there was a lot to learn. As with all Ozone Built products, we constantly troubleshoot and improve the process, materials and methods. The adjustable foot brace and venturi system would be new to us. As well, Surfski’s are generally thicker and take more abuse then OC1, so we would need to adjust the layup to accommodate handling. The goal was to build a Surfski that would prove itself on the water, be tough and durable, and we would find ways to do things that are progressive and intelligent.
The first part of the year was spent testing and improving the prototype. Next, the team went to the computer to digitize and continued tweaking. Brian got to work on tooling, fabrication, building the mold, and experimenting with parts. The Vega was coming together.