Feedback from Kai Wa’a Team Riders
Ozone Reviews | 2017 | By Naim
Making a decision on a new canoe can be tough, which one has the hull speed, carries your weight comfortably, is easy to use and comfortable to ride. As you gather insight from different paddlers it really comes down to trying out canoes yourself to see which one shakes down for you and your goals.
The Ares has been the shining star in the Kai Wa’a camp. Not only being the first across the line in numerous races in Hawaii, the Ares is also seen in division winners and mid-packers like myself, who love her style.
It’s been a great OC1 season (2016-2017) with a heated competition and the fastest paddlers all showing up and throwing down. I was curious to hear what the team riders had to say about the Ares, now that the season is coming to a close. Bobby Pratt, Amy Lawson Woodward and Will Reichenstein responded with some insightful perspective and I am glad to share it here.
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Years Paddling: Since 12
Weight: 151 lbs
Previous Canoe: Gen 2 Pueo
Home Club: Outrigger Canoe Club
Sponsors: Kai Wa’a, Maui Jim, Makana Ali’i Paddles, Jaco Rehab
The first thing I noticed with the Ares was the acceleration and the way it could hold its speed. Kai’s designs have historically been incredibly easy to maintain a race pace speed due to his boats planing hull design, but with the Ares, the race pace is still easy to hold and also has that very quick acceleration feeling while only requiring minimal effort.
The seating position is the most comfortable I’ve felt on a 1 man, your feet are comfortably below your waist and it makes for very easy Ama control.
Kai’s canoes have always had the best steering capability, the Ama and hull design helps heaps but his rudder placement and design is the real winner. I can go hard left and right with no issues on any bump. It makes crossing a channel with a hard angle way easier.
The canoe holds its speed so well, no need hold the pressure longer than necessary, some canoes that accelerate will have trouble with the glide but this boat can accelerate and still maintain its hull speed for a while.
Upwind she boogies. Choppy water she boogies. Downwind god damn she smokes.
Hardly ever pearls. Has a very dry ride and if she pearls that wave must be big.
I rig my boat on the furthest in setting and lowest pin front highest pin back.
I love the look of this canoe because it looks sexy as hell and performs even better.
I’d recommend it to anyone with a brain.
Kai Waa team is a family that love paddling, but really likes fishing, diving, and drinking more sometimes, then remembers we gotta paddle again and races like there’s no tomorrow cause we just love the adventures.
I’d like to thank all the people who have helped me in my life with paddling, Kai Bartlett and his family especially, I was also one of the people who never thought I’d paddle a factory boat, but after using my new Pro Model Ares is eating my own words, this canoe is beyond my every expectation and I love it.
“..The Ama and hull design helps heaps but his rudder placement and design is the real winner. I can go hard left and right with no issues on any bump. It makes crossing a channel with a hard angle way easier… ” – Will
I noticed that for whatever reason, that canoe suited me well physically, and I felt like my weight was in the right place in the canoe — really balanced from left to right and front to back. When I started surfing it, I found that I could pull up and over the back of waves with less effort.
The Ares is the first Kai Wa’a boat that I have spent any time on. But clearly, previous models were successful as there are still people paddling them extremely well (Andrea Moller, Aaron Napoleon). I had sat on an Antares once, but it did not feel right for me. When I sat in the Ares though, I felt like I was home. For me, it’s a very comfortable boat.
The most notable difference in carrying and transporting the canoe is the weight of the canoe. My Ares Pro is so light I can carry it with one hand easily. It has also never tweaked my back carrying it. All of these smaller details contribute to a really good paddling experience. As most six man paddlers know personally, no one wants to go paddle their hearts out and then carry a four hundred pound six-man. Same with oc-1. It’s nice to get out of the water and not have to deal with a heavy boat.
For me, comfort is number 1, or close to it. The comfort factor is absolutely crucial for a boat you are going to be racing in for five hours. I think that nowadays, all of the top one man builders are making pretty good boats, so the next issue for me then is one of comfort. I tend to bash my body up pretty good from paddling (tight hip flexor leads to tight shoulder leads to a whole host of problems). I have found with the Ares that I am at or near as comfortable as I can possibly be paddling a one man.
The steering and the turning capability is good. It’s comparable to the other top boats out there. As I said in the previous answer, this boat has flow in the water. If you listen to the Ares, it will tell you when and how to turn it. That’s more important than being able to stomp a turn which leaves you completely dead in the water.
Also, in the near future, I know that Kai is planning on working on some different rudder designs. We’ve discussed the possibility of making a small race rudder that we could put on the boat when the conditions are flat to reduce drag. I’m excited to see whether that would work.
The ama control and performance is excellent. I have found it to be one of the most attractive qualities of the Ares. When I rig my Ares correctly for the conditions (which isn’t always something I do perfectly), I find that this boat and especially the ama, has really good flow with the ocean. This means I am spending less energy to get the ama out of the water to prevent ama-steering. In a long race, eliminating things that cost you extra energy is important.
When quartering to the right, I like to have my ama rigged high on the top pins. This is crucially important to prevent your ama from digging into the trough and then ama steering you to the right. There are a few races where I have forgotten to rig properly in a quartering race and have paid the price. By contrast if quartering to the left, I like to rig down on the ama, with my pins on the bottom.
I would not say that my technique has adapted so much as the cadence of my paddling has adapted. Every boat has a rhythm that suits it best and recently I have felt like I am starting to paddle more in the rhythm of the Ares. Distance racing requires you to be good at bringing the rate up and down, but still moving the boat the entire time. That’s something I am definitely still learning to do, but I feel like since I have started paddling the Ares (and with better fitness/training) I have at least grown in this area.
This boat does really well off the line and in quick pace changes. This boat has glide. I know it does because I’m a lazy paddler and can still move this boat. Whether it’s called laziness or efficiency, my goal is to always use as little energy as possible to move the boat. I don’t have a super high stroke rate and yet the Ares will still move. This canoe moves just as well in the flat as the other canoes at the top. I think the reality is that who wins in the flat races/flat sprints is more a function of the paddler than of the boat (at least currently). I’ve said it a few other times, but all the top boats are pretty good. You just can’t hide poor technique or lack of fitness in a flat race like you can in a windy race, where the skill of reading the waves can trump a paddler’s flaws. Everyone says that the Ares is really good in the surf, and it is, but I don’t think it gives up anything in the flat. That’s when a paddler’s flaws come out (I should know because I’m not as good in the flat as many other women).
I prefer to paddle downwind, but this boat still finds a way to move with the ocean upwind amazingly. I would say that along with the comfort and the ama/steering, this boat’s performance in choppy waters is hard to beat. Kai designs boats that can perform well in tough technical conditions and the Ares is no different. I love getting into messy water because I know I can make money there.
It loves to play in the surf, as do I. In the big stuff, it loves to link up and plane and on the smaller stuff, it sits on top nicely. I’m always enjoying downwind runs in this boat.
One of the aspects of the boat that I really like is the lower volume nose. It has made it easier for me to pull myself into waves. The same goes for the overall weight of the canoe. I feel like I don’t have to over-exert myself to get on waves.
I have yet to stuff the nose and actually fall off a wave. If you’re dropping into some bombs, of course the nose is going to bury a little bit but I’ve found that it has enough rocker to make it through steeper drops pretty easily.
There are some different features on the Ares that I really like. There are two pin holes in the front of the hull and two pinholes in the back of the hull for the iakos, so you can rig the ama closer or further from the hull depending on the conditions. This is a feature I am still learning to make the most of.
Well, aesthetically, I LOVE MY PINK IAKOS. The Pro Models from Ozone allow the Team Riders to choose colored iakos and I’m tickled about my pink iakos. If we are talking about something more than just looks, I would have to say comfort and construction. I’m riding the Pro Model out of Ozone’s shop and the boat is super comfortable, but also light and stiff. Add that to the pink iakos and you can see why I’m pumped about being on the Ares Pro Model.
The first Ares I got was hand-shaped by Kai on Maui and I loved that boat. I recently tried it again and it’s still a top-notch boat. The Pro Models are almost a different beast though. There is a slight difference in the cadence that took me a session or two to work out, but I fell in love with my pro model right away. As stated before, the boat looks unreal. It’s got seamless construction and a killer paint job with pink iakos. What more could a girl ask for? Oh wait, there is more, it’s ridiculously light and stiff– which makes moving the boat in the water much easier (the stiffness really helps).
I recommend this canoe to beginners and serious racers alike. If you’re learning how to surf on downwind bumps, I think this is the easiest canoe out there to learn on. I have had friends switch from other boat makes to the Ares and seen a significant bump up in surfing performance. To me, that’s the best testimonial that a boat can get.
In terms of body type, I can’t say a specific body type will or won’t work on the Ares. The reality is you have to try a boat and see if it fits you. I never would tell anyone to buy a specific model without trying it. And I don’t think that’s what Kai Wa’a stands for. Kai’s always said if someone wants to try the Ares and likes it, great, but we don’t want to sell an Ares just to sell it. We want people to have a good time on the water and love paddling one-man, and if that means they go with another model that fits them better, then that’s the right answer!
One of the best decisions I have ever made was to join Kai Wa’a (besides marrying my wonderful husband, Ryan). This last February, we were lucky enough to go to Molokai for the weekend hosted by Kai Wa’a and the Kimballs (Kea Bartlett’s mom and dad), and it was amazing to go relax and paddle on that gorgeous island. That was a priceless trip for me.
Equally as important, however, I really love the people of Kai Wa’a. Kai and Kea Bartlett are amazing humans. They are generous with their time and resources and really go out of their way to make sure their team riders are happy. I am just proud to be associated with them. The same goes for the team they have assembled: Aaron Creps, Bobby Pratt, Pat and Angie Dolan, they’re all really solid humans. Not conceited, super humble. It’s a testament to who Kai and Kea are as well.
Thank you to everyone who supports the sport. There are so many amazing people out there that make what we do possible. Especially thanks to my sponsors, Kai Wa’a, Maui Jim, Makana Alii Paddles, and Jaco Rehab. And thank you to OZONE for making amazing boats!!!
“The reality is you have to try a boat and see if it fits you. I never would tell anyone to buy a specific model without trying it. And I don’t think that’s what Kai Wa’a stands for. Kai’s always said if someone wants to try the Ares and likes it, great, but we don’t want to sell an Ares just to sell it. We want people to have a good time on the water and love paddling one-man, and if that means they go with another model that fits them better, then that’s the right answer!” – Amy
This canoe is peppy and extremely responsive. It has a lower volume than the Antares and still very comfortable. The seat position is ideal with great leg drive.
Maneuvers well in any range of bumps and holds rudder in large surf. Ama complements the hull design nicely, it doesn’t track and stays loose. Maintains glide in flat conditions.
I rig it all the way in on the hull and all the way down AMA side
The technique is similar to any other OC1. Everyone has their own technique to move the canoe. So what is fast for yourself.
She boogie in the flats, it glides well. Like any other canoe you have to work on your personal distance per stroke. It’s what works for you. The Ares works well up wind as well, she has the ability to slice through and surf down the backs of bumps.
In the downwind and choppy conditions, this is where this canoe shows her true beauty. Great top end speed and loose enough to change direction and hit critical angles without loosing rudder. The bigger the better.
Pushing into waves hardly affects hull speed. Just goes up and over to the next, its amazing. No issues as of yet with pearling have kinda take the canoe through the ringer with no issues to be honest. I love how much reward you get with minimal effort with the Ares.
I’ve seen all shapes and sizes on the canoe from 110lbs-255lbs and they love it. From flat to doing epic down wind runs. I feel Kai hit it on the nose with the design of this canoe. I’ve got a Pro Model and love it.
Being a part of the Kai Wa’a team, I wouldn’t call it just a team it wouldn’t justify how tight knit the group really is. I call it the Kai Wa’a family. Always there for each other and strong bond as a whole. I would like to thank Kai and the Kai Wa’a family for taking a chance and allowing me to be apart of the family.
“She boogie in the flats, it glides well. Like any other canoe you have to work on your personal distance per stroke. It’s what works for you. The Ares works well up wind as well, she has the ability to slice through and surf down the backs of bumps.
In the downwind and choppy conditions, this is where this canoe shows her true beauty. Great top end speed and loose enough to change direction and hit critical angles without loosing rudder. The bigger the better.” – Bobby