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KIALOA Makai Review

The high-performer Makai was a favorite among some of our testers, while others felt it was too heavy.
KIALOA Makai
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Price:  $129 List | $128.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  High performance, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Heavy, not adjustable
Manufacturer:   KIALOA
By Shey Kiester ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 18, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • Performance - 30% 8
  • Weight - 20% 4
  • Ease of Adjustment - 20% 9
  • Locking Mechanism - 20% 10
  • Aesthetics - 10% 7

Our Verdict

A high-performing paddle at a good value, the KIALOA Makai is pleasant to paddle and reasonably priced. This paddle performed well in almost all of our metrics, falling short only due to its weight. The Makai is very easy to adjust with a secure locking mechanism, all while being very visually appealing.


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Price $128.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros High performance, relatively inexpensiveGreat paddling performance, lightweight, compact for travelingCuts cleanly through water, durable bladeEasy and sturdy adjustment, lightweight, high performanceLightweight, strong, easy on the body to use
Cons Heavy, not adjustableSlight paddle flutterHeavy, looks like a toySmaller adjustment rangeThe handle allows excellent grip but can become uncomfortable
Bottom Line The high-performer Makai was a favorite among some of our testers, while others felt it was too heavy.If you need a travel paddle and don’t want to sacrifice paddling performance, the Lock and Load is the right choiceThe Vibe is a great all-around paddle that moves water well and is easy to manage.The Aqua-Bound Challenge has a a high-performance paddle for serious paddlers.This is a high-performance paddle that is easy to pull through the water.
Rating Categories KIALOA Makai Hala Travel Lock & Load Werner Vibe Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 KIALOA Insanity
Performance (30%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
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8
Weight (20%)
10
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4
10
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10
10
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6
10
0
9
10
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6
Ease Of Adjustment (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
10
Locking Mechanism (20%)
10
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10
10
0
10
10
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10
10
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8
10
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10
Aesthetics (10%)
10
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7
10
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8
10
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6
10
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7
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8
Specs KIALOA Makai Hala Travel Lock &... Werner Vibe Aqua-Bound... KIALOA Insanity
Paddle Weight 2 lbs 1.125 lbs 1.7 lbs 1.3 lbs 1.56 lbs
Blade Design Dihedral Dihedral Dihedral Dihedral Dihedral
Blade Shape Teardrop Teardrop Rectangular Rectangular Teardrop
Offset 8 degrees 10 degrees 10 degrees 10 degrees 10 degrees
Blade Material Nylon reinforced fiberglass Polycarbonate Injection molded fiberglass epX engineered polymer reinforced with carbon Fiberglass fibrlite
Blade Dimensions 85 sq in Unavailible 100 sq in 85 sq in 83 sq in
Shaft Material Textured fiberglass Carbon Fiberglass Carbon Durable fiberglass
Adjustablility (inches) 16" 16" 16" 10.5" 16"
Length Range (inches) 70" - 86" 62"-78" 68" - 84" 70" - 80" 70"-86"
Number of Pieces 1-piece 3-piece 3-piece (available in 1, 2, or 3) 2-piece 1-piece (avaliable in 1 or 3)
Compact Size NA 41" 34.5" 66" NA
Warranty 1 year 3 years 1 year 2 years 1 year
Comes with cover No No No No No
Locking Mechanism Handle LeverLock Handle LeverLock Handle LeverLock "Performance" Snap Button Handle LeverLock

Our Analysis and Test Results

As mentioned before, the main thing holding back the Makai is its weight. While this isn't too noticeable over a short distance, you can start to feel its heft over marathon paddling trips.

Performance Comparison


The Makai was a high performer  thanks to its blade design and materials.
The Makai was a high performer, thanks to its blade design and materials.

Performance


The paddle's dihedral blade design delivers a smooth pull, and a teardrop blade shape offers better catch than similarly shaped models, most likely due to the deeper V of the Makai's dihedral. The catch of this model isn't quite as smooth as higher scoring products, but for the recreational paddler, this product offers adequate pull. For the price point, the Makai delivers medium to high performance, a pretty gentle catch, and stable forward pull.

The teardrop  dihedral shape of the Makai.
The teardrop, dihedral shape of the Makai.

Weight


At 2 pounds, the Makai is one of the heaviest models in the review. For recreational paddlers, this weight difference probably doesn't matter, but if you're doing anything beyond a chill afternoon paddle, you might want to think about a lighter paddle.


Ease of Adjustment


This model features 16-inches of adjustment, which sits in the middle of the range of adjustment lengths seen in our review. The Makai is marked so that you can adjust it based on paddler height or by the height of the paddle itself.

This minor detail makes quick adjustments when switching between paddlers that much faster, as the user only needs to know their own height. Plus, the superior locking mechanism (which we discuss in detail below) allows for incredibly quick adjustments.

Locking Mechanism


The Makai features the same LeverLock system found on all the premium paddles. This feature is by far the most solid locking mechanism and the easiest to use. The lock mechanism itself flips up rather than out. As a result, it has fewer moving parts than other designs. This means that our testers found no play at all in the locking mechanism.

This system is super quick to adjust, and it is the most low-profile of the locking mechanisms in our review, which adds to the Makai's performance score. Even better, this locking system makes it a breeze to adjust the length of the paddle on the water if you want to fine-tune its length to match current conditions. It doesn't take a ton of effort to engage or disengage the locking mechanism, which directly contrasts other models where you can even get thrown off balance while struggling to open their adjustment mechanism.

The LeverLock locking mechanism of the Makai.
The LeverLock locking mechanism of the Makai.

Aesthetics


While the KIALOA Makai isn't necessarily the immediate frontrunner when it comes to looks, we found that we grew to like its clean lines and minimalistic style. It doesn't have any accent graphics but the bright blue of the blade contrasts nicely with the grip and the handle. It is a perfect option for someone with a more minimalistic sense of style, especially if their stand up paddleboard matches the blue of the blade.

Value


The Makai is on the middle-to-lower end of our price range. If you're searching for a high performer and you don't care about how compact the model can be, we think this is a good option for you.

Conclusion


The Makai features a good blade design that allows it to achieve a great catch and a powerful pull. This is a high performing paddle, but it falls short in weight. If these aren't metrics that matter to you, we feel that this product is a good offering for the value.

The Makai on a chilly day.
The Makai on a chilly day.


Shey Kiester