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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
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Price:  $129 List
Pros:  High performance, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Heavy, not adjustable
Manufacturer:   KIALOA
By Shey Kiester ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 18, 2019
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#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.

Compare to Similar Products

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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