The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

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 | $128.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  High performance, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Heavy, not adjustable
Manufacturer:   KIALOA
By Shey Kiester ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 26, 2018
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#5 of 10
  • 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. If you're looking for a high-performer and you're just toting your kit to and from the water, this could be the choice for you.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

In our performance tests, the Makai was neck in neck with the well-liked Werner Vibe, thanks to similar locking mechanisms and good blade construction. In the end, the Vibe ended up edging the Makai in performance, but just by a touch. Our reviewers feel that this product offers award-winning power in a slightly heavier package.

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.


This model was neck in neck with top performers like the Werner Vibe and Trance. The paddle's dihedral blade design delivers a smooth pull, and a teardrop blade shape offers better catch than similarly shaped models, which is may be due to the deeper V of the Makai's dihedral. The catch of this model wasn'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. The BPS Adjustable Alloy is 0.2 pounds heavier and the Own Your Wave Adjustable Alloy is the same weight. 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. The Malaki feels heavy when directly compared with lighter models like the iGK Pure Carbon.

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. Like the Werner Vibe, 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 locking mechanism seen on the Werner 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.

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


This paddle comes only in a one-piece model. As a result, it is the least compactable offering in our review. If you're looking for something that breaks down smaller, consider the iGK Pure Carbon Fiber, which breaks down to 39 inches and comes with its own carrying case.

If you're planning on hauling your kit short distances and don't need as much versatility as a more compact option, the Makai packs enough performance to make up for its lack of compactability.

Best Applications

This heavier paddle is a high performer. For jaunts on the local lake, it has the performance chops to work just as well alongside higher scoring models, but this isn't the right model for travel.


At $129, 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 good blade design that allows it to achieve good catch and 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