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Take your SUP experience to a new level of performance and efficiency with the new Kai Zen Paddle by Blue Planet
Take your SUP experience to a new level of performance and efficiency with the new Kai Zen Paddle by Blue Planet
42 backers pledged $11,570 to help bring this project to life.

About

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Kai Zen High Performance Stand Up Paddle by Blue Planet SUP

$11,570

42

Ending soon:  If you missed the cutoff to become a backer on Kickstarter, we have a pre-order special available on our website through 12/31/15:

http://blueplanetsurf.com/search?q=kai+zen

Introduction:

I have to admit that paddles are somewhat of an obsession.  Not long after I first started Stand Up Paddling in 2006, I realized the importance of a good paddle and have been on a quest to find the perfect paddle ever since.  Competing and training for long distance races like the Molokai to Oahu race, it becomes clear that a strong, light, comfortable and efficient paddle is just as important as having a good board.  

Kaizen is a Japanese term that stands for the process of continuous improvement and innovation, a name that is fitting for our new paddle model.  It combines many proven features found in the best performing paddles on the market today with unique innovations not found in any other paddles available.  Kai is also the Hawaiian word for ocean, and Zen is, well Zen, so the name Kai Zen has a nice double meaning.

After our first successful Kickstarter campaign that helped us launch our popular line of 2014 inflatable SUP's, we are excited to launch our new paddle on Kickstarter, please check it out because we want you to have more FUN on the water!

Aloha,

Robert Stehlik, founder and owner of Blue Planet Surf

We tried to keep the project video short and sweet.  If you liked it and want to know more, please watch the extended version with more technical details, you can skip to 2:30 as the first part is the same as the shorter project video.

For an even longer technical discussion of the Paddle, please watch this episode of Board Meeting:

Our first Kickstarter project:

In the fall of 2013 we launched our first Kickstarter project to launch our line of 2014 inflatable boards.  The campaign raised $43,750 and were able to successfully launch our line of inflatable and stoke out our backers from all over the world with awesome products.   

Many thanks to those who backed our first campaign, please consider the high performance Kai Zen paddle as a great addition to your inflatable board.

The Kai Zen paddle Story:

Design and R & D:

After years of using and testing paddles from the top manufacturers (see backstory below), I wanted to design a paddle that combined some of the best features from my favorite paddles and add some new ideas, such as a super ergonomic handle, grippy bumps on the shaft, an extra efficient blade shape and also make it so it can break down small enough to easily travel with.  

Some early sketches of the Kai Zen paddle
Some early sketches of the Kai Zen paddle

After making some sketches I discussed my ideas with Alex Nix.  Alex has made some custom Native Living Custums paddles for me in the past, he is an expert in composite paddle construction and can talk about paddle design for hours.  He was the first paddle maker to make an oval tapered shaft and had made some custom paddles for me in the past.  He agreed to collaborate with me to make a prototype blade using my design ideas and combining them with modified versions of his proven shaft designs and blade outlines to create the first handmade prototype.

Some of Alex's beautiful handmade NLC paddles
Some of Alex's beautiful handmade NLC paddles

The first prototype felt great in the water.  We did some underwater video testing  to see how the blade shape affected the air vortexes formed around the blade.  One important takeaway from these tests was that any sharp corners or edges in the transition from blade to shaft can create turbulence which causes more air to get sucked down into the water causing more slippage.  In the final paddle design we made the transition from the blade to the shaft extra smooth and fluid-dynamic to reduce formation of turbulence, bubbles resulting in noticeably less slippage and better "grip" in the water.

smooth power
smooth power
Underwater video tests of the first prototype blade
Underwater video tests of the first prototype blade
We found that the rough transition from blade to shaft caused some extra turbulence
We found that the rough transition from blade to shaft caused some extra turbulence

Once we had a blade we were happy with, I discussed the project with our high end paddle manufacturer to see how we could make some of my other ideas a reality.  He made some good suggestions on options for making the design workable.  The Kai Zen paddle is somewhat revolutionary in that it is the first Stand Up paddle to be made of all molded parts.  This allows us to make a seamless ergonomic handle and a blade with a super smooth transition from blade to shaft.  It also enabled us to make an oval tapered shaft with grippy nubs and custom fitted ferrules that allows the paddle to be fitted and hot glued without any wiggle, twist or give in the joints.  It can be disassembled and reassembled using a heat gun (or hair dryer if heat gun is not available).  This eliminates the wiggling joints and big clamps used on most three piece travel paddles today.  The Kai Zen is a no compromise, full carbon, light weight, high performance paddle that just happens to break down into three parts for easy transport.

The shaft:

Once we decided on the fully molded construction, we developed an oval, tapered shaft based on a slimmed down version of Alex's original NLC oval shaft mandrel.  The Kai Zen shaft has unique small bumps along the front of the shaft and a matt finish that allows exact registration and a solid grip without slippage.  The shaft does not feel slippery in the hands, even with a loose, relaxed grip and does not require any additional grip products.  We found that adding grip to a paddle can cause blisters on long paddles.  Wax does not stay where you want it and is just too messy, so we feel that the comfortable grip from the bumps is a big step forward.  The bumps also work great with both hands on the shaft and allow a comfortable "choke down" grip that effectively shortens the paddle length for sprinting or paddling into the wind. 

Softer Shaft option:

Some customers have asked us to offer a softer shaft option with more flex for those with shoulder or back issues.  We are currently working with our manufacturer on a softer shaft sample and are planning to offer the softer shaft as an option to our backers when the campaign closes.  The softer shaft option will most likely not be ready for all of the early Beta Testers but will be available as an option for all other backers.

The handle:

We designed our super ergonomic handle using epoxy putty and sanding it to the prefect shape. The handle is quite big in comparison to others on the market but the wide palm surface area is very comfortable on longer paddles, prevents blisters forming in the palm area, does not have any hard edges and promotes a relaxed grip that can prevent cramping by relaxing the forearm muscles.  We tested the handle on paddlers with big hands and paddlers with small hands and the feedback was that once they got used to it, it felt great.

Once we were happy with our hand made prototype, the manufacturer scanned it and made it into a 3D computer file to ensure exact symmetry of the design.   The computer file also made it easy to make small changes to the design and allowed us to design an optimized smaller blade using the CAD program.

Checking the 3D file made by scanning the hand made prototype.  The 3D file allowed us to make small tweaks to the design
Checking the 3D file made by scanning the hand made prototype. The 3D file allowed us to make small tweaks to the design
The ergonomic handle and bumps on shaft that promotes an exact and relaxed grip
The ergonomic handle and bumps on shaft that promotes an exact and relaxed grip

After making some more small adjustments to the design file, we were ready to order the mold.  The paddles are molded using heavy steel molds and tooling process took a few months.  The paddles are made using highest grade 100% carbon pre-pregnated sheets that are manually laid up at various angles to maximize strength while minimizing weight.  High stress areas  such as the ferrule joints are re-enforced with extra layers of carbon.  The blade has a core of computer shaped high density foam and ABS plastic edge inserts that keeps the edge of the blade thin and efficient as well as strong, resilient, and chip resistant.

Testing:

The first paddle out of the mold arrived right before the 32 Mile Molokai to Oahu race.  I usually don't like using new equipment in a big race but I was too excited and could  not help myself so I put it to the ultimate test right away.   

The M2O race is the ultimate test of efficiency and endurance 

Grinding it out for 32 miles is a good way to test a paddle
Grinding it out for 32 miles is a good way to test a paddle

The efficiency of the Kai Zen paddle is great not only for racing but also for  surfing, cruising, and training, this high performance paddle makes it all easier and more fun.

Testing the prototype in the surf on Oahu's South Shore
Testing the prototype in the surf on Oahu's South Shore

Backstory:

I am fortunate to have owned or tested many of the best Stand Up paddles on the market.  One of my first paddles was a custom Malama wooden paddle, which was hand made on Maui.  I loved the how the handle felt in my hand (the Kai Zen handle was inspired by the ergonomic fit of the Malama handle) and the natural flex of the shaft.  Unfortunately, the wooden shaft did not hold up well and broke after only a few months.  After experiencing the strength, lightness, and snappy flex of a carbon paddle, there was no going back.  Over the years I have owned and tested many of the best paddles we sold through through our shop (one of the perks of being the shop owner), including paddles made by C4 Waterman, Quickblade, Native Living Custums, Werner,  ZRE, Kialoa, Ke Nalu, and many other brands and we used what we learned to develop a line of high performance Blue Planet paddles.  The Kai Zen paddle is the first paddle we designed completely from the ground up, without limiting ourselves to existing parts.  

Training Group:

My training partner Jeff Chang and the members of our weekly training group often help test, compare and discuss paddles.  If you are interested in our training group, please sign up for the weekly email newsletter and join our Oahu Downwind Paddlers facebook group where we post updates.  We regularly welcome international visitors to join our group for downwinders or a time trial depending on conditions, every Wednesday afternoon, so look us up if you are on Oahu.

When I had a sore elbow, I found that the Werner bent shaft paddle was comfortable and ergonomic which helped get rid of my elbow issues.   I also found that a softer shaft is easier on the shoulder joints.  Both the bent shaft and shafts with flex are comfortable but also give up some performance and I found that I prefer the accurate efficiency of a well balanced, stiff and oval straight shaft.  The Kai Zen paddle combines some of the best features of my favorite paddles and adds some cool new innovations to make this paddle very special.  

The Proof's in the Pudding:

After using the first paddle out of the mold in the Molokai Race (and winning my age group divison), I gave it to my friend and Blue Planet team rider Jeff Chang, who had some great race results using it at the Haleiwa Joe's race and the recent Battle of the Bay in San Francisco, see his video review below (please excuse the poor quality, he recorded this with his phone).

Assembly of Paddle:

The oval shape of the shaft and ferrules allows the paddle to fit together tightly and accurately without twisting.  This puts less rotational force on the glued joints than when gluing a round handle or blade onto a round shaft.  We recommend gluing the Kai Zen Paddle using hot glue, which allows you to quickly disassemble and reassemble the paddle without using the bulky mechanical joints commonly seen in adjustable and three piece paddles that can wiggle or loosen/ twist when paddling.   Since the joint fits tightly and won't twist, you can even use tape to assemble your Kai Zen paddle temporarily if you are in a pinch and don't have access to a heat gun or hair dryer.  Watch Kevin Fung demonstrate the assembly of the Kai Zen paddle:

Paddle Weight and Strength:

Our paddles are made with a layup of highest quality pre-pregnated high modulus carbon.  It is made of 100% carbon fiber and our goal is to achieve the optimal balance of high strength at a light weight.   Our first samples came in at around 22 ounces.  Our target weight is under 20 oz. for the full length large blade paddle (the smaller blade paddle will be lighter and cutting it to size will also reduce the weight).  We have been working on optimizing the layup and have used break tests to find the weak points that need re-enforements, and stronger areas where we can reduce the weight.  The video below shows a break test of the lower joint, it broke at 177 kg, or 390 lbs., which is considered very strong.  

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Features Diagram:

Some of the many innovative features
Some of the many innovative features
Small and large blade pieces, note that the 88 blade is 4" shorter than the 98 blade, the maximum length is 91.5" for 98 paddle and 87.5" for 88 paddle
Small and large blade pieces, note that the 88 blade is 4" shorter than the 98 blade, the maximum length is 91.5" for 98 paddle and 87.5" for 88 paddle

Travel Bag:

We are designing a custom travel bag for the Kai Zen paddle that can store the paddle fully assembled and also hold the three pieces unassembled and folds up for easy travel.  This bag will be included with every paddle sold at no extra charge, we want your paddles to last for many years.

The bag design is still a work in progress, here are a couple of pictures of our first sample, hopefully we will be able to post our revised design before the campaign ends.

Folds up for easy travel when disassembled
Folds up for easy travel when disassembled
Also keeps the paddle safe when fully assembled
Also keeps the paddle safe when fully assembled

If you are still not excited about this paddle, here is another little promo video made by Kevin:

Please help us Kickstart our project, these are the great rewards you can choose from:

FREE LOCAL PICK UP: note to Oahu residents/ visitors:  There is no shipping charge for local pick ups but we were not able to figure out how to add local pick up as an option in the rewards yet.  If you are able to pick up your award at our shop at 540 Ward Ave., Honolulu, we will refund the $35 shipping charges, Mahalo for your support!

Reward #1

Mahalo for your support!
Mahalo for your support!

Blue Planet Hi-Five and Thank you Email! We know you might not need any SUP gear but still want to help support the project. Well we added this reward just for you!

Reward #2

Everyone loves the Blue Planet Rasta Bones stickers!
Everyone loves the Blue Planet Rasta Bones stickers!

Blue Planet Surf die-cut sticker pack - Four (two black and two white) uv resistant vinyl stickers for your car, board and anything else that wants to wave our flag. You can see more details and a video with application instructions for the die-cut stickers here

Reward #3

Blue Planet Tee shirt and Hat. 100% cotton T-shirt, flex fit cap, you will be asked to choose color and size when campaign closes.

Reward #4

New 2016 Blue Planet Paddle shirt: Quick Drying/ UV protecting stretch fabric, sublimation printed, with cool mesh under arms. Cool logos on front and back, loose fit keeps you cool. Includes free shipping in the US. You will be asked to choose the size when the campaign closes. (Retail value $40 plus shipping)

Reward #5

Blue Planet Tee shirt, Quick Dry Shirt and Hat combo. 100% Polyester quick dry shirt has a loose, comfortable fit, is great for using in or our of the water and provides very good UV protection. 100% cotton T-shirt, flex fit cap, you will be asked to choose color and size when campaign closes.

Reward #6

It's all about efficiency
It's all about efficiency

Beta Tester special: Large 98 sq. inch Blade: Be one of the first to receive a paddle from our pre-production sample run. Expected ship date: end of November 2015. For this reward you must be able to use and test the paddle and answer a short evaluation/ survey within 10 days of receipt. These may or may not ship with  a travel bag and may or may not have all the final logos (we will do our best to have both ready to ship but can't guarantee they will be ready in time). Our pre-production sample run is small and usually limited to our team riders only. If you sign up for this deal, we expect you to put it to the test and give us feedback.

Reward #7

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Beta Tester special: Small  88 sq. inch Blade: Be one of the first to receive a paddle from our pre-production sample run. Expected ship date: end of November 2015. For this reward you must be able to use and test the paddle and answer a short evaluation/ survey within 10 days of receipt. These may or may not ship with a travel bag and may or may not have all the final logos (we will do our best to have both ready to ship but can't guarantee they will be ready in time).  The sample run is small and usually limited to our team riders only. If you sign up for this deal, we expect you to put it to the test and give us feedback.

Reward #8

Early Bird: Choice of one of two sizes (98 or 88)
Early Bird: Choice of one of two sizes (98 or 88)

Early Bird Kai Zen Paddle Special: Be one of the first to back our project and get a great deal on this reward:

Kai Zen paddle with choice of 98 or 88 sq inch size blade (we will ask you to choose size when campaign ends), includes a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $449).

Reward #9

Kai Zen Backer Special: Back our project on Kickstarter and get our new paddle for $100 less than the expected retail price.

Kai Zen paddle with choice of 98 or 88 sq inch size blade (we will ask you to choose size when campaign ends), includes a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $449).

Reward #10

Get both the small and large blades plus a shaft set of your choice
Get both the small and large blades plus a shaft set of your choice

Two Blade Package: Both Large and Small Blades:

Get a package deal when you purchase both the small and large blades. This package includes both the 88 sq. in. and 98 sq. in. blades along with one interchangeable shaft. Note: 88 sq.in. blade is 4" shorter than 98 sq.in. blade, so this package allows you to have a 4" shorter paddle with a small blade (great for SUP Surfing) and then switch it to the larger blade for a 4" longer, more powerful paddle (great for racing and downwinders).

Get both the 98 sq. in. and 88 sq. in. Kai Zen blades, one shaft and one padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $699).

Reward #11

Two complete paddles- choose sizes and start stiffness of your choice
Two complete paddles- choose sizes and start stiffness of your choice

Two complete paddles package deal:

Get a package deal when you purchase both the small and large blade paddles (or two of the same size). Two complete paddles, shaft parts are interchangeable. Note: 88 sq.in. blade is 4" shorter than 98 sq.in. blade.

Get both the 98 sq. in. and 88 sq. in. complete Kai Zen Paddles, both paddles include a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $899).  Shipping charges are the same as for a single paddle, so team up with a friend or spouse and you can save even more than with the early bird special with this package deal.

Reward #12

Large and Small Paddle plus downwind coaching package- two complete paddles package plus get a downwind coaching session with Robert Stehlik on Oahu when you pick up your paddles- use your new Kai Zen paddle on the famous Hawaii Kai downwind run and get professional coaching to help you catch more bumps!

Get a package deal when you purchase both the small and large blade paddles. Two complete paddles, shaft parts are interchangeable. Note: 88 sq.in. blade is 4" shorter than 98 sq.in. blade.

Get both the 98 sq. in. and 88 sq. in. complete Kai Zen Paddles, both paddles include a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $1049).

This diagram shows the paddle logo layout:

Logo layout for paddle
Logo layout for paddle

We did a SUP lesson today with Dolph Lundgren, the Hollywood action movie star for a Swedish TV travel show and Dolph was using the Kai Zen paddle!

Dolph Lundgren in the center with the Kai Zen paddle
Dolph Lundgren in the center with the Kai Zen paddle

Thank you for checking out our Kickstarter Campaign!  Enjoy this short clip of Rob paddling the Kai Zen paddle into a beautiful Hawaiian sunset:

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 Dealer Inquiries:

If you are an authorized Blue Planet dealer, or have a brick and mortar specialty SUP retail store and would like to become a dealer and be one of the first shops to offer the 2016 Kai Zen paddle, please contact us.  We have some great pre-order specials available to dealers.  The deadline for these special offers is the same date our Kickstarter campaign ends: Nov. 11th, 2015.

Risks and challenges

Our reputation is very important to us, Blue Planet has been in business for 22 years and we don't plan on going anywhere. That's why we did whatever we could to make sure all backers in our first Kickstarter campaign were 100% satisfied, even if it meant losing money (and sleep) to get some of the rewards shipped out on time. This second project won't be our last, we plan to keep coming out with cool, new, innovative projects and use crowdfunding to get them off the ground and will make sure our backers are 100% satisfied.
We did not launch this project until we felt confident that we can deliver an excellent product that will not only satisfy but stoke and excite our backers.
We set our delivery dates realistically based on timelines agreed with our reputable manufacturer. The molds are already made and adjustments to the layup have been made and tested. We feel confident that we can meet the timing and quality deadlines we set for ourselves. That said...stuff happens and sometimes it's better to do it right than to rush it. If we do experience unforeseen complications or delays, please be patient with us and we will make sure the final product is worth the wait. Thank you for believing in us.

Terms:
We are offering a 30 day money back, no questions asked guarantee on all Kickstarter rewards, and a 1 year warranty on manufacturing defects. If anything breaks within a year of purchase, we will replace it for free, and we will have replacement parts available at a reasonable price once the warranty period ends. Shipping charges are generally not covered by money back guarantee or warranty offer.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Blue Planet Hi-Five and Thank You Email!
    We know you might not need any SUP gear but still want to help support the project. Well we added this reward just for you!

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    Blue Planet sticker pack: support us by sporting our Blue Planet logo. Four die-cut Blue Planet rasta bones stickers- two black and two white, includes free first class mail shipping in the US. (Retail value is $24 plus shipping).

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    Blue Planet Surf tee shirt and Hat combo. Show your support by strutting our colors. Includes free shipping in the US. You will be asked to choose the color and size when the campaign closes.

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    Pledge $32 or more About $32

    New 2016 Blue Planet Paddle shirt: Quick Drying/ UV protecting stretch fabric, sublimation printed, with cool mesh under arms. Cool logos on front and back, loose fit keeps you cool. Includes free shipping in the US. You will be asked to choose the size when the campaign closes. (Retail value $40 plus shipping)

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Blue Planet cotton tee shirt, Blue Planet Quick dry shirt, and Blue Planet Hat and 4 die cut stickers, all included with your $40 pledge. Includes free shipping in the US. You will be asked to choose the color and size when the campaign closes.

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    Pledge $249 or more About $249

    Beta Tester special: Large 98 sq. in. blade: Be one of the first to receive a paddle from our pre-production sample run. Expected ship date: end of November 2015. For this reward you must be able to use and test the paddle and answer a short evaluation/ survey within 10 days of receipt. These may or may not ship with a travel bag but should have all the final logos. Our pre-production sample run is small and usually limited to our team riders only. If you sign up for this deal, we expect you to put it to the test and give us feedback.

    Kai Zen paddle with choice of 98 sq inch size blade (retail value $449).

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  7. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $249 or more About $249

    Beta Tester special: Small 88 sq. in. Blade: Be one of the first to receive a paddle from our pre-production sample run. Expected ship date: end of November 2015. For this reward you must be able to use and test the paddle and answer a short evaluation/ survey within 10 days of receipt. These may or may not ship with a travel bag but should have all the final logos. Our pre-production sample run is small and usually limited to our team riders only. If you sign up for this deal, we expect you to put it to the test and give us feedback.

    Kai Zen paddle with choice of 98 or 88 sq inch size blade (retail value $449).

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    Pledge $299 or more About $299

    Early Bird special: Be one of the first to back our project and get a great deal on this reward:

    Kai Zen paddle with choice of 98 or 88 sq inch size blade, includes a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $449).
    You will be asked to choose the blade size and stiff or soft shaft option when the campaign closes.

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    Pledge $349 or more About $349

    Back our project and get our new paddle for $100 less than the expected retail price.

    Kai Zen paddle with choice of 98 or 88 sq inch size blade, includes a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $449).
    You will be asked to choose the blade size and stiff or soft shaft option when the campaign closes.

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    Pledge $499 or more About $499

    Large and Small Blade package:

    Get a package deal when you purchase both the small and large blades. This package includes both the 88 sq. in. and 98 sq. in. blades along with one interchangeable shaft. Note: 88 sq.in. blade is 4" shorter than 98 sq.in. blade, so this package allows you to have a 4" shorter paddle with a small blade (great for SUP Surfing) and then switch it to the larger blade for a 4" longer, more powerful paddle (great for racing and downwinders).

    Get both the 98 sq. in. and 88 sq. in. Kai Zen blades, one shaft and one padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $699).
    You will be asked to choose the stiff or soft shaft option when the campaign closes.

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    Pledge $599 or more About $599

    Two complete paddles package:

    Get a package deal when you purchase two complete paddles with any combination of small and large blade paddles, and between a stiff or softer shaft option (shaft parts are interchangeable. Note: 88 sq.in. blade is 4" shorter than 98 sq.in. blade.)

    Get both the 98 sq. in. and 88 sq. in. complete Kai Zen Paddles (or get two of the same size blades if you prefer), both paddles include padded folding travel bags that can store the paddles both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $899). The subsidized flat rate shipping is the same as for a single paddle, so you could go in on this with a spouse or friend and get even more bang for your $'s.
    You will be asked to choose the blade sizes and stiff or soft shaft options for the two paddles when the campaign closes.

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    Pledge US$ 799 or more About US$ 799

    Two complete Kai Zen Paddles plus downwind coaching package:
    Two complete paddles package (choose any combination of large and small blade and stiff of soft shafts) plus get a downwind coaching session with Robert Stehlik on Oahu when you pick up your paddles- use your new Kai Zen paddle on the famous Hawaii Kai downwind run and get professional coaching to help you make the most of your paddles and catch more bumps!

    Get a package deal when you purchase both the small and large blade paddles. Two complete paddles, shaft parts are interchangeable. Note: 88 sq.in. blade is 4" shorter than 98 sq.in. blade.

    Get both the 98 sq. in. and 88 sq. in. complete Kai Zen Paddles, both paddles include a padded folding travel bag that can store the paddle both when assembled and unassembled (retail value $1049). This package is for local pick up in Honolulu, shipping not included but we can ship paddle is you want it before coming to Oahu to do the downwind coaching with Rob.
    You will be asked to choose the blade sizes and stiff or soft shaft options for the two paddles when the campaign closes.

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    Limited 0 backers
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Funding period

- (10 days)