The Kahuna Big Stick: Performance modifications
Disclaimer: This entry contains absolutely no references to fly fishing. It is intended for the one person who may happen to stumble upon the article while looking for such information as contained herein.
Math and science were not my strong suits with the exception perhaps of Marine Biology—I rather enjoyed that class in high school. But scientist or mathmetician I am definitely not. Because of this I’m no engineer, either. I am, however, somewhat of a tinkerer and do enjoy a bit of MacGyvering—you know, using baling wire and duct tape as a solution to a problem. As long as it doesn’t involve great skill with power tools or fine attention to detail, I’ll take a crack at jury rigging most things.
Some would also accuse me of having too much free time.
I recently acquired a longboard as part of my midlife crisis. Shortly thereafter I discovered land paddling (also known as street paddling) and as soon as my Kahuna Big Stick arrived I took it for a quick spin up and down the asphalt at the end of my driveway. Despite being a neophyte in the ways of the street paddle I immediately noticed that the rubber blade had a tendency to slip and lose traction at the end of the stroke, particularly when attempting to paddle up even a mild incline. In my vast wisdom I surmised that the vulcanized rubber blade was too hard to adequately grip asphalt in a most effective manner. I concluded that the material needed to be of a softer compound—more like a tire.
At the same time I understood the rationale behind the manufacturer’s decision to use the material they did: anything softer would wear out even faster. After putting a couple miles on the stick I did notice that it had already begun showing obvious signs of wear on the ends, where one plants the blade at the beginning of the stroke, and where one pushes off at the end of the stroke.
In my desire to improve upon the OEM traction and durability I purchased a 20-inch mountain bike tire for $20. Simple math might suggest to us that this works out to be $1 per inch of tire but that would be incorrect; the cost is actually considerably less than that. You see, the 20″ designation refers to the diameter of the tire. As a fabricator I’m more concerned with linear dimension. It’s the tire circumference that interests me much more so than diameter. Thus, a 20″ tire has a good deal more material than 20″ due to the circumference of the tire being considerably longer than 20″. Something about multiplying 20 by pi. Like I said, math is hard. The bottom line is that I didn’t want to spend much on a speculative project that may provide no benefit as far as increased traction, and for $20 I got roughly 63″ of material with which to work.
My First Generation Performance Enhancement Prototype (Exhibits A and B below) covered the bottom of the blade and was attached using cable ties threaded through holes I drilled in the tire material. It worked pretty well, especially if I was real careful when planting the stick for the stroke. There was a notable improvement in traction over the bare OEM bade, but because the ends of the blade were still exposed, traction remained compromised and the OEM blade would continue to wear on the ends. I was not satisfied.
I removed the First Generation Performance Enhancement Prototype and went back to the drawing board. This time I accounted for the exposed ends of the OEM blade and cut my next tire section accordingly. The Second Generation Performance Enhancement Prototype (Exhibits C and D below) shows a marked improvement in the design and functionality. The entire OEM blade footprint is covered, resulting in vastly improved traction through the full spectrum of the stroke. It also completely protects the factory blade from wear and tear. If I keep steady pressure on the Kahuna Stick throughout the entire stroke, I get no loss of traction unless I am attempting a significant incline. That’s when I get off the board and walk. A little cross training never hurt anyway.
I’m quite pleased with the Second Generation Performance Enhancement Prototype, but like any designer/fabricator, I fully admit there remains room for improvement. Once I’ve worn out the current prototype I plan to experiment further with a different type of bike tire. Admittedly the tire I purchased was rather inexpensive, and cheap. Being an off-road mountain bike tire it features fairly pronounced tread lugs separated by considerable areas of non-tread. I can see how this particular tire design might wear more quickly on pavement than a tighter tread pattern intended for road surfaces. Perhaps something along the lines of a hybrid tire is in order.
Perhaps something like this:
Or perhaps like this:
Whatever you do—even if it involves no aftermarket modifications at all—don’t use your land paddle as a braking device. It’s not at all effective, in my opinion, and will only wear down your blade prematurely. Stay off hills (I do) or have a good exit strategy (I dont’) for when your speed exceeds your comfort level.
Now, what was that about me having too much free time?
Perhaps it’s time to go fishing (oops, I lied about this article having no reference to fly fishing).
NOTE: Since first publishing this article I have made the decision to remove the Kahuna blade altogether and affix an XL Kong Extreme. The grip is vastly improved over even my previous modifications, with the added bonus that I can put peanut butter in the Kong and stop occasionally for a quick hit of protein. The hole in the XL Kong was just a tad too large for the Bamboo Kahuna Stick to fit snugly so I drilled one hole in the Kong and inserted a lag bolt, lining it up with one of the pre-existing holes in the stick. If you have one of the adjustable Kahuna sticks, use the next smaller sized Kong (Large) and it will fit nice and snug-like with no need for additional hardware. No matter what stick you have, if you opt for the Kong, go with the black ones—Extreme Kongs. They’re made of the most durable material. Check the hole size to see which one fits your stick best. And pass the peanut butter.
PS: Some SSUP-ers like the Kong ball option. However, the hole in the those is way too small for a stick without drilling, which requires the need for a drill press. Unfortunately not many have a drill press sitting around.
Update: Since this was updated, I have gone the way of the Kong Extreme Ball. The black one, size Medium/Large. I managed to bore out the hole in the ball just enough (without the aid of a drill press) to barely insert the end of my paddle stick and seat it firmly and deeply into the ball. No retainer bolt needed. The ball is lighter than the Kong non-ball mentioned above, and appears to be made of higher density rubber. Should last a long time.