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.

Kahuna Big Stick OEM blade.


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.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B.

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.

Exhibit C.

Exhibit D.

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:

Future possibility #1

Or perhaps like this:

Future possibility #2

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.

(top) Kong XL on Kahuna Bamboo stick; (bottom) Kong L on adjustable Kahuna stick.

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.


  1. Mark

    did You take under cosideration use of M+S tires ? May be they suit better for your paddle endings 🙂 ?
    enjoy your sport

  2. Jake

    its terrible, but I can easily say I am the one who may stumble upon your article.

    My theory on the kahunas has always been that they wont stand up to what I do with my boards, I’ve seen them and built my own, but I find that going up a hill with a kahuna is about as much effort, if not more than actually pushing with your foot properly.

    But each to their own, and all I can say is welcome to land surfing, be careful on the hills and a helmet is always a good option.

    • Kirk Werner

      Jake, I’m glad you stumbled upon my article and even more glad that you took time to comment. Since I wrote the article I’ve logged more miles and gained more insight into the whole stick thing. I’ve since removed the Kahuna blade entirely and am now sporting a Kong cone. It has far better grip which makes pushing up hills much easier—I can concentrate more on form and a good upper body burn that trying to get traction. The added benefit of the Kong is that I can put peanut butter inside it and stop for a quick hit of protein while on a long paddle session 😉

      • Jake

        I read a fair number of blogs and enjoy the conversations you can find. Good to hear your getting the work out you want from it, but make sure you switch your leading foot from time to time, so you don’t end up lop sided :P.

        The idea of the kong cone is ingenious, although after a long paddle I think the dogs following you will have licked up all the peanut butter.

  3. Simon

    I have gone down the Kong ball route and it works good. I have never had the Kahuna Blade so can’t compare. Do you find the snowman type of Kong better than the round ball Kong ? They still slip a bit on wet leafy Tarmac though, you have to put more downward pressure to keep traction. At least the Kong is a lot cheaper to replace when they wear down . I have a pole that fits tight in the ball and it has one 2″ x 6 screw across through the ball and stick to hold it on along with some silicone and that holds it on well. It’s a red Kong ball, are they all the same density ?

    • Kirk Werner

      I eventually ended up with a Kong ball—the black ones, which I do believe are more dense and thus longer lasting. I was able to use a drill and a cutting bit to bore out the existing hole in the ball just enough to wedge the end of my paddle stick into the hole. I pounded it in real hard to seat it deeply. No bolt or anything—it’s not going to come off (knock on wood).

  4. Simon

    Perhaps a bolt will be stronger though.

    • Kirk Werner

      If you use a bolt just be sure not to drill a hole too large that may weaken or split the end of your pole.

  5. Simon

    I’ll use a thin bolt. Thanks.
    So Kong Snowman V Kong ball ?

    • Richy

      Wrap the end of your land paddle with electrical insulation tape and go for the XL version – It works a treat!

  6. Simon

    I may not really need a bolt as like yours I had the same resistance in fitting the ball. The screw was for extra

  7. Dj

    In your last update you mentioned that you decided to go with the Kong Extreme Ball. You indicated that you used the medium/large size ball.

    Did you use the medium/large size for your bamboo paddle or the adjustable paddle ? Will the medium/large ball fit the adjustable Kahuna Big Stick paddle or would you recommend going a size down ?


    • Kirk Werner

      I used the Kong ball on a bamboo stick. Sorry I don’t know what size ball would fit the adjustable stick as I don’t have one of those.

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