A Pueo Sighting In Russia
Believe it or not, there’s been a pueo sighting in Russia. It was seen gliding swiftly on the surface of a calm body of water, out-racing its nearest peer before slowly pulling away.
But on this occasion there was no prey, and this pueo wasn’t a predator. In fact, it wasn’t even a Hawaiian owl.
Kamanu Composites’ popular OC-1 (one-man canoe) named the Pueo has landed in Russia and quickly has become the vessel of choice for Russian paddlers.
“We’re really excited to be a part of the birth of outrigger canoeing in Vladivostok, and it’s especially exciting to feel as if we’re doing our part to reverse the trade imbalance,” says Luke Evslin of Kailua-based company Kamanu Composites. “Since most outrigger canoes and other manufactured goods head east across the Pacific after being built in China, it’s a great feeling to be sending them back westward after being built in Hawaii.”
The Kamanu Composites crew recently wrapped up work on several canoes to be shipped to Russia in mid-March. Evslin says Russian paddlers learned about the Hawaii-made product thanks to the company’s strong relationships in Asia.
“We regularly ship to Hong Kong, and our representative from there distributes the Pueo throughout Asia,” he explains. “Without our knowledge, one of those canoes ended up going to Russia.”
A few months ago, Russian paddlers held their first OC-1 race and, according to Evslin, “The guy in the Pueo won.” You can watch a video clip of the event’s final heat on YouTube at: youtube.com/watch?v=a57DUeBMeHY&app=desktop.
“It’s all very flat water,” says Evslin of the conditions in Russia. “These guys are often Olympic-level athletes from related disciplines, and they’re just entering into outrigger canoeing.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The vessel has become an instant hit, and the company couldn’t be more pleased.
“It was a pleasant surprise for us because we had no idea that there even was a Pueo in Vladivostok,” chuckles Evslin. “Shortly after that race, five Russian paddlers contacted us interested in bringing in a small shipment of canoes. And since then we’ve cultivated a good relationship.”
Three friends who grew up on Kauai – Evslin, Keizo Gates and Kelly Foster – founded Kamanu Composites in 2007. Today, the local company employs more than 20 people and has assembled a team of some of the world’s top paddlers.
“We have licensed manufacturers in Australia and France, so the Pueo is very common Down Under and throughout Europe,” Evslin says proudly. “We ship very regularly from our shop in Kailua to Hong Kong, Japan, California, Washington and Canada. We’ve also shipped to Brazil, Tahiti, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma.”
And now Russia is their newest connection. Evslin says their expanding customer base shows how quickly the sport is growing and evolving internationally.
Evslin adds that one of the most exciting things to happen recently is the explosion of open-class canoes. For the last 50 years, Hawaiian outrigger canoe design has been tightly regulated, and since most international race associations were modeled after Hawaii, they adopted our stringent design restrictions.
The Pa’a ‘Eono, an open-class iron race (the six paddlers who start and finish the race) across the Molokai Channel, changed things and allowed canoe designers to build outrigger canoes with very little restrictions.
“As soon as these canoes appeared, basically every race association around the world outside of Hawaii embraced them because they’re lighter, faster and safer,” says Evslin. “This year, for the first time, Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association voted to allow open-class canoes on the same starting line as spec canoes, meaning that we’ve just entered a revolution in canoe design. The open class makes the sport more fun and accessible, and I believe will go a long way to expanding its appeal worldwide.”
And with expansion comes stronger ties to Hawaii and stronger relationships with the rest of the world.