Kaku Kayaks is a Florida based brand that sells the Kahuna SUP and the Wahoo kayak. Dustin Schouest purchased one of their 2017 Kaku Kahuna’s, and has given us an indepth review of his experience with it!
There was no way to even hear the Kenney Chesney playing in the restaurant above the Venice Marina in the town of the same name: the din of the patrons eating Cajun cooking and discussing fishing trips past, present, and future could overwhelm anyone with hearing problems. Across from me nursing a drink was Kevin Hawkins: the genius/madman behind Kaku Kayaks. I had wanted to meet him down in the last town before the Gulf of Mexico to buy a certain product straight from the maker himself. My own brown bottle was being thrown back between sentences, laughs, and discussions.
“So, how long have you been making these awesome boats?” I asked my question as I leaned back in the high up chair that made me feel even shorter than I already was. Kevin looked like the embodiment of a kayak fishing fanatic. The skin on his face was tanned and had the chiseled look of someone who had spent decades in salty air and sun. Long dirty blonde hair was tossed to and fro: you could tell he had been fishing all day. The day before our meeting, he had taken his Kaku Wahoo out to one of the shallow water rigs that dot the landscape of Louisiana’s waters and caught a large jack crevalle.
“I started designing the board and kayak years ago, but the brand first really came around in 2013.” Kevin was very forthcoming with every bit of information he gave me. “I designed the Kahuna most specifically as being a paddleboard with a mount for the Power Pole Micro.” Hearing the word Kahuna was enough to make me grin.
The main reason I had driven three hours from Houma to the “End of the World” as we often called Venice, Louisiana was to purchase a certain paddleboard from Kevin: the 2017 Kaku Kahuna. My previous kayak, while a worthwhile boat, had its problems: the foot pegs and center console were detriments to using a fly rod due to the fly line catching on anything and everything that it could. I had one of the handles break off while lifting, causing me to bust my lip open. And the worst part was the flimsiness of the plastic: there was a ton of flex any time I applied pressure to the sides.
After seeing my good friend (and the reason why you are able to read this)Tony Hart showing off his own Kahuna and Wahoo (the Kaku’s premiere kayak), I started looking hard at this boat. What sold me was the paint pattern choices, the awesome padding, and the fact that it was a plastic paddleboard that had the same width and length as many of the other paddleboard companies with only a 1k price tag. While I could have gone to our local dealer, Pack and Paddle of Lafayette, I liked the idea of meeting the owner while he was visiting here. Getting a conversation with the owner and creator of a kayak or SUP you want to buy goes a long way, especially when it is a face to face conversation over adult beverages.
Kevin led me from the bustling restaurant toward the parking lot. Stopped next to a large center console Contender with three missing props on its Evinrude engines was the Kaku Trailer. The white enclosed trailer with a black outline of the brand name and the barracuda skeleton that identifies the company at a glance was opened, and Kevin disappeared into the leviathan. He reappeared pulling out a long piece of plastic covered in bubble wrap.
As he pulled back the wrapping, my jaw dropped to the floor, and Jimmi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” began to play in my head. At first my eyes were drawn to the deck material: a black back ground with the barracuda skeleton emblazoned in white. It catches the eye even from a distance. Next I looked over the contours of the deck itself. The fore deck is slopped, angling up to where the angler would sit and paddle.
“There is a foam block where the angler stands.” Kevin said as I was looking over the boat. “On other paddleboards, my feet would hurt because there wasn’t any support. With this, you can stand for hours.” I could see the flat portion of the board was just rear of amidships: the proper and perfect place for the angler to put themselves. In many pictures, you will see the Kahuna equipped with a special chair that Kevin designed for the boat. This chair fits perfectly on the pad, and with the three tie downs on either side of it, you know the chair won’t go anywhere.
To the rear of the boat was the mount and threaded screw inserts made to accommodate the Powerpole Micro. While I had no intentions of getting any kind of shallow water anchor, I had been hatching plans to make a plate threaded for the screw holes that would become a mount for a weedeater mud motor.
On the stern, bow, and both sides amidships were carry handles. Unlike the hard molded handles on other brands, these were the old thread and plastic type. Unlike other brands that have the handles riveted in, these were screwed in with threaded screws. “If you transport your boat on top of your truck,” Kevin warned me, “I would suggest take the screws out and putting a thread locking compound on them.” I nodded: LockTite would do the trick perfectly.
The plastic that the boat was made of felt much more ridged and of a higher quality than some other kayaks that I had handled both personally and in my old job at Cabela’s. The texture wasn’t pebbled or rough: it was smooth as a baby’s butt. Even the Kaku and Kahuna decals looked higher quality than many of the others I had seen. They caught the eye and didn’t look like they would peel.
“I recommend the use of kayak paddles with the Kahuna,” Kevin continued. “While you can also use it like a regular SUP paddle, you can also sit down and use it like a kayak paddle. This gives you more speed and more comfort. The SUP paddle is normally too long even in the short position to paddle sitting down comfortably.” I nodded in agreement. When I had previously had a paddleboard, I had noticed that my speed and comfort were regularly affected negatively if I tried to sit down and paddle.
A set of rails sat forward of the handles. The rails were dug into the hull, with about an 8th of an inch sticking up. Painted silver, it really stood out from the camo pattern of the board and the black padding.
After giving the board the once over, I grinned and hefted the board on top of my truck. The main reason I hadn’t taken my trailer this far down was due to a problem with the ground on my truck. We shook hands a few times, and I was off to go home and get the board on its trailer. On the way back, I had the joy of discovering a pinhole leak in my radiator intake line. I had to do a quick MacGyver bandaid using heat resistant silicone and a Coke bottle. The repair held and I was able to get home without the use of a tow truck.
Saturday hadn’t come quick enough. The sun rose to the sound of Primus’ “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver”. It was goofy music for a goofy mood. After having fixed the bad ground to my truck and gotten myself a new paddle, I was ready to sling flies at redfish.
It was a hell of a morning to test out a new toy. The wind was coming from the West to the Northwest, with an outgoing tide. And I was paddling up the bayou right against both of them. I launched the kayak at my usual launch, and began to face the wind and the tide, heading up to my favorite redfishing grounds.
Something I noticed about the boat was that the bow didn’t want to cut thru the slight chop or the water period: it wanted to ride above it. Due to the shape of the V and the chines in the stern, the Kaku has a planing type hull design. The ripples lapping at the hull reminded me greatly of the sounds of water hitting an aluminum Jon boat while at anchor.
Even with the current and the wind going against me, there was no great, mighty struggle to paddle up the bayou. I was able to stay at a consistent pace and make good headway. What for me in my kayak was normally a 30 to 40 minute paddle was about 50 minutes this time.
After getting into position, the wind began to shift due North. This time I let it push me along as I looked for tails. One of the bad things about a SUP is that because you are much higher off the water, your body becomes a sail, even when you are sitting down. I was able to fight the wind, but it was difficult as you might imagine. And this was in no way due to the design of the Kahuna.
I stood up and began casting. I checked the rocker of the boat by moving back and forth from port to starboard. The sides of the boat always caught me before the boat would let me tip over. I even managed to walk to the foredeck and stand atop that. There I did feel some tipsiness, but, this could have just been nerves.
I could see a school of immature redfish swimming before me, so I quickly fired one of my Kalamari Charlie flies at it. My fly line never caught on anything on the deck, including the rail system. The cast was flawless: it hit the redfish on the nose, and it ate like clockwork. With ease, the TFO fly rod bowed over and the Kahuna followed the redfish in the ever so infamous Cajun Sleigh Ride. Even as the red made runs and turned around the boat like clockwork, the Kahuna never once wanted to tip over, and I never once wanted to fall over.
I got the redfish to hand, and sorted it from the muddy grass that she had gotten herself tangled up in. I grinned and put the redfish back in the water after a few pictures. The Kahuna had now been properly baptized in fish slime!
As much as I love this boat, and I do, there are a handful of things that I have not found to my exact liking.
The weight does suck a bit: at 70 pounds it won’t be easy to carry by the side handles like you can with fiberglass SUPs. However this is not a dealbreaker at all for me, as I mainly use a trailer to transport my kayaks. The only time this may be a detriment is during duck season when I like to cross over levees with my gear in tow. This gear includes about 60 pounds of decoys in two sacks, fake marsh grass rolled up, a shotgun, and a dry box with my call lanyard and my shells. However this year it may change as I am thinking of using a layout blind with my Kahuna.
After a day or two in sun light (don’t judge me: I have limited room for storage)I noticed that a bit of the deck pad’s adhesison was failing. The pad was coming up on very small areas on the sides. While this does suck, I talked to Kevin via Facebook Messenger. Within a few hours he had gotten back to me telling me to flip the board over to prevent the sun for hurting the pad. And if the pad wouldn’t adhere again, I could buy some 3M spray adhesive that would help reset it.
While not a qualm, I have found difficulty in getting mud and dirt off of the white parts of the pad. I have heard to use different non-bleach cleaning compounds to clean it, but I worry it might hurt/discolor the black around the white.
It was a fun day fishing. I had slimed up my board on a decent sized rat red, and broken off two other nice sized redfish in the grass. The wind had picked up and shifted due West, which would push me all the way down the canal. I put on my favorite podcast, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, and continued to the launch. Once I had gotten the Kahuna on my trailer, I headed back toward home.
In all, the Kahuna had performed exactly how I had hoped it would perform. The SUP/kayak hybrid handled waves perfectly, it wasn’t a barge to paddle into the wind and the tide, and it was stable as hell. If you combine that with the sleek, sexy camo patterns available and the epic deck pad, you have a boat that not only performs like a champion, but looks like one too. The Kaku Kahuna is definitely a purchase I do not regret: I look forward to “Unreqvited”, as I named my board, and myself having plenty of fun adventures together.
I am notorious in my family for having the worst luck ever. Thanks to my misfortunes, I have owed thousands of dollars in speeding tickets, messed up charges from a local university, and I have even had a garbage truck back into my vehicle.
This being established, it was both a shock and a “I knew this would happen” moment when, this passed Saturday, something happened on my way back from PAC Kayak Rentals. I was doing about 50 miles per hour when the ratchet strap holding my precious Kaku Kahuna, “Unreqvited”, slipped due to improper loading. The slip caused the hook on the left side to come unmoored. Soon, the forces of gravity and lift took my beautiful board from the trailer, and it flew into the air. The side made contact with pavement, and the board rolled off the road, where it slid peacefully to a stop.
I was shocked and scared. How much damage had been done to my board? I pulled off to the side of the road, and ran to my board.
As it turns out, there were no cracks, no breaks in the plastic, or any major problems! There were scuff marks from where the plastic slid across the pavement, and two padeyes were destroyed. One of the handles had been ripped as well. But, these were all superficial to me: my major worry had been any issues compromising the floatability of the Kahuna itself.
I got the board back on the trailer and got home, after more carefully strapping the board down and going slower than the speed limit. Once I arrived home, I flipped the board and took a flashlight it, checking for any kind of issues. There were none!
I sent a message to Kevin mentioning what had happened, and he agreed that the Kahuna is a tank. Because of his fast response times, the durability of the Kahuna, and the friendly service I have recieved, Kaku Kayaks have earned my customer loyalty.
I can safely say: THE KAKU KAHUNA IS ONE OF THE TOUGHEST BOARDS OR KAYAKS I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!
Part 2: Return to the Chaz for Redemption Next Post:
Summer Slam Series: Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament