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Dave Chun of Kialoa: paddling life and standup paddle training indoors

Man paddles canoe on lake
Dave Chun of KIALOA

Dave Chun, a Hawaiian transplant and owner of Kialoa Paddles in Bend, Oregon has been manufacturing paddles for over two decades. In our interview with Dave, it is clear he is very passionate and knowledgeable about every aspect of paddling. Eager to learn about his story and tap into his knowledge of standup paddle training indoors & out, we asked him 8 questions to get a taste of what it is like to be living the dream.


Interviewing Dave Chun


Vasa: What does paddling mean to you?


Husband and wife business owners embrace
Dave and his wife Meg

Dave: Paddling is Prana. It is the life force in the Chun household. My wife Meg, and I met paddling. Our household calendar revolves around the outrigger race schedule; Gorge Outrigger Race in July, Hawaii State Race in August, Labor Day weekend is the Queen Liliuokalani in Kona, October is Men’s Molokai, etc. Heck, I showed up at my Uncle’s funeral in board shorts after shooting paddling video off the back of a jet ski. My aunt gave me a big hug when I arrived and thanked me for coming.                                                                                           


Vasa: On the KIALOA website, it states  “We Live Like We Paddle”.  What are the foundational principles that guide you?


Dave: We have 3 values at Kialoa which guide our actions:


PO’OKELA (Excellence): We strive for excellence in our product and our service through the pursuit of innovation and commitment to quality.

LAULIMA (Teamwork): Our employees, our customers, and our business partners – We are all in this together.

MĀLAMA (Stewardship): We honor the traditions of the past and dreams of the future by caring for people and our environment.


Our values are based on lessons Meg and I were taught paddling outrigger at Kailua Canoe Club. They are the fundamental elements of a successful outrigger crew. Paddling came along in my life at a time when I was rudderless. I found a community with my crew and club, found mentors in my coaches, learned how to be a teammate as well as a leader and learned the beauty of loyalty and doing what is right, even if it meant not winning the race. Because of this, I feel a great debt of gratitude toward the sport and culture of outrigger paddling, and whenever possible, to pass on the lessons I have learned.


three men race in an outrigger canoe
Outrigger canoe racing action at the Molokai Hoe (photo by Dave Chun)

Vasa: In what ways do SUP, Outrigger, and all paddle sports benefit people?


Dave: From an exercise standpoint, along with wheelchair sports, paddle sports are one of the few options for athletes who wish to propel themselves with their upper body. Not every person can, or wants to be a “leg” athlete. I started paddling after injuring my knee. I was a triathlete who could no longer run. I’m grateful to have grown up in Hawaii where I had the option to transition to outrigger.


Standup paddle training indoors


Vasa: You mentioned the bulk of your standup paddle fitness training is done indoors. Why? 


Dave: I mainly train indoors for time management. Nothing beats paddling on the lakes and rivers of Oregon, but even a short paddle on the river which runs through town can take a couple of hours. A workout on the Vasa, which is located at our Kialoa shop, is half the time. Training indoors, I can easily do a weightlifting workout and a paddle on the Vasa before the sun rises.  I like to workout early in the day, because I lose motivation as the day progresses. Morning workouts are reinforcing, because no matter what calamity the day may bring, I can still feel some success because I trained.

Also, I like doing low-intensity technique work on the Vasa. I have been working on improving my biomechanical posture. This is much easier to do in a controlled environment. Being able to monitor wattage gives me instant feedback on the biomechanical changes. I can see the wattage increase and decrease with simple things like foot and hip placement. Paddling with the correct posture is essential for mitigating injury.

standup paddle training indoors
Dave at Kialoa using his Vasa SUPErg (mounted to a portable frame used for events) for standup paddle training indoors


“The Vasa is my “friend” who shields me from the cold, wind, and snow. My friend is available for my use any time of day. My friend makes the impossible, possible.”


Vasa: What does your training include and how do you integrate paddling with the Vasa SUPErg?


Dave: A training day for me includes 3 things: Strength training, cardio training, and balance work.

I start most days weightlifting at the gym or in my shop. I like weightlifting because the performance measurement is exact. Either I make the lift, or I don’t. Weightlifting is the only activity I log with detail.

Cardio is a mix of different activities; a bike ride to a session at the climbing gym, or paddling on the river, or spending time on an indoor trainer like the Vasa. At this stage in my paddling career, I believe I get a better cardio workout on the Vasa than I do on the water. Much of my paddling time is in the role of a coach, or testing paddles for Kialoa. There is a lot of starting and stopping when I am on the water.

A few years ago I started incorporating balance and mobility exercises into my daily activities. I find standing on the Vasa balance/instability platform while SUP paddling on the SUPErg to be a good exercise for balance. Balance on the water is mainly about 2 things; putting in enough miles to stop thinking about it, and moving the bottom part of the body independently from the top. A paddler balances the craft with their legs and hips.


Vasa: Indoor paddle training may not seem as inspiring as paddling on the water.  How do you keep the indoor workouts functional, interesting and fun?


Dave: It is all about mindset. I don’t compare training on the Vasa with paddling my canoe or surfski. When I am paddling the Vasa, I don’t wish I was doing something else. In any life situation, I have a choice on how I view the event. I elect to view my time on the Vasa in a positive manner. The Vasa is my “friend” who shields me from the cold, wind, and snow. My friend is available for my use any time of day. My friend makes the impossible, possible.


Vasa: In what ways do the fitness benefits from standup paddle training indoors on a Vasa Erg translate well to paddling on the water?


Dave: I think the Vasa is good for teaching a paddler to maintain constant pressure throughout the stroke. On the water, the power transmission needs to be smooth or the blade will slip. The best paddlers look effortless. Paddling fast is about efficiency and energy management. One super hard stroke is about as useful as one hard stride in a marathon. Indoor training reinforces the mantra, “smooth and steady wins the race”.

I mainly do low-intensity workouts on the Vasa. 80% of my total paddling mileage is low intensity and the Vasa is the perfect tool for putting in base mileage. During these workouts, I focus on my technique. I view these workouts as very important as they shape my body mechanics which will be transferred to the water.


Vasa: How do you use the Vasa SUPErg to teach an efficient, powerful stroke technique?


Dave: The Vasa is great for teaching beginning SUP paddlers technique because it is difficult for novice paddlers to process information and make corrections when the only thing they are thinking about is falling into the water. Primitive instincts take over when danger is perceived. I start beginners standing on the floor. Once the stroke mechanics are established, I move them to the balance board or on the water. The quickest way to make progress is to move in a systematic sequence of small steps. The quickest way to ingrain bad paddling habits is to learn to paddle on an unstable platform.

Video is very effective when using the Vasa. Whether one is doing self-analysis or being coached, being on land makes the process much more simple.

I sit on a 5-gallon bucket with a foam pad when using the Vasa in a canoe motion. I often paddle with a 1″ foam piece between my knees to internally rotate my thighs. Whether I am paddling a craft where both feet are forward or a craft where I can split my legs forward and back, I find being internally rotated to be a more powerful position. I believe engagement of the legs and hips are the key to a powerful paddling motion.

Kialoa Paddles logoDave and the Kialoa story: Born on the Island of Oahu in 1991, KIALOA Paddles grew out of Dave Chun’s love for the sport of outrigger canoe racing.   Driven by the desire to build the best paddles in the world, Dave and his wife Meg started crafting wood paddles on his parents’ lanai.  The Chuns moved
Kialoa Paddles to Bend, Oregon in 1992, bringing the Aloha spirit with them.