Maui waterman David Kalama is on fire. A quick look at Imagine Surf’s website shows his handsome face is plastered all over it as their new brand ambassador and Vice President of Design and Innovation. Over at Men’s Journal, he’s hailed as a waterman guru and doles out expert advice in a column teaching gym heads how to do their workout outside. There are plenty of pics of him doing curls and lunges on Kanaha’s gorgeous white sand during the 6-step workout with quotes from him like “[sprinting in the sand] targets your toes, your feet, your ankles, calves and shins. It gets all of that really strong and that equates to board control.” A look at his blog “A Waterman’s Journal” finds that he also makes time to write, give shootouts to Kai Lenny for his recent waterman accomplishments and update us all on his own races around the world.
He’s also extremely eloquent. Here’s Kalama on his affinity for stand-up paddling (SUP):
“I first became involved in SUP simply because I loved paddling,” Kalama says. “I have a strong passion and familiarity with canoe paddling, so my experience lent itself to being a quick starter, and the transition between canoeing and stand up was natural, almost seamless; the perfect combination of my two favorite sports! I give a lot of credit to the equipment becoming easier to learn on. The accessibility to that equipment is also key. Noticeably, the natural sex appeal and health benefits of stand up paddle boarding are so apparent that it caught on and become wildly popular. Nowadays, the sport has become a multigenerational family bonding activity, with women being a key participant.”
So it’s no surprise that Imagine Surf hired him on this summer. The company, acquired by the Pryde Group (a Hong Kong-based firm specializing in a portfolio of high performance adventure and marine sports brands) in January, is now part of a world that includes Neil Pryde (their original brand) and Cabrinha. Now Imagine Surf wants to stake its claim in the stand-up paddle industry.
“It has always been our mission to be a leader in stand-up paddling,” said Gregg Chisolm, Imagine Surf’s president. “Dave popularized stand up paddling and made it possible for all of us to enjoy this great sport. He is an innovator in the true sense, and it will be an honor to work with him toward our goal of achieving innovation in our products and growing the sport of stand up paddling globally.”
Kalama’s career has spanned decades in the water. He says he began surfing at seven, and has since become recognized as a world champion windsurfer and big wave surfer. He’s also helped pioneer tow-in surfing as well as assisted (with Laird Hamilton) in the reintroduction of the ancient Hawaiian sport of stand up paddling in the mid 1990s.
“I’m sure the Polynesians and other formidable cultures in and around water were doing a form of stand-up long before I/we knew of it as ‘stand up paddle boarding,’” Kalama says. “But modern stand-up paddle board started in Waikiki with Duke Kahanamoku, who shared it with John Zapotocky. In the 1930s, Duke was stand-up paddle boarding only occasionally, whereas John was doing it exclusively. But it didn’t really take off until Laird and I re-discovered it 1995. We were at a photo shoot and there were no waves so Laird and I decided to try something new to squelch the boredom, so we took out the outrigger canoe paddles I had in the back of my truck and started to experiment. Even then, it took a few years to ignite and take off.”
Kalama says the decision to join Imagine Surf was fairly easy. He says their company shares his philosophy, ethics and authenticity. He had been designing and shaping his own boards for the past few years, but was ready to expand that to a full-time venture.
“My goal is to create boards for the highest end of performance, all the way through making entry level equipment that will guarantee success—so that ultimately, people that choose Imagine boards will maximize the enjoyment of SUP,” says Kalama. “With support from Imagine, I will have access to resources that I can use to develop and experiment with new designs, construction methods and all of the elements that go into designing innovative boards that are performance driven, easy to ride and fun.”
Imagine Surf is excited about his 2013 line debut. They plan for a long board design and a progressive short board. Both will be available in two sizes. Stand up paddle surfing enthusiasts got a sneak preview of the boards at the Outdoor Retailer Expo in Salt Lake City. In the meantime, Imagine Surf continues to create prototypes utilizing computer technology in shaping for even better boards.
“We are researching and developing both materials and techniques that will allow for construction of the strongest, lightest, fastest boards possible,” says Kalama.”Simply old-school trial and error combined with new school technology and advancing materials. The 2013 line is modeled after what I ride, designed for higher-end performance.”
Does all of this keep him indoors these days? Not a chance, he says. Kalama founded a stand-up paddle board camp in 2005 that just completed a trip to Turks and Caicos. The Kalama Kamps is a way to experience the waterman lifestyle from sun up to sun down with Dave Kalama guiding the way.
“Of course Laird Hamilton is one person who has influenced my passion for SUP,” says Kalama. “Laird and I basically re-discovered it together, so our shared experience lessened the learning curve. More recently, paddling with Jamie Mitchell, working with Kai Lenny, and the Kalama Kampers who have such boundless enthusiasm, sustain my passion and interest in the sport. I’m motivated by all of them, and that motivation serves as a fantastic training impetus and teaching tool; I need to analyze what I’m teaching, not just for my clients, but for my own training successes. This holds true on every level, from the elite to the everyman.”
You can join his next camp to Fiji Nov. 1-10 by going to KalamaKamps.com.