Puakea Designs – It’s About Lifestyle

Puakea Designs Pacific Northwest

As the founder of Puakea Designs, John Puakea is an internationally sought after canoe builder as well as a championship- winning paddling coach, whose career as a canoeing innovator and promoter has evolved with the expanding paddling sports market.

John Puakea

John Puakea teaching stroke technique

Over years of coaching, John’s own experience as an elite paddler, combined with his talent for refining technique and efficiency, have nurtured the best assets of other paddlers at the highest level of competition.  John has helped push world-class paddlers to the next level in international competition. His ability to improve the performance of already-elite paddlers also led Team Bradley to consecutive first-place finishes in the Molokai-to-Oahu Na Wahine O Ke Kai, and to the fastest crossing time by any women’s team in the history of the race. Johnny has also coached top OC1 paddlers like Jimmy Austin, Danny Ching and Lauren Spalding.

John’s knowledge of body mechanics complements his strengths in canoe building. His top-performing designs include the Kaimana, the Kainalu, the Pueo 1, the Ehukai, and the Kahe Kai—all OC1 canoes. New in OC6 production, is his very fast Puakea Unlimited (Malolo) canoe, owned by various West Coast mainland and international teams in anticipation of top times in this new ultralight division. Top Tahitian team, Shell Va’a, chose John’s Makika OC6 design for the grueling Olamau Race in 2013, and won in all three stages.

John’s inherent craftsmanship and design finesse come from an early indoctrination into canoe culture by his father, Bobby Puakea, beloved coach, renowned wooden canoe builder, and Puakea

Kahe Kai Puakea

Team Rider Jummy Austin on Kahe Kai by Puakea

Foundation of Hawaii founder. While traditional sensibilities and a duty to cultural stewardship inspire John’s designs, speed considerations drive the end product. John’s elegantly styled canoes are among the fastest and race-proven on the water anywhere in the world.


For the wider paddling community, John is continuing to advance paddling performance with this new line of products, including outrigger and SUP paddles, applying the same technical and aesthetic standards used in his OC1s and OC6s. Additionally, John is also available (depending on his schedule) to do clinics for clubs, small groups and at paddling events.

The latest products from Puakea Designs are the Kahe Kai OC1 and the new Puakea Unlimited Ama. Delivery of the first Kahe Kai occurred only days before the 2016 Molokai Solo, but team riders, Jimmy Austin and Daniel Chun, liked it so much they decided to race the canoe! The volume has been moved further forward, the cockpit rails are taller, the foot wells are lower and the cockpit is wider than the Ehukai adding more stability and better surfing. Our demos of the new Unlimited Ama are available to try out in Hawaii and on the mainland at the Gorge OC6 race in 2017.


Mahalo Puakea Designs for your support of The Gorge Outrigger Canoe Race!