Battle Of The Brands: How Quickblade And Lahui Kai Won The 2014 Battle Of The Paddle

 
Lahui Kai stand up paddle race boards SUP ATX

The Lahui Kai team doing their best Blues Brothers impression (L-R: Lincoln Dews, Mick di Betta, Kelly Margetts, Jayden Jensen, Sondra Purser)

The Battle of the Brands. The BOB. It’s the one race of the year where virtually all the major manufacturers come together to duke it out for glory, bragging rights and market share. In the same way the Battle of the Paddle draws all the top paddlers, so too does it attract all the leading board and paddle makers.

But who are the leading brands? Our sport (and our industry) is a bit like the Wild West right now: We’re growing so fast that new companies are popping up every week.

However some are staking a stronger claim than others, at least on the elite side of the sport, so I decided to run the numbers from the BOP and see which boards and paddles the elite guys and girls are choosing to use.

While throwing a bunch of athletes into macking surf at Salt Creek isn’t exactly a scientific study of which brand makes the fastest gear (let’s face it, Danny Ching could probably beat you and I with a door and shovel), it does give us an indication of the current landscape.

And either way, it’s kinda fun to dig into the stats and numbers…

Battle of the Paddle Women's Elite Race

The women were charging this year (photo: Andrew Welker)

So after Quickblade and SIC were the clear winners at Molokai, let’s see who “won” the other biggest race of the year.

Who came out on top at Battle of the Paddle @ Salt Creek?

If you look at the numbers at the bottom of this page – click here to jump straight to the stats – two brands will stand out pretty sharply: Quickblade absolutely dominated when it came to paddles, while the rejuvenated SUP ATX/Lahui Kai brand stole the show from the big boys in the battle of the boards.

Lahui Kai SUP ATX Battle of the Paddle

Toby Cracknell (Naish), Lincoln Dews (Quickblade/Lahui Kai), Travis Grant (Quickblade/NSP) and Kai Lenny (Quickblade/Naish) on the start line

Quickblade Is Still The Ferrari Of Paddles

Despite some great innovation from boutique operators and huge investment in paddles by the large board manufacturers, the original standard, Quickblade, is still the paddle of choice for the elite guys and girls.

Both of the 2014 Battle of the Paddle champions – Candice Appleby and Kai Lenny – chose to paddle with a Quickblade, while roughly 50% of all top finishers made the same call.

Candice Appleby Battle of the Paddle

Candice Appleby (Quickblade/Surftech) was kinda just a little bit stoked to reclaim her crown this year… (photo: Andrew Welker)

In the uber-prestigious and insanely-competitive Men’s Elite Race, more than half of the top 15 guys were paddling a QB. Quickblade took home 8 of the top 15 spots, which is a 53.33% “market share” of the elite racing scene. On the women’s side the QB domination was slightly smaller but still clear: 40% of the top 10 women chose one of the Mad Scientist’s creations.

Apart from Quickblade – and this stat is kind of amazing – no other brand had more than one single team rider in the mix. Outside of the 8x Quickblade paddles there were seven other brands represented: 1x Fanatic, 1x Hippo Stick, 1x Sawyer, 1x Select, 1x Boardworks, 1x Lass and 1x Naish.

Stand up paddling race boards

Party wave. Too many brands to count… (photo: Andrew Welker)

In the Women’s Elite Race it was a bit more of a fair fight. Other than Quickblade with 4/10 (or 40% ‘market share’) the only other ‘multiple’ brand was Werner, who had 2 riders in the mix. Actually if you zoom down to the absolute top of the list, Werner was even more successful than Quikblade on the women’s side: Werner grabbed positions #2 and #4, whereas in addition to the #1 spot, Quickblade’s second highest paddler was #5.

Just like Quickblade, Werner is a niche brand that’s known for making paddles and nothing else. Again, while this isn’t exactly a scientific study, it’s a strong indicator that elite paddlers still prefer to get their boards from a board maker and their paddles from a paddle maker.

Kelly Margetts Quickblade Paddles SUP

Australia’s Kelly Margetts (Quickblade/Lahui Kai) absolutely dominated the second qualifying heat this year, before going on to claim his fourth-straight Top 10 finish (photo: Andrew Welker)

Outside of the 4x Quickblade and 2x Werner, the other four paddle brands in the Women’s Elite Race Top 10 were: 1x ZRE, 1x Fanatic, 1x Naish and 1x SIC.

Quickblade’s continued dominance of the high end paddle market is staggering. I’ve seen how their operation works and it’s not far above the “mom & pop” level. QB is a relatively small company but they’ve built a huge and very loyal following.

Word beaters such as Kalama, Jamie, Travis, Casper, Candice, Kelly, Jenny, Lincoln, etc are all official QB team riders, however the brand has a pretty impressive list of unofficial team riders as well. Quickblade designs are in such high demand that some of the young superstars of the sport are going out of their way, even risking upsetting their primary sponsor, just to race with a Quickblade paddle.

Kai Lenny with his Quickblade paddle

Kai Lenny carrying his Quickblade paddle (covered over with Naish stickers…) ahead of Danny Ching (Hippo Stick / 404) photo: Andrew Welker

For example Kai Lenny is sponsored by Naish for both boards and paddles, however he’s been using a Quickblade “V-Drive” the past five months.

Perhaps the young superstar has been hanging around his mentor a little too much (Kai has worked closely with V-Drive creator Dave Kalama for several years), or perhaps he just thinks that Quickblade make better paddles. Either way it’s certainly an interesting situation and one that speaks volumes about the appeal of the iconic QB logo.

(So on a side note: The rather ironic thing about the ‘handlegate‘ incident is that Kai and Connor are technically on the same “team” – they’re both using a Quickblade.)

SUP ATX Lahui Kai Is The New Kid Race Board On The Block

Even more visible than an elite athlete’s paddle is their board, and the Battle of the Paddle is a perfect opportunity for the leading manufacturers to showcase their new gear (hence our nickname “Battle of the Brands”).

But this year it wasn’t one of the regular logos that stood out. It wasn’t Naish, Starboard, Fanatic or SIC that dominated. This year it was the new kid on the racing block: SUP ATX.

SUP ATX Lahui Kai stand up paddle race boards

The SUP ATX / Lahui Kai crew. From right to left: Brian Szymanski (shaper), Lincoln Dews (4th in the Elite Race), John Becker (brand manager), Mick Di Betta (founder and trainer), Sondra Purser (9th), Jayden Jensen (10th) and Kelly Margetts (7th)

SUP ATX has never been an elite brand. They’ve long been known for mass producing mid-range, all-round touring boards and not much else.

But then something changed.

First, they bought the rights to the Australian-based Lahui Kai brand, which instantly gave them far better shapes as well as world-class team riders such as Kelly Margetts and Lincoln Dews. Then a few months ago they snapped up the universally respected designer Brian Szymanski (along with industry stalwart John Becker) to make an even stronger push on the racing side.

 

And that push is clearly paying off.

If you only look at the Men’s Elite Race results it’s obvious: Lahui Kai had three of their team riders inside the Top 10 whereas no other brand had more than one. Lincoln Dews, Kelly Margetts and Jayden Jensen all claimed a spot on the podium, while seven other brands each had a sole representative.

Outside of Lahui Kai’s domination, the Men’s Top 10 also featured: 1x Naish, 1x Fanatic, 1x 404, 1x Starboard, 1x Focus, 1x BIC and 1x Infinity/Boardworks.

If you expand the results out to the Top 15 it’s a little more respectable for the big boys: Naish scraped in with two paddlers near the bottom of the top 15 (positions #13 and #14) while Starboard rounded out the list with their second team rider. That gave Naish 3x, on par with Lahui Kai, while Starboard were the only other ‘multiple’ brand in the top 15 with 2x.

Battle of the Paddle stand up paddle race Salt Creek

Casper Steinfath (Quickblade/Naish), Jake Jensen (Fanatic), Toby Cracknell (Naish) and Kelly Margetts (Quickblade / Lahui Kai) sharing a wave at this year’s Battle of the Paddle, aka the Battle of the Brands (photo: Andrew Welker)

Throw in NSP and Rogue scoring a top 15 spot and we had an amazing 10x different board brands represented inside the Men’s Elite Race Top 15.

SUP ATX/Lahui Kai wasn’t satisfied with dominating the men’s podium, they also managed to get their sole international female team rider (Sondra Purser) inside the Top 10 of the Women’s Elite Race.

The women’s side did look better for the big brands though: SIC, Naish and Starboard each had 2x riders, while in addition to Lahui Kai the top 10 also featured an appearance from Surftech, Fanatic and Riviera.

Lahui Kai’s new found strength was highlighted again 24 hours later in the Elite Team Relay, where they led for much of the race and went oh so close to ending Naish’s winning streak.

Battle of the Paddle stand up paddle race boards

Start of the Men’s Elite Race Final (photo: Andrew Welker)

So there you go. That was the 2014 Battle of the Brands.

Obviously we’re only focusing on one single race – this isn’t exactly a scientific analysis of the entire sport – however I still think it’s an interesting way to look at the ever-changing race board / race paddle market.

Now here’s a closer look at all the numbers…

RESULTS: 2014 Battle Of The Brands

TOP 15 MEN

#
NAME
PADDLE
BOARD
1Kai LennyQuickbladeNaish
2Jake JensenFanaticFanatic
3Danny ChingHippo Stick404
4Lincoln DewsQuickbladeSUP ATX Lahui Kai
5Connor BaxterQuickbladeStarboard
6Mo FreitasSawyerFocus
7Kelly MargettsQuickbladeSUP ATX Lahui Kai
8Eric TerrienSelectBIC
9Slater TroutBoardworksInfinity/Boardworks
10Jayden JensenQuickbladeSUP ATX Lahui Kai
11Travis GrantQuickbladeNSP
12Javier JimenezLassRogue
13Casper SteinfathQuickbladeNaish
14Riggs NapoleonNaishNaish
15Zane SchweitzerQuickbladeStarboard

TOP 10 WOMEN

#
NAME
PADDLE
BOARD
1Candice ApplebyQuickbladeSurftech
2Lina AugaitisWernerSIC
3Annabel AndersonZREStarboard
4Fiona WyldeWernerStarboard
5Jenny KalmbachQuickbladeNaish
6Angie JacksonFanaticFanatic
7Karla GilbertNaishNaish
8Sonni HönscheidSICSIC
9Sondra PurserQuickbladeSUP ATX Lahui Kai
10Talia DecoiteQuickbladeRiviera

TOP 10 MEN – PADDLES

5x Quickblade (50%)
1x Fanatic (10%)
1x Hippo Stick (10%)
1x Sawyer (10%)
1x Select (10%)
1x Boardworks (10%)

TOP 10 MEN – BOARDS

3x SUP ATX Lahui Kai (30%)
1x Naish (10%)
1x Fanatic (10%)
1x 404 (10%)
1x Starboard (10%)
1x Focus (10%)
1x BIC (10%)
1x Infinity/Boardworks (10%)

TOP 15 MEN – PADDLES

8x Quickblade (53.33%)
1x Fanatic (6.67%)
1x Hippo Stick (6.67%)
1x Sawyer (6.67%)
1x Select (6.67%)
1x Boardworks (6.67%)
1x Lass (6.67%)
1x Naish (6.67%)

TOP 15 MEN – BOARDS

3x SUP ATX Lahui Kai (20%)
3x Naish (20%)
2x Starboard (13.33%)
1x Fanatic (6.67%)
1x 404 (6.67%)
1x Focus (6.67%)
1x BIC (6.67%)
1x Infinity/Boardworks (6.67%)
1x NSP (6.67%)
1x Rogue (6.67%)

TOP 10 WOMEN – PADDLES

4x Quickblade (40%)
2x Werner (20%)
1x ZRE (10%)
1x Fanatic (10%)
1x Naish (10%)
1x SIC (10%)

TOP 10 WOMEN – BOARDS

2x SIC (20%)
2x Starboard (20%)
2x Naish (20%)
1x SUP ATX Lahui Kai (10%)
1x Fanatic (10%)
1x Surftech (10%)
1x Riviera (10%)

Battle of the Paddle Casper Steinfath

Casper Steinfath (Quickblade/Naish) on the set of the day (photo: Andrew Welker)