I bought the OC1 nearly 3 years ago now and its made such a difference in my life. It made it easier to train for World Sprints when my crew was spread from North Cape to the Bluff (one end of New Zealand to the other). However, in Tahiti at Worlds I saw the rudderless Va’a in action. We had a hard race, And there was this tent with lots of beautiful va’a and….. well, I came home having purchased a Fai Va’a performance model. It’s a mix of SGlass and carbon fibre and they assured me a Granny could carry it. The specifications say the hull weighs 12kg.
Turns out it’s heavier than the Ehukai OC1 (which is full carbon). I just couldn’t justify buying full carbon at the time and wonder if that was a good decision for me at my stage of life. I can still carry it, but its a stretch on a windy day and when the tide is out and I have to walk up the beach. I’m not sure exactly what it weighs rigged. At Regional Sprints it weighed in at 13.6kg, my friend weighed it at 14.2kg and at National Sprints it weighed in at 16.12kg (thank goodness I left the bailer in it just got me over the regulation 16kg).
I decided on a Fai Va’a because they had a container load coming to New Zealand after the World Sprint Championships. I knew all the customs clearance etc would be taken care of.
The other choice at the time would have been a Va’a Tehuritaua. Since then I have paddled the Va’a Factory V1 and, once I got used to the different feel of it, I really liked it. Its cheaper than the Fai, the finish looks better and I think it is faster. It seemed more ‘shallow’ and took a few minutes to get used to the different feel.
I have to say I was really disappointed with the finish on my Fai Va’a. I can see the carbon fibre through the gel coat in a lot of places and the gel coat finish is quite rough in places. With the price I payed, I would have expected a higher quality of finish. The gel coat finish on the Ehukai is immaculate and that is what I was expecting. I have just had to refurbish the wooden iato after 3 months as the varnish was completely gone off most of the surface. However, I do like it to paddle. I feel very comfortable in it.
My advice would be try a variety of models out before you buy. That is if you can find someone willing to let you paddle their precious va’a (which they may not want to do – I know I am very careful about who I let paddle mine). I had only paddled a fibre glass Fai once before I bought mine and now I wish I had been able to paddle a few others before I bought.
There are a couple of V1s being made in New Zealand now, the Sonic V1 and a V1 from Tai Paddles so the choices are getting more varied.