Three years ago, Cousin Mullet extolled upon the Mullet Nation the virtues of the Kanaha long sleeved paddle shirt from Maui-based Bluesmiths. But, after spending nearly three weeks just about living in one, I am compelled to take another look at it. In three years, things can change. Is it still as wonderful? Have significant changes occurred in the styling or production of the shirt? Is it still worth the investment?
Heck yeah. And then some.
Look in the dictionary for the word quality and the Bluesmiths name will be there in the definition. The Kanaha is one of the most well-made technical shirts I have ever worn, and I’ve worn a lot. The cut and seams make the shirt extremely comfortable to wear, as far as fit goes. Even underneath a hydration pack and waist belt PFD. But what really makes this shirt stand out and what sets it apart from all others is its hydrophobia, and its true ability to keep you cool when you need it to or to warm you up after a turn in the drink.
Let’s start first with the Kanaha’s fear of water. Bluesmiths uses nanosphere technology from high-tech textile innovator Schoeller in this shirt and its short sleeved brother, the Lane. This is what creates the amazing water repellency in the fabric.
Water will actually bead off this shirt, and it is extremely fast-drying. You can actually see the shirt drying right before your eyes, if you are observant. But, unlike other hydrophobic garments I have worn, particular Season Five, the Kanaha doesn’t feel like Neoprene Lite. Don’t get me wrong, Season Five is amazing, but it’s better to wear in the winter. For spring and summer, and maybe even fall, Season Five would roast me. The Kanaha is just plain comfortable all throughout my main paddle season.
Well, almost. Sweltering humid Southern summers can be challenging no matter what you are wearing. But, as long as there is at least a bit of a breeze, the Kanaha is going to do a great job wicking away the sweat, and staying dry. Case in point: yesterday I spent the entire day teaching at our local lake. We had intermittent rain all day and I was in an out of the water helping students. The Kanaha was perfect in that setting, keeping my core comfy throughout the day. Rewind to a couple of weeks ago on Maui, where sun protection was key and the Kanaha got me through practice runs on the Maliko and both the Olukai and Paddle Imua races. Warm and comfy or cool and collected, the Kanaha was essential to both those settings and experiences.
Add in its SPF 35 rating, wet or dry, and you have a perfect piece of kit.
Since 2013, Bluesmiths has added some new colors…including some great high visibility ones, yet they don’t scream 1980’s WHAM! Concert neon, if you know what I mean. High vis doesn’t have to mean day glow.
So yes, the Kanaha is pricey – $95. However, the quality makes it a long-wearing shirt that is going to be a workhorse staple in your paddling bag of tricks. And you might just find yourself wearing it for other activities as well.