By Léo Azambuja
With summer already here, it’s time to dust off that old kayak, spruce it up a little with new accessories and put it on the water. Or just get a new one, ready for the river or the ocean. Whatever is your choice, there is a store on Kaua‘i ready to help you.
“We just try to get as many people as we can on the water, whether it’ll be kayak fishing or just kayaking,” said Plenty Pupule Kayaks owner Les Lowe, adding he tries to bring new kayaks to the kama‘aina, or island residents, at efficient prices.
Plenty Pupule opened on Kaua‘i in 2011, expanding from the original store, which had been operating since 2003 in Kona, Big Island. It’s the only representative for the high-end Hobie Kayaks on Kaua‘i. It also sells Thule Racks, recreational Feel Free kayaks and a ton of accessories for new and used kayaks.
“We have fishing kayaks, sailing kayas, just regular recreation kayaks, and then we have the Hobie Mirage Eclipse pedalboard,” said Lowe, explaining the Mirage Eclipse looks like a standard paddleboard, but instead is equipped with a pedal system and a handle bar. “It’s like a stairstepper on the water. That’s a really unique product that Hobie makes.”
Lowe said his store sells mainly brand new kayaks, but every once in a while they may take a trade-in and offer it for sale to customers. The cheapest kayak at Plenty Pupule goes for $599, and it’s a package deal, complete with paddles. The most expensive kayak is a sailing trimaran, with an 18-foot-tall sail, and it sells for about $7,000.
The most popular ones are the Hobie Mirage series, which are equipped with an ingenious pedaling system. Lowe says the Mirage system doesn’t necessarily makes you move faster than regular paddling kayaks, but because you use stronger leg muscles rather than your arms, you can go a lot further on those kayaks. The steering of the rudder is done with your left hand, freeing your right hand take pictures, eat, drink or even fish.
In the last few years, kayak fishing has really taken off. Besides selling kayaks already equipped for fishing, Plenty Pupule has a ton of accessories to retrofit your kayak to go out and fish. But before getting into the hobby, talk to Plenty Pupule manager Adam Swanson, a former boat captain and a life-long waterman, both above and below the water.
“Adam is super knowledgeable about the waters around Kaua‘i, and pretty much grounds everybody back to reality, so they don’t really go and do something foolish,” Lowe said.
The late adventure-seeker John Kelly Harrison opened Plenty Pupule in Kona in 2003. The story goes that before he opened the store, Harrison was kayak-surfing in Kona, doing a bunch of crazy maneuvers. When he got out of the water, some local surfers who were watching him in amazement, said, “Brah, you plenty pupule, yeah?” Pupule means crazy in Hawaiian language, and since then the name stuck.
In 2011, Lowe started working for Harrison in Kona. That same year, Plently Pupule expanded to Kaua‘i. Lowe said no one at that time would take the risk of opening a high-end kayak store on Kaua‘i, considering it was only three years after the peak of a major economic recession. But Harrison took the risk, and Swanson has been the manager of the Kaua‘i store ever since then.
Harrison had a zest for crazy adventures, and finally one of those caught up to him; according to Lowe. Harrison died at 56 years old in a tragic hang-gliding accident in Nevada in 2015. Having grown up at the beach, he was a surfer, outrigger canoe paddler, diver and tried many, if not most, water sports. He also loved karate, white-water rafting, skiing, sailing, fishing and hang-gliding. Add to that an airplane pilot and avid poker player.
Lowe said he purchased the business from Harrison’s estate in 2016 to keep it alive. It was something he really liked, and didn’t want to see it go away, he said. There are a lot of Hobie products on Kaua‘i, and they need service.
“Who knew I would own a kayak shop? It totally wasn’t planned at all,” said Lowe, who comes from an engineering background. With Swanson running the Kaua‘i store and another full-time manager running the Kona store, Lowe said he hopes he can keep the business going for as long as he can.
Plenty Pupule Kayaks recently moved to a new location in Wailua Shopping Plaza next door to Kaua‘i Family Café and near Brick Oven Pizza. Their address is 4-361 Kuhio Hwy, Suite 4, Kapa‘a. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit www.plentypupule.com or call 245-5005 for more information.