international paddling coach, canoe designer and founder of Puakea Designs
Oahu, Hawaii and West Coast, USA

Johnny is an elite paddling coach whose guidance has led many teams and individuals to reach the next level resulting in numerous championship wins. For over 35 years Johnny has coached a wide range of paddlers from novice to advanced, specializing in technique and training philosophy. His knowledge of technique, training and canoe design offers a unique, well-rounded perspective to achieving goals.

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

Over years of coaching, Johnny’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. After coaching the US National Kayak Team at various Olympic training centers, homesick, Johnny moved back to Hawaii to coach various top outrigger canoe teams, including both the men’s and the women’s team for the winning Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki for six years.

As an exceptional technical coach, Johnny 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.

Johnny’s knowledge of body mechanics complements his strengths in canoe building. His OC1 designs include the Kaku Elua, the Kaimana, the Kainalu, the Pueo 1, the Ehukai, the Kahe Kai, the Kahele, the Volare and his latest OC1 design, the Cantare. With the rise of the Unlimited divisions across the globe, his Malolo OC6 is one of the lightest unlimited canoes on the market and is owned by various west coast, mainland and international teams in anticipation of top times in this newer division. Top Tahitian team, Shell Va’a, chose Johnny’s Makika OC6 design for the grueling Olamau Race in 2013, and won in all three stages. Johnny’s latest design is the Ballare OC2 design which takes everything he learned from his OC1 designs to create a light and maneuverable double outrigger.

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

For the wider paddling community, Johnny is continuing to advance paddling performance with a line of products outside of his canoe designs, including outrigger paddles, gear and soft goods, where he applies the same technical and aesthetic standards used in his canoe designs. Additionally, Johnny is available (depending on his schedule) for coaching with clubs, small groups and paddling events. He is also available for coaching through the many camps and clinics we provide throughout the year.