The past year has been huge for Tahitian brand 425pro with big name riders Olivier Piana, The Cronsteadt brothers, Enzo Bennett and Noic Garioud all in the the family, just to name a few. There are plenty of good strong riders behind the brand indeed. The 425pro brand is shaping up to be a name synonymous with fast, strong and powerful racing. Behind this brand is Tahitian Jerry Mihimana, born and raised in the Mara’a quarter, Tahiti, a place that has the sport of Va’a running deep, so it is no surprise that paddling in his blood.
An authority in the small world of va’a paddle design with his brand Addicted 2 Va’a, Jerry found the infectious sport of SUP and from there began his brand 425pro. TotalSUP speaks to Jerry about his va’a background and how he has transferred his vast knowledge of va’a paddling into developing a range of high-end SUP paddles.
Hi Jerry, can you talk about your va’a background?
I have always paddled, but I stepped up my game at the age of 19 when I went New Caledonia for work. I then started to get serious about it. New Caledonia always had the best clubs, they were always on top in the V1 world. After I won several local championship titles both in the team and individual events, I had the chance to participate in several world championships and games of the pacific representing New Caledonia and always against my Tahitian Lute brothers. After this I began to go back and forth between the two islands. During my career I also had the immense privilege of having the great Roro Bernadino as a coach. During my va’a paddling I went to the famous HAWAIKI NUI race 9 times and I won it in 2010 with a Tahitian club! I also won the famous race of MOLOKAI HOE in 2011 and indivdual AITO champion in New Zealand two years in a row (2011-2012).
When did you cross over to SUP?
I took a break from competing seriously in va’a paddling in 2012 after winning the AOTEAROA AITO. However, 3 years before this I met New Caledonian waterman Robert Teriitehau who introduced me to SUP paddling, so at this point as I had stopped training intensely in va’a and found myself paddling SUP more and more, this then motivated me to get back into training and resume competition paddling.
Has your va’a experience helped you?
Yes it’s true that with my background in va’a, it was easy for me to improve the paddles that were used at the time, after a while I got the idea to create a brand (425pro). It has always been a dream to go international and this I can do with SUP because with va’a, when I made the V1 boats and paddles the market was very small.
Can you introduce your paddles?
We have three ranges of paddles: the PRO signature, the wave paddle and the flatwater/race paddle. In the PRO signature range is the WEAPON paddle. This paddle is our jewel in the crown, and has the design signature of Georges Cronsteadt, who was directly involved in the design process.
Was va’a a big inspiration in designing the Weapon?
Yes it was almost inevitable. I had already designed and produced the paddle IMPACT, then with Georges Cronsteadt, my first pro rider (and an exceptional athlete at all levels) we decided to work on a paddle intended for long distance. It took me three months of intense work and testing to perfect this amazing paddle, and we are all immensely proud of the design. It will be difficult to perfect this model or develop the next because I am not sure we can better the technology and design of the 425pro WEAPON.
What makes the Weapon so special?
During my va’a career I could see how the paddle behaved in the water, I have relied on this knowledge to research, design and test the WEAPON, also the knowledge of George Cronsteadt was of invaluable help in making this paddle as great as it is.
I will not reveal the actual secret behind its design, however at a basic level this paddle will make your paddling feel good from the get-go, we have really focused on the details. I have developed the paddle that has the perfect catch and is adapted to the intended use. There is a clean catch in the water during the power stage of the stroke and it provides a clean exit; a factor that is often neglected during paddle design.
I will stop with the finite details of the explanation, but our main target was to develop a paddle that would reduce tendon injuries, at the same time developing a paddle that will make a paddler go further and faster. A difficult task that we feel we achieved.
The 425pro WEAPON is considered by many international riders to be the best long distance paddle. We have not left anything to chance. The right flex of the handle, the lightness of the paddle as a whole, the smallest details including the shape of the blade have been calculated to make you feel comfortable at all levels. We have looked at all the components of the paddle: the attack, support, reactivity, force, acceleration, possible errors, and especially trying to preserve the tendons of the paddler (by considering the handle and the blade shape).
Can you tell us about the construction of the weapon?
Like all carbon paddles, it is a light weight construction, but the actual construction is a secret, all I can say is that we use what is best in terms of carbon without worrying about the cost of the raw material because our goal is to offer the best. For example, a detail often neglected is the foam we use for the blades is PMI, this is a material used only in aeronautics, known for its resistance to extreme temperatures but also it is also lightweight and less dense, the rest you will find out when you buy the paddle!
There is a lot to do, the future looks bright, and it is exciting for us at 425pro! I really enjoyed developing and creating an exciting paddle, that will benefit the riders, a paddle in which they really enjoy using and bring a lot of success. It is a great feeling when riders use my paddles and get a really good performance out of it!
We look forward to seeing the Weapon Paddles out and about this season!