Paddle test off Vikhög
Time today to put the new paddle through its paces, before the next gale hits us later in the afternoon. As usual I launched my Black Pearl in Vikhög – a Vikhög that looks a bit different. The frequent winter gales have hidden the beach under tons of seaweed.
The paddle to test was from the first batch of production paddles: the GP1 – the carbon Greenland style paddle I designed for Axis Kayaks. I tried it briefly from a float in the lake beneath the factory just before Christmas, but in a kayak without a fitting spraydeck, with very limited time and the rest of the group shivering in the intense cold, it was no more than a basic function test.
Today I had a couple of hours in the waters off Vikhög and Löddenäs for a thorough evaluation against my old favorite wooden paddle, and I can conclude that it behaves exactly as I hoped.
It is a very light paddle (it tipped the scale at 683 grams when I got home). As expected the surface is slightly more slippery than wood, mostly noticeable when wearing gloves (but it may also be that my old Hiko gloves are worn thin and smooth in the palm). Without gloves the difference was small – the paddle is not glossy, but finished semi-flat.
The shoulder (the transition between the loom and the blade) was surprisingly good; better than on the wooden paddle I modeled it after, and better than on any other similar paddle I can remember trying. I use to tell participants in my classes that the little finger on the blade controls the paddle angle in the water, but have to confess that I did not know it could be this efficient.
The blades are thin and go up and down in the water smoothly and silently, and they provide more flotation than comparable wooden blades – very efficient for bracing and rolling.
It is not designed to be a racing paddle. Although I can achieve the same speed with it as with the larger blades of the wooden paddle (I clocked myself over a short distance several times with both), I can imagine that anyone used to a euro or a wing, initially would have preferred larger blades. But this is a conscious as well as important choice: I prefer that the GP-beginner would have liked a bit more area the first weeks and then can enjoy a paddle perfect for its purpose, rather than being happy initially and then having to put up with a paddle not much better than the alternatives when it comes to strain on the muscles and wind sensitivity.
This paddle is designed for touring, play and rolling in kayaks in the “normal” weight span: 15-20 kg, with or without a touring load – and it is in this capacity it will shine. For a superlight racing kayak on flat water there are better paddles on the market.
Rolling and bracing was very easy. The flotation was noticeably better than with the wooden paddle and in many cases there were enough support by just keeping the blade submerged – no movement needed. The few rolls I regard as bombproof all went well, with the flotation adding a little pop-up to the last part of the rolls. The more challenging rolls I prefer to test in warmer water later on.
The manufacturer has done an excellent job with the finish and precision. My sole objections are that the carbon is a bit more slippery, and that a thin-wall hollow laminate is noisier in the water than wood (the same way a laminate kayak becomes a drum in waves compared to a wooden one). Should any user find that unacceptably disturbing, there is a wooden paddle from the same design file available from Axis kayaks.