Five Paddle Options to Stoke Your Stroke
Latitude 44 Navigator FX
Race paddles come in lots of shapes and sizes, but rarely do we find one that's as functional for high-cadence grinding as it is for leisurely cruising. The Navigator FX Carbon is designed to perform at any pace and we put it through the gamut in flatwater, downwind and surf. Its carbon fiber construction weighs in at 16 ounces--feather light--and its long, narrow blade catches and recovers smoothly with ease. The blade is designed with a pronounced dihedral that allows for an expansive surface area without blade flutter, and we found the tapered oval shaft fits more snug in our grip than a standard straight cylinder.
Black Project Hydro Three-Piece
Epic is a word that's thrown around a lot these days. In the case of Black Project's new Hydro three-piece travel paddle, we'd say it's appropriate. The three pieces connect via a standard spring button but what really stands out is the hexagonal joints that keep the shaft from twisting as you hammer. It's also not an adjustable, which means you can have your favorite-length paddle for a race or surf and not worry about unnecessary mechanisms. Plus, the Hydro blade is a proven winner with great catch and not a bit of flutter. This is a paddle for an athlete who wants a high-performance blade they can store in the overhead compartment.
Sawyer TSR 90si
Sawyer has been making oars and paddles for propelling all manner of watercraft since 1967. The Team Sawyer Racing (TSR) model is a high-end option for racers with a hankering for classic feel in a modern design. Its carbon fiber, oval-shaped shaft is subtly textured for a superb grip and tapered at the top for decreased weight with a lively flex. The blade--a composite of cedar, carbon fiber and fiberglass--is available in three sizes with a shape that grips and slips through the water without wobbling. Sawyer's signature wooden finish on the paddle and T-grip add a timeless aesthetic that looks good in anyone's hands.
Kialoa Big Eddy Adjustable
You can use almost any paddle to SUP whitewater, the question is: how long does it last? "Not long," is the most common answer. The Big Eddy Adjustable remedies the extra risk. The lime green shaft means that you're not going to lose the Big Eddy in a big eddy. The blade is made of 10-ply fiberglass for durability in rocky rivers and its long, oval shape means strokes in tight spaces and control in turbulent places (like foam piles). Its adjustability means you can switch the height in long flatwater stretches between rapids. It's heavy, but that's an advantage on the rio. You won't want to hit the river without it.
Werner Grand Prix
Werner paddles feel solid in your hands. The Grand Prix 93 is only 14.75 ounces but that solid feel packs a heavier punch. That trickery starts with the blade, which is bent at 12 degrees--more than many other designs. It catches hard when you dig but doesn't put undue stress on your joints. Werner says this blade "keeps you in the power phase longer," and we believe it. If you're a long, steady-cadence type of paddler you'll love it, but we found it harder to up our stroke rate for sprints. We loved the shaft's solid flex, which felt great paddling for hours. The Grand Prix is a thoroughbred made for the long haul.
This gear review was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of SUP magazine.