A paddle is a paddle, as they say, but your creeking paddle is more than just that. When things are going well, it’s your primary means of feeling and touching the water – a good one will extend the neurons in your fingers out to the ends of the blades and beyond. When things are going badly, you use it to stave off certain death.
As a creeker, I want certain things out of my paddle: it should be indestructible, weigh nothing, transmit all the feel of the water, and have just enough “give” to make it painless to hit rocks but not so much flex as to delay the availability of the one thing I want most above all: power. Right now.
If the samples I got to work with are any indication, paddles have improved since the last time I shopped. Materials, engineering, ergonomics, and blade shapes have evolved such that I was pleasantly surprised by the improvements. What’s more, the evolution of paddles is still going on, as different engineering approaches are used to home in on the “ideal” paddle articulated above. Some use a stiff shaft with slightly flexible blades, while others have rock-hard blades and a springy shaft. Materials used range from carbon fiber to nylon matrices and beyond-it’s like the space program has finally made it into paddlesports. Paddle engineering is one area in which we have never been so well served as we are today.
This paddle has a carbon shaft with the sort of high-energy springy quality I look for in a playboating paddle. It features the lightest swing weight of the lot, with carbon/polymer blades that do not flutter-a remarkable value.
Weight: 32 ounces;
Lendal Bent-Shaft (Kinetik blades)
I couldn’t tell without looking that this four-piece breakdown wasn’t a one-piece paddle. A stiff shaft with nylon/glass blades and a light swing weight give it a very good feel. Don’t just compare this to other breakdown paddles; in terms of feel, it compares favorably with every other paddle I reviewed.
LENDAL Straight-Shaft (Fusion blades)
Here is another four-piece with a remarkable feel. The Fusion blades provide a less aggressive bite than those of their Kinetik counterpart.
Weight: 33-39 ounces;
This paddle combines a crisp, almost twitchy feel for the water with a shaft that flexes substantially. I found that the springiness in the shaft absorbed unpleasant shocks nicely, but it also meant a lot of play in the paddle, which would require some getting used to.
Weight: 37 ounces;
Stiff blades and a stiff shaft give this
paddle incredible sensitivity and immediate power, but it feels like a crime to hit rocks with those blades. This is the choice if you want sensitivity coupled with immediate power and don’t mind absorbing every ounce of energy that comes up the shaft.
Weight: 36 ounces;
A stiff shaft with super-grippy handles mated up well with energy-damping polymer blades yields a very good balance of power, feel, and
ruggedness. Overall, this will be a tough paddle to beat.
Weight: 39 ounces;
AT Paddles ATX Flexi
Still alien-looking after all these years, the ATX needs no introduction – it is one of the original bent-shaft foam-core paddles. It is a smooth customer with great feel, balanced flex, neutral personality, and tons of power.
Weight: 36.3 ounces;