This years crop of versatile touring paddles break down and adjust to different sizes and feather angles using high-tech materials and ingenious devices.
Sawyer Orca V-lam ($250, paddlesandoars.com)
sizes available: 220, 240
Sawyer's new red cedar lay-up of its popular Orca blades melds stunning good looks with a solid feel in the water while fiberglass and carbon reinforcement ward off rock garden damage. The adjustable graphite shaft can extend up to 10 centimeters, with 0 to 80 degrees of feather angle. Pop open the plastic lever on the shaft to dial in your preference, but watch for occasional unintentional self-adjustment.
Braca-sport Hurricane ($455, bracasportusa.com)
sizes available: 200-240 (custom cut)
Lithuanian-based Braca-sport designed blades for elite athletes, including five gold medalists at the 2004 Summer Olympics, before bringing their paddles to American consumers. Foam core blades reinforced with 11 layers of carbon and half an inch of Kevlar on the sides make for a flutter-free stroke; a simple metal pipe-fitting keeps the shaft in place at the feather angle of your choice--Braca-sport guarantees this clunky, but bombproof, system "won't twist a micron."
Seven2 vapor ($190, seven2.com)
sizes available: 210, 220, 230
Seven2's designers dramatically curved these carbon-fiber/fiberglass blades to reduce splash and flutter. The result is a soft feel in the water and air--this paddle cut through gusty off-shore winds just as efficiently as the choppy water during a gale-force windstorm in California's Channel Islands. While tough to operate with cold fingers, the carbon-fiber shaft's solid adjustable ferrule goes from 0 to 60 degrees faster than you can say "feather angle."
Accent Zephyr Helium ($399, accentpaddles.com)
sizes available: 210-250
At a paltry 22 ounces, these carbon-fiber blades boast possibly the lightest swing weight on the market and had testers clamoring to get their hands on the Zephyr's carbon shaft. The low-angle blade design allows for clean forward and turning strokes, while the internal "twist-tight" ferrule holds firm under pressure--it offers 90 degrees of adjustment in either direction and handy, on-shaft instructions.
Bending Branches Glide ($200, bendingbranches.com)
sizes available: 215 cm, 225 cm
Though it might take a few tries at first, the lock-tight ferrule at the middle of the Glide's carbon shaft can add up to 15 centimeters in length and adjust to an infinite number of feather angles. Carbon-reinforced injection-molded blades lend stiffness and durability, while the blade shape caters nicely to a mix of high- and low-angle strokes.
Werner Tybee ($175-$250, wernerpaddles.com)
sizes available: 205-230
Designed for a high-angle stroke and faster cadence, the Tybee offers carbon-reinforced nylon blades shaped for performance but priced for the recreational paddler. It is available in straight or neutral bent, in both standard or small diameter shaft size. The paddle now comes standard with Werner’s patented Adjustable Ferrule System which allows you to change the feather angle from left to right in 15 degree increments. This is a very versatile system and it allows you to determine what feather works best for you.