Sunday, December 15, 2019

Kalleq on the Pond

I needed a new paddle after the Gales, I needed to replace my primary paddle. I love my Lendal, but it is definitely a backup. I've been using sticks far too long to go back to lollipops.
My Brink paddles have been excellent. He is a master craftsman and makes a mean paddle. They are strong and precise in the water. They feel good in the hand and they look good.

Still, I have broken three of them.
I still have a demo model Cricket stick that is 15 years old and I use specifically when going to do ugly paddling that is still in one piece. It is too long nor is it as precise or smooth in the water - but it is tough. Sadly, Cricket only made one of these as a test and does not sell them.
I looked at other sites that make Aleutian paddles or Greenland paddles, but none of them really caught my attention. Few of them sold a split paddle either. A solid paddle is sturdier, but they are a bitch to transport.
I considered finishing the laminated paddle I started years ago, or just making a solid paddle. It would only take a few hours. However, none of the paddles I made ever felt very good or lasted very long.... I am a kayaker, not a woodworker. There is a half finished playhouse in my backyard to attest to my construction skills.
During my search, I thought the unthinkable. What about carbon fiber? I knew that there were companies that made CF traditional paddles. After a bunch of research I settled on GearLab. They have a good reputation and while they don’t make an Aleutian paddle, they offered a wider bladed surf paddle that looked like a good fit for me.
Then I saw that they were introducing a brand new paddle that was designed to hit the sweet spot between power and efficiency. It was $100 more than their other paddles and it is rare that any design actually finds the sweet spot. Like kayak designs, paddle designs are usually master of one or master of none. Jack of all trade designs usually suck equally at everything rather than shine at anything.
I pondered for a long time. The Aries is a play boat at heart, so the wider power optimized paddle would be a better fit. However, the Aries is amazingly also good on long open water paddles, so maybe taking a chance on the new paddle made more sense....
After looking at the specs and the paddle profiles and reading any review I could find, I decided on the new Kalleq paddle. It is only marginally narrower than the surf paddle, but comes in a wider range of lengths. The surf paddle only comes in 200 and 210. Given the width of the Aries and my height, I really need a 215. That is the length of my broken stick.
Now I had another decision to make... The Kalleq is only available in 210, 220, or 230. There is no in between sizing... Do I go long or short? If I go short do I go with the less expensive surf paddle to save money? Over the course of a week I drove H to drink measuring and remeasuring my broken paddle, my arm span, my Cricket paddle,  and my Lendal paddle, then checking the specs on the Aries and then comparing those numbers to any paddle sizing guide I could find. The first thing to know is that there really is no definitive guide to how to size a traditional paddle. Most experts boil sizing down to find what feels good which is easy enough to do when you are carving the paddles out of $20 two-by-fours. When you are dropping a few 100 dollars it helps to be sure. Based on the GearLab chart, I was comfortably in the 220 range. I still felt like I should go shorter rather than longer....
In the end I ordered a 210 Kalleq and waited.
After 10 days, my paddle showed up. It was pretty and felt super solid. However, it was a 220...
H talked me out of immediately calling to return it. What harm would giving it spin cause? If I didn’t like it, I could return it then. One paddle wasn’t going to damage it.... She makes such good sense.
That weekend, I, and the rest of the family, went over to Walden pond to give the paddle a try. H and K planned on staying huddled in the bus, but H couldn’t let me be on the water in cold weather without someone to watch over me. It didn’t matter that the watcher couldn’t see the water and would be busy entertaining a 9 year old...
The paddle was nearly perfect. The nearly is just because I need more time with the paddle to really acclimate myself to it. The paddle is more sensitive to small adjustments than my older paddles.
The blades provide a strong pull on the water while remaining some of the same flex of a wooden paddle.
The sharp edges slice through the water. That is one of the things to which I need to adjust. My other sticks are butter knifes compared to this thing.
I could get more power out of the blade than I can with my other sticks when I need.
The extra length, on balance, is a good thing. The shorter paddle would force me into either a very vertical stroke which over a long day would get tiring or force me to hit my knuckles on the deck all of the time.
I cannot wait to get more time on the water with this paddle. I know that after one or two paddles me and my Kalleq will be mighty.