Monday, 2 February 2009

KIT REVIEW: Nantahala Paddle

Kit Review. Split Nantahala paddle.

Taking paddling kit on planes these days seems to be getting harder and harder and for the bits you are allowed to take, additional charges can easily double the cost of your ticket. This happened to me last year when I flew over to Poland. It would have been cheaper for me to give my paddle a name and buy him a seat next to me on the plane than put him down in the hold with my other luggage. In the end I ended up hiring a paddle from the outfitter out there which was cheaper but the only one he had was 8 inches too long and weighed a ton.
During that week, as I paddled my way down the Obra, I got to thinking; what I need is a split open boat paddle, which I could pop into my normal luggage or take on the plane with me as hand luggage, either way it wouldn’t cost me anything to take it.
So, on my return I gave the guy’s at Werner/SystemX a call to see if they could make me such a paddle and to my delight they agreed. It had to be 55inchs long and split into sections less than 1 meter so it could fit easily into the above seat locker on the plane, the rest was up to them. 6 weeks later and there’s a parcel at the door for me. Excitedly I ripped open the packaging and there in two pieces was my lovely new paddle. It’s based on a Nantahala paddle, which has been cut part way down the shaft and clips together very easily with a simple push in grommet device.
It really did look the business, but when I first took it out onto the lake I was disappointed. It looked great, its power was incredible and I could turn my canoe on a pin head with it, the only problem was, I found the shaft too thick for my little hands. I couldn’t help thinking about the guy’s who’d gone to so much trouble to make it especially for me and here I was able to paddle for maybe an hour before my hands and arms tired too much to use it.
The months went on and the sunny flat calm day on the lake when I first tried the paddle became a distant memory. I was now making plans for winter in Scotland. As I was packing the car, I noticed the Nantahala in the corner and decided to take it as a spare back up. Now this is where things really changed. I’m out on Loch Ericht having been caught in the worst blizzard and winds I’ve ever encountered. My trusty old beavertail just didn’t have the power to cope and no matter how hard I paddled, it couldn’t get me out of the dangerous situation I’d now found myself in. Probably only minutes from disaster I spot my Nantahala poking up next to me. I quickly grabbed the shaft and thrust that paddle as hard as I could into the crashing waves which surrounded me. Within seconds I was in control. The boat was responding to my every move and I was flying through those waves to eventual safety. So here I am now, feeling like I owe my Nantahala an apology.
In my winter gear and my thick padded sealskins gloves on, the size of the shaft just wasn’t an issue. I have to admit, this is a great paddle for white water and in conditions where you need that extra power and control. Even better is, I can take it on expedition with me without having to take out a bank loan to pay for its travel.
Thank you guy’s at Werner/SystemX.

Werner Nantahala paddle (one piece) £139.95
Travellers Split 2 piece Nantahala £149.95
Available through systemX

(Please mention splits need to be less than 1 meter to fit in aircraft locker when ordering)

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