Ainsworth Paddles are a very British brand with a long heritage in paddle sports. They moved across to SUP a few years ago and we’ve had the opportunity to test a number of different designs over the last few months. For this season the company has overhauled their range and now offer a variety of models to compliment your stand up paddle boarding routine.
Here we pair the brand’s adjustable carbon/AFT blade and their more familiar full carbon construction offering.
AFT construction is unique to Ainsworth – it’s a technology they’re keen to pursue. The main differences are reduced weight and increased buoyancy. The company states paddling with an AFT blade offers maximum efficiency and, most importantly, energy saving properties over long distance.
Both paddles are well made and boast high quality carbon weaves. The carbon and AFT blades are tear drop shape and while not the narrowest they certainly err on the smaller side of the scale.
Ainsworth’s carbon blade features a pronounced dihedral running along the scoop’s centre line whereas the AFT blade, in contrast, has a completely flat face. Dihedral, as experienced SUPers will appreciate, helps reduced flutter during each stroke – it’d be interesting to see how the AFT blade performed without this design characteristic.
Another unique Ainsworth trait is their adjustment mechanism. They’ve plumped for a lift and slide design that’s super simple (and quick to use). A rubber gasket secures the release lever.
Our previous experiences of Ainsworth SUP paddles is one of high end efficiency. Stiff shaft flex is a common trait – something which remains for both these paddles. During each stroke SUPers will experience maximum feedback. The downside is fatigue possibly setting in earlier than with softer shafts.
Those with experience, however, can really put the hammer down and drive sleds home with plenty of oomph.
Ainsworth’s AFT model certainly delivers a slightly different experience on the water. Having buried the blade up to the hilt you can feel it pushing back to the surface – not in a negative way, we hasten to add. Instead the extra buoyancy helps with increased paddle cadence, forcing SUPers to release quicker and begin their stroke sooner.
The absence of dihedral can be felt in less experienced hands. It does twitch slightly if ‘tickling’ the water. Concertation will be needed (at the start) to make sure your ‘catch’ is bang on and the blade’s submersed to its hilt.
The brand’s full carbon weapon is a very familiar product (if you’ve experienced high performance SUP paddles). With correct placement and efficient stroking you can shift some serious volumes of water. The dihedral helps lock in the blade and decent speeds are easy to achieve – especially if piloting race boards. Ainsworth’s website states their full carbon model is suitable for various SUP disciplines. While this is true we think it’d be especially devastating on a race course, in the hands of a seasoned paddler.
Both shafts, as already mentioned, lie at the stiffer end of the spectrum and deliver maximum thrust. Intermediates may find backing off the power, with both paddles, a good idea to start with. This’ll save on fatigue and allow skills to be refined until the drive of both can be made good use of. Experienced SUPers, in contrast, who love red line speed will no doubt relish the thought of grabbing the full carbon and punching the NOS button.
Ainsworth’s new range of SUP blades is certainly a step up. The AFT blade, in particular, demonstrates a brand not afraid to innovate and think outside the box. For intermediate paddlers the added buoyancy of the AFT helps develop a better stroke – kicking back at SUPers it forces each sweep to be more efficient. The absence of dihedral only serves to consolidate this – learning how to fully submerse the scoop and generate maximum drive is only a good thing.
Contrasting slightly, the brand’s full carbon offering could be a devastating weapon for anyone looking at making a dent on the SUP race scene. Super powerful it takes no prisoners and will reward full commitment.
SUP (AFT) – £99.99, SUP (carbon) – £199.99