Words: Land Paddle UK
Pics: Land Paddle UK, Mike Smith, Alan Taylor
In stand up paddle (on water) the merits of owning and using the correct paddle are extensive. SUPM has published plenty of articles and info relating to this very subject. With ‘breaking yourself’ a very realistic scenario with an incorrect sweeper it should come as no surprise that land paddling also requires the right ‘engine’.
Muscles, joints and bones do take a pounding with any type of paddle sport. Over time wear and tear can be extensive if your tools are inefficient. Most likely you’ve heard of rotator cuff injuries? (Google if not). Should this happen then going under the knife to rectify the problem may be essential. At the lesser end of the problematic spectrum is tendonitis, again an uncomfortable feeling that can be brought on by using the wrong paddle.
Land paddling has another feature in the mix that many don’t consider. During the ‘push’ phase of your stroke riders strike Terra Firma quite hard. Compared to water this is much more jarring on the body – reason enough to own and use a quality, well-crafted paddle.
There are so many factors that come into play and with such a young discipline experimentation is required with designers pushing what can be achieved. Just take a look at Land Paddle UK’s recent review of Zenxten Inc’s Braap Stik – https://standuppaddlemag.co.uk/2016/11/25/land-paddle-braap-braap-braap-stik-performance-land-paddle-review/ We’re sure you’ll agree the Braap is wildly different from anything else on the market and proves we’re not there yet in terms of standard kit.
Ultimately you should be looking for something that’s comfortable to use, offers enough flex for your needs (or a reduction in), be the correct length, feature the right construction for your aspirations and provide the overall performance (whatever that may be) for your style of land paddling. You should also be looking at the type of ‘blade’ or ‘end’ – the bit that comes into contact with the floor. This will, to some extent, be your shock absorber as well as grip. Don’t underestimate this. There are lots of cottage industry solutions – some of which work well, many that don’t. Powering along there’s nothing worse than having you paddle slip and send you sprawling!
Currently there are a number of off the shelf models available but there’s nothing stopping riders experimenting with their own creations. You may not get it correct, and ultimately plump for a tried and tested model (be sure you swap anything not working – listen to what your body is telling you).
Below are a few things to look for when choosing your perfect land paddling street sweeper.
Many land paddles are made from wood, and different types at that. All offer different flex characteristics and feels. There are a few more exotically constructed land paddles in the form of carbon and alloy. All deliver slightly different performance and what benefits one rider might not necessarily be as good for the next.
Generally speaking springier paddles are more forgiving but don’t offer the instant feedback that some riders prefer with stiffer shafts. Carbon is pretty much the most rigid type of shaft you can get hold of but some woods are up there as well. Keep in mind a stiff paddle, used over distance, will cause more aches and muscular stress than softer paddles.
The jury’s out on length within land paddling. Some riders prefer uber long shafts (some with double blade ends). There’s nothing wrong with this at all, as we’ve said a degree of experimentation is required before we reach any kind of standardisation within land paddling. That said, if you’re looking towards more manoeuvre based street shredding, such as on ramps/kickers, then a short paddle will aid quicker transitions rail to rail. Longer styles are therefore better for touring and/or sliding (although our ed prefers a shorter one, proving there aren’t any rules!).
Blade type –
What types of blade you plump for will largely be determined for what brand you decide to purchase. Dog balls have been used in the past and can work well, without too much wear. Kahuna Creations have a specific type that’s super-efficient but does grind down quick if skating rough surfaces. In most instances replacements are readily available. The articulating head, as found on Sk8pole and Hamboards models, are pretty neat.
An often overlooked area is the type of handle you use. First and foremost your handle (if you’re not using a double ender) should be ergonomic at the least. Then it’s down to you to decide what you prefer – T-grip, recessed T, palm grip or other.
What’s mentioned above are just the basics of land paddle picking, there a whole host of other factors that need to be thought about before you arrive at your perfect fit. Our best advice is to demo as many types as you can get hold of, that way you’ll have a better understanding of what you need.