No two (or should that be three) SUP paddles are ever the same. And neither are rider, paddling style, SUP location, weather conditions or a SUPer’s mood on the day. Add to the fact brands produce kit in subtly different ways and you start to get the picture that choosing THE MOST IMPORTANT part of your stand up paddle boarding equipment is headache inducing. Yet riders don’t really give it enough attention or due thought.
As an example it’s taken one of SUPM’s team years to understand what he needs from a paddle, get the chance to demo, compare and finally settle on a type that fits requirements. OK, we appreciate that a young industry is partly to blame here but nowadays a plethora of kit exists yet paddlers are still getting it wrong. We do sympathise as it’s no easy task.
For this comparison review we look at three of Fanatic’s performance adjustable SUP paddle offerings in the hopes of discovering what’s what with this brand’s high end sweepers. Under the microscope are the Carbon Pro 100, Carbon 80 and Bamboo 50.
All paddles are tip top high end bits of kit. The finish is exemplary – almost too good to soak in saltwater. Across each design the brand’s blaring red fade allows materials to shine through and give each that desirable aesthetic. And then there’s the names/descriptions of each paddle. Rather than give each tool a funky name, which can be confusing to the consumer, Fanatic have christened each paddle according to its materials and construction, thereby making it simpler to identify which you need.
With these being adjustable, utilising snap lock collar systems that allow for incremental changes, it’s nice to see additional attention to detail in the form of anti-twist shafts. We’ve never experienced anything less than efficiency from Fanatic gear but at least the brand’s being proactive and making sure it can’t happen. On the back part of the shaft a pronounced dihedral runs spine-like down into the blade itself. This adds strength as the paddle flexes away from the rider, during the catch and pull, delivering a more direct feel.
All three paddles are performance orientated, however, it’s the Bamboo 50 which is classed as entry performance with the Carbon 80 ultimately leading on to the Pro 100. It’s therefore quite ironic that the Bamboo 50 is the most aesthetically pleasing (in our opinion). Other SUPers commented as much. Not to take anything away from its siblings but still…
On the water
Note: Extensions were set at 85cm to keep parameters as similar as possible. We also used the same board whilst testing, again, to limit variables.
Carbon Pro 100
First up we hit the brine with the Pro 100. From the off it was full chat. The stiff shaft delivers rider feedback instantaneously which spurs paddlers on to dig deep, commit and get that speedometer up to redline levels. With its 7.25” width there’s an almost shovel element to the paddle. This isn’t a criticism, in fact it’s the opposite. While still being a narrow enough scoop there’s no doubt riders can dig large volumes of water at high cadence. Sustainability is only then the issue…
For some paddlers the above description is exactly how they want a paddle to perform. Whether racing or surfing shifting brine with maximum efficiency is the way forwards, literally.
Onto the Carbon 80 and having pounded a few miles on the 100 the feel of jumping to something with a moderately stiff shaft wasn’t immediately obvious. Keeping to a similar cadence the 80 was much easier going, we’ll admit, but the big differences we assumed would hit straight away didn’t. (To assess this further, and make sure it wasn’t fatigue setting in, we plumped for the 80 first run out next session).
There’s not quite as much feedback as with the 100. You only really start to notice the differences having spent time afloat. We’d go so far as to say that directly comparing within small time frames won’t tell you much. You need some hours and miles under your belt to get a better understanding.
Where differences were evident, right from the off, were when using Fanatic’s Bamboo 50. This paddle really breathes – you can see it doing so through each stroke. It’s much softer flex properties make it a joy to use.
That said, we’d readily admit we’d be at a disadvantage if racing SUPers using one of the other sweepers. The Carbon 80 and 100 both deliver much more in terms of speed and SUP zoom. While you can, of course paddle faster if you’re less worn out (such as with the Bamboo 50), you may be playing catch up the whole way round and ultimately be doing more work. Where the Bamboo 50 does fit well is in surf environments – it’s throw about nature make it perfect for rail to rail changes and fast wrap around carves.
What have we learnt?
The comments above won’t come as a surprise to those who know our own preferences of paddle err towards softer flexing shafts with moderately sized blades. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of the three Fanatic sweepers, they’re all fit for various purposes and rider wants/needs.
Some will relish ultimate feedback while others will require a much less engaging experience from their choice of paddle. Correct technique also needs to be taken into account. It’s no good plumping for a high end stiff stick if your understanding of paddle strokes are lacking. And then there’s putting that knowledge into practice.
One thing that benefits EVERYONE, however, is having as light a paddle as you can get hold of. Wielding a heavy blade will do absolutely no favours…All three of the Fanatic’s above fit this requirement.
There’s a huge focus on boards within stand up paddling, which we get. As a newbie setting off on their SUP adventures it’s an easy aspect to focus on. Yet, all paddlers would be wise to pay equal (if not more) attention to the piece of kit that’s actually ‘driving’ them. Fanatic’s Pro Carbon 100, Carbon 80 and Bamboo 50 are all performance sweepers that will fit a variety of uses. High end constructions with attention to small details, such as the anti-twist mechanism, ensure they’re desirable and sought after.
For those with a real thirst for power and ultimate speed it’s a tossup between the 100 and 80. The only differences being subtle levels of input over distance. With that in mind we’d suggest the 80 would be better suited to chewing up the miles, unless you’re super fit and are willing to grit teeth and smash it! The 100 would be most efficient across shorter legs and be especially devastating (with equally as efficient board and rider) in SUP sprints. Meanwhile Fanatic’s Bamboo 50 is a much easier going affair – the majority of paddlers looking for performance will benefit from this. It’s also our choice for a spot of surf action.
Whichever you plump for you’ll be guaranteed of getting a quality crafted product that will elevate your stand up paddling experience considerably. Try before you buy and discover what’s what for yourself!
Carbon Pro 100 adjustable – £379
Carbon 80 adjustable – £289
Bamboo 50 adjustable – £209
Bamboo 50 and Carbon 80 available as three piece and fixed shafts. Carbon 100 available as fixed shaft. Carbon 80 and 100 also supplied with 6.75 blades.