Ainsworth (Carbon Pro) small paddle

The paddle arrived very well packaged, and my first impressions were good before I saw it, and I wasn’t disappointed

By Helen Nightingale

When arranging this paddle demo, Ainsworth contacted me to ensure they sent out a suitable paddle for me. The original plan had been to test a two-piece paddle. However, I am short (5’0) and slightly built, plus I like my paddles on the short side. Ainsworth were very helpful, and we decided to go for a single piece, small blade, cut to 67”, the same length as my regular paddle (a Black Project Hydro with slim, soft flex shaft with medium blade). 

The paddle arrived very well packaged, and my first impressions were good before I saw it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I like the look of the paddle. It’s plain but smart with no gimmicks. It gives the impression development money went into paddle design rather than pretty artwork or patterns. I have small hands, so I was sold on my Black Project paddle with a slim shaft, which suits me perfectly. I’ve tried many other paddles, and some felt too bulky.

The Ainsworth came with a standard diameter shaft, which felt smooth and sleek. The T-bar handle was comfortable to wrap my fingers around the top. Like the shaft, the handle is made from smooth carbon. The blade is a teardrop shape and provides an intermediate shape between the aggressively straight lines of my BP and the roundedness of my Starboard Tufskin. The design means it should be forgiving enough not to throw you off balance if you make an error but not turn your efforts into vibrations, flutter and inefficiencies. The blade is of good quality, thin, stiff, and is rigid without being thick or heavy. The shaft and blade/handle joints were neatly finished with a heat shrink. Overall, the Ainsworth Carbon Pro looks like an excellent intermediate-level paddle. 

On the water
When I first tested the paddle, life got in the way of paddling, and I hadn’t been out for a long time. This paddle restored my enthusiasm, so it was straight out down my local canal for a ten miler. I borrowed BP Lavas to race with and found I got blisters within 3km, and there was not the grip on the water that I was looking for from a blade. Three kilometres down the canal, I didn’t have even a hint of a blister or any shoulder aches. Paddling felt effortless. I’d chosen to go out on my tourer, an 11’6” 29” Starboard. I’ve done many miles on it and raced on it, so brilliant to get an excellent feel for the paddle without thinking about the board. I find the board quite wide, so I was interested to see how easy it would be to get a straight stack.

I often use a small river fin on rubbish-filled canals – it’s less forgiving on bad technique than a standard touring fin. I was delighted with how easy it was to get the relatively straight-sided blade into the water and maintain a straight line. I found the paddle easy to read; I could feel the power throughout the stroke, then tail off as the blade reached my feet. There was little flutter or vibrations. Despite losing some fitness and technique through time off the water, I had no shoulder fatigue after 10 miles or blistering on my hands. That distance with my Starboard Tufskin would undoubtedly have caused some soreness. 

One concern I had was the smooth texture of the handle and the shaft. Much as I love my Black Project paddle, it can get a bit slippy in wet weather or when you paddle hard on those sweaty palms days! I’d been itching to get out and try the Ainsworth on a bad weather day, and despite the smooth finish, the grip was good, so my concern was unfounded.

At 20”, I don’t have to worry about how easy it is to stack a paddle on the Starboard Sprint properly. A faster board is good for picking up detail on other aspects of the paddle. The Ainsworth paddle felt great, powerful, and easy to read – no flutter or vibrations. The shaft was noticeably stiffer and less flexible than my BP, as it should be, but it still felt very comfortable and easy to paddle.

My local canal is rather mucky, and the risk of hitting shopping trolleys is high. I’m looking forward to getting out on a lake where it’s safer to pick up speed and see how the paddle fares on gripping the water faster and how it handles buoy turns. 

The Ainsworth paddle offers fantastic value for money and performs far better than expected for the price. At only £50-60 more than my entry-level Tufskin, with a plastic blade and heavy shaft, the paddle seems outstanding value. You could have the heavier, composite blade Fanatic Diamond or a Starboard Lima Carbon for similar money. At a similar spec but another £100 or so on the price tag, you could opt for a Black Project Lava, which, although a shade lighter, I found was not a match for the Ainsworth Carbon Pro. I would be delighted to try the Ainsworth paddle in some sprint races, and I will try it at the Paddle Skedaddle (27km race). I wish I had had this paddle for the Trent 100; I’m sure it would have been perfect. It’s light, powerful, easy to handle, and not scarily expensive. Ainsworth customer service was excellent. I’ve already been recommending these paddles and wouldn’t want to give this one back. The Carbon Pro has been the only paddle beside the BP Hydro I’d happily buy myself.

Price: £209.95 SRP

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