Review & pics: Phil May (www.yellowbellysup.co.uk)
With Ainsworth’s pedigree in designing and manufacturing canoe and kayak paddles, I was stoked at getting the opportunity to test their latest SUP paddle.
In the business for over 35 years and based near the ideal proving ground of the Thames, I first became aware of Ainsworth through my dad, who was a canoe and kayak instructor. When SUP Mag UK approached me to do this review, I was grateful I would get my hands on the premium carbon one-piece paddle.
First impressions as I’ve got it out of the van were how strong it felt. Yet, it still felt light enough to compete. For a brand that honed its skills in canoe and kayak, especially in white water, the paddle’s strength is no surprise. These blades are made tough.
Ainsworth’s new carbon prepreg blades achieve their performance through a high-tech manufacturing process that pre-impregnates Epoxy resin through carbon fibres at immense pressures at up to 65% carbon to resin content. This creates paddles that are super strong yet still incredibly light.
Once to cut to my size (nothing scarier than cutting a paddle that’s not your own!), this paddle weighs in at an incredible 617g.
Looks-wise, it’s a raw carbon shaft with no logos and a teardrop-shaped, high shine carbon blade with a traditional white Ainsworth logo on the face of the blade. Down the back of the blade is a rounded spine for strength. The handle is a T-piece attached to the shaft with some heat shrink over the join. All very stealth looking allowing the white of the logo to stand out.
Onto using it
The most important part of the review. First use saw me take it for a five-mile run out in training for my charity challenge this year. Starting gently at first, I could feel the immediate power this blade would give. The power was there as soon as you lean on the paddle. The curved shape of the blade allowed a smooth entry and exit. The shaft felt comfortable in the hand, and the T-piece matches the paddle well.
I found the flex in the shaft a little stiff. I’m used to a much more flexible shaft. However, once I got used to it, I settled into a comfortable rhythm, and my stroke became consistent and powerful. After my five miles, my shoulders felt a little more sore than normal, but I put this down to the stiffness of the shaft and my body not being used to it.
My subsequent use of it was during a SUP Lesson. This is a good test of a paddle as lots of close proximity work means a paddle needs to turn the board efficiently in a small space. Safe to say, this blade achieved that with great aplomb. Ainsworth has nailed the blade shape with this paddle. It feels good over distance, and it feels good in close, tight turn situations.
The only people I wouldn’t suggest this paddle for is people with previous shoulder injuries. The shaft may be a fraction stiff for them to use comfortably and without aggravating injuries.
This paddle comes in at just under £200 quid. For this price point, this paddle is incredibly well spec’d. So much so that I have already recommended this paddle to people that I have taught. It’s a lot of paddle for not a lot of money. I want to say thank you to SUPM and Ainsworth for letting me test this paddle and to Andy in particular for calling me and talking through the features. Hopefully, catch you all soon at some paddle events.