A few months ago I looked online for Carbon Fibre GPs. Not a lot of people make them: I was struck by Ron Steinwell’s Novorca paddles. With the AU$ at the dizzying height of US$0.99, the US$375 price tag looked possible and the blades themselves looked lovely. Unfortunately postage added another couple of hundred to the price, so I decided that was too much.
That was when my friend Kaye said she was going to Santa Barbara for work for a couple of weeks in April, did we want her to pick up any kayaking gear. Novorca doesn’t charge postage in the US: that sounded like a great opportunity.
Ron makes twenty-odd different sizes , different looms, blade widths and lengths, as well as a new range of Aleutian blades. They are generally longer and wider than I'm used to making (from the Holst designs). After some correspondence I ordered a ruby red GP for myself, a yellow/red smaller blade for Cathy and hey, why not a blue Aleut as well. Ron was very helpful about shipping and design, and so I waited.
Turns out Kaye couldn’t fit a 7 foot bundle onto the plane, so they shipped separately home when she returned. We finally picked them up last week after two months of anticipation.
|Aleut and two GPs|
It’s a bit hard to know where to start: they are quite simply the most beautiful pieces of equipment I have ever touched. They are angelically light: carbon fibre over computer-cut foam cores, they feel balanced and strong and so smooth to touch.
|Each blade is dated, numbered and signed|
But the colours and finish are breathtaking. These images are lighter than the objects - the red blade is a deep ruby. The dye he uses suffuses the black strands of the carbon giving a complex multi-layered effect, and where the colours join and merge the intermingling is almost liquid. Close up they seem like snake-skin, with lustrous lozenges of black and colour tessellating off into the distance.
I’ve only paddled once so far with the Aleut and once with the GP. The Aleut is a big, confident powerful stick, delivering notably more thrust than a standard GP, but the GP is so well-behaved and sure-footed in the water. Both roll easily, the GP is a delight. Slide strokes and braces feel strong and responsive, and they talk in the water, telling you about every stroke.
I used to think my Greenland T boat was a pretty bloody fine bit of kit, but it looks blunt and utilitarian next to these blades.