Sunday, 15 May 2011

The most beautiful paddle

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. 

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