I think of my collection of paddles like a bag of golf clubs. I have a paddle for every need. My “golf bag” includes fancy kayak paddles, a few SUP paddles, and some outrigger canoe paddles. Each one of those paddles comes with its own purpose, each with its own set of specific characteristics that makes it good for its particular function. There are racing paddles, touring paddles, steering paddles, surfing paddles… the list goes on. With 18 years of experience in paddlesports, I know that the paddle makes fifty percent of your experience on the water. A good paddle is essential to a successful paddling adventure.
I was recently very blessed to be able to give the Bending Branches Balance SUP paddle a try, and to see if it would be something that I could add to my kitty. Overall, I was very happy with this paddle.
At first glance, I was in love with it. I guess you can say that I am a wood paddle aficionado. My first outrigger paddles from back in the day were solid wood paddles, and I have dreamed of finding a nice wooded SUP paddle to use. Unfortunately, I haven’t really found a wooden SUP paddle I like, until I tried this hybrid. The Balance SUP paddle has a beautiful hand-crafted wooden blade and handle, with a carbon shaft. Unlike any of the wooden paddles I have had in the past, the craftsmanship of the blade immediately took my eye. Beautiful angled stripes of different woods really caught my eye, and immediately I appreciated the aesthetics of this paddle. I also appreciate the black lacquered edge guard finished into the paddle, which will definitely help protect the paddle from wear. I certainly have refinished a lot of wooden paddles in my past; this feature should help keep the paddle from chipping or fraying. The only thing I didn’t like aesthetically was the connection points where the shaft attaches to the blade and the handle. However, it doesn’t affect the performance; I just wish it was a little smoother feeling in those places.
As far as the performance of this paddle, I will definitely use this paddle as a touring paddle. One that I would use on the days I decide to go for a ride on my recreational board exploring my local mangrove coastline, paddling down spring fed rivers watching manatees, or surfing the small waves in front of my favorite local island (see one of my favorite adventures here). Though the weight of this blade keeps me from wanting to use it as a racing paddle, the small size of the blade is very much to my liking. I am a little person, and I prefer a smaller SUP blade. It allows me to pull enough water through more strokes, rather than blowing up my muscles and joint with a heavy-pulling, big blade. The Balance paddle is also has a moderately stiff shaft, allowing enough flex to keep my joints happy and healthy, but enough rigidity to allow me to grab the water well on the catch of my stroke. Compared to my other paddles, the paddle has a little larger angle, and it causes me to cavitate a bit (splash on my entry/pull). It is definitely not a negative characteristic, just something I need to adjust to. Due to its wood construction, the blade is a bit thicker than my carbon blade, making the entry/catch feel different than what I am used to in SUP. However, I welcome the feeling, as I do love a good wooden blade. It has a beautiful profile, with, again, the aesthetics of the natural wood enhancing the look of this paddle.
There is something to be said about the feeling of a wooden paddle in the water. Maybe it’s something that brings me back to my roots as a paddler, since my first single blade paddles were all wood. Maybe it brings me closer to nature and to the ocean. The Polynesians revere wooden, hand crafted paddles and canoes as spiritual vessels. Being that they are made from a living, breathing thing, the paddles possess the life energy (mana) that they held as a tree. Maybe I feel that connection. Who knows…
What I do know is that the Bending Branches Balance SUP Paddle is a very nice touring paddle. I look forward to experiencing more adventures on the water with this blade.