Updated summer 2018
Like most beginners I started my IK-ing with a super cheap 3-piece TNP shovel. After picking up a much better used 2-piece fibreglass Lendal Archipelago which seized up), for Shark Bay in 2006 I decided to splash out on a decent light, rigid bent-shaft, adjustable, low angle 2-piece, 230cm Werner Camano. At £230, it cost more than the boat but over 10 years on I have no regrets. It just works.
To me bent shafts and an indexed, ovalised grip make ergonomic sense for steady, all-day paddles rather than pulling fast moves in rapids. It’s just more compatible with the non-rectilinear human form. I did notice that when I swapped back to the slightly heavier straight Lendal (before it seized) there was noticeably less flex, but over a decade later, the Camano is ] in great shape and is still my favourite for kayaking.
The Camano is a low-angle paddle, but I think my style, if you can call it that, is high angle, and in fact I read that high angle is the right way to do it. I find that wide, high-sided and relatively unresponsive IKs and packrafts encourage or require an energetic ‘digging’ style compared to a smooth gliding hardshell.
A paddle for packrafting
The way I see it, even more so than most IKs, a packraft has high and fat sides and you sit low inside. So that ought to mean a long paddle to get over all that plastic and into the water. Paddling with the 220cm, big-faced Aquabound paddle, I didn’t really notice any issues other than some squeaking as I rub the sides occasionally. Longer would not have made much difference.
At 2.6kg my current packraft is extremely light but it’s not an efficient shape for gliding through water. However, once on the water with me in it, the total weight is nearly the same as a more glidey IK, so it boils down to the need to propel the hull using a paddle with a large surface area. Some might say a bigger blade will mean more yawing, but I figure you just dig less hard and anyway, with practice, yawing is easily controlled. Providing you have the strength, a bigger face ought to give the speed which packraft and IK lack. There are times (mostly at sea or white water) when speed and power can mean safety.
In the US I got myself a Aqua Bound Manta Ray 4-piece high-angle in carbon (below, 220cm). Weighing under 900g this one feels more flexy than the Camano, but of course fits right in the bag and so makes a great packrafting or back-up paddle – apaddleinyourpack, so to speak. Mine has the two-position snap button offset which I run at 45°. You can also get an infinite-position Posi-Lok version.
The compact and light Aqua Bound (70cm longest section, left) is ideal on short day trips with public transport and with no load to haul on the water. It has been fine for UK packrafting and makes a great packstaff, too, but it doesn’t always come apart easily like the Werners. Dry or wet, don’t leave it assembled for days or weeks (that probably goes for all multi-piece paddles).
I used it in Australia for sea kayaking as well as packrafting and it was fine for that too. For the price this is a great paddle – so good I sold it to my mate there and bought another. I’ve never seen a 4-part Manta for sale in the UK, but in Germany the Packrafting Store sells TLC Mantas as well as their own Anfibio brand sub-kilo four-parters from just €60 (right).
I also have a straight, fibreglass-blade Werner Corrywrecken (£200). It’s the biggest paddle Werner do in 210cm+ 2-piece touring paddles, and anyway it’s only got 0.7m2 blades compared to the Camaro’s 0.65m2. At 220cm (same as the Manta Ray) I’ve also gone as short as I dare to get over sides of the Alpacka.
There’s no indexing on the straight, carbon shaft, just a little ovalisation as on the AquaBound. The Corry’s face is a tad bigger than the Manta Ray (right and above) but the whole stick is much more rigid (it’s 2-piece). It’s 7% lighter than the Manta Ray and 17% lighter than the stiffer Camano – initially you notice this. I compare my Corry and Camano in my Incept sea kayak here.
Weights & Measures
According to the kitchen scales the weights of these paddles are:
- Werner Camano 230, 2-piece – 988g – stiffest
- Werner Corry 220, 2-piece – 816g
- Aqua Bound Manta Ray 220, 4-piece – 880g – least stiff but still fine
So now I have a long, comfy low-angle Camano for long, loaded IK sea trips; a straight, rigid, light, shorter big-faced Corry for packboating and guests (the Mrs likes it), and a compact, 4-piece Aqua Bound Manta for travelling.