The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon Review

This paddle consistently was a top performer across all metrics and it was not hard to select this paddle as a winner.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $200 List | $179.95 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Very sturdy and durable locking mechanism, smooth blade performance, easy to adjust, lightweight
Cons:  In the more expensive range
Manufacturer:   Aqua-Bound
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 23, 2018
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93
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 6
  • Performance - 40% 9
  • Ease of adjustment - 20% 10
  • Locking Mechanism Security - 15% 10
  • Weight - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 10

Our Verdict

Winner of the Editors' Choice award, the carbon shaft and abX carbon reinforced nylon blades give the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray lightweight and sturdy feel. This paddle was a joy to use, cutting through the water easily, and with no flutter felt from the blades. The Sting Ray's unwavering Posi-Lok ferrule system helped to stand this paddle further apart from the competition. It was incredibly easy to adjust or dismantle, even after extended use in sandy conditions. This is the only paddle we tested that consistently felt and performed like a one-piece paddle. When conditions got tough, or after long days on the water, testers were incredibly grateful to have this lightweight and high-performance paddle in their hands.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

More than anything else, what made the Sting Ray Carbon stand out from other paddles tested, was the Poi-Lok ferrule adjustment system. This patented system firmly locks and secures the two-piece paddle together, resulting in a one-piece feel. Even after extended use (and abuse), this continued to perform, making it very easy to adjust and dismantle the paddle. The abX carbon reinforced nylon blades, are responsive and light, ensuring a powerful and effective stroke.

Performance Comparison


The Sting Ray enabled the paddler to focus on the scenery rather than their paddle.
The Sting Ray enabled the paddler to focus on the scenery rather than their paddle.

Performance


Out of all the paddles tested, the Sting Ray Carbon was a top scorer for performance, tying for first with the Werner Camano. The mid-sized blades are made of abX resin reinforced with carbon fibers, delivering a smooth and effective catch and transfer of power with each stroke.

The dihedral blade helps water to flow evenly off the blades surface.
The dihedral blade helps water to flow evenly off the blades surface.

The dihedral blade design helps water to flow across the surface of the blade, which meant that no flutter was felt from this paddle, even when it was put under considerable pressure. The carbon shaft has a textured feel, which made the paddle easy to grip and helped to contribute to the effortless strokes that paddlers experienced.


There are some higher-end model paddles available that may outscore the Sting Ray in terms of performance, as they are constructed from lighter and more responsive carbon fiber. However, they are unlikely to be available for anything under $350. For example, Aqua-Bound makes the Tango with a similar blade design to the Sting Ray, but that is constructed of compression molded carbon. This is 140 grams lighter, but $175 more expensive.

In comparison to the third-placed Carlisle Magic Plus, the superior performance of this paddle was very noticeable for advanced paddlers and usually noticeable by beginners.

The Posi-Lock Dual-Button ferrule was exceptionally clear to use  offering a variety of feather angles for the blades
The Posi-Lock Dual-Button ferrule was exceptionally clear to use, offering a variety of feather angles for the blades

Ease of Adjustment


All the testers agreed that the Sting Ray is by far the easiest system to use. In timed tests, it was the quickest to dismantle, a feature that is useful if you want to transport the paddle in two pieces. The clear markings on the paddle shaft make it easy to identify the different blade angles on offer, and testers were able to quickly adjust the settings under pressure.


Aqua-Bound claims to offer infinity different blade feather angles on this paddle. In reality, it is limited to six. However, our testers found this range of options was more than sufficient to meet our different needs and paddling conditions.

The Posi Lok's teeth helped to secure the two pieces of the paddle together and prevented instability or wobble in the paddle's shaft.
The Posi Lok's teeth helped to secure the two pieces of the paddle together and prevented instability or wobble in the paddle's shaft.

Locking Mechanism


The Posi-Lok is also incredibly secure. In blind testing, many kayakers mistook this for a one-piece paddle, as there was no play in the shaft, regardless of which way you pulled on the paddle. Despite extensive use, the secure locking system never appeared to deteriorate, and we are confident that this system will hold up for a long time to come.


The Werner Camano and Skagit also have an impressively secure locking mechanism. However, unlike the Sting-Ray, over time these other paddles became challenging to adjust, as grit collected in the connection point of the shaft.

Kayakers enjoyed using the incredibly stable and well balanced Sting Ray paddle
Kayakers enjoyed using the incredibly stable and well balanced Sting Ray paddle

Weight


The Sting Ray is only 30g heavier than the lightest paddle in the review (the Camano). During blind testing, few testers were able to notice a weight difference between these two paddles on the water. This is a testament to the paddle's well-distributed weight, which gives the paddle a balanced feel and helps kayakers develop a smooth and relaxed cadence with their paddle strokes.


It is lighter than the third-place contender, the Werner Skagit FG by 180g. For those weight-sensitive adventurers, this may be an important consideration, especially if you are looking to paddle for long distances. Paddles that are significantly lighter do exist. However, these are in a completely different price category, typically aimed at expert kayakers.

The Sting Ray was light  durable and had a great feel when paddling.
The Sting Ray was light, durable and had a great feel when paddling.

Durability


The Sting Ray was the only paddle tested that did not appear to have deteriorated in any way during the time it was tested. We would like to see how this paddle continues to perform over extended periods (beyond one year). The paddle's construction style and materials, as well as the company's history of making quality paddles, indicate that the Sting Ray paddle is likely to last multiple years of frequent use. You will be looking to update your car sooner than you will be considering replacing this paddle.


The Posi-Lok system appears to be designed with the longevity of use in mind. Although similar in design to the Smart View, the finish of the materials on the Sting Ray made it smoother and easier to join the two pieces. It was not prone to collecting grit.

Testers were not concerned about the Sting Ray breaking on them.
Testers were not concerned about the Sting Ray breaking on them.

Best Applications


Due to the paddle's lightweight and high performance, advanced kayakers will appreciate using this kayak paddle, especially when covering long distances. Novice and intermediate paddles will also be able to appreciate the benefits of this paddle, especially its low weight and the ease with which it can be adjusted and dismantled.

As this paddle is available with a small diameter shaft size, children who are looking to take kayaking seriously, or adults with smaller hands, may want to consider purchasing this paddle.

The Aqua-Bound is available with a small shaft for kayakers with smaller hands.
The Aqua-Bound is available with a small shaft for kayakers with smaller hands.

Value


Although more expensive than your average paddle, the Sting Ray Carbon delivered a performance that is on par with paddles that cost $100 more. For the high-performance paddler, this would be considered an affordable paddle. For a novice recreational paddler, the cost may still seem too much, as it is possible to get out on the water and have some fun while only paying half this price. Those looking for a cheaper paddle may want to consider the Carlisle Magic Plus, which earned the Best Value award.

The Aqua-Bound performs on par with paddles that cost significantly more.
The Aqua-Bound performs on par with paddles that cost significantly more.

Conclusion


The Sting Ray was a clear winner for the Editors' Choice award as it was a top performer across all metrics. Although it costs slightly more than your average paddle, all types of kayakers will be able to appreciate the higher performance that the Sting Ray delivers.

When testers were on long kayak journeys, and especially when the conditions got tough, we were very grateful to have this paddle in our hands.

Testing kayak paddles is serious business.
Testing kayak paddles is serious business.

Other Versions and Accessories


Available in the following configurations :
  • Shaft size: Regular or small diameter shaft for paddlers with smaller hands.
  • Length: 210cm, 220cm, 230cm, 240cm or 250cm . We should note that this was the only paddle tested that was available in 250cm. This may be a consideration for paddlers over six feet tall, or those using an exceptionally wide kayak.
  • Two-piece or Four-piece
  • Snap button or Posi Lok system: The snap button is $10 less. However, given the significantly superior performance of the Posi-Lok, testers did wonder why anyone would choose this option.


Sara James