There are no two ways about it: The Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 is a high-performance paddle. With a shaft constructed from carbon and a blade made of polymer-reinforced carbon, this model is both light and durable. A long, rectangular blade allows this product to maneuver quickly and nimbly. Plus, the Performance adjust system makes the paddle quick, intuitive, and simple to change lengths. We liked that the locking mechanism on the Challenge 85 does not get in the way of the user's hand during paddling or while changing hands.
Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Easy and sturdy adjustment, lightweight, high performance
Cons: Smaller adjustment range
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Aqua-Bound Challenge 85
|Price||$189.95 at Backcountry|
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|$270 List||$364.00 at REI|
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|$170.00 at REI||$198.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Easy and sturdy adjustment, lightweight, high performance||Great paddling performance, lightweight, compact for traveling||Lightweight, easy to adjust, high performance||Cuts cleanly through water, durable blade||Lightweight, strong, easy on the body to use|
|Cons||Smaller adjustment range||Slight paddle flutter||Pricey, blade can flutter||Heavy, looks like a toy||The handle allows excellent grip but can become uncomfortable|
|Bottom Line||The Aqua-Bound Challenge has a a high-performance paddle for serious paddlers.||If you need a travel paddle and don’t want to sacrifice paddling performance, the Lock and Load is the right choice||The Trance is a breath of fresh air, with good performance and an unbelievably lightweight construction.||The Vibe is a great all-around paddle that moves water well and is easy to manage.||This is a high-performance paddle that is easy to pull through the water.|
|Rating Categories||Aqua-Bound Challenge 85||Hala Travel Lock & Load||Werner Trance 95 Performance||Werner Vibe||KIALOA Insanity|
|Ease Of Adjustment (20%)|
|Locking Mechanism (20%)|
|Specs||Aqua-Bound...||Hala Travel Lock &...||Werner Trance 95...||Werner Vibe||KIALOA Insanity|
|Paddle Weight||1.3 lbs||1.125 lbs||1.2 lbs||1.7 lbs||1.56 lbs|
|Offset||10 degrees||10 degrees||10 degrees||10 degrees||10 degrees|
|Blade Material||epX engineered polymer reinforced with carbon||Polycarbonate||Carbon||Injection molded fiberglass||Fiberglass fibrlite|
|Blade Dimensions||85 sq in||Unavailible||95 sq in||100 sq in||83 sq in|
|Shaft Material||Carbon||Carbon||Carbon||Fiberglass||Durable fiberglass|
|Length Range (inches)||70" - 80"||62"-78"||70" - 78" | 74" - 82" | 80" - 88"||68" - 84"||70"-86"|
|Number of Pieces||2-piece||3-piece||1-piece (available in 1, 2, or 3)||3-piece (available in 1, 2, or 3)||1-piece (avaliable in 1 or 3)|
|Warranty||2 years||3 years||1 year||1 year||1 year|
|Comes with cover||No||No||No||No||No|
|Locking Mechanism||"Performance" Snap Button||Handle LeverLock||Handle LeverLock||Handle LeverLock||Handle LeverLock|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Aqua-Bound Challenge was among the top contenders regarding performance, with lightweight construction and a well-designed blade. This paddle is best for serious users who appreciate a paddle that can help them push their limits, even if it means paying a bit more for initially.
This paddle is lightweight and agile, and users felt that it was easy to manipulate their crafts when paddling, and quick motions were not a problem. Because of the paddle's 10-degree offset, backstrokes are also easy. Unlike other lightweight paddles, this model's balance was not thrown off by its heavier locking mechanism.
This SUP paddle has a great catch and powers through the water easily. The Challenge 85 enters and exits the water very smoothly, all while being very light and making it easy to set up for the next paddle stroke. We didn't have any flutter issues even at maximum power, with the blade shedding the water evenly and failing to create any undesirable vortices.
While not the lightest product in the test, this model weighed in at just 1.3 pounds, which is much lighter than the heavier and less nimble models in the test.
Ease of Adjustment
This paddle features a Performance adjustment system, which makes it one of the easiest-to-adjust paddles in our review. The paddle has six adjustment holes and a small steel button that you compress to lengthen or shorten the paddle. It's simple to do and allows a group to share one paddle easily. This model has an adjustment range of 10.5 inches, which was not the highest in our test. If you plan on sharing your paddle between multiple users, consider an easier-to-adjust model with a wider range of possible lengths.
The Aqua-Bound featured our testers' second-favorite locking mechanism. The adjustment mechanism features six holes spaced along the shaft of the paddle. Just press a metal button and extend or contract the paddle. After it's adjusted there is very little play in the handle and the connection feels quite solid.
However, this locking mechanism can be more prone to corrosion than other models or can become much more difficult to operate if dirt or grime gets inside. This isn't a huge issue but you do want to make sure you take the time to rinse it off after you are done paddling, particularly if you were paddling in saltwater.
For our last testing metric, we rated and compared how each paddle looked, since everyone wants to look at least a little stylish while they are SUPping. Unfortunately, the Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 is a paddle first and a style statement second. It has an overall generic and uninspiring look, but we did appreciate the accent graphics on the blade.
This model packs a lot of performance in a relatively affordable package. While it is slightly less high-performance than the top-tier models, it is also a lot easier on your pocketbook.
The Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 is a high-performance model with an easy locking mechanism and lightweight construction, making it a good paddle for serious users who want performance for their dollar.
— Shey Kiester