Hands-on Gear Review

Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 Review

Aqua-Bound Challenge
Price:  $190 List | $180.45 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Easy and sturdy adjustment, lightweight, high performance
Cons:  Smaller adjustment range
Bottom line:  The Aqua-Bound Challenge has a a high-performance paddle for serious paddlers.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight:  1.3
Blade Material:  epX Engineered Polymer Reinforced with Carbon
Blade Dimensions:  85 sq in
Manufacturer:   Aqua-Bound

Our Verdict

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 with polymer-reinforced carbon, this model is both light and durable. A long, rectangular blade allows this product to maneuver easily and nimbly. Plus, the Performance adjust system makes the paddle quick, intuitive, and simple to change lengths. Unlike other locking mechanisms seen in our test fleet, this model's does not get in the way of the user's hand during paddling or while changing hands. A similar paddle in terms of performance comes in our Editors' Choice award-winning Werner Trance.

RELATED REVIEW: The 7 Best Adjustable SUP Paddles

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Shey Kiester

Last Updated:
August 3, 2017


The Aqua-Bound Challenge was among the top contenders regarding performance, with a 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 it up front.

Performance Comparison

The Aqua-Bound challenge was a high-performer and was easy to adjust as well as lightweight.
The Aqua-Bound challenge was a high-performer and was easy to adjust as well as lightweight.

Ease of Adjustment

This paddle features Performance adjust, which allows it to be one of the easiest-to-adjust paddles in our review. This system was also featured on the Editors' Choice award-winning Werner Trance, which was slightly easier to adjust then Aqua-Bound. Both have six adjustment holes and a small steel button. This process is simple, intuitive, and provides enough adjustment for varying users and situations. 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 a more adjustable model, like the BPS Alloy.

Performance adjustment systems. The Werner system is on the bottom in this photo and earns high scores in the ease of adjustment metric.
Performance adjustment systems. The Werner system is on the bottom in this photo and earns high scores in the ease of adjustment metric.


With a compact size of 66 inches, the Aqua-Bound was not the most compact paddle in our test fleet. However, our testers found that the paddle compacted enough to easily fit in SUVs and trucks. If you have a small car or are planning on traveling with your SUP setup, consider a three-piece model, which is represented by the Super Paddle and IGK products in our test fleet.

Locking Mechanism

The Aqua-Bound featured our testers' favorite locking mechanism. The Performance adjustment features six holes along the handle of the paddle. Just press a metal button and extend or contract the paddle. It's easy and intuitive. The Werner Trance also featured this adjustment method, and when compared side by side, it won the title of the best locking mechanism, as its steel pin was lower profile and more rounded than the Aqua-Bound's.


This paddle is lightweight and nimble. With a long, rectangular blade, users felt that it was easy to manipulate their crafts when paddling, and quick motions were not a problem. Because of the paddle's slight offset, backstrokes are also easy. Unlike other light models like the Super Paddle, which features a light construction but heavy locking mechanism, this model's balance was not thrown off by its locking mechanism. If you're looking for a paddle with similar performance, we suggest the Werner Trance or KIALOA Insanity.

The Aqua-Bound's rectangular blade
The Aqua-Bound's rectangular blade


While not the lightest product in the test, this model weighed in at just 1.75 pounds, which is much lighter than the heavier and less nimble models in the test.

Best Applications

This model is perfect for the intermediate user who knows that they are serious about the sport.


At $190, this model packs a lot of performance in a relatively affordable package. While it is slightly less high-performance than our Editors' Choice winning Werner Trance, it is also a lot easier on your pocketbook.


The Aqua-Bound 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

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: August 3, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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Average Customer Rating:  
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
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