We analyzed each blade's catch, and the power it delivered when pulling through the water. We took note of any flutter that we experienced during paddle strokes, purposefully putting the paddle under pressure, including paddling in powerful waves and rapids (which these paddles are NOT designed for). We took the responsiveness of the shaft into account, including how it felt to grip in our hands and whether the shaft felt too flexible or too rigid.
To review the power of each blade, we conducted repeated timed sprint tests. We also had kayakers with a range of experience levels complete these tests to help us find out if less experienced paddlers would notice performance differences.
Ease of Adjustment
We tested how easy each paddle is to adjust by timing ourselves adjusting the feather of the paddle multiple times. We did this immediately after we first unwrapped each paddle and again after using the paddle extensively over the course of a few months to see how normal wear and tear affected its performance.
We also timed how long it took to dismantle each paddle, mimicking what it would be like to regularly transport the paddle in two pieces. We noted how easy each paddle is to adjust and dismantle with cold hands and how easy it is to identify which setting the blades were adjusted to.
Locking Mechanism Security
We blindfolded paddlers and asked them to identify which paddles were one solid piece and which were two. We let our testers shake the paddle and take a few strokes but did not let them feel the center of the shaft.
After this, we allowed testers to paddle around extensively with each paddle. (Not blindfolded.) We took note of their experiences, encouraging them to experiment with horizontal and rotational pull on the shaft to see how secure each paddle locking mechanism felt. During our extensive testing, we observed how prone the locking mechanism is to sticking, noting down how many hours of use passed before problems started to arise and what conditions the paddle was used in.
We measured the weight of each paddle using calibrated scales. However, the distribution of the weight across the paddle (blade/shaft) affects the balance of a paddle. As a result, a balanced paddle will *feel* lighter than a poorly balanced paddle of the same mass. Therefore, we also asked our blindfolded testers to identify the order of the paddles by weight.
We evaluated the durability of the paddles using a series of tests designed to expose each paddle to various stresses physical and environmental. We took notes of any wear and tear observed on the blades and shaft ( including the connection point). We purposefully selected testers who we know can be very tough on gear, and we did not encourage them to be careful with the paddles. We repeatedly dismantled and adjusted each paddle, often in very sandy conditions, analyzing how the components stood up to the abuse.
We also conducted a series of tests pushing off gravel banks and observing whether this caused any wear and tear to the kayak paddle blades.
After all this fun and challenging fieldwork, we went back into the office and assigned scores to each paddle, and explained each of the scores in our main review text. We hope our hard work enables you to select the right paddle and helps make your kayaking experience the best it can be!