Getting your choice of paddle right is a time consuming and sometimes pricey exercise. A surf specific paddle wouldn’t therefore be high on the list for most sit on kayakers – most tend to do more all round paddling. If they did opt for something like this it would most likely be a secondary piece of gear. And let’s not forget you CAN use your regular carbon touring paddle for surfing, it just might not offer optimum efficiency in this environment. When Adventure Technology passed us their Hercules weapon (which is actually a white water paddle with wave dimensions) we couldn’t resist delving a little deeper.
Surf V touring One of the biggest differences between surf and touring paddles, and one that appeals to the more relaxed approach of sit on top kayakers, is blade angle. Touring paddles are generally supplied with low angle blades which gives a more comfortable experience if used for prolonged periods of time. This is great when covering distance is more of a thing.
Surfing is a different matter. Paddlers require an initial burst of power to punch out through white water and broken waves – but this is still only a short distance. Once ‘out back’ surfers will then be ‘waiting at the bus stop’ for their set to arrive. At this stage, other than a few positional strokes to remain on the peak, there’s not really much happening. Spotting their chosen wave paddlers will need that quick burst of power to boost into the drop. Once on the wave, however, it’s mostly about brace strokes, quick power pulls to out run sections and perform manoeuvres – if you’re of that level.
A high blade angle will cover these bases – in conjunction with a shorter paddle shaft. Touring paddles, in contrast, allow riders to accomplish all of the above, just not in as an efficient a manner. If you’re super serious about your kayaking, and want the best of all worlds, then this could be an argument for owning a quiver of blades for specific jobs. Carbon V fibreglass In general carbon is perceived as the best performing paddle material across the spectrum. We ourselves have promoted the benefits of carbon paddles in the past (check out our ‘why go carbon article?’ here – www.sitons.com/articles/why-go-carbon-benefits-carbon-kayaking-paddles/). There are certain situations where other materials may be more applicable, however. Surfing is one of those scenarios. Powerful high angled blades, coupled with stiff paddle shafts, may simply be too much for most kayakers. When we say too much we’re talking specifically about the toll this kind of kit will impact on bodies. OK, if you’re a power hungry kayaker then you may relish the instant feedback a carbon shaft and high angle surf specific power blade will give – most won’t though.
There’s also a technique argument here. A softer flexing shaft will allow paddlers not as refined with skills to experience the same as advanced riders. And then there’s feel which transfers directly from style. A paddler may have the best technique in the world but their way of doing things may be better suited to fibreglass or material mix paddles. For the majority, however, a fibreglass surf specific paddle will be better suited.
Adventure Technology Hercules paddle As we’ve already established the AT Hercules white water paddle is pretty close to a surf specific weapon. Its fibreglass shaft, high angle glass blades and compact shape are perfect for some wave action. It also boasts a soft flexing shaft which is more forgiving and better suited to the powerful blade. During sessions the soft flex also provides a degree of ‘snap back’ which if timed correctly can enhance paddle strokes and give a little more boost. This is great for getting into waves early or milking the most out of smaller swells. Bracing through the bottom turn is also more comfortable and doesn’t result in too much swell ‘push back’. The short shaft length allows for high stroke cadence, again, delivering a lot of acceleration. Getting out of sticky situations and making it back to the take of is super-efficient. It’d be a common assumption that short paddles would increase knuckle scraping along boat gunnels. This, however, isn’t the case. The Hercules doesn’t really do lazy paddling because of its high angle blades. But as we’ve already established surfers don’t tend to cover as much distance so there should be plenty of chance to catch breath in between waves.
Conclusion We were surprised how comfortable AT’s Hercules white water paddle is to use in waves. Considering the short flexible shaft and powerful blades we didn’t expect to like it as much as we did. Delivering a hefty amount of propulsion it zooms kayakers onto waves early and delivers throw about performance for chucking surf inspired moves. Even if you’re still getting to grips with waves a paddle such as the Hercules will reward and allow progression.
It’s not really designed for touring and covering distance. In fact, after paddling out to the local offshore bank at Sitons HQ (nearly a mile), we were puffed. But in a surfing environment, paired with an every day tourer, you can’t beat it. And don’t discount fibreglass – in wave situations it really works.
Recommended price: Hercules Glass Straight Shaft – £199.00, Hercules Glass Bent Shaft – £250.00, Hercules Carbon Straight Shaft – £250.00, Hercules Carbon Bent Shaft – £299.00