“Amazing!” That’s the first word my friends say when I hand them my carbon fiber kayak paddle made by Epic Paddles, a company founded by Olympic gold medalist Greg Barton. (Of course, I first make my friends hold a progression of older paddles starting with a wooden one, then moving to a standard aluminum and plastic rental type, then a nice fiberglass one by Werner, and finally to the carbon fiber by Epic Paddles so they really appreciate the dramatic reduction in weight.)
I am only a recreational paddler myself, but even I can appreciate the vast difference between the kind of standard paddle you’ll usually get when you rent a kayak, and the carbon fiber paddle I’ve grown to love. Besides being laughably light weight, the blade itself has a lot of flotation so it pops out of the water by itself. With a feature called length-lock, you can dial your feathering angle (for example, 45 or 60 degrees) and adjust overall paddle length to your liking. A kayak instructor I know calls this the “magic wand” of paddling. I’m such a fan that I insist on taking my paddles with me when I travel to the Caribbean (in a Harmony double paddle travel bag). I’ll rent kayaks, but can’t downgrade to rental paddles. Like a tennis racket or golf clubs, you want your own good equipment once you get used to it.
Epic has a lot of options for paddle construction. The one I have owned for three years is the Signature Series Full Carbon and I just ordered this same construction but in a wing shape–the Mid Wing. The Full Carbon is about $100 more expensive than the hybrid but gives you the full benefit of carbon fiber technology and the best blade design. The hybrid is a compromise for a lower price. The reinforced version adds some material to the end to protect the blade from damage if you’re going to be hitting rocks with it. The ultra apparently is an even more refined full carbon, probably for the competitive racer.
Bottom line: Go for Signature Series Full Carbon and you’ll be a very happy paddler!