by Rachel Bertsch
If I had to describe my paddling preference, it would be one that is in a constantly changing environment.
The first set of kayaks we bought were ones we could fold up and take anywhere. Naturally, we decided to tow them on a cargo trailer behind our bikes for thousands of kilometers in search of crystal clear lakes in remote areas.
When we upgraded to sea kayaks, kayak camping became our favourite pastime. Thousands of strokes led us to pristine wilderness, far away from the crowds. We were left to discover a new world around every corner that only required the effort of paddling.
Eventually, our love of water resulted in dipping our toes into whitewater kayaking and packing our bags for packrafting. But every adventure centered on that continual search for somewhere our hearts could feel wild, yet free.
Aqua-Bound was not our first branded paddle. We started like most do, with a plastic molded paddle that weighed nothing significant when we first held it. But we found after hours of paddling it felt as heavy as steel, yet had a flex that seemed to lose power with each stroke.
We upgraded to another brand’s 4-piece carbon fiber paddle, and straightaway noticed the difference. It weighed just half of what the previous plastic model did, and the blade was strong. But ultimately, it wasn’t built properly and the connections in the shaft wore down rapidly.
Having been used to the ease of storing a four-piece paddle, we knew we had to stay in that style. When we decided it was time for another upgrade, we picked out the best paddle we could find on the market. Aqua-Bound’s Whiskey Fiberglass 4 piece Posi-Lok kayak paddle was it.
Straight out of the box, we immediately felt the quality of the paddle. For us, it was another adventure on the move, and the Whiskey Fiberglass’s first test was being packed up into a backpack and flown halfway around the world.
For some reason, my paddling partner and I had assumed we’d be able to fly with the dismantled paddles as carry-ons. Wrong. Apparently, paddles could be used as weapons on an airplane!
So at the last minute we had to go check-in our paddles with absolutely zero protection beyond a fragile sticker slapped on the side to save it from the baggage handlers. On the other side of the world we were quite pleased to see it had survived the multiple airports and cargo holds. Not even a chip or a scuff.
But paddles are meant for water, so the real test came when we were able to try it out on the water. The Posi-Lok system made it easy to lock the pieces in place securely and use at the feathering angle we preferred. Once the blade was cutting through the water, we noticed how much strength it had behind each pull. Being so lightweight, it was easy to go for hours, despite not having built up our paddling endurance during the off season.
On our initial outings, we put these paddles through a fair amount of abuse. It was our first time on many different rivers, with rapids or obstacles that required quick navigations. Water levels were lower than we normally hope for, meaning we often pushed ourselves out into the stream using the paddle.
Slamming the paddles into rocks was not uncommon. The fiberglass construction was solid—not once did we feel the paddle was going to be compromised. Each challenge we overcame was done without harm to the paddle itself or us as the paddlers.
Originally, we decided these were going to be strictly packrafting paddles and had ordered the 210 cm version to best suit our strokes. They’re built for a high-angle paddler and work great in various challenging conditions. We liked the paddles so much we’ve also used them on lazier river explorations in 12-foot kayaks, and longer expeditions with 16-foot kayaks.
Again, the Posi-Lok system made it effortless to switch the feathering in order to paddle headwinds. Each stroke was smooth and stable no matter the conditions, and the light weight meant we could go for hours without feeling exhausted.
Having spent a few years on the water in a magnitude of conditions, it’s nice to know I can rely a piece of quality gear like the Whiskey Fiberglass paddle. Being able to pack it in the trunk of a car, into a backpack, on on the back of a bike means this paddle will be coming everywhere with us for a long time ahead.
Rachel Bertsch (Kristensen) is a Canadian travel writer and international tour leader. She’s “outdoors obsessed and eternally curious” and loves sharing her adventures on her website, Meander the World. You can connect with Rachel on Instagram and Facebook , too.
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