After leaving for Greece just under a month ago to take on an exciting sea kayaking adventure vacationCutter Aquatics paddling instructor, Barbara Cutter, reports back with intel on her experience with the Adventure Technology Quest Paddle.

Finding the Right Paddle Is No Easy Feat

Have you ever noticed that people who paddle are picky about their paddles? There is a wide assortment of picky, paddler types out there. Like a Greenland guy, or a paddler hung up on high-angle, or a lady who likes long, light and low. However my buddy Brian, the BCU coach in Greece, who with tongue in cheek, says “rubbish”! (Truly, you haven’t lived until you listen to a Scotsman from Glasgow roll his “R’s”, drop his consonants and say “It’s quite a load of cr*p.”)

Brian Paddling
The Scotsman (Brian) in his ‘yak.

For years, Brian has been supplying his sea-kayaking customers on Poros Island with durable equipment that must be one-size-fits-most, rugged enough for rocks, suitable for salt and tolerant of temperature. He bought new paddles this year and they are all 220 cm, 60 degree (!) feather, heavy plastic blades and sturdy aluminum shafts.

So in I come; always showing up to push Brian’s buttons and rattle his world a bit. Just like every other year, I arrived on Poros with a padded paddle bag packed with an assortment of carbon fiber, high and low angle blades and adjustable ferrules. He wouldn’t dare admit he had paddle envy, until now.

Enter the Adventure Tech Quest Paddle

 Quest Paddle - Adjustable Ferrule
The Quest’s adjustable ferrule.

This year I packed an Adventure Technology Bent Shaft Quest from ACK. This is a beautifully made paddle and I think it will be great in salt water since the two pieces easily slide together and lock with a little lever. It’s simple to rinse at the end of the day and shouldn’t get clogged with salt. The adjustable ferrule accommodates significant length adjustments, right or left hand offset and any style paddlers can dial in the degree of feather. Personally, I always paddle at 30 degrees right. The blade seems to rotate for a perfect powerful catch when you recover with a good elbow lift from the hip. (But we’ll leave the other components of a safe, strong, effective and efficient forward stroke for another time.)

Barb Tells Herself Not To Be Picky, But…

Quest Paddle Blade
The Quest’s blade.

For this trip, ACK sent me off with an Ergo (bent) shaft version of the Quest. For many years, I paddled with a bent-shaft touring paddle and ultimately decided to go back to a straight shaft. My personal preference for the straight shaft is flexibility. I counsel a beginner paddler to use a specific hand position and then put imaginary super glue on the palm. Beginning paddlers need to memorize their blade orientation, have effective hand separation and learn to lighten up the common death grip. But I like to move my hands to different positions for sea conditions and different styles of strokes, rolls and (of course) the party tricks that paddlers learn for showing off.  Therefore, I would not normally chose this ergo design. I keep my grip loose enough that wrist position is not a big problem for me. Another issue I have with the AT bent shaft is how it weights the paddle. If you put your hands into effective paddling position and loosen your grip, the shaft rolls down disorienting the blades. Quite annoying. However by the end of the day, I got used to it and learned to keep a strong control hand, but over long distances this is more tiring and should not be necessary.

Barb and Quest Paddle
Barb and her Quest stopping for a mid-paddle picnic!

Initially, I also had a problem with the shape of the blade. For the most part, I am a high angle paddler but I do adjust my stroke for sea and weather conditions. AT describes the blade as versatile for high or low angle stokes, however my first thought was that it was good for neither. But don’t be such a picky paddler, Barb! By the end of the first day, I discovered that, indeed, it is a very good low-angle design and when using an occasional high-angle stroke you will get an effective stroke if you employ the “salmon spearing catch” (again, we’ll talk about this another time).

The cool comfort of the carbon blend shaft is my favorite part. It is a smooth matte finish that never gets hot or feels slick.

So in all, even Brian thinks this paddle could work for him and actually didn’t want me to take it home . Have you ever negotiated with a Scot? He drives a very hard bargain.