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Ugh! I've been kayaking for only 2 months now, but I've gone out almost every week, and my experience with the AquaBound paddle was the worst paddling experience I've had. I was quickly exhausted. I got blisters on the inside of my thumbs.
Again--much of this could be due to the length issue. But is all of it? I'm not willing to take that chance.
The Manta Ray is priced very low for a carbon shaft paddle, but the quality is still there. I bought the 230 size so it is 6" shorter than my longer Stingray paddle. I tend to use a higher angle stroke with this paddle. Flex is less also compared to the Stingray.
Overall a great paddle for the price and has the new ferule system which so far has no issues.
I have no complaints. The TLC works flawlessly- I'd love to make some smart-alecky remark like "you have to be smarter than the paddle" but just because mine works great, doesn't mean they all have.
This paddle is light yet strong. I've really beaten on it, it keeps coming back for more. Bashing through class III rapids, prying my way through beaver dams (with a really big, heavy canoe!) the paddle handles it all. I haven't been paddling long enough to say anything intelligent about the "flutter" or other characteristics. The decals don't offend me but I'm not the type to care about such things.
I finally bought a legit whitewater boat, this paddle is way too long so I'll be buying something under 200cm. The AB Shred is top of my list right now.
My wife is the main user of my Manta now, she has small hands. That brings me to my revised, main complaint about the paddle - the shaft. I have the button ferrule model - no gripes there. But the single size (in diameter) shaft is a bit small for a man's size medium/large hands. Ultimately I was happy to pass the Manta along to my wife (she loves it) because i would experience some hand cramping on longer journeys.
The other observation I have is that while the blade shape is great for sculling, it can be tricky on a low brace in conditions. The back of the blade catches if you skim it up off the surface without care.
So to summarize my revised review:
- The decals are still uncool (and slowly cracking/peeling after 2 years)
+ The blade shape remains unique and mostly advantageous.
+ The paddle is a bargain in the high end market.
- The paddle could be greatly improved by offering 2 shaft sizes.
+ I see that AB now offers both the TLC and button ferrules as a choice, for awhile you could only get the TLC.
So I'm upgrading this to an 8 - which I think is excellent (there are many unsubstantiated "10s" assigned in these reviews). Minus 1 point for bogus decals, and appearance of the blades (looks more ABS than Carbon), and minus 1 point for the shaft. I miss this paddle, although I can do without the hand cramps it could give me. My wife would buy it anytime however.
As over-50 weekend paddlers we wouldn't notice blade flutter or lack of stiffness that some report, as these are irrelevant to us.
+ Very light weight (for the price) - 31 oz
+ Large efficient blade with good grip on water
+ Trouble-free operation so far (2 months)
+ Dihedral shape reduces flutter
- Not as stiff as I wish - sprinting and pulling at full power produces noticeable flex
- Dihedral shape reduces efficiency
* nice paddle regardless of price
* super-nice paddle for the price
I did not give it 10 because I want to see how it performs over the long run.
I was contacted by Joe Matuska, General manager and founder of Aqua-Bound paddles, after he read my review of his product in which I stated that the twist lock had come undone two times while paddling. Now keep in mind that I had never even called him to complain. So imagine my surprise when he called me to offer a brand new paddle with an updated TLC design. I did have the Manta Ray but asked him to send a Stingray instead. The new paddle arrived in short order, free of charge. I have never experienced this level of customer service from any other company. Canít recall the last time the general manager of any company ever called me to try and resolve a problem... ever. Needless to say, I was very impressed.
The new TLC design has a more definite ďclickĒ as it locks in. I have used it on two separate occasions (6 hours total) and had no problems whatsoever with the paddle coming apart on me. The new design is definitely superior to the previous generation. In all fairness to my old Manta Ray, the twist lock never came apart on me again aside from the two occasions on itís first use. I think after I got a little sand in and out of it, the increased friction in the coupler helped keep it from unscrewing.
Iím very happy with my new Stingray which Iíll review in the Stingray section.
The fit and finish are generally excellent. My only "beef" is the somewhat cheesy-looking decals Aquabound (hereafter "AB") uses on the blades. The blades themselves are unique. They are slightly asymmetrical (more symmetric than most Euro paddle blades) and have a face that is both a dihedral and spooned. This isn't illustrated in any of the available product literature. It makes for a very agile blade in sculling, drawing and ruddering strokes. AB describes this paddle as an aggressive, high angle stroke tool. That is how I've tried to use it - for sea kayaking.
Advantages: Way cheaper than competing products from other manufacturers (like 1/2 the price of Werner and Lendal's high-end sticks). Blade shape excels at control strokes. Pretty clean entry and low cavitation. Good weight, on the low end of comparables.
Disadvantages: Some blade flutter. No small shaft available (if you need such things). Uncool decals on blades.
Overall, if I followed the apparent standards of most reviewers I'd have to give this at least a "9". I'm giving it a 7 because: It could be lighter, given the materials they used; The AB product blurb says "flutter free", which is optimistic at best; and the push-button ferrule is old school, but it seems that they've discontinued that without a proven successor. Maybe I'll revise that score upwards after using it over time.
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