Like most beginners I started my IK-ing with a super cheap 3-piece TNP shovel. Then, after picking up a much better used 2-piece fibreglass Lendal Archipelago which soon seized up, for Shark Bay in 2006 I splashed out on a decent light, rigid, bent-shaft, adjustable offset, low angle 2-piece, 230cm Werner Camano. At £230, it cost more than my first two boats but in all those years I have no regrets. The Camano just works.
To me bent shafts and an indexed, ovalised grip make ergonomic sense for steady, all-day paddles rather than pulling fast moves in rapids. It’s just more compatible with the non-rectilinear human form. I did notice that when I swapped back to the slightly heavier straight Lendal (before it seized) there was noticeably less flex, but over a decade and a half later, the Camano is in great shape and is still my favourite for anything where a compact four-piece is not needed.
The Camano is a low-angle paddle, but I think my style, if you can call it that, is high angle, and in fact I read that high angle is the right way to do it. I find that wide, high-sided and relatively unresponsive IKs and packrafts encourage or require an energetic ‘digging’ style compared to a smooth gliding hardshell.
A paddle for packrafting
The way I see it, even more so than most IKs, a packraft has high and fat sides and you sit low inside. So that ought to mean a long paddle to get over all that plastic and into the water. Paddling with the 220cm, big-faced Aquabound paddle, I didn’t really notice any issues other than some squeaking as I rub the sides occasionally. Longer would not have made much difference.
At around 3kg a packraft is extremely light but it’s not an efficient shape for gliding through water like a swan. However, once on the water with a paddler in it, the total weight is nearly the same as a more glidey IK, so it boils down to the need to propel the hull using a paddle with a large surface area. Some might say a bigger blade will mean more yawing, but I figure you just dig less hard and anyway, with practice, yawing is easily controlled once moving. Providing you have the strength, a bigger face ought to give the speed which packrafts and IKs lack. There are times (mostly at sea or on white water) when speed and power can mean safety.
In the US I got myself an Aqua Bound Manta Ray 4-piece high-angle in carbon (above right, 220cm). Weighing under 900g this one feels more flexy than the Camano, but fits right in the bag and so makes a great packrafting or back-up paddle – apaddleinyourpack, so to speak. Mine has the two-position snap button offset which I run at 45°. You can now get an infinite-position Posi-Lok version.
The compact and light Manta Ray (70cm longest section) is ideal on short day trips with public transport and with no load to haul on the water. It was fine for a decade of UK packrafting and makes a great packstaff, too, but it didn’t always come apart easily like the Werners. Dry or wet, don’t leave it assembled for days or weeks, especially after sea use (that probably goes for all multi-piece paddles).
I used my Manta sea kayaking in Australia as well as packrafting – it was fine for both. For the price this is a great paddle – so good I sold it to my Ozzie mate and bought another right away. I’ve never seen a 4-part Manta for sale in the UK, but in Germany the Anfibio Packrafting Store sells TLC Mantas as well as their own Anfibio Vertex 4P (left).
Or they used to. Now they sell their range of own-brand sticks. I recently padded with a chap with their four-part Wave which weighs 991g and comes with infinite angle and 10cm of length adjustment (210-220cm). I would guess the blade is <650cm2. The longest section is 64cm and all that for €125 is very reasonable.
I also have a straight, fibreglass-blade Werner Corryvrecken (£200 years ago). It’s the biggest paddle Werner do in 210cm+ 2-piece touring paddles: 721cm2 blade area compared to the Camaro’s middle of the road 650cm2. and 677cm2 for the Manta Ray.
At 220cm (same as the Manta Ray) I’ve also gone as short as I dare to get over the fat sides of a packraft.
There’s no indexing on the straight, carbon shaft, just a little ovalisation as on the Aqua Bound. The Corry’s face is a tad bigger than the Manta Ray (left and above) but the whole stick feels much more rigid (it’s 2-piece). It’s 7% lighter than the Manta Ray and 17% lighter than the stiffer Camano – initially you notice this. I compare my Corry and Camano in my Incept sea kayak here.
More weights & measures
According to the kitchen scales the weights of these paddles are:
- Werner Camano 230, 2-piece – 988g – stiffest
- Werner Corryvrecken 220, 2-piece – 816g – lightest
- Aqua Bound Manta Ray 220, 4-piece – 880g – least stiff but cheaper
- Anfibio Vertex Multi Tour 210-25, 4-piece – 890g – cheapest; multi-use
So now I have a long, comfy low-angle Camano for long, loaded IK or packraft sea trips; a straight, I sold the rigid, light, shorter big-faced Corry, and the Mrs likes the thin-shafted Anfibio Vertex Multi Tour 4-piece.