Aqua-Bound Whiskey Fiberglass Kayak Paddle Review
Earlier this year, with a keen eye cast on the coming season, Aqua-Bound Technology released two brand new paddles available in three stunning colors: the high-angle blade Whiskey and the low-angle blade Tango. Both blades are made from compression-molded fiberglass with super lightweight carbon shafts. Durable, tough, nearly weightless, and quite beautiful, these Wisconsin-made paddles are simply spectacular.
Even though I, Timothy, am more of a bourbon drinker, I was especially drawn to the Whiskey for its high-angled blade. What’s the difference between high- and low-angles? Few questions have kept up philosophers and Talmudic scholars til all hours of the night such as this. Essentially, a high-angle blade is more of a square-shaped oval, the low-angle blade more rectangular. The high-angle blade is taller but slightly less wide, the low-angle a little shorter and slightly wider. Both are nearly identical in square inches (95 in the high, 96 in the low).
How’s a paddler to decide? It’s mostly about how one actually paddles, involving complicated stuff like torque ratio and kinesiology, which are way above our pay grades. But the gist is this: when paddling, if you dig the blade in the water relatively close to your boat, with the effect of the opposite blade high as or higher than your shoulder, then your style complements a high-angle paddle blade. By contrast, if you dig into the water a little further away from your boat, with the effect of the opposite-end blade not extending as high as your shoulder, then you’re more of a low-angle paddler.
It’s all about personal preference. The high-angle blade has more of an aggressive stroke in mind, which is why whitewater paddlers use them. The low-angle blade is more relaxed and forward motion-minded (think Greenland paddle for those original sea kayakers).
We debuted the Whiskey on our fantastic trip down Lusk Creek, in part because it’s a whitewater(ish) stream, and in part because a body of water as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as Lusk Creek deserved a paddle as eye-poping.
What We Like:
Let’s just get to the good stuff right away. Being visual creatures, the first thing that’ll catch your attention about either paddle is the palette of colors they come in. The Fuego is an appropriately searing mix of red, orange, and cream in flaming swirls. If Igor Stravinsky kayaked, the composer of The Firebird surely would’ve swooned for the Fuego. The Sunwave is a soothing spectrum of colors both borne of and baptized in water, lakes Great or small, streams slow or swift, reflecting gradients from lime green to turquoise to royal blue to light purple – all in one blade. It’s a canvas unto itself. And then there’s the Agua, a cerulean blue so true it ensouls that diaphanous line blurred between water and sky. I went with the Agua, because it’s my favorite color. It’s Joni Mitchell’s landmark album and Bob Dylan’s tangled-up-in. It’s Miles Davis’s Kind-of, and Miles Paddled’s too – hell yeah!
So after seeing these bathing beauties, you’re surely going to want to hold one in your hands. As you do, you’ll swear the thing levitates in air, so light it is! We’re not kidding. It’s a mere 26 ounces. Intuitively, it feels fragile, but make no mistake about it: these paddles are durable. Composed of multi-laminate fiberglass resin, these blades are the warp and weft of reliability and resolve. They’re both the bomb, and bomb-proof.
The shafts are made from T-700 carbon and come in a fetching and feel-good herringbone design. The texture of the pattern is both pleasantly tactile and uniquely attractive. As with most other Aqua-Bound paddles, the shaft can be feathered to just about any degree you desire thanks to their patent Posi-Lok system – the adjustment dial, for the sake of simplicity. It’s user-friendly and resilient. The two separate pieces click into place easily and securely with a simple button release.
So, those are the showroom specs. But what’s it like in the water? A dream. For real. It’s a little counterintuitive to be holding something so light yet rock-hard. But the Whiskey really is just wonderfully agile and aggressive while still offering a forward stroke so smooth it makes paddling as easy and responseive as it oughta be. We love the high-angle blade – the biggest of any paddle we’ve used. To be sure, it’s not a whitewater paddle, but we’re not whitewater paddlers. It’s like driving a sporty Subaru with AWD, relative a super-duty 4×4 truck. But unlike Subarus, the Whiskey paddles come in beautiful colors and designs. It’s form and functionality, aesthetics and comfort.
Also, Osceola. We’d be most remiss not to mention that Aqua-Bound is made locally, near the banks of the mighty St Croix River in northwestern Wisconsin. There are plenty of paddle manufacturers in the nation, but we love being able to support one that’s here in the state – the Whiskey from Wisco! But more to that point, we can share from personal experience that the customer service at Aqua-Bound is outstanding. They worked directly with a friend of ours who owns a Sting Ray, and they fixed my own Manta Ray – for free, in a one-week turnaround no less. That’s both admirable and impressive (and a hell of a lot better than our experience with another manufacturer which we’ll take the high road here and now and not mention by name).
What We Don’t Like:
As of now, nothing. We love this paddle, period.
But to offer something, having such a good-looking, world-class paddle makes me feel a little self-conscious. I mean, now I gotta get a better boat – one that doesn’t leak and isn’t called “Uff Da.” This paddle is way too nice for such a joke of a boat.
The Final Word:
The Whiskey (and its low-angled sibling, the Tango) offer beauty and brawn in a commendable paddle that is as worthy as any of its rivals on the market – and arguably more so, given its competitive price, friendly staff, and local economy. One only wonders whether there’ll be a “Foxtrot” in the future…
Length (M): 200-240 cm (in increments of 5 cm)
Width (M): 26 ounces
Blade Dimensions: 7.8″ x 16″
Blade Surface Area: 95 sq. in.
Blade Material: Compression Molded Fiberglass
Shaft Material: T-700 Carbon
Shaft Pieces: Two
Feathering Angles: Infinite
Colors: Fuego, Sunwave, Agua