For a little over a month, I’ve been using Aquabound’s Manta Ray Carbon paddle as my primary paddle for personal trips and for guiding. Aquabound sent me the paddle so I could do a Manta Ray Carbon paddle review. I’ve used the paddle with a number of different boats, including a NDK Explorer, Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro and a Dagger Alchemy. The conditions that I tested it in ranged from calm to 4-foot choppy wind waves. I also used it for surfing in waves up to 3 feet and for playing in rock gardens in waves to 3 feet. I tested the 210 cm version.
Aquabound describes the Manta Ray Carbon paddle as a paddle designed for big boats, high-angle paddlers and moving water. While I have different thoughts on high-angle vs. low-angle paddles, this paddle fits squarely into what I consider high-angle. I’ve used several high-angle paddles on longer trips, including a Werner Cyprus, and I find that generally they fit my paddling style more than a low-angle paddle. For high-angle paddles, you generally want a shorter paddle. I’m 5’10” and usually paddle kayaks that are about 22 inches wide and found that the 210 cm length was perfect for me. I found that slightly odd, because the I find my Cyprus, which is the same length, about 2 cm too short. The Manta Ray comes in 10 cm increments, which I think is too large of an increment for a high-angle paddle. Aquabound would fit a greater number of paddlers if they made the Manta Ray in 5 cm increments. I checked out the sizing recommendations on Aquabound’s website and disagree with them completely. They have me using a 220 cm in this paddle, but that would feel far too long for bow rudders and cross bow rudders as well as draws on the move and side slips. They should revise their sizing charts for high-angle paddles as the recommended paddles sizes are too long.
One of the things that I look for in a kayak paddle is a low swing weight. An easy test of swing weight is to hold the paddle in the center with one hand and then swing it back and forth like you would during a forward stroke. Paddles with low swing weights accelerate faster, change directions faster and feel lighter than paddles with a heavy swing weight. On the water, a low swing weight makes for quicker transitions between strokes and faster linked strokes. It also makes for a less tiring stroke. The claimed weight of the paddle is 29.5 ounces, which is 6 ounces heavier than the Cyprus. Surprisingly, the swing weight of the Manta Ray Carbon paddle feels similar to the higher-end Cyprus.
The paddle I received features Aquabound’s Posi-Lok feathering adjustment system. The Posi-Lok system allows for 15° adjustments ranging from 0° to 60°. To adjust, you push two buttons that are on opposite sides of the paddle, pull the paddle apart and then slide it back into another notch. The lock feels solid and once in place there is no play. I like this system better than the lever lock systems used by other companies, and I like it better than spring clips.
The one feature that I’m torn about is the texture of the paddle shaft. The shaft is carbon, and usually carbon shafts are smooth. On this paddle, the texture is rough and made of concentric circles that run around the shaft. I thought that it would provide extra grip and perhaps it does, but at first it just wasn’t comfortable in hand. That comfort issue passed, but leaves me feeling torn about the shaft.
The important part of the paddle review is how it performs on the water. I love it. The blade feels big enough to grip the water even when the water is aerated. The blade is made plastic reinforced with carbon fibers. It feels stiff and shows little wear and tear after bashing it on rocks. I feel like I don’t have to baby the blades like I would with a full carbon fiber blade. In the water, the blade slices through the water and makes for easy linking of strokes. The shaft seems stiff, but not as stiff as other paddles that I used. This makes the big blade feel like it has more give than it should and makes the paddle easy on the shoulders. I can easily paddle with the Manta Ray all day long, and still have the power of a big blade when needed. The only criticism that I have about the paddling performance is that no matter how I adjusted my paddle stroke there’s a slight splash on the catch.
Overall, I enjoyed testing the Aquabound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle for this review. I like the paddle so much that it has become my go to paddle for everything this summer. At $189, it’s a steal.
- More info: Aquabound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle
- Buy at REI: Aquabound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle for free from Aquabound as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.