Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bending Branches Sun Shadow Crank Paddle Review

Last spring, I was seriously contemplating adding the Bending Branches Navigator paddle to my collection. It is strong, light, and beautiful. Then I bounced the idea off of Confluence rep and outdoor Renaissance man Andrew Miller and he said something that really stuck with me. What makes a wood paddle so great is the feel. There is nothing like the feel of a wood paddle in your hand - the grain, the texture, the character. So I went back to the Bending Branches site to re-evaluate. There were two full wood kayak paddle options - the Sun Shadow Crank and the Impression. After making a pros-cons list, I decided on the Sun Shadow Crank, and I could not be happier.


The Sun Shadow Crank (SSC) is a strong, ergonomic wood paddle for folks who want to combine beauty and performance. I opted for the "Day Blade", which is best for high angle, aggressive paddlers. It also comes with two other blade options for low angle paddling and fast paced, touring cadences. The Day Blade moves a ton of water and has performed well in both lakes and rivers.


The shaft is composed of laminate basswood and the blades are mix of red alder, butternut, and basswood with a rock guard around the edge. It is a gorgeous paddle and I constantly get compliments on the water and at the launch. It comes in either zero or sixty degree offsets (I use the zero) and with a two piece, push button ferrule design. I use the 230 cm model in both my ATAK and Ride 115X. The "crank" shaft is designed to provide a more ergonomic fit for paddlers. It did take me a few trips to adjust to, but now I love it, and mix it up between wider and narrower grips.

Before I get into the cons, keep in mind that this is a wood paddle, and they are in a different class than other material types. The first con is weight. The Day Blade option weighs in at 41.5 oz, while the Twilite blade is the lightest at 38 oz. For refernce, my Angler Pro weighs in at 30 oz. The Impression, another full wood paddle, weighs 37 oz and the Navigator, a hybrid, is 28 oz. The difference is noticable, but I wouldn't say it significantly affects performance. And again, you just cannot beat the look.


Because the shaft is made of wood, it is not offered in a Plus ferrule option. Neither are any all wood kayak paddles on the market. I really like the Bending Branches Plus ferrule, but again, it is one of the trade offs linked to paddling with wood. The paddle shaft is also quite large in diameter. Personally, I have fairly large hands and like the way it feels, but it is something to consider before purchasing.

The final con is cost. The SSC costs around $260, while the Impression is $169 and Navigator is $299-$325. However, I just went over to the Bending Branches site to confirm those numbers and noticed that the SSC is now being retired due to lack of wood availability. What a bummer! So, I advise folks to snatch them up while you can. You may likely find some discounted or end of stock prices floating around as well.

I don't necessarily think the SSC is an ideal long distance touring paddle for most folks, but it is a great paddle for high level recreational users, anglers, and shorter touring trips. It has performed extremely well for me on short (1-6 mile) paddling trips and fish excursions in various types of water. So if you too are looking for that perfect look and feel that only wood provides, check out the Sun Shadow Crank! Tight lines!


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