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Bending Branches Navigator Wood Paddle Review

Posted by on October 12, 2012

 

Image Courtesy of Branches LLC

The Deets

Model: Navigator/Journey hybrid (see addendum)

Blade Size: 6.2″ x 20.1″ (96 sq in)

Shaft Type: Satin T-700 Carbon

Lengths Available: 210 cm, 220 cm, 230 cm, 240 cm

Weight:  28 oz

Drip Rings: Black – Heavy Duty

Ferrule Angles: 0º & 60º – Left or Right

Shaft Size: Standard

 

First Impression

The Navigator by Bending Branches is a beautifully crafted wood paddle which is guaranteed to impress on both looks and on-water performance. Constructed from the highly-durable and aesthetically pleasing black willow wood, the Navigator is one of the most attractive paddles available today.

 

 

On the Water  

My past experiences with wood kayak paddles typically end with disappointment. They are often clunky and heavy, providing very little purchase on the water while forcing the paddler to commit excessive energy for little reward. The Navigator violated all of my prior performance expectations. Not only was it extremely lightweight and comfortable to grip, but it glided effortlessly through each and every paddle stroke. The elongated touring blades have an incredible purchase which maximizes the effort put into each stroke. Not only does the Navigator have a light swing-weight, but it effortlessly transitions between each stroke without fluttering, jerking, or wanting to get hung up underwater. Surprisingly, the Navigator’s wood blades provide the same buoyancy and performance as one might find in a carbon-fiber foam core blade.

Because the Navigator is so effortless, it eliminates fatigue and causes little stress on your arms and shoulders. This paddle is highly recommended for a paddler looking for a touring paddle with an aggressive purchase without straining your shoulders. Paddles typically have a certain amount of drag with each stroke which creates a dragging “hiss” through the water. I found that the Navigator performed quite oppositely to that, offering a clean, silent, and buttery smooth entry-and-exit with each paddle stroke.

 

Final Verdict

No other paddle on the market combines such beauty with performance. Similar in performance to the discontinued Werner Little Dipper Classic, the Navigator offers a stable catch, great draw, and an effortless entry-and-exit with every paddle stroke – Highly recommended across the board.

 

+Manufacturer Recommendation

The sanded, smooth shaft can get slippery when wet especially without paddling gloves. The only recommendation I would make to Bending Branches is to keep the shaft with a rough, unsanded finish. This will prevent the paddle shaft from becoming slippery while paddling.

++Addendum

Please note that the paddle tested was a Bending Branches Navigator variant, or hybrid version of the paddle. The paddle demonstrated in this review was a custom Navigator paddle designed with Journey blades. The Bending Branches Journey was a touring paddle formally available but has since been discontinued. This particular paddle was a special order by specialty shop Billington Sea Kayak in Plymouth, MA.

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