Shortly after SNEWSÂ® ran a review of the Werner Ikelos touring paddle (five out of five hands clapping -- our highest rating), we received a call from Lendal and we were informed that its Kinetik Touring was often the paddle of choice at demos when compared to like models from other brands. Game on (!) was our reply.
Lendal hails from Scotland. And like many things in Scotland, the paddlers are hard-core freaks (and we mean that in a nice way) who push the envelope in rough, cold conditions while paddling boats that are thin and tender (paddler's lingo for tippy) by contemporary standards. Their Class II is most people's Class IV. Their 5.9 is most people's 5.11. Being an island country in a northern clime, the paddling is exposed and raw. The conditions favor solid skills and equipment.
Shortly after the initial call we received a box from Lendal that was scarcely large enough to hold a packable fly rod. Upon opening it we discovered the appropriate contents for making two four-piece carbon fiber paddles. Two of those pieces made up a straight touring shaft, two more pieces made up a bent touring shaft and a pair of Kinetik Touring and Kinetik S blades rounded out the package.
The pieces made paddles through the use of a spring-loaded push button system that had been used successfully for decades on paddles and adjustable backcountry ski poles. These push buttons however, have a high tech alter ego. Each had a small hole in the button itself that accepted an enclosed Allen wrench. With a few gentle turns of the Allen wrench, a threaded barrel is engaged and pushes on the wall opposite the button (Paddlok System). The result is that a four-piece paddle is rendered as solid as a one piece, a remarkable achievement. Still, our tester noted that it seemed inherently wrong to have to read directions and use a tool to put a paddle together -- what if you lose or break the Allen wrench while on a long expedition? The tester qualified that with, "With so many pieces, this stick would be my first choice for a break down on remote waters."
Despite misgivings, we do understand Lendal's design intent. By incorporating a four-piece system, it's possible to completely customize and update paddling preferences at any time without having to purchase an entirely new paddle. Want to change a blade shape or material? Easily done. Want to shorten up the paddle shaft? Again, easily done.
Lendal also uses similar technology (VariLok System) in adjusting the length and offset on the straight shaft. Instead of several preset positions, the adjustment is virtually unlimited. The bent shaft tested accommodated what appeared to be zero and 60 degree offsets.
In the water, both the Kinetik Touring and the Kinetik Touring S (slightly narrower in blade width) grabbed water and allowed the paddler to move the boat. Unlike most traditional carbon paddles, both the straight and bent shafts exhibited a comfortable, almost unnoticeable bit of flexing, which many paddlers will welcome. Our tester, who swears by straight shafts and insists that those with wrist issues need to lighten their grip, found the bent shaft comfortable and extremely neutral. While going forward fast is what these paddles are all about, our tester, however, felt that the blade did not perform sculling motions and bow draws with a degree of finesse equal to many other high-end touring paddles.
Assembly complications aside, the Lendal Kinetik Touring and Kinetik Touring S are very capable high-end paddles. Lendal's Paddlok System enables a four-piece paddle to feel and perform like a one piece -- with no noticeable weight gain -- and that is a beautiful thing. We could also see why many paddlers do opt for the Lendal at paddling demos. Perfection, however, is just that. While our tester was thrilled by the overall performance of both paddles as well as the versatility and easy and rock solid feel of Lendal's VariLok and Paddlok Systems, both the Kinetik Touring and the Kinetik Touring S's blades ultimate lack of finesse and the more complicated assembly compared to other paddles knock the overall review score down a notch.
SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping. (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection).
Suggested retail: Lendal Kinetik Touring: $350 straight shaft; $385 bent shaft.
Lendal Kinetik Touring S: $350 straight shaft; $385 bent shaft.
Add $25 for Lendal's VariLok System