In a previous issue, I reviewed GEARLAB’s AKIAK, NUKILIK and KAYAKID. All three designs offered something different to the Greenland paddler; the AKIAK offering the more traditional style, the KAYAKID delivering a performance edge and the NUKILIK providing a perfect balance between the two. Something I really loved about GEARLAB’s split design composite Greenlands is the ability to store them on the deck and switch between Euro-style and Greenland paddles. I was so impressed that I now own an AKIAK, going for the more traditional design and have been thoroughly enjoying this ‘purist’ style of paddling, which offers an added variety to my excursions. Now GEARLAB have released their new model, The AUKANECK, rumoured to surpass the ingenuity of the KAYAKID and excel in rough ocean conditions, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
- GEARLAB PADDLES AUKANECK, canbon black
One thing becomes immediately apparent with the AUKANECK; this paddle means business. Resembling a futuristic helicopter blade, the AUKANECK has the same high quality finish and pleasing aesthetics I have now come to expect from GEARLAB. As with all GEARLAB paddles, the quality, attention to detail and innovation in both design and engineering is second to none in the composite Greenland paddle market.
Designed with power and conditions in mind, the AUKANECK is 210cm in length, with a sharp 10.8cm wide, tear drop blade and features a shoulder grip design for a positive grip. Available in Carbon or Kevlar, this paddle splits into two pieces and features GEARLAB’s unique D-Joint integrating corrosion proof titanium alloy for strength and rigidity. Assembly is straightforward, the join line is barely visible and with the low-profile release button, you may be fooled into thinking it was a one piece.
Now standard on all GEARLAB paddles, the blades are protected by exchangeable polyamide paddle tips that are integrated into the design. The Aukaneck’s tips come in a choice of colours - white, black or orange as well as a choice in style with rounded or square tips.
- tip choice of colours and shapes
ON THE WATER
Due to the sharp crisp design of the blades coupled with the ingenious integration of the protective paddle tips, the sharp blades slice through the surface effortlessly and really add an element of precision and control over each paddle stroke. In line with my previous experiences of GEARLAB paddles, the joint on the AUKANECK is faultless - there was no movement at all throughout the entire four-week test. Since my last GEARLAB review, I have purchased an AKIAK which features the same D-Joint and interchangeable tip design. After four months of use, there is still no movement or noticeable damage to the tips and judging from the exacting standards set by GEARLAB, the AUKANECK will perform in exactly the same way.
With the light, hollow design and wide blade, this paddle is extremely buoyant, which not only makes paddling effortless, but adds a real sense of security. Bracing and rolling is effortless and the very wide design offers a unique range of paddle strokes utilised in both Euro and Greenland paddling. This was a very welcome surprise, adding a new experimental and playful element to my paddling, however these blades come into their own in conditions.
The increased width and surface area of the AUKANECK delivers a very noticeable difference to the amount of power that can be generated in both forward paddling speed and performance in conditions. There are two ways a paddler can increase paddling speed – increasing the stroke rate or increasing the power per stroke, thus decreasing the stroke rate by travelling further with each stroke. The latter is the preferred method in performance paddling and something I never thought I would experience with a Greenland paddle. The shorter length contributes to this by changing the ergonomics of this traditional style, forcing the paddler to adopt a more active posture whilst rivalling a Euro in rough water handling. The shouldered grip design allows a very positive hand placement, whilst offering resistance when leaning onto the paddle, contributing to both power and support when you need it most.
In contrast, it still offers the traditional feel of a Greenland paddle and delivers equally as well on longer paddles. Even with the wider blades and shouldered grip design, the tapering still facilitates theuse of traditional Greenland techniques and the shortened length may offer the shorter paddler additional benefits in the art.
- GEARLAB PADDLES AUKANECK, kevlar
- GEARLAB PADDLES AUKANECK, orange
THE BOTTOM LINE
The AUKANECK not only looks incredibly smart, but closes the gap between Euro and Greenland paddles whilst challenging the boundaries of possibility. This is a serious piece of kit. GEARLAB have adopted their usual approach of a faultless build quality whilst surpassing themselves in terms of innovation and design. With a well-balanced integration of Greenland style and Euro paddle performance, the AUKANECK delivers on all counts, adding power and performance to an effortless purist form and somehow developing a paddling style of its own.
About the Author
Andy Taylor comes from a composite engineering background and works as a sea kayak coach and guide. He is currently in higher education studying Coaching, Sports Psychology and Biomechanics as well as developing a Not-for-profit organisation that utilises the experience of sea kayaking as a platform for motivational therapeutic interventions. He can be contacted by email – email@example.com
Specification:The Aukaneck has a wider tear-drop shaped blade that provides for powerful strokes and braces well in rough ocean conditions. The shouldered grip design fits the natural contour of paddlers’ hands for comfort and control. Sharp paddle blade edges provide crisp and precise paddling. A shorter length (210cm) handles rough and shallow water with ease. The AUKANECK’s two-piece design breaks down quickly for easy transportation and storage on the kayak deck. The low-profile carbon fiber button release creates a sleek paddle shaft and never rusts. Exchangeable paddle tips made of durable polyamide material are available in both round and flat shapes and are interchangeable. Note that the AUKANECK paddle is wider and uses a unique size tip that does not fit the narrower AKIAK, NUKILIK and NUKILIK Storm blades.
The original review is reported on the Ocean Paddler issue 58.