I have thoroughly enjoyed testing Gearlab’s new Nuka paddle in a variety of water conditions. Billed as a “standard” paddle in Gearlab’s line-up, it isn’t meant to have the sleek performance of the Akiak and Nukilik, nor the special purpose capabilities of the Aukaneck and Kayakid. But, I was delightfully surprised at how wonderful this incredibly light and flexible Nuka felt to paddle with.
I felt like I could paddle forever with this light-as-a-feather paddle. Even larger men who tested it admired the weight since it allowed them to effortlessly paddle at a rapid rate, maintaining a quick and steady pace. And, while tough to put into words, the Nuka feels delightful in my hands. It fits like a glove and the smooth carbon finish feels like silk. The black shoulderless design appears particularly streamlined because of its long slim styling. The Nuka is a tenth of an inch slimmer than Gearlab’s performance paddles (the shoulderless Akiak and shouldered Nukilik), which reduces resistance as it moves through both water and air. The Nuka definitely excelled in calm waters where it offered a relaxing, effortless paddling experience.
When I pushed the capability of the Nuka to either increase speed or combat rough waters, I felt its limits. I felt more flex and flutter when I employed a powerful stroke than with any other Gearlab paddle. In rough open water conditions, the Nuka provided slightly less power and control. Using a GPS tracking monitor, I noted that I paddled approximately a half-mile per hour slower with the Nuka as compared to with the Akiak/Nukilik. Since the Nuka lacks the replaceable polyamide tips of the performance and special purpose paddles, I would recommend using it in open water conditions where potential contact with rocks will be minimal.
The new Nuka paddle is more than a “beginner’s paddle.” It provides all levels of paddlers a light, flexible tool to use for extended trips on calm water. It isn’t intended to excel in areas that other Gearlab paddles do, such as racing, rough waters, windy conditions, open surf, and rocky zones. While experienced paddlers will enjoy the Nuka as much as I do, it also would be an ideal paddle for someone new to Greenland carbon fiber paddles. I absolutely recommend testing the waters of Greenland-style paddling with Gearlab’s new Nuka!