I have been using VE paddles for some time now as I was able to very quickly order a set of customs left handed cranked full carbon paddles and have them delivered within in matter of days. Superb service. This was a lifesaver and I have found that the construction and durability is as good as the customer service.
I was intrigued when I saw that VE also make a range of Sea Kayaking/Touring paddles. I managed to get hold of a set of Vertical Element Explorer Aircore Pro paddles for review.
I grew up on the North East coast of England and spent a great deal of time paddling in the sea whether it be surfing or exploring the cliffs and rocky shore a matter of a few miles from my home. Although I really enjoy paddling in the sea if on a long trip in heavy swell I do get seasick and remember a number of trips when I was younger where I was hit hard by seasickness. I must confess that over the years the surfing has continued but the exploring the coast has dropped off.
However over the course of the summer I spent some time up on the West Coast of Scotland at the Unsponsored HQ summer retreat centre opposite Knoydart. This part of the world is a haven for both whitewater and sea kayaking, so it made sense to take advantage of the sheltered waters around Loch Hourn.
I had taken my WW gear up on the eight hour drive with the aim of hunting down some lesser know white water. But I also took two pairs of Vertical Element Aircore Pro paddles in full carbon along for the ride.
Light, powerful and efficient!
The high angle versitile design connects smoothly with the water, right from the catch through to the exit of each stroke.
Carbon blades are stiffer and more bouyant than glass blades providing improved performance.
The straight carbon shaft is also stiffer providing excellent power transfer, favoured by performance paddlers.
The shaft incorporates an oval grip and drip rings as standard with an option to include an adjustable split joint.
Ideal for fitting in the car, travelling or as an emergency paddle.
VE paddles are available direct from the VE website. They are made to order to your exact specifications. Length, feather, blade and shaft construction are all up to you. The paddles can be supplied with a straight or cranked shaft.
The paddles provided had different sized blades. A total of three blade sizes are available and can be chosen as part of the custom package.
Small – 615cm2
Medium – 650cm2
Large – 685cm2
I had the small and medium blades for review.
You also have the ability to decide on whether or not the shaft has ovalised grips on both sides, just one side or not at all. In addition 2-piece and 4-piece options are also available for straight-shafted paddles. The likelihood of not being able to get a paddle exactly how you want it is pretty slim!
The paddles in this case were 2-piece break down paddles with full carbon blades and shafts. The two piece system meant that I was able to tailor both the length and feather of the paddle to my own personal requirements. It also means they are easier to transport, store and to fasten to the deck of a sea kayak for emergency use.
It also allows 10cm of adjustment to allow the paddler to adjust their cadence/gearing for the prevailing conditions – likewise with angle. A high angle offset would be preferable in headwinds but for side winds a low angle is preferred.
The great advantage of the system is that adjustments can be made on the fly without the need for any tools. A simple lever is used to close the clamp. This provides a solid connection with no play what so ever. I was able to adjust the paddle at the start of my first coastal trip and have them dialed in within a few moments.
The Explorer’s are high angled blades. The blade length stays the same for all sizes the blade width / aspect decreases as the area increases.
The Explorer is currently the only sea kayak/touring paddle within the VE range. However a new high aspect low/high angled hybrid sea kayak paddle called the ‘Voyager’ is due for release shortly.
The new Voyager paddle is a great compliment to the Explorer. The Explorer is great for short day trips and multi day trips, coastal work and surf; the Voyager is great for longer distance, long days, multi day trips, expeditions, cruising and those who like it mellow.
Shaft and blade options can be tailored to feel, performance and price preference. The adjustable split joint allows the paddle to be broken down to fit on the deck and for easy transport.
So how did they perform?
I spent a few days paddling with both sets of paddles. After they were quickly dialed to left handed at around 35 degrees I was off and away. Having used larger WW blades for so long I thought that the relatively smaller blade surface area would be an issue however this was not the case. The distribution of the area and shape is just right for efficient paddling. The blades entered and exit the water very smoothly with no sign of flutter or drag but plenty of bite and power. The Aircore on the rear of the blades make them extremely buoyant. This aids the paddles to resurface quickly making paddling feel extremely smooth and precise.
I found them very easy to set up and extremely efficient to use. The finish and build quality was also spot on. My whitewater paddles have taken a beating over the last few years so I know that VE gear will stand up to pretty much anything you can throw at them. I loved my time using the VE paddles and if I were to take up sea kayaking or touring I would definitely be looking at getting a set of these.