Chris has been kayaking, canoeing and coaching for the last 15 years and runs his own business Chris Brain Coaching, delivering paddlesport coaching, safety and rescue courses and REC First aid training. Chris is a keen and passionate boater with a real love for coaching in a range of paddlesport disciplines.
When and how did you first start paddling?
I first started paddling when I was 15 after my Dad and I inherited two 4 meter long fiberglass kayaks that had been retired by the fire brigade! We took them down to our local river, wearing life jackets that didn’t fit and our cycling helmets. When we arrived at the river we clearly didn’t look like we knew what we were doing as the local paddlers suggested that for our own safety we took some lessons instead! That was sound advice and the coaches at the activity centre started to show us the way, at least we were paddling plastic boats and wearing kayaking equipment that actually fitted us. I was being taught by some great paddlers that had the latest boats at the time, either the Acrobat 270 (if they were into freestyle) or Microbat 230 (if there were serious about their creeking) they were so cool!
I instantly became captivated with paddling and pretty quickly I was in the river giving it my best. I managed to get someone to lend me a “rodeo” boat and started trying to tail squirt and do bow enders and pirouettes before I could even roll, basically every time the boat went over I had to swim. I think my record of swimming was 15 times in one session, but I quickly cut that number down the next few times on the water as my roll improved.
I have been using a set of VE paddles for years and love the design, feel and robustness of the setup. So Stu seemed to be the ideal man to contact. After a few emails and quick telephone conversation Stu confirmed that he was able to come up with a solution pretty quickly.
OK first things first, I am right-handed but paddle left-handed and have done for decades. This makes the process of purchasing paddles a bit of a nightmare! My last two sets of paddles have been Werner Sidekicks and in the case of my full carbon versions had involved a long wait for them to arrive from the States.
I make no apologies for comparing the Vertical Element paddles against my Werner paddles in this review as Werner paddles are considered by many to be the best WW paddles on the market.
Vertical Element paddles are put together here in the UK, any length, any feather. So from ordering, paying and then receiving, in my case took all of four days including a weekend. This in itself makes them a very attractive option for me. My VE’s are full carbon, cranked shaft, set at 35 degrees and 197cm in length. So apart from the cranked shaft I have went for a set up that is identical to the Werner Sidekicks that I have been using for the last few years. I have been using the VE’s for a couple of months now so it’s about time to commit my initial thoughts to the site.
A little background on VE:
Vertical Element is a British company driven by elite paddlers with backgrounds in composite engineering and advanced design.
Using this experience and knowledge we have created a new standard in white water paddles.
After an extensive period of research and development by Britain’s finest creeking and freestyle paddlers, we are ready to share this innovation in paddle design with you.
VE offers a personalised service priding itself in the manufacture of lightweight paddles that optimize power and enhance performance