C4 Waterman Stand Up Paddle XPR Racing Paddle Review
By: Chip Bock
Friday, 26 December 2008
I too, as most of us “SUP’ers” have been trying to evolve with the quickly changing SUP advancements that seem to be popping up in every new surf publication, on the internet and at local breaks around the globe.
The days of simply “Make a big board, stand on it, grab a big paddle and surf” are long gone. Shapers, surfers and paddle designers are pushing the sport faster and faster with every passing day. As with other areas of the surfing industry, technology and materials are at the tip of the spear in this evolution.
Enter paddle innovator and designer Todd Bradley (co-founder of C4 Waterman) and C4’s latest “Racing Specific” XPR paddle.
I have been using the XPR paddle for the past month or so on a custom 19ft carbon fiber BARK racing SUP and I have to tell you it is really an amazing development in SUP paddle design.
The XPR’s shape is a departure from other current paddle designs in that the outline is wider throughout and in conjunction longer. You can see the overall profile difference in the photo of my original 8.5” C4 racing paddle (right) vs. the XPR race paddle (left). The end of the blade forms a “Diamond Point” as well. The idea is that the pointed tip breaks the surface tension of the water more efficiently and there by creates less turbulence and allows the blade to enter each stroke quicker. The XPR also features an 8.5” diameter blade. Width of SUP paddle blades have varied throughout all of the current manufacturers product lines over the past couple of years, but a common standard in racing paddles has become the 8 to 8.5” diameter. Wider paddles cause too much “eddying” and cavitating during the power phase of the stroke in addition to increased fatigue during races. The XPR also has a shorter “Dihedral Spine” than C4’s other paddle blades. The back of the blade has a much larger “flat” area because it is designed to provide forward thrust and not aid in turning down the face of a wave as their other designs.
Then comes the materials. C4 Waterman paddles feature “Pre-Preg” carbon fiber (“pre-epoxy impregnated”) which provides more stiffness to the carbon along with flex. Carbon Fiber on its own can be “brittle” and therefore Pre-Preg Carbon provides characteristics to the paddle that work to provide strength and efficiency.
Todd Bradley’s middle name is “Efficiency”; as you hear him mention this term frequently when he talks about the future of SUP paddles and boards in respect to racing. Efficiency is where most designers are now headed in designing boards that are fast and provide extended “glide” for competitive racing. The paddle designs are headed in the same direction.
The “tweed” looking pattern you notice on the XPR is not for looks. It is actually Kevlar fabric that is impregnated into the blade during the production process. Another design evolution that Todd and the crew at C4 Waterman have developed is a “multi-stage” flexing blade. The XPR is designed (with the help of the Kevlar) to remain rigid in the top half of the blade, from the middle towards the handle shaft insertion point and “flex” in the bottom 3rd of the blade towards the tip.
The reason for this flex is to allow the blade to flex upon the entry and down stroke phase (or “catch”) of each stroke and then straighten back flat during the power phase of the stroke. This creates a “loading up” of energy and also creates less fatigue during portions of the stroke that are not really propelling your board forward.
Does it work…OH YES.
At first I thought that the handle shaft was flexing too much until I realized that the shaft was actually stiffer than my previous race paddles and the slight “flex” I felt was at the end of the blade each time a began the down stroke phase. It was smooth, light, just enough flex and as Todd had mentioned to me before I used the XPR; I stood straighter and did not have to reach out as far as I normally do to get the real “vertical” entry in order maximize my power stoke. What did that add up to…? Less fatigue and More efficiency…there was that word again.
The real test will be when I am able to use the XPR in the upcoming 2009 racing season that will kick off in April, but right now I think the C4 Waterman XPR racing paddle is yet another evolution we will all soon adopt.
From the Right Coast…Aloha, Happy Holidays and see you in the water!
For more on the XPR from Todd Bradley himself, check out YouTube.com videos and visit C4 Waterman online at http://store.c4wateman.com .
Chip Bock is an accomplished standup paddler out of Cocoa Beach, Florida with top finishings in all events. He writes a bi-monthly article for www.surfguru.com and is active in product testing and development for various stand up paddle companies.