over a year since we've posted a review of the Infinity Ottertail stand up paddle and it was
time we took a second look at the design. In knee to shoulder high
surf, we took the narrow bladed Ottertail out into SoCal surf to find the pros,
cons, and overall performance of the unique blade design.
The design has roots in surf-ski paddle design and as such
was originally developed for ocean waterplay. We actually had occasion to speak
with the inventor of the design and it was clear to us that a lot of though
went into the birth of the Ottertail. Design and theory aside, let's talk about
how the paddle performed for us.
What better place to start than at the top with the
handle. The Infinity Ottertail handle is sort of a contoured T-grip. It's
comfortable and controlled. Many paddlers prefer a T-grip over a molded grip
because they feel they have more control over the blade and while padding and
surfing. It's somewhat a matter of personal preference and the discussion is
extensive enough to merit another article, so we'll just say that for this
paddle, the T-grip is probably the best hand for the design, and it's is
actually quite comfortable. We didn't notice any hotspots or unusual hand
positioning while using the paddle.
The shaft had comfortable flex and good power transfer. In
indicator of a good paddle is that you don't have to worry about it and it
seems to do what you'd like it to. Such was the case with the Ottertail. It's
lightweight, easy to paddle, without putting undue stress on the elbows back,
shoulders or knees. Paddle that are too stiff tend to be hard on joints and
ligaments, while paddles that are too soft lack in power transfer. The
Ottertail seems to have found a happy median.
The blade is really a work of art in itself and has pros
an cons to it depending on your own personal theory. The blade is almost liked
up straight with the shaft. Unlike more traditional stand up paddles while
feature a blade angle of about 12 degrees, the Ottertail blade checks in at a
mere 2 degree angle. We figure that the gradual increase in width from the tip
of the blade to the shaft may discount the need for and angled blade when it
enters the water. In fact the blade has great water entry. Additionally, as promoted by Infinity, you can regulate the power of your stroke by the depth at which you sink the blade while you paddle. As such the paddle is never running in just one gear. These are definite pros of
At the beginning of the stroke, the blade enters the water
smooth and even and feels very similar to the new Kialoa Methane at the
beginning of the stroke. The blade has surprisingly good catch resulting in
effective forward propulsion. The completion of the stroke is where the
straighter blade angle may become noticeable. When stroking with a traditional
angled blade, the stroke releases near your heal and the blade comes clean out
of the water without lifting water with it. In the case of a straight blade
when the stroke is complete and the blade is lifted from the water, it also
lifts water with it, pushing the board down into the water and requiring a
second effort to recover from the stroke.
In other words, with a traditional 12 degree angled blade,
with a proper stroke you feel a pull a the beginning of the stroke, and easy
release and a pull at the start of the stroke again. Witha straight blade such as the Ottertail, you
will experience a pull at the start, a pull at completion of the stroke and a
pull at the beginning of the next stoke. If you aren't spending hours in the
water, it won't make a difference, however if you are spending all day on the
water, you'll exert more energy with each stroke than you would with a traditionally
Is there a trade off? Given the choice, some people prefer
a straight paddle over and angled one. The paddle definitely has a smooth
non-jolting entry and release from the water which may result in less strain on
the joints and ligaments. Ifyou're
trying to make a decision, as always, find a demo and give one a try for a day
In the surf, the paddle performed great. No complaints and no worries. Infinity recommoments cutting the paddle slightly longer than your normal paddle length to compensate for the longer blade, a whopping 11" in fact. As with any paddle, if it's too long, you'll may get the blade hung up on the board when switching sides in the surf, so keep that in mind as you determine your Ottertail paddle length.
Infinity's master shaper Steve Boehne is most often seen
with the Ottertail paddle and the guy knows his stuff. Does that mean it's
right for you, not necessarily, but it's definitely worth giving it a look to
see if it fits your paddle style. For more information on the Infinity
Ottertail stand up paddle, visit www.infinitysurfboards.com.
You are welcome to comment on this article and share your
experience or thoughts about the Ottertail by Inifinity.
THE SIZE OF THE BOARD DOESN'T MATTER AS MUCH AS THE AGE AND PHYSIC OF THE PADDLER. I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND MY 6.5" BLADE FOR A GUY YOUR HEIGHT. YOU WOULD DO BEST WITH THE 7" BLADE WHICH HAS THE SAME POWER AS A REGULAR SQUARE BLADED PADDLE. THE ADVANTAGE OF THE OTTERTAIL IS THAT IT DOES NOT "WOBBLE" WHEN YOU TAKE A STROKE AND THE POWER AREA IS AT THE TOP OF THE BLADE NOT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLADE. YOU CAN EXERT MORE FORCE AGAINST THE WATER WHEN THE POWER AREA OF THE BLADE IS CLOSER TO YOU RATHER THAN FURTHER AWAY. ALSO, WHEN EVER YOU WANT AN EASIER STROKE, YOU JUST HAVE TO RAISE THE POWER AREA ABOVE WATER AND PADDLE WITH THE SKINNIER PART OF THE BLADE.
I am 5'9, 180lbs and ride a 12.0 board that's 32" wide in Costa Rica. It seems to me, that using an ottertail would give me less power than conventional paddles because my board is so wide and stable. Does the size of your board make a difference?
YES, THE TWO DEGREE BENT SHAFT OTTERTAIL PADDLE MAY GIVE AWAY SOME POWER AT THE END OF YOUR STROKE, BUT THE SAME THEORY WITH OPPOSITE RESULTS APPLIES TO A CONVENTIONAL 12 DEGREE BENT SHAFT PADDLE ALSO; IT GIVES AWAY POWER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE STROKE. PERSONALLY, I CONSIDER THE BEGINNING OF MY STROKE THE POWER PHASE, THEREFORE, I TEND TO MINIMIZE THE END OF THE STROKE AND RETURN TO THE NEXT STROKE - POWER PHASE AS QUICKLY AS POSABLE. THIS ALSO DIMINISHES ANY PULL DOWN EFFECT.
I SEE THAT YOU NOTICED THE "GEAR SHIFTING" ABILITY OF THE DEEPER BLADE, BUT THE REAL BIG DEAL ON THE 6.5" OTTERTAIL PADDLE IS SO SIMPLE: IT IS JUST A MUCH SMALLER BLADE. THIS IS GREAT FOR SOME PEOPLE AND NOT SO GOOD FOR OTHERS DEPENDING ON THEIR STRENGTH AND PHYSIQUE. FOR EXAMPLE, A 200 LB, 5'9" GUY IS VERY POWERFUL AND WOULD PREFER A REGULAR SHAPED BLADE OR OUR 7" OTTERTAIL BLADE. HOWEVER, A TALL, THIN GUY OR AN OLDER GUY OR GIRL WILL PREFER THE LOWER GEAR THAT THE 6.5" OTTERTAIL OFFERS. IT IS MUCH EASIER TO PULL THROUGH THE WATER AND IS MUCH EASIER ON YOUR ELBOW AND SHOULDER JOINTS.