“The difference in weight is not worth the price”:An el-cheapo alloy-and-plastic is 6-700 grams heavier than a full-carbon set-up. Not much, but you are holding that extra loaf of bread all the time with no let-up. Paddle around for a half-hour and you’ll be jumping at the chance of laying your hands on something that’s a mere 100gm lighter – do the maths: 100gm over 3000 strokes is an extra 300kg, 700gm is over 2 tons! Think of gym sessions with 20kg vs. 10kg weights. It’s the difference between a great invigorating session and a crawling-out-on-all-fours-dragging-your-mashed-muscles-home-and-forget-the-…kayak disaster.
People go fibreglass at this stage, only they usually buy a glass-rod-plastic-paddle combo and end up with a less weighty paddle with blades that still perform like a slice of cheese. Full fibreglass ends up costing only $50-100 less than carbon (labour is the same – see “if it’s not black…” further down).
“Apart from the weight difference, there is no benefit to upgrading”You have to compare paddles to believe it, but plastic flexes. Fibreglass is better, only it ends up costing quite a bit more. With carbon, you can also afford to swing a bigger blade at the end of that shaft without a huge penalty in weight giving you extra oomph if you need it. And there is no beating the feeling of holding that beautiful piece of futuristic art in your hands, so there.
“Reinforced carbon is better than pure carbon”:Reinforced carbon is a misnomer; but anyway, we are talking horses for courses here. If one wants a stiff, fast, light paddle with minimum bend and a pro- feel then one goes pure carbon. If you are going to surf over a reef and-or have never ever cared for an expensive piece of equipment, then get one of my fibreglass-plastic paddles. Pure carbon will chip, because it’s so hard, but you’ll find you are going to have to do some fairly gleeful reef-stabbing to do damage.
On the other hand, if you are going white-water or reef kayaking, do get some good plastic blades on a carbon or fibreglass shaft and use them for that purpose only. You’ll hate the weight and the feel, but there’s no point risking your carbon blades.
If you want to introduce flex into a carbon blade, you do it by adding plastic or glass fibre or wood and you sacrifice rigidity and strength. That is custom-designing for a purpose. It becomes a “(double)composite” paddle, carbon being a composite material already.
“A tiny nick will drastically reduce performance”A small scratch will most probably have no effect on a carbon blade. If the same minor event happened with a plastic blade you’d actually get more damage there. I wouldn’t worry about it, but if you are, a small amount of epoxy should be enough to remedy it as long as you achieve a smooth finish. It’s better to leave it alone rather than give it a bump if you don’t know what you are doing.
I am not encouraging you here to go on a hacking rampage with your carbon paddle. The difference comes with bigger accidents, like when you “stab” a rock or use the paddle to fight off white pointers. You can totally trash a carbon paddle that way, while with plastic you might be able to get away with some fancy cutting and sanding. Wether you’d want to hang on to that custom-redesigned plastic blade is another question.
“If it’s not black it’s not carbon”:Completely wrong, but you have to show the world you have the best gear and at the moment chequered black is the new black. If you want the guts of it - carbon products are made of carbon fibre (duh!) held together with glue (epoxy), manufactured in a generally more expensive, but similar way to fibreglass. In fibreglass products you see no fibres and though most are white, we have come to accept colours. The same is happening with carbon products already.
The most important difference is that both carbon fibre and epoxy are better, lighter, harder, stronger and more expensive.
“If you can not see the weave it’s not carbon”:Same as above
More to follow.