A current trend in wing-paddle manufacturing is to produce the lightest and stiffest paddle possible. If this is what you are looking for in a paddle, you may as well stop reading here and look elsewhere. Serious kayak racers will be better off with something like the Lendal Kinetik Wing or the FastKayak Flyer (see my review on that model here). But with its Hammer model, Quebec-based Simon River Sports (SRS) offers something different.
Indeed, if I could only have one paddle for all the paddling I do, the Hammer would top the list. This model, which starts at $220 (Canadian dollar), is available with a carbon, aluminum or fiberglass shaft, as well as three-piece and five-piece break apart options. The blades are made of carbon-reinforced plastic and are fairly heavy and durable.
For the price, the most sensible option for the Hammer might be the five-piece fiberglass configuration, which costs $265 (CDN) and weighs just one ounce more than the carbon-shaft model. The carbon shaft saves a tiny amount of weight and costs about $65 more.
The Hammer blades are a mid-wing shape, making them appropriate for racing or distance touring. The blades attach by sliding over the ends of the outer shaft pieces and locking in place with a spring tensioned pin. The fit is not super tight, so there is a bit of wobble in the blades. But the system is durable, and the parts are easy to replace if lost or broken.
The shafts fit together nice and snug. The connection system is easy to adjust on the fly, but it often slips a bit during use and can be quite annoying. After some time, I was able to adjust my paddling and grip so that this no longer happened.
SRS’s adjustment system allows for infinite feathering angle (0 to 360 degrees) and a shaft length from about 200 to 250 cm. All pieces are easily removed for repair and cleaning.
The best part about this paddle is its strength. After the first use, I was clear as to why the paddle is named the Hammer — the blades seem indestructible. I bet they could be used to pound in a nail (I did not actually test this theory!).
Over the past year, I have used the Hammer paddle extensively during long adventure races and multisport expeditions. While wing paddles are not typically used in whitewater, once I adjusted to the blade shape, I found that the paddle had a great bite even in fast current. I also never had to worry about breaking the blade against the rocks. During an expedition on Mount Rainier last May, where my group summited and climbed over the mountain before paddling a river through the park back toward a trailhead (see story here), the Hammer paddles doubled as our shovels in the snow. They hacked through ice and snow like they were made for the task.
While the heft of the Hammer paddles do fatigue me more than other “race” paddles, I was smiling in the recent GoldRush Adventure Race when the river got shallow and rocky and all the other teams had to drag their boats instead of risking breaking a blade. We powered through with the stout Hammers.
A final note: The Hammer paddle packs down small enough to travel in a carry-on airline bag. Its small size, relatively inexpensive price, and its indestructible construction, make the Hammer a perfect blade for a wide scope of paddling adventures. http://www.simonriversports.com
—Jason Magness is a founder of the YogaSlackers.