AT Geronimo Paddle: Carbon Bent Shaft
Reviewer Stats: 5’10”, 155 lbs, 74.5″ wingspan
- 30-degree right-hand control
- Standard shaft diameter
- Surface Area: 725 sq cm
- Length x Width: 48 x 19.5 cm
- Material: Carbon Duraweave with Innegra
- Design: Large river-running blade
MSRP (Ergo/Bent Shaft): $375
Days Tested: 15
Test Locations: Colorado, Pacific Northwest
Test Conditions: Creeking, river running, waterfalls
I’ve predominantly used the same paddle for the past six years – a fiberglass bent shaft Werner Powerhouse (I currently paddle the all carbon version).
By last spring, the blades on my latest Powerhouse had worn intolerably thin, so I needed a new paddle. It bothered me that in a decade of paddling, there had been no obvious advances in paddle technology that I was benefiting from. As if speaking directly to me, I found that Adventure Technology (AT) had just introduced several new lines of paddles, clearly designed to compete directly with Werner’s premium line.
AT’s press release said that customer feedback indicated that kayakers wanted paddles with improved strength, durability, and abrasion resistance, while also reducing weight and cost. AT’s promise is that they’ve found a formula to do just that. They introduced a new line of paddles with redesigned blade shapes, and infused their composites with a new material called Innegra, a composite fiber that they claim is more buoyant and has greater primary and secondary strength.
AT claims that their testing demonstrates superior strength and abrasion resistance over their competition (cough cough, Werner). This is exactly what I was looking for, so with reckless abandon, I took a big slurp of the Kool-Aid and purchased a new AT Geronimo carbon bent shaft.
The shape of the Geronimo looks very similar to my old Powerhouse, with a fairly equal amount of blade surface above and below the dihedral. Aside from subtle white logo graphics, it retains the color of the black carbon weave. This is aesthetically pleasing, but I prefer brighter and more visible colors on fiberglass models for the unlikely event that my paddle and I part ways.
Although the Geronimo’s listed weight is an insignificant few grams less than the Powerhouse, the weight felt less balanced, with more weight distributed around the ends of the shaft. I’m unsure whether this is due to heavier blades or the wider ovular shape of the grips, but the result is a less uniform weight distribution across the entire blade.
The Geronimo has large river running / creeking blades with a slight dihedral shape. This shape tends to reduce flutter (the annoying sensation of the blade making slight, unintended rotational movements as you pull it through the water), but at the cost of less power. The blade has 5 sq cm more area than the Werner Powerhouse, barely enough to be perceptible to me while paddling.
Werner uses a neutral bent shaft position, meaning the hands and blades are aligned along the axis of the shaft. Eyeballing it as best I could, the AT has similar alignment, although the hands may sit a little bit more to the front.
Paddling is a highly repetitive sport, and the blade is your connection between your body and the water. I’m a huge fan of bent shafts purely for ergonomic benefits. I’ve been through several different types of bent-shaft paddles, and not all bends are created equal. Werner tends to favor less indexed (more rounded) bends with a lower angle. The Geronimo’s shaft has flattened, ovular grips on the bend, and a slightly higher-angled bend. I like a high-angle bend, and wish that both paddles had more angle.
A lot of this is personal preference, but I found the grips on the Geronimo to be much more comfortable than the Powerhouse. AT places the bend more towards the inside of the shaft relative to the blades than Werner does. This allows my hands to have a narrower grip and more distance to the blades. On the Powerhouse, I often find myself naturally choking in toward the very insides of the bent shaft grip, while the Geronimo’s oval grips put my hands exactly where I want them. I imagine preferences will vary depending on your body type, but realize that there is a difference. The Geronimo’s grip does seem to force you into a narrower range on the bend, so if you like to vary the width of your grip a lot while paddling, this could be a disadvantage.
I find all grips to be a bit slippery when they’re brand new. Paddle wax has some kind of uncool reputation, but I always use it to eliminate this issue entirely. I like a secure grip, and nothing soothes my nerves better above a big drop than it smelling like I’m at the beach.
The carbon Geronimo is stiff. While the Geronimo is comparable to a carbon Werner in stiffness, it feels just a smidge stiffer. I prefer a little flex in my paddle. I’m completely unconvinced that there’s any significant performance advantage to a stiff paddle unless you happen to be representing your country on the Olympic slalom team. The best-feeling paddle I ever owned was a Woody Custom wood paddle, which had a lot of flex, but also a lot of power. A little bit of flex is not only kinder on your joints, but also has a nicer feel that I enjoy. A well-designed paddle can flex in a way that provides a smooth and consistent resistance through the entire stroke, and elicits a “spring” sensation as the stroke is disengaged and energy from the flexion is released.
Nonetheless, the Geronimo’s stiffness is on par with most carbon blades, and is not a strong differentiator in its class. The fiberglass version of this paddle is presumably less stiff but incurs a weight penalty.
So, how did big blades and a stiff construction translate to performance on the water? These two characteristics can provide more power per stroke, but sometimes at the cost of fatigue or pain after a long day on the water.
The Geronimo’s combination of stiffness, blade shape, and size offered a very smooth, powerful catch, providing a large amount of power in the initial part of each stroke. This is especially advantageous in creek boating, when a powerful boof stroke is critical. The Geronimo has an edge over the Powerhouse in this respect. Duffecks, draws, sweep strokes, and forward strokes all felt very natural and smooth, and the transition from the Powerhouse was almost seamless.
After putting in a couple of laps one day on Gore Canyon (which has a long flat water paddle in) and a couple of longer days of paddling in the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t find that these characteristics adversely affected my ability to paddle long days due to increased fatigue or soreness. In fact, I believe the more ergonomic grips on the shaft tempered any negative effects I might have otherwise experienced from the paddle’s construction. I was able to take advantage of the large blade when necessary, but could still take less powerful strokes when I needed to conserve energy.
NEXT: Strength and Durability