Every time I head out on my SUP, someone remarks on my paddle. With a shaft made from a single bamboo stalk, it is admittedly eye catching, and though I’m definitely not the kind of person who picks gear based on how it looks, every time someone mentions my Grass Sticks paddle, it reminds me that I really like it. Without those mentions, I probably wouldn’t think about the paddle at all, which is probably the highest compliment I can pay it. Let me explain.
The point of the sports I like is to forget that I’m using gear in the first place. I want to get into the flow state of skiing powder, carving singletrack, or riding waves as quickly and easily as possible; gear can break the spell by calling too much attention to itself. The best gear works seamlessly with your body.
With a paddle, negative capabilities usually means being heavy or cumbersome or to stiff or too floppy. My Grass Sticks SUP paddle is none of those things. It’s light, has great grip, and a great flex. It’s an excellent tool for most any application—lake paddling, river paddling, and catching surf.
Bamboo is famously light stuff. Every Grass Sticks paddle is custom-built with choices of length and blade material (and color), and mine weighs in at 27 ounces. That’s pretty close to what the highest-end carbon fiber paddles weigh—at $100 less. Opting for a carbon fiber foam core blade, rather than the fiberglass I went for, would save an ounce or two and make for a more buoyant paddle, but would sacrifice durability. The paddle is light enough that even after a full day on the water, it never feels like a burden.
Bamboo has a natural flex that falls in the middle of the range. Stiffer paddles convey the power of your stroke more efficiently, but after long continuous use, your joints will start to ache. That flex also adds a little bit of snap to the stroke, which feels good and dynamic. The company calls it “grown from the ground flex,” which seems right.
Bamboo, like wood, has what paddlers refer to as a “warmer” feel, too. While some of that might be a psychological preference for natural materials, wood and bamboo are actually less conductive than plastic or carbon, so the palm of your hand stays warmer. Each Grass Stick is hand sanded and covered with four coats of marine grade varnish, which makes for a smooth but grippy feel even when wet. The paddle blade has an 11-degree bend, perfect for all around use. Mainly, the paddle just feels very comfortable in the hand, and through the water, seamlessly translating my intention to move the board.
Bamboo is, of course, much more eco-friendly than petroleum-based plastic and resin-encased and manufactured fiberglass and carbon fiber. Even better than wood, bamboo grows at exceptional speed—per acre harvested, bamboo produces three times more lumber than trees. It’s just as durable as carbon fiber, too. (Wood and plastic make for prohibitively heavy or just plain crappy SUP paddles.) That there is no sacrifice in performance for a more eco-friendly product is remarkable.