The Bending Branches Navigator wood kayak paddle dares to combine high-tech materials with the natural beauty of red alder and roasted basswood. For added durability, the blades are wrapped in fiberglass and protected with a Rockgard edge around the blade. The Navigator comes with either a snug-fitting traditional 3 hole snap-button ferrule (adjustable for feathering angles 0° and 60°, L or R) or a more versatile telescoping ferrule with infinite feathering angles. The Navigator with a snap-button ferrule comes is lengths from 210cm to 240cm, in 10 cm increments. The Navigator Plus comes with a more versatile telescoping ferrule with infinite feathering angles.
Blade: Red Alder and Roasted Basswood, Shaft: T-700 Carbon Shaft
After three years of kayak ownership, I'm not experienced enough to compare to every paddle available. All I know is, this is the finest paddle I could ever ask for. It is stiff, lightweight, high-tech and classic in design -- all in one. I already had a perfectly fine carbon paddle -- then I saw this one and had to have it. Period. I love the look -- wood blades on a carbon shaft. I love the ferrule -- which allows easy locking from 215 to 230 cm, and 60-degree left or right. I love the stiffness -- nothing like a carbon shaft. I love the wood blades -- beautifully crafted, yet strongly protected with rockguard and fiberglass. I love to use the paddle -- every time I see it go into and come out of the water, I'm just super-pleased to be out on the water with such a fine piece of equipment. I could not ask for a paddle, and would be surprised if one exists.
OMG heaven... my paddling improved monumentally. I borrowed my neighbors offset carbon fiber with smaller blades and worked my butt off trying to get my cheap boat not to dog walk across the water.
I’ve had much better control with the Navigator. Even though I’ve been kayaking flat water, sloughs have weird currents that are grabby. This light paddle flicks quickly to either side for more efficient corrections.
I regularly use three paddles. I usually carry a Wind Swift as my wind/spare paddle. For expedition paddling, I prefer a Werner Athena, and for day trips I use the Bending Branches Navigator.
The reason I like the Navigator for day trips is that it is slightly heavier than the Athena and notably less forgiving. As such, it builds better paddling tone and requires more attention to form. It will flutter if my stroke gets lazy in situations where the Athena will not. When I switch to the Athena after working out with the Navigator, I feel like superman.
The navigator skulls well and is particularly well designed for a high brace. It's a good surf paddle, but I tend not to want to use it when rock gardening despite the rock guard. The positive flotation is appreciable. Adding to that, it's the coolest look of all my paddles, and I appreciated that it costs significantly less than the Athena.
As a 69 year young novice female kayaker, I was looking for a lightweight recreational kayak & a compatible paddle. The fly shop has given me great advice and help with the kayak & recommended the Navigator paddle. When I learned the construction combined fiberglass & wood I was excited to give one a try, knowing the combination would give me a lightweight paddle resulting in little fatigue with use.
The Navigator has been delightfully easy to learn to use, I even feel smooth & efficient as I enjoy this new sport. I appreciate the quality construction, the beauty of the wood, and the protective surface on the outside edge of the wood. Very pleasing and comfortable grip surface.
Thank you, Bending Branches!
First to describe the design: the Navigator's blades are laminated black willow wood with clear fiberglass and epoxy coating and "Rock Guard" along most of the edges. Rock Guard is a protective resin which covers the edges Bending Branches paddles and on this model, Rock Guard covers the tip and most of the bottom edge of the paddle. I rather wish it went further along the top edge, too, though the paddle has proven to be adequately durable--indeed, more durable than I first thought. I do not treat it much differently now than I did my resin and fiberglass one. The shaft is carbon fiber with very slight oval indexing. The ferrule is top-notch--I have the three-hole button type--so break down is easy. The drip rings are good and firm so they stay put. The paddler overall is very light and very stiff.
Performance: this paddle is rather unforgiving, but when used correctly it is a wonder. The paddle's stiffness puts all of the paddle motion directly into the water. The forward stroke is probably its optimum stroke due to the blades' shape, and the paddle makes it easy to maintain good speed for long distances without fatigue. The blades are flat-faced rather than dihedral. Because there is no spine on the power face, there is no cavity on the back side of the blade, which means that there's few or none of those power-robbing vortices which can form at the ends of the blade--if you have a proper paddle stroke. The blade is also significantly curved, so it catches quickly. This allows for very efficient propulsion--with a proper stroke. A poor or careless stroke causes a lot of flutter and the paddle may feel like it will be snatched from your hands. Also because of the curve, I find it harder to find the best angle for a stationary sculling brace. With this paddle, there is little between a buttery smooth and powerful stroke and one that feels wounded and tottering. The feedback is instructive. With practice, a good stroke will become automatic even in wind and waves. Being wood, the blades are very buoyant compared to plastic ones, and so the paddle is very lively in the water and easy to retrieve at the end of the stroke, which also really cuts down on fatigue.
Bottom line: This is a paddle that amply rewards practice and good form. It allows a paddler to cover a lot of distance quickly without fatigue. Like wooden paddles in general and Bending Branches paddles in particular, the Navigator feels alive in the water. It is solidly built and tough enough within its environment. Above all, this is a truly beautiful paddle, a piece of art which gets noticed and will take you about anywhere you can paddle a sea kayak.
I decided to purchase one and it arrived just in time for my next outing to the lake. I was immediately impressed with the overall quality of construction and the carbon fiber shaft was finished very smoothy, my older paddle was “rough” to the touch which was not a problem as I usually wear gloves, but the Bending Branches was very comfortable to the bare hand. The shaft has the typical 3 position button which was fine, but the Manta Ray had an infinite adjustment coupling which I really liked. The paddle fit together very well and had no "wobble" feel at all when assembled.
The blade section is really a masterpiece of form and function. They use a blend of red alder and roasted basswood in construction and it has a beautiful old school look to it. In addition to that they have a rock guard protective strip on the blade and we all know what that means! The overall weight is 27-28 oz. And the weight is carried to the blades rather than the shaft so it works very well.
The first thing I appreciated was the effortless paddling. It wasn't a "speed" paddle like the Manta Ray but it was much more efficient in transitioning energy to the water. Touring to me means just that, easy efficient paddling for long cursing trips with the ability to cover lots of water effortlessly. That is what the BB Navigator does, and does very well. After a day tour working as a volunteer sweeper for an amateur tour group I was not at all tired out even though as a "sweeper" you are constantly moving and keeping an eye on the crowd and helping people learn kayaking (42 newbies!).
The other thing I noticed was that it, to me, seemed like it was a lot "quieter" in the water than my old paddle. Technique is everything and I immediately developed a bond with this paddle and its effortless design made it a real pleasure right from the get go. I have several paddles and find that switching between them requires a "rethink" of your technique but the Bending Branches Navigator felt like I had been using it for years after about 1 hour of paddling.
If you are looking for a touring style paddle I don't think you can go wrong with this one, it's a real winner!