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Kuroshio Greenland Paddle

by GearLab

Reviews

This past spring I ordered a Kuroshio WL paddle from GearLab in…

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This past spring I ordered a Kuroshio WL paddle from GearLab in advance of a 160 mile paddle from Miami to Key West. The kayak trip was an American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life fund raising event held annually in June. Daily mileage ranged from 25 to 30 miles with a combination of protected bays and coastal paddling. Conditions during the trip were mostly favorable with light, quartering winds and a light chop in the bays. The coastal sections presented two to four foot quartering to beam seas. I elected to use a Greenland paddle on the trip for its reportedly effortless/relaxed stroke and subsequent reduction in fatigue over longer paddles. The Kuroshio more than met my expectations.

For those not familiar with Gearlab, they are a Taiwanese company whose designers/engineers are paddlers and outdoors enthusiasts who use the equipment they design and build. I corresponded with their sales representative, Ruby who could not have been more courteous or responsive. When I described my involvement with the ACS fund raising event, she agreed to send an Akiak paddle for me to use and review. This review, however, is for the Kuroshio paddle which I used during the event. As cooler temperatures approach south Florida, I will begin preparing for several, multi-day paddling/camping trips throughout Everglades National Park. At which time I will use the Akiak paddle solely and submit a follow-up review.

When I placed the order, I asked for the paddle package which included a paddle sack and deck bag. Both the sack and deck bag show great attention to details and are well constructed, practical items. The paddle sack is slightly padded around the blades and contains separate slots which prevent the paddles from rubbing against one another. The deck bag has a low profile that does not get in the way and its compartments have more than enough space for essentials such camera, sun screen, snacks, sunglasses, and water bottle. The deck bag, however, is not waterproof a feature I would've gladly paid a little extra for.

I choose the 229cm Kuroshio WL (wide loom) based on general sizing conventions for a 6'1" paddler found throughout the Internet. Although I find the 229cm paddle comfortable, I would go with a 225cm if I were to order another paddle. The wide loom is a wonderful idea and allowed my hands to easily clear the cockpit combing/gunnels of my Nigel Foster Shadow. The fit and finish of the paddle is excellent. The "T-Joint" in the ferule works as advertised and has absolutely no play whatsoever. The paddle has an attractive matte finish.

Being my first Greenland paddle there was a slight learning curve during initial outings, mainly finger/hand placement. I found during my first couple of day trips the paddle fluttered annoyingly if I didn’t set the paddle just right. Once I learned what I was doing wrong, the fluttering disappeared entirely and I began to truly enjoy the paddle. The blade s are very quiet with little to no disturbance along the trailing edge. As other reviewers have noted, the Kuroshio has a notable low swing weight which allowed me to paddle consistently throughout the day. I experienced little to no muscle fatigue or soreness during the trip. The Kuroshio is their shouldered paddle which I chose for ease of hand placement. I find the shoulders provide for a comfortable grip and automatic hand placement. There is no sliding or shifting of the paddle to one side or the other. The black silicone tips, which are sold separately, gave me peace of mind when having to "pole" across the numerous shoals encountered in the back bays and near shore waters of south Florida.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with the Kuroshio paddle and the customer service I received during the ordering process. I had originally intended to alternate the Kuroshio with a Werner paddle during the Florida Keys trip but wound up using the Kuroshio for practically the entire trip. I highly recommend the Kuroshio to anyone looking for a well-constructed, lightweight Greenland paddle that is extremely comfortable to use whether on day trips or extended paddles.

This is just an update on my experience with the Kuroshio paddle…

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This is just an update on my experience with the Kuroshio paddle I reviewed twice before. I used it this past summer as my primary paddle on a 530-mile, 40-day solo trip down the west coast of Vancouver Island from Port Hardy, past Tofino, into the Juan de Fuca Strait, ending at Seattle. There were a few 12-hour days slogging into wind and waves. The low swing weight made a huge difference in how long I could endure paddling into the conditions compared to my heavier wood back-up paddle. The paddle took a beating and came out looking and working great. It took me through some moderate surf landings. I whacked a few rocks and barnacles with it and repeatedly shoved it under my sandy deck bungees, but it came away with only miner cosmetic scratches to the white coating. The joint has always had a precise fit and it stayed that way through the trip despite the nearly one million paddle strokes I took with it. It does like a good waxing with some paraffin from time to time.

This is an update to my August 2014 review. At this point…

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This is an update to my August 2014 review. At this point I have owned the Kuroshio paddle for just over a year. The paddle broke in the loom near the shoulder while surfing in June. I was tumbling about upside down in a foam pile and the paddle came apart in my hands - there was no hitting rocks or seafloor. The paddle simply gave out after a year of heavy use. I emailed their customer service rep, Ruby from my campsite later that afternoon, and by that evening I had received confirmation that a new paddle was being shipped. No questions asked.

Through emailing their sales rep, I found out that the model I was using (2012 Kuroshio) had about a 2% failure rate. If you purchase one of their discounted Kuroshio paddles from their Ebay store, this is the model you'll be purchasing. The updated model has been reinforced in the shoulder, which is supposed to address the issue. This is what you get when you purchase a Kuroshio paddle at full price from their website. HOWEVER, if you purchase an older model Kuroshio paddle from their Ebay store and it breaks, they will replace it with a new one. It's really a win-win. Their customer service is impeccable.

Now I will address points that I made in my 2014 review:

The paddle arrived in a timely fashion, probably just over a week in transit, after about five days processing. The tracking service they used was weird but it worked. Meanwhile, a customer service rep named Ruby was in contact with me (and used very good English, to my delight).

The paddle arrived looking good. The glossy white finish is smooth and glossy, as expected. I have used both the white and black paddles, and while the black carbon fiber weave is beautiful, the white holds up better over time. The "T-Joint" in the ferule prevents rotation at the ferrule. It works well, there is no rotational play even after a year. As others have said, the inner cylinder of the ferrule joint is coated in paraffin wax in order to make the joint tighter. After a year, the ferule joint became harder and harder to put together. I believe this was due to the extremely tight fit that it had to begin with, coupled with grime and roughing from use. As a result, the paddle had no play at the ferule joint, but became a pain to assemble. The new paddle that I received as replacement has far less wax on the ferule, and goes on MUCH easier, but has the same amount of play when assembled (about none). I'd say it has improved.

The one thing that I don't necessarily like about the joint is the carbon ferrule button. The fact that it's made of carbon may or may not have anything to do with this. It just doesn't have much spring to it. So, when you assemble the paddle, the button doesn't snap up through the hole with much force. Sometimes, it only pops up half way. After a year, the button was still behaving the same way. I had feared that it would get worse, but it did not. I have used other Gearlab paddles that did not seem to have this problem, although my replacement does. Luckily it doesn't affect performance.

Now, finally, onto the performance.
• The Kuroshio GP handles nicely. The shoulders are rather sharp and pronounced. This took some getting use to. It gives more leverage (or grip, not sure how to phrase it) but it also forces me to hold the paddle differently. I find myself hold the blades with three fingers and the loom with only one (as opposed to two and two).
• Low swing weight. Compared to my hollow loomed wooden paddle, this GP feels like air in my hands. Low overall weight. The gloss finish doesn't seem to add any weight to the paddle.
• Highly buoyant. The GP is just about as buoyant as my other, hollow loomed wood one (which is even more buoyant than the typical solid wood GP). As a result, this paddle rolls and balance braces well.
• The blades are adequately thin and don't produce any noise or swerves when used with good form. The silicon paddle bumpers that can be purchased do have a slight negative effect on the paddle's performance. When doing low braces the paddle doesn't skim the water's surface as smoothly as it should, due to the 1/8" bump on the blade's face. I took them off. I believe that the new paddle designs with the removable plastic tips offers a good solution to this problem.

The Kuroshio paddle gets an 8/10 rating from me. The paddle is perfect, I love its looks and performance, and I love the company that makes it. They stand behind their products. A year ago I gave the paddle the same rating, for the same reasons. After one year I am still pleased with the paddle, and will be purchasing all of my paddles from Gearlab in the future.

I have owned and used the GP for about one month. I…

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I have owned and used the GP for about one month. I purchased the Gearlab Kuroshio GP on something of an impulse. I knew I wanted a carbon two-piece GP. I used a wooden GP and wanted to have a secondary (and to treat myself to something cool). Originally, I tried to contact Northern Lights GP and after a week with no response, I started looking at other options. Someone suggested Novorca. I'm ok spending $400 for a carbon GP. But $600? No thanks. At some point, the amount of money spent has a diminishing return.

So I said what the heck, let's do gearlab. Their paddles look good. Reviews are good. Their site is new and easy to use. Let's do it. So I ordered the Kuroshio in 225cm. The 225cm matched all of the measurements of my current, wooden GP, so I felt reassured that the designers had some idea of what they were doing. I also ordered the little silicon paddle condoms for $15.

The paddle arrived in a timely fashion, probably just over a week in transit, after about five days processing. The tracking service they used was weird but it worked. Meanwhile, a customer service rep named Ruby was in contact with me (and used very good English, to my delight).

The paddle arrived looking good. The glossy white finish is smooth and glossy, as expected. It's basically gel coat (it probably is). The "T-Joint" is basically a two-part joint where the two pieces of the paddle meet. It prevents rotation at the ferrule. It works well, there is no rotational play at this point. As others have said, the inner cylinder of the ferrule joint is coated in thick paraffin wax in order to make the joint tighter. About one month into my ownership of the GP, this wax has waned about 40-50% (hehe). However the joint doesn't feel any looser. Just easier to put together and take apart.

The one part that I don't necessarily like about the joint is the carbon ferrule button. The fact that it's made of carbon may or may not have anything to do with this. It just doesn't have much spring to it. So, when you put the GP together, the button doesn't snap up through the hole with much force. Sometimes, it only pops up half way. It's still enough to hold the paddle together, just not all of the way. I fear that down the road, this piece may fail. That's probably why they sell replacements on their website.

The paddle did arrive with one small, and odd defect. While the paddle was perfect in shape and finish, I noticed that there was something rattling inside of it. Since the paddles are blow molded from a combination of fiberglass and carbon fiber, I imagine that a few loose fibers were lost inside of the hollow GP. As a result, one end of the GP has what sounds like three tiny pieces of rice inside of it. You can't hear it unless you're in a quiet room with your ear near the paddle, and you definitely can't hear it when paddling. Still, I expect better for $400.

I contacted Ruby immediately and asked what her proposed solution would be. I said that I didn't want to return the GP. She agreed that shipping costs would make that option pointless, and offered instead to refund 20% of the total ($70), which I accepted.

Now, finally, onto the performance.

  • The Kuroshio GP handles nicely. The shoulders are rather sharp and pronounced. This took some getting use to. It gives more leverage (or grip, not sure how to phrase it) but it also forces me to hold the paddle differently. I find myself hold the blades with three fingers and the loom with only one (as opposed to two and two).
  • Low swing weight. Compared to my hollow loomed wooden paddle, this GP feels like air in my hands. Low overall weight. The gloss finish doesn't seem to add any weight to the paddle.
  • Highly buoyant. The GP is just about as buoyant as my other, hollow loomed wood one (which is even more buoyant than the typical solid wood GP). As a result, this paddle rolls and balance braces well.
  • The blades are adequately thin and don't produce any noise or swerves when used with good form. The silicon paddle bumpers that can be purchased are easy to take on and off, however I have not removed them yet for fear of rocky Pacific NW beaches. The bumpers do have a slight negative effect on the paddle's performance however. When doing low braces the paddle doesn't skim the water's surface as smoothly as it should, due to the 1/8" bump on the blade's face. This doesn't bother me enough to make me take them off - for me the risk outweighs the possible gain.
I give the paddle an 8/10 because I am realistic. A 10/10 would have to come with a lifetime guarantee. 8/10 because the GP came with a defect, but Gearlab's excellent customer service resolved the problem without issue.

This spring i bought a K219/7,9 white Gearlab paddle. It was an…

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This spring i bought a K219/7,9 white Gearlab paddle. It was an impulse buy, but I had been wanting a two-piece GP for several years. I bought it since its reasonably priced and felt good in my hand. I was very positively surprised.

The Gearlab paddles are designed by a group of Taiwanese engineers/kayak enthusiasts. They are blowmolded, each part in one piece with a carbon fiberglass mix..(see their webpages). The paddles are hollow.

The first thing I notice is how extremely low swing weight this paddle has. its about 800gr but feels lighter that any other paddle I've tried due to the low swing weight. Gearlab paddles are rounded and very smooth in contrast to the sharp/diamond-shaped paddles out there. They remind me of some very old GP from harvey goldens great book. This is also how they feel. Very smooth feel. I find them very easy to manouver underwater when rolling.

The ferrule is well designed with a T-slot in the female part that eliminates twisting. The ferrules are tight as can be and its secured with a spring(carbon) similar to a Werner.

I find the stiffness just right. Not dead stiff. This summer I got a Shoulderless version to test, and its a real beautie. A bit thicker blades. and different shape. I think prefer the K (shouldered) for straight forward touring, and the shoulderless for surfing and wave play since its so easy to adjust and slightly change grip. it feels natural no matter where you hold. Being a light carbon paddle one should of course treat it as such..

All in all I'm very pleased with the Gearlab paddles, and I think these should be taken into consideration if one is looking for a two-piece GP that has a unique feel and a very good joint system. It's a high quality product at a reasonable price.

GearLab also makes a nice bag that will hold two paddles and protect during transport...
best wishes to GearLab in Taiwan!

This review is an update on the Gearlab Kuroshio paddle based on…

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This review is an update on the Gearlab Kuroshio paddle based on my experience with it since the review I wrote last year (see review DB from 7-15-2012). I had originally ordered the paddle because I was looking for a quality two-piece Greenland paddle to back up my self-carved wooden paddle as a deck-carried spare on long trips. I have done extensive paddling with the Kuroshio since then, and it has grown on me so much that I now turn to it as my first choice more often than my wooden paddle. In fact, I am getting ready to make some modifications to my wooden paddle to emulate the very refined tip shape and shoulder contours of the Kuroshio.

After some friendly and helpful email communication with the Gearlab staff, I even ordered a second Kuroshio when I heard that they had changed their joint design to eliminate the looseness I had pointed out in my first review. The new Kuroshio wide-loom option paddle uses what appears to be a pre-machined off-the-shelf carbon paddle ferule to achieve a precise joint with minimal angular play about equivalent to other two-piece paddles in the same price range. In addition, Gearlab adds their proprietary "T-joint" gizmo, which reduces rotational looseness to zero. The result is a paddle that feels as solid as a one-piece paddle in use, but that is very easy to slide together and take apart.

Joint play and the narrow diameter and circular cross section of the loom were my two biggest complaints in my previous review. The loom shape issue turned out to be more of a matter of me getting used to a paddle that felt different than what I had grown accustomed to. Over time, I have learned to appreciate the very well-shaped shoulders of the Kuroshio, which makes indexing easy and the grip position comfortable on long distance paddles.

The Kuroshio has become the favorite paddle in my quiver because of its strikingly low swing weight, its silent and dry entry and exit from the water, and its smooth, quiet sculling action.

I am also very impressed with its durability over time. I now have both the gloss white and carbon black versions. I initially wondered about the durability of the gloss white coating on the white paddle, but have found that over time and after the typical abrasion a paddle experiences on a self-contained week-long ocean expedition, that the white coating holds up remarkably well. There are a few scuffs and dull spots near the tip of the paddle as one might expect, but the paddle still appears shiny and new for the most part.

I noticed that another reviewer had concerns about the width of the loom portion of the paddle. On its website, Gearlab publishes very precise and accurate dimensions for every aspect of its paddles. Those looking for a wider loom should consider their wide-loom or WL versions of each of their paddles.

I recently had a Kuroshio paddle, in black. I thought the finish…

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I recently had a Kuroshio paddle, in black. I thought the finish and shapes were quite nice. The blades are very stiff. Paddle is suitably light. I did not mind the round, Euro-size loom, at all. Like the previous reviewer, I was disappointed in the bit of looseness at the joint. I was prepared to improve the joint with epoxy and sanding, but, it would have been wasted effort, due to the one other problem I had with the paddle: the loom was too short. It appears that Gearlab included the shoulders in their measurement of loom length, and, I found the loom 5 cm shorter than I expected, which would already have been a bit shorter than I'd prefer. Mine was a 220 cm paddle. In reviewing the stated loom to paddle lengths, I do not think the looms grow in length in proper proportion to the paddles. The company makes a shoulderless GP, as well. I would still consider giving one of them a try.

I ordered the gloss white Kuroshio paddle in the 220cm length to…

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I ordered the gloss white Kuroshio paddle in the 220cm length to serve as a two-piece spare to back up my home-built western red cedar and maple GP on long trips. I ordered the paddle on a Friday from GEARLAB in Taiwan. It shipped Friday, cleared customs in Chicago on the same Friday afternoon and was delivered express mail to my door on Monday.

My experience with Greenland-style paddles is limited to about 5 years of paddling with my and my wife's home-builts, and brief paddle exchanges with other Greenland paddlers including an opportunity to try the Northern Light Paddlesports product. I was once even able to try out Maligiaq Padilla's personal paddle at a workshop.

The construction and finish of the Kuroshio is superb with one glaring exception for a paddle in this price range. There was a tiny bit of play in the joint that seemed more than other similar two piece euro paddles I have tried or than the Northern Light paddle--which has zero play but requires a tool to assemble.

The inner ferrule was coated in a rather thick layer of what appeared to be paraffin wax in what seemed to be an attempt to tighten up the loose joint. The carbon spring clip and button that pins the whole thing together is an amazing little unit and prevented all play in the rotational or telescoping (in and out) directions. The manufacture promotes this bit as better than steel because it won't rust. I also like the fact that when I lash the paddle halves to the deck, this part ends up near my compass which keeps one more metal object out of that area.

The blade shape and dimensions are pretty standard for a GP and the paddle enters the water with only a few drops of splash, a bit better than my home-built. The loom is perfectly round and quite undersized compared to most GP's I have tried. It is 1.25 inches in diameter. The comfortably shaped shoulders of the Koroshio make it easy to feel the blade angle despite the circular cross section of the loom. The only other GP I have tried with a loom nearly as thin as this paddle was Maligiaq's.

My personal preference for comfort in a long distance paddle would be a larger loom circumference, but a recent 18 mile paddle with the Kuroshio did not seem to cause any serious comfort issues.

In comparison to most wood GP's I have tried, the Kuroshio is very stiff. It feels somewhat dead in my hands as I paddle compared to my livelier wood paddle. I know some people prefer very stiff paddles though, and that may just be par for the course for carbon sticks. After stripping the excessive paraffin and carefully building up the mandril-portion of the joint with some marine epoxy, I adjusted the fit to perfection with some wet-dry 1000 grit sand paper and re-polished the joint surfaces with a thin layer of wax. That achieved a very solid, yet still easy-to assemble-connection. With that modification of the joint, I now have achieved my goal of having a durable, quick-to-assemble spare GP with solid enough performance to finish a long tour should something happen to my favorite stick.

The paddle is very light, and it actually matches the manufacture's specs for it's weight. The glossy white surface is amazingly durable, although I'm not sure what it is made out of exactly. Gel-coat maybe?

I'm rating this paddle a 7. It would easily earn a 10 if the the joint were constructed with more precision, and if the loom were a larger diameter with an oval or rounded rectangular shape.