Submitted: 10-30-2011 by CapeFear
I'm 6' 185 lbs. Just turned 40, but still a regular (pretty much daily with an exception here and there) runner, biker, and kayaker, and considered in good shape by my peers I'm told. I live in SE NC on the coast, and coastal paddling is my favorite and most frequent venue. I have a small collection of sea kayaks and paddles, paddles of plastic, fiberglass, carbon, and wood (Mitchell, Lendal, Cricket Designs, Sawyer, Werner, Aquabound).
Since getting the Black Magic 7 months ago, I've done some 30+ nautical mile days, play days in the surf zone, and everything in between with it. I typically paddle several days a week. Always edged turns, rolling, bracing, surfing, rescue practice, actual rough water rescues, all just a part of normal use the past 7 months. Regarding my general paddle preference, over time I've found that I've come to disfavor the dihedral concept, but I am aware that switching from dihedral to neutral or spoon (edge to edge curvature of paddle face), or the other way around, requires a transition in getting used to blade angle control and linking strokes, at least it does for me if I switch up.
Edge to edge (the narrow way across), the Black Magic is not dihedral, it is not spooned - it is neutral. It is spooned end to end of the blade. The first day I took off with it, I noticed some flutter, just like when I first took off with a Greenland paddle the first time this summer. A little attention to planting the blade, and this blade plants exceptionally smoothly and quietly due to the lengthwise spoonlike curve of the blade, and flutter was gone, and I've never noticed it since. (Always keep a loose grip - using grip to control flutter is unnecessary bad practice.) This flutter is what dihedral is supposed to prevent (at the expense of a more solid catch - not so prominently advertised). I think dihedral disguises flutter as a useful symptom of a less than ideal plant or stroke. I prefer the more solid catch achieved in a smaller blade size by not promoting flow off of the edges of the blade. Looking around, it appears to be an unpopular opinion, but I swear from an experienced user's point of view it has merit.) And the Black Magic gives an impressively solid, smooth, and quiet plant and catch and efficient forward stroke.
This idea of minimizing weight in the blades by using a lighter wood core (wood, like foam, gives the blade buoyancy and a light bit of lift from the water when submerged, which is also a very nice property) and finishing it out with carbon for lighter blades...well...it actually works. For the first time I experienced an appreciably lower swing weight while still giving me that wooden paddle and all the feel that goes with it.
Blade behavior during turning strokes: Slicing the blade through the water, a spoon shape edge to edge curves naturally through the water in the direction of the paddle face, dihedral naturally curves through the water away from the blade face, and the neutral Black Magic, it naturally doesn't curve, and so no compensation needs to be made. I have no idea why everyone seems so sold on dihedral (and I've read and heard it all many times over & understand the concept) to prevent an easily correctable moment of flutter as a symptom, I do understand spoon edge to edge for a solid catch with a smaller blade size, but for slicing through the water for skulling, rudders, linking strokes, rolls, etc., the tough fine edges and neutral design of the Black Magic make this paddle feel a step above the rest.
Is it tough enough? I haven't babied it. I've laid my weight onto that paddle right into breaking waves that have hit me and carried me sidesurfing many times, bouncing up and down on the support of that paddle shaft. I've launched off of a lot of beaches, punched through a lot of waves, put it through its paces. It's solid.
This isn't my lightest paddle, but it has become my favorite. It doesn't feel heavy or clunky during use, it feels well balanced, a light easy swing from one side to the other, with exceptionally natural feeling and predictable behavior in terms of fine tuning my blade angles during strokes. It gives a solid catch for those fast days, or powerful moments of sprinting down the face of a following wave, or punching out through breaking surf.
You hand me a paddle, and I'll go out and use it and make it work. But I can still appreciate the pros and cons it presents to me given my uses. Hand anyone a bunch of paddles, and eventually one will become that familiar extension of his/her body that is most often reached for. Sometimes I think that can be as much mental properties of the user, as physical properties of the paddle.
If you're the type that dials in a good plant and mechanics for your forward stroke, uses the support of the paddle blade to allow you to edge further and get more out of your turning strokes, and you like that blade angle to guide you around precisely and efficiently without adding extra turbulence or tendency to twist, the Black Magic just may win you over strictly on it's physical performance characteristics. Two solid thumbs up.