Saltwood paddles is a novel take on carbon/wood laminate hybrid paddles to grant the paddler the warmth and lively feel of wood with the light swing weight of carbon blades. The result is a very attractive paddle that weighs in at about the same as the Premium Fiberglass paddles by Werner with a toughness that allows for use in rock gardens or Class III whitewater but with a swing weight and blade feel that is on par with the Performance Foam Core Werner line. I will make frequent comparisons with Werner as that manufacturer is more commonly known than the closest cousin to the Saltwood paddles which would be the long time elegant design of The Black Magic by Mitchell Paddles.
Shaft: Sustainably grown Spruce is used in computer milled hollow shafts. Yes, this paddle is a tubular one section shaft design that reduces weight without reducing the strength. Significant indexing is milled into the powerface side of the shaft in right/left positions of whichever degree of offset you wish (in 15 degree increments). The two halves of the shaft are then laminated together and covered is an ultra-thin scrim of fiberglass again adding strength but also surface durability.
Blades: The blades are significantly stiff with noticeable additional carbon cloth at the tips to eliminate blade flex and add enough strength for whitewater use. The powerfaces of the blades are a smooth curve in a high angle design. The blades do not have a spine as on more typical fiberglass design. Rather they have a buoyant core in the center of the blade filled with sustainably grown laminated Balsa wood oriented cord wise to the blade rather then span or length wise. This adds a nice lift on the blade when exiting the water but as the buoyant core does not extend to the edges of the blade the buoyancy does not fight the paddler on the catch when inserting the blade into the water as I've found on the Werner Ikelos.
Performance and Feel: This is a tremendously subjective category so individual opinions will vary.
A quick backtrack note; Indexing - coming from having always used a feathered paddle (be it my Black Magic or any number of Werner Paddles) this has been the first euro blade paddle that I've been able to use unfeathered without the habitual slice on my left side when my muscle memory wants to cant the paddle for entry on the left. I'm going to attribute this to the significant areas of indexing at the grip zones on the paddle shaft. While initially large feeling compared to other more common paddle shafts in the world, the shape quickly feels comfortable for a wide range of hand sizes and provides such easy feedback of blade position that adapting to unfeathered from my usual 60 degree right happened almost unconsciously.
Reggie - A bit more powerful bite on the water in the catch than a Werner Shuna or Cyprus but not so much as to be fatiguing over distance. Transitions from active to static to planing strokes are as effortless as with a blade that has depth of cross section like a wood blade or a foam core model like the Werner Cyprus. The shaft has a wonderfully live feel as it has just a touch of flex and power release on the catch and as you take tension off just before the exit. The indexing makes precise blade placement for strokes or rolling second nature.
Habit - Whitewater and Surf Kayakers, here's your paddle blade! This blade shape and size makes for a rock solid platform to launch your propulsion strokes, turns or cartwheels from. More bite than the Werner Corryvrecken and similar stiffness as the Ikelos but with the durability more of the Powerhouse. The Balsa wood core design still makes finesse a snap for side slips while ferrying and moving the leading edge to catch current, etc. Considering the bite of this blade the bit of flex in the shaft is welcome on the joints as it definitely helps for a day long playboating trip or surf session.
Bent Shaft - Most of my earlier observations have been using a straight shaft. I have used the bent shaft on a Reggie model and the general feel is that the indexed grip shape naturally nests into your hands. The upper and lower surfaces are hollowed a bit more than on the straight shaft as it does say on the Werner Performance Core straight and bent carbon shafts. Bent shafts do add a few more ounces which is to be expected and while I usually do not use a bent shaft this allowed me to feel more of what the blade was doing rather than holding a paddle shaft. So in this case not to notice the paddle shaft I would consider to be a good thing.