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 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.