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Sep 10

The Design & Development of the Hydro Race SUP Paddle

The Design & Development of the Hydro Race SUP Paddle

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The new HYDRO race sup paddle is the culmination of 9 months of R&D on Maui. The initial design brief was pretty simple, or so we thought – Make a new innovative elite level sup race paddle to rival the best sup paddles already available and those in development elsewhere! The result is an innovative, lightweight and strong race sup paddle ready to accelerate you onto the next bump or to the head of the pack. We wanted to see how much forward drive we could build into the paddle without sacrificing comfort over long distances. Developing ideas and prototyping paddles is a challenging (and costly) exercise. There is nothing more daunting than the first stroke with a new blade. Very quickly you feel out the good and bad things about the prototype and get back to the drawing board and make adjustments.

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As with any development it is important to try everything available on the market, paddle technology has improved a lot in the past 24 months. By trying out a range of paddles it is clear how diverse the market has become. There are some great paddles available and there are some not so great. It takes time to develop and bring products to market so when you are developing you have to look into the future and design a product to beat what will be available elsewhere in 12 – 18 months, to do that you have to have an open mind and look past what is already released. As with anything Black Project performance is #1, everything else comes 2nd. We started with a completely fresh perspective with the Hydro and Tom had no constraints imposed. Often designers are confined to a set of parameters dictated to them based on marketing and/or production considerations. This is not the case at Black Project, design the best and then figure out the rest.

 

With all prototyping while 3D modeling is crucial it is sometimes the adjustments which you make to prototypes by hand which find the ideal result. Rapid and cost effective prototyping is very important. Put simply that sometimes means grabbing the grinder and some resin to try out ideas quickly. Version control and effective use of project management software makes development more effective, quicker and ultimately cost effective. This is especially true when you are managing testers in multiple locations. At Black Project we use Asana to manage all our projects.

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The blade design challenged a few typically accepted paddle norms. We made it more compact, shorter, narrower and squarer than other paddles, as one measurement changes a whole series of others have to change as a result. The blade angle was kept at a shallow 8 degrees to promote a positive and aggressive stroke. We built grip and drive into the blade face with a large degree of shaping, the power is concentrated in the center of the blade where the shaping is at its max. The shaping gradually tapers towards the tip but remains more pronounced than others and to the very bottom of the blade, this which gives you a little extra kick.

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Power is nothing without stability, on entry into the water the blade grips, its is like being on rails, this is especially apparent when fatigue starts to creep in and paddle stroke breaks down. At this time when you are at your worst the paddle helps to correct and stabilizes the pull phase to ensure that no power is lost. Upwind as well is now much easier with the Hydro, increased stability and power mean than you can maintain speed on upwind legs.

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The blade face is both innovative and distinctive, with the most shaping that has been put into a blade to date. The shaping creates its own set of challenges and earlier prototypes were too thick with too much volume. Later prototypes were thinned out to reduce volume and increase flex slightly for increased feel. The front of the blade is also very distinctive with a pronounced ridge, this was designed to increase lateral stability of the blade and increases the overall strength as well. With so much power we needed to balance that so that the blade translates all the drive into forward motion.

We tried a lot of different shafts and shaft ideas during the Hydro project, our Premium Carbon (Made in USA) Medium flex shaft was by far the top performer, those who used the stiff shafts on the previous paddles will probably prefer the medium on the Hydro.

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We had been testing various paddle prototypes for sometime in a range of conditions with a range of riders. As we closed in on the final design we wanted to put the paddles to the ultimate test and the Maui to Molokai and then Molokai 2 Oahu races were the perfect opportunity, nothing else tests rider and paddle more. Thankfully it came through that testing well and a few refinements later the new Hydro race paddle was ready. The development of the Hydro race paddle has been an interesting journey as we challenged our pre-existing views and opened our minds to new learning.

 

We have made the Hydro sup paddle available in a number of options to suit a range of riders and budgets. The blade is finished in matte 3k twill carbon for a stealthy look but also to save another 15 grams. We have also made it available in our new travel option. Using 2 of our HEX joins we made a paddle which looks and feels like a one-piece paddle which assembles in seconds and is ready for travel complete with its padded case. The two blade sizes cater for a range of paddlers with those over 75 kg most suited to the 88 sq in and riders under 75 kg will be more balanced with the 83 sq in. Blade sizing does depend on rider style, board, conditions so if in doubt try one out and see what works best for you.

 

Hydro SUP Race Paddle Overview

  • Available in 88 and 83 sq in blades sizes
  • Palm or T handle
  • Available in Premium Carbon, 100% Carbon and 3-Piece 2 x HEX
  • Weight from 400 grams

 

The new paddles are available now and a select group of retailers will be getting their first batch of paddles soon. Please get in touch to discuss your needs.

 

More to follow…

 

Designed on Maui. Tested worldwide.