Adventure Technology (AT) AT2 Standard Paddle

Filed under: , , , , , , , , by: TRuC

The Final Word: A stiff, burly and amazingly fluid paddle that moves like silk though each stroke.

"5 things you have to have in order to go kayaking - a boat, skirt, helmet, PFD and a paddle." Those were the first and only things I remember hearing that autumn day in 1993. I grabbed all the 5 essentials and headed out to the creek and swore to myself I was going to learn how to myself. Needless to say that stunt failed miserably and my cohorts were amazed at my stupidity. I didn't even know about a grab loop and was lucky that the skirt was made of nylon and a 5mm bungee cord.

Coincidentally, around that very time and over 2500 miles to the west, in the depths of the Colorado River, a river guide and a pro paddler were laying the foundation for designing a more ergonomic paddle for paddlers. A short time thereafter, Adventure Technology (AT) was born.

I wasn't sold on the concept of ergonomic bent shafts when they first came out. I saw them as an expensive and frivolous gimmick, ultimately designed for the elderly with retirement funds. Boy was I ever wrong.

It wasn't until 2002 that I bought my first carbon fiber bent shaft paddle from the company Seven2. These guys made an affordable and innovative paddle with a small diameter straight shaft incorporated with hand grips that provided the wrist ergonomics. Most people liked the Seven2 for their whippiness, flex and grips. Unfortunately, the paddle eventually riddled me with consistently leaky blades; even after warrantying it 3 times. Even worse and sadly enough, a recent visit to their website reads that they've gone out of business.

After giving up on Seven2, I tried to go back to a straight shaft and for anyone who has ever tried this, it's not an easy task. It's a pretty absurd feeling. It was then that I realized the astronomical differences between a straight and a bent shaft. I couldn't do it.

Enter my first AT paddle, The AT2 standard. The Standard, as the name implies, is the quintessential paddle for many professional paddlers and anyone looking for a dynamic, stout and comfortable paddle. Weighing in at 37 ounces, the burly Carbon & Aramid Kevlar shaft is woven in a helical pattern and is supported by 30 degree offset, foam core blades. Completing the package is AT's proprietary armor-like Dynell blade trimming to resist even the hardest rock bashing.

AT's concept is simple enough - angle the shaft so when you grab it and pull through each stage of the stroke, your wrists are in-line and neutral. This results in a design that contours the natural grip of your hand and wrists. As simple as it sounds, explanation of this only points to the fact that our bodies are laced with paddling design flaws.

In an attempt to clarify, I found that during the initial catch of a forward paddle stroke, when using a straight shaft paddle, we cock our leading wrist at an unnatural angle to get an efficient purchase where the blade meets the water, only to regain full grip somewhere during the power phase. Not only do we lose potential power by compromising our grip, but also compensate this loss by applying more power than necessary. In the end, physical fatigue comes earlier, as well as possible joint and muscle stress. AT utilizes two aspects to assist in alleviating this issue.

The way we grip is somewhat odd when compared to that of say, a construction claw. Our hands would be great tools for using straight shafts if 1) we relocated our thumbs to the center of our wrist and palm, 2)made all of our fingers the same length. Even then, the reach of the blade on that initial stroke still causes us to angle the shaft and again, tweak our wrists. AT's Full Control Grip (FCG) design "transfers all the energy into the bone structure rather than the tendons and ligaments of the wrist. The result is better control, more power and less fatigue from reduced grip pressure."

The unique shape of the FCG matches my hand pretty well. The length of my hand from wrist to middle fingertip is approximately 7.5" inches which gives me exceptional grip and control. AT has engineered the FCG to maintain as close as possible, an inline power coefficient from blade to grip, giving the paddle a more natural feel and the best energy return for your stroke. You can read more on their technology here.
I've always been a fan of foam core blades and AT's unique designed combination of air displacement, sleekness and smooth contours provide a noticeable and responsive float for resurfacing and more efficient strokes. Unify that with AT's one piece construction of the blade and shaft and you've got a uniform and seamless mold that cuts through water fast and effortlessly.

I've been paddling AT2 Standards since 2003 and well, don't think I'll be paddling anything else. There's much to be said about the looks of this paddle as well as the performance. It just a radical looking paddle. From the color of the materials to the smooth lines that roll from tip to tip, this thing looks futuristic, definitely apart from the rest of the paddle industry.
Once this paddle gets in your hands, there's an undeniable feeling of power. It's a little stiff for some people, but for that one important stroke that could either link a trick you've been trying forever or that ever so important "must make" move on the river, the stiffness works just right for me. In the event that the Standard is too stiff, AT makes the AT2 Flexi, as well as an array of other paddles to possibly fit your needs.

There's so much attention to the design of these paddles that its given me, at times, delusions of grandeur. It must be all the kayaking porn I watch and seeing those guys tearing it up with AT paddles.

See ya out there,