The top, green blade is the H2O-Team
The blue blade belongs to the H2O-2...
Do you remember the name Waterstick? Their falling out with
partner BayComp, and the cancellation of the beloved Zen ProBend
paddle, which I unashamedly called "the best bent-shaft paddle I've
ever used, period?" (When they stopped production, I stocked up on
three identical Zens just to make certain I would have access to
that paddle for the foreseeable future.)
Steve Horvath, the paddle's designer, is back - with new paddle
designs being manufactured by DynaPlas in Toronto and marketed
under the name H2O Paddles. I was recently given the opportunity to
review two of Steve's new designs that should be appearing in local
dealers this season.
For this review, H2O supplied two right hand control, 12 degree
offset paddles. One is 191 centimeters and uses their "H2O-Team"
blades, while the other is 194 centimeters and sports their "H20-2"
The Bad News
There's some bad news about these paddles that must be acknowledged
right up front: H2O's colors are uggggg-ly. I can't help another
comparison with the Waterstick Zen, which in addition to being an
incredible performer also had a unique look that turned heads on
the river. True, the H2O's shaft still has that "graphite" look
prized by many people, but those blade colors…and those grip
Yes, I know the colors were chosen by H2O's team so they'd show
up well in photographs. I know H2O's emphasis is on performance and
that appearance has nothing to do with performance. Yes, I suppose
the blue blade color isn't all that bad. I guess we must
hope that the performance of these new paddles makes the color
The Good News
H2O's paddles are based on a series of components, one of the
standard production techniques for modern paddles. There are
various shaft options (material, length, bent vs. straight, etc.),
several blade choices, two grip sizes, and various grip colors.
The two paddles provided for this review use the same carbon
fiber ergonomic bent-grip shaft, differing only in length. Both
paddles had the larger grip size based on Steve's personal
recommendation. The blades are the most distinguishing feature of
the two paddles, so that's where we'll start.
The H2O-Team blade was heavily influenced by H2O's team paddlers.
It is optimized for freestyle and playboating, which results in a
smaller overall blade with less surface area and lower weight. As
most experienced paddlers know, less weight usually yields
increased rep rate and positioning speed, both of which can be
critical for playmoves involving rapid torso twists and paddle
The H2O-2 blade is slightly larger and more powerful than its
H2O-Team sibling. This yields a paddle better suited to river
running and all-around kayaking, at some theoretical expense in
terms of swing weight and speed.
Other than size and overall shape, the two blades share a lot of
characteristics, which is much more evident when looking at the
back surface. The first thing that catches the eye is the
"skeletal" look of the blades. That's not just cosmetics—that
"spine" and those "ribs" are there to do essentially the same job
as the bones in our bodies. Our bodies are designed so that normal
loads and stresses are primarily borne by our skeletons. Muscles
and their attachment points seek to transfer weight to our bones,
which are far more efficient at handling sustained loads than our
soft tissues. Likewise, the H2O blades have thicker regions that
act as the blade's skeleton. The majority of the blade is thin to
keep swing weight as low as possible. The entire blade could be
left thin, but large areas of thin material have drastically
reduced stiffness and rigidity. Something must be done to reinforce
them or they will flex and twist under the uneven loads they
experience during normal use. The Waterstick Revolution blades
accomplish this with "faceting." Multiple, generally flat regions,
were angled with respect to each other. The resulting seam lines
act as strengthening ribs of a sort. The system works pretty well,
but such discontinuities in the material (the "lines" where the
facets adjoined) also become potential failure points.
Thanks to ongoing advances in materials and manufacturing
techniques, the H2O blades are able to use a reinforcement
technique that accomplishes its mission (increasing stiffness and
rigidity) while also inherently strengthening the blade. Instead of
inherently weaker seam lines, the spine and ribs are actually the
strongest part of the blade. The blade tip is of a traditional
thickness, thanks to the way the spine tapers as it approaches the
Steve had another interesting comment regarding why that rib
extends all the way to the blade's edge. (After all, they could
have just stopped farther back in the blade, just as the spine
does.) Steve claimed that most blade edge impacts occur right at
the two spots where those ribs extend to the blade edge. By leaving
the material thicker in those two spots, the blade could be made
more resistant to impact.