Whetstone Mako T-1
Great Blade Design
The blades on the Whetstone Mako T-1 offer great catch and a solid pull-through with virtually no flutter except during really hard acceleration strokes. The blades enter and exit the water cleanly, but there is a noticeable ker-plunking sound if you don't hold them at exactly the right angle. When you apply substantial pressure to accelerate the kayak (more pressure than you would typically use to accelerate, except perhaps in the surf zone or during emergency rescues), the blades flutter a little, but not enough to drive you crazy or rob your stroke of its power. The flutter only lasts for the first stroke or two, when you are applying the most pressure to the paddle, and probably will not be noticeable to many paddlers who exert less pressure anyway. With a relatively wide blade, the Mako makes acceleration and turning easy, especially if you have the physical strength to work the blades to their full potential. On that note, however, smaller-framed paddlers and female paddlers may find the blades to be a bit too much to handle, and may require a narrower blade to achieve an efficient, comfortable stroke.
Seriously, at $210.00 and 26 oz., this is one heck of a paddle. I was very impressed with how attractive, well-made, and light this paddle looks and feels for the money. Whetstone has a great product, and you'll probably have a hard time finding anything better without spending substantially more money. If you're looking for a first-class shoulder-saver, this lightweight paddle will help you rack up the nautical miles quickly, with minimal fatigue.
There's something about the silky black sheen of a carbon fiber paddle that is irresistably attractive. Take one look at the Mako and you'll feel compelled to pick it up and paddle with it. There's no question that Whetstone makes a very attractive paddle. The carbon weave is tight, though in places you may see small pinholes of light in places where the weave separated slightly. These are not holes in the paddle (water cannot get through) so they don't affect performance, but it would be nice not to see them at all. Of course, this is nit-picking. The shape and design of the Mako is fantastic. It looks sleek, it feels good, and it moves through the water very well. At a nice easy glide, the paddle feels very solid in the water, but as with most carbon paddles, the carbon construction does dampen some of the "feel" of the paddle. This will undoubtedly make you feel a little less connected to the water until you get reaccustomed to the feel and performance of the Mako; however, the damper, "springier" feel of the Mako's carbon shaft also feels easier on the joints than stiffer shafts. Lastly, carbon fiber blades scratch more easily than the bulletproof high-density plastic blades you find on recreational paddles; consequently, you have to be careful not to shovel rocks or rake creekbeds with the Mako. It's durability appears to be very good (I haven't had it long enough to comment adequately), but if you want to keep it looking nice, it will take a little extra care.
As with most carbon paddles, the Mako is a fantastic lightweight. At approximately 26 ounces in the 220 cm length, you barely notice the paddle is in your hands unless you're paddling hard. Compared to regular fiberglass paddles, the difference in fatigue on longer excursions (more than 5 miles or so) is amazing. In fact, if you've never used a carbon-fiber paddle before, you might even feel a little unsteady the first time you paddle with one like the Mako. Some paddlers have a tendency to unconsciously use a heavier paddle the way a tight-rope walker uses a balancing pole to steady himself; consequently, when they switch to a dramatically lighter paddle like the Mako, their sense of balance suffers. This should only last for a few minutes until they get a feel for the lighter paddle, but it serves to illustrate the dramatic difference between a recreational paddle and a carbon lightweight. You will feel it.
When you receive your Whetstone paddle, make sure to sand thoroughly all the way around the edges of the blades with 1000-grit sandpaper. If you don't, you'll get a nasty carbon-fiber sliver (or possibly cut yourself wide open) everytime you touch the paddle blades. These blades are shipped straight off the production line and Whetstone apparently doesn't "finish" the blades, which means that the carbon fiber edges of the blades are still razor sharp. A little sanding fixes the problem perfectly. Also, since carbon paddles tend to feel "springier" than other materials, they sometimes trick you into thinking they're not biting the water as solidly as other paddles. Don't be fooled. A carbon paddle will do the work it's supposed to, without much effort, as long as it's properly designed. You'll just have to ignore the feeling that less power is coming out of your stroke; it's an effect of the dampening effect of the carbon, not an actual loss of power. Resist the inevitable urge to paddle harder. Paddling harder will only increase the risk of injury or stress to your joints.
© 2007, Wesley Kisting