The Lendal name may be new to some, but this long established brand has deep roots in the UK and a devoted following worldwide.
Although founded and operated in Scotland for many years, Lendal was acquired by Johnson Outdoors (owners of Necky, Extrasport, Old Town, Ocean Kayak, and Carlyle Paddles) in 2006. In 2009, Johnson Outdoors launched a comprehensive initiative to significantly reduce cost and complexity, optimize synergies and assets and dramatically improve profitability of its Watercraft unit. In addition to restructuring and operational consolidation, the company aligned R&D, sales and marketing efforts behind a more focused, more profitable line-up of paddle sport products. Johnson Outdoors Inc. has sold its Lendal brand and all of its assets to Celtic Paddles LTD, owned and operated by Nigel Dennis, renowned sea kayak adventurer and designer. The deal was signed and closed on May 6, 2010.Hopefully Nigel will be able to return the Lendal brand back to its once glorious self. I think it’s going to be an uphill battle considering Lendal has lost almost all its market share as a high-end paddle company since Johnson Outdoors acquisition. Believe it or not, there was a time when if you showed up at a sea kayak symposium with a Lendal, you were basically king of the beach.
In our opinion, the Lendal brand of paddles is well-suited to the Nigel Dennis portfolio, and marks a return to its roots as a respected U.K. brand. However, the net result of all of this is the drying up of Lendal Paddles here in North America.
Lendals are almost synonymous with bent shafts—those twisty shafted paddles that are designed to allow a more naturally ergonomic grip, resulting in less strain and fatigue to joints and tendons. But Lendal also offers a straight shaft option. In fact, perhaps the most unique aspect of the Lendal story is their “component” approach to paddles, based on their Paddlok system. Paddlok uses a very clever ferrule union incorporating an Allen screw within the spring-loaded ferrule button—turning the supplied Allen key in the button expands a collar within the joint resulting in absolutely no “wobble” between components. This allows 4-piece paddles to fit together so securely that the resulting paddle truly feels just like a 1-piece. Absence of any play in the joint also eliminates the wear and increasing deterioration that haunts other ferrules.
With Lendal’s system, blades can be quickly swapped out, or shafts changed to suit conditions or tastes. Likewise, in the event of damage to a component (say a broken blade), only that part need be replaced. Lendals are fantastic for travel because the paddles break down to their four components (two blades and two shaft halves) to stow easily in a duffel or suitcase.
Shafts are available bent (modified crank) or straight, in fiberglass or carbon. Blades are available in seven different shapes and five different materials.
Lendal also have three different center ferrules to choose from. The review paddle was a 4-piece, consisting of carbon modified crank shaft, with VariLok ferrule, and carbon Kinetic blades.
The Kinetics are very nicely constructed epoxy/carbon blades that favor a more vertical stroke. One aspect of the modified crank shaft is that it doesn’t feel neutral when out of the water, having a tendency to rotate in the hand at some angles. This is because the blade is not in line with the length of the shaft, but slightly offset behind it. The advantage of this approach is that when the blade is planted and drawn through the water, the paddler’s hand leads the blade through the stroke, resulting in a really positive plant and no flutter at all—even very sloppy technique won’t cause the blade to misbehave.
I found the grip-width on the 210 cm crank to be overly narrow. The 215 cm grip-width was better, while a 225 cm version required a grip-width worthy of King Kong. As in all matters of fit, this is a very personal and subjective thing, so be sure to try before you buy.
The VariLok ferrule adds about $50 to the price of a Lendal shaft and offers a high degree of fine-tuning ability, allowing infinite feather adjustment from 90° left-hand control, through to 90° right-hand control. Overall paddle length can also be extended up to 5 cm (or any fraction thereof) above the base length.
The Verilok option seems very robust and offers a lot of flexibility in feather and length adjustment, but I personally prefer a simpler setup. Having to tighten the ferrule with the tool before the paddle can be pressed into service seems overly complicated, especially when a standard 3-button-hole configuration (but with the ability to tighten the joint) would allow use of the paddle without needing to pull out the tool.
Although the Kinetic Touring is a smaller version of the original Kinetic, it’s still a pretty large blade and best suits stronger paddlers if used for general touring. It’s a great choice for fitness paddling or playing in surf or currents where a larger blade excels. While a touch heavier than some of the other top end ultra-light paddles, the Lendal impressed me with its durability and unique assembly system. It’s ideal for air travel and a great choice for paddlers who prefer bigger blades with an aggressive bite.