05 February 2013

DIY: repair a cracked paddle

It had to happen: I cracked the carbon fibre paddle.
Since I have been appointed ambassador for Northern Light paddles I have trying hard to see what that paddle can take.
From gingerly taking off in textured waters in a sprint first to becoming more aggressive with my rolling, I eventually took the NLP Greenland in the surf. To me it feels the most comfortable blade when paddling in waves but I had my reservations that it could take the surf and my ungraceful tumbles when tossed in a kayak.
But no matter what I subjected my paddle to it always delivered with no sign of problems.
Paul from Northern Light Paddles said that there was no reason I should hold back with the 3-piece Greenland and he really wanted to see what his paddles could do when treated rough.


I obliged.
Pushing off from the shore when beach launching I would dig deep into the sand to propel myself before I hit the water. On rocky shores my timing would be out occasionally and I found myself pushing off rocks to prevent ending against them.
My previous wooden paddles were reinforced with epoxy to minimize tip damage but there was no way I could abused them like that.
Not to mention my high-end carbon foam-core Euro paddles where inserting them in the sand and then pry off would simply result in snapping the blade.

I was enjoying myself in shallow waters getting tossed around by the waves washing over a bank of sand. I was bracing to keep myself upright occasionally touching the bottom when suddenly a larger waves tossed me sideways and I instinctively braced and pushed down hard to keep myself upright.
My full body weight plus the force of the kayak sideways was leveraged on the Northern Light paddle.
I heard a creak and looked down. Nothing seemed to be wrong; paddle looked fine but I didn't want to push my luck and called it a day.
Later on at home I wanted to inspect the paddle and see what that noise was.
That's where I found the hairline crack.

NLP insert crack1_c

The insert on the loom of the 3 piece paddle had almost failed.
I was not too upset since a loom is fairly easy and inexpensive to replace but then I remembered the short insert that comes with every Northern Light paddle that transform it into a "storm" paddle.
It was the exact dimensions of the cracked insert bonded to the loom.
I knew that epoxy's melting point is not that high and a heat gun can soften the resin enough to make it loose its grip.
I would lie if I say that it was an easy job but 15 minutes later with the aid of the heat gun I managed to separate the insert from the loom tube.
I cleaned up the residual resin and used a bit of epoxy glue (epoxy resin and microfibre) to bond the new insert into the loom. I bolted the blades together making sure things were aligned.
The next morning the paddle looked solid and after testing everything looked kosher.
I was paddling with the same paddle the next day not showing any signs of damage or mismatching.
One thing is sure: no Euro paddle of mine can be repaired at home with such incredible ease.
As for the Northern Light Greenland paddle, I now play in deeper waters.


  1. Paddles get broken. It's just a fact of paddling life. Broke a Superior Kayaks carbon GP myself ages ago. Well done on the repair job. I only wish I had you skills with composites. Cheers, Mick

    1. Stuff does break if it gets used hard or abused. NLP has been outstanding but of course it's not a sledgehammer :-)
      Repairing it however was really easy, no special skills required. I was worried the heat gun might damage/melt the loom but all went relatively easy. Once the insert’s epoxy glue reached the right temperature it just “uncorked”. Gluing back the insert was a no brainer. I wonder how I would go repairing a Euro paddle (or a Superior, Novorca etc) if I had to crack the shaft?


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