A Visit with Aquabound/Bending Branches

After long and hard use for the past eight years or so, my Aquabound Carbon Fiber paddle showed up one day at the take out with a quarter moon cut-out.

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I emailed the company a picture and explaining that I’d like to come pick up the paddle in person since our Kayak 50 quest would be bringing us to the paddle-friendly state of Wisconsin. Representative, Brian B., was extremely helpful – yes, they’d gladly do the repair for a modest cost and would I be interested in a factory tour?

Would I ever! Boy oh boy – the thought of that tour really helped when the long miles stretched between NY and Wisconsin. Since I was a little girl I loved seeing my dad make and repair things. It seemed like so much magic – a few tools, so wire, nuts and bolts, and, viola, fixed!

Aquabound was acquired by Branches LLC some years back, a maker of wooden canoe, and later, kayak paddles. So we were in for a double treat!  We first learned about the Aquabound side of the factory.

IMG_2504Brian, our congenial guide, showing us paddle stock

The paddles are made as a pair since even with a high degree of automation, there is small variances in manufacture. The paddles are paired together though the whole process of shaping and forming the shaft, ferrule, inserting flotation, and putting on the blades.  I really liked that! Each paddle, no matter how much it looks like another, is actually an individual with it’s own variations – sounds like my definition of kayak paddlers!

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The neat and tidy factory was filled with machinery that was often made specifically for paddle manufacture or had been adapted from a previous use. The workers, who are more like artisans, have over the years tweaked the designs and functions to fit the job. This was especially true in the Bending Branches part of the factory where some machines use motors that have been around since WW I!

The Aquabound paddles are all made to order – from an order of one to thousands. I recently bought a new paddle with a small diameter shaft as my primary paddle. To think that it came in as an order of one is just SO cool! By the way, my hand is about seven and a quarter inch, palm to middle finger, but I find the smaller shaft much more comfortable and can’t wait to feel the difference when winter paddling in bulky gloves. I’m 5′ 6″ tall – not too small either!

The wooden paddles take much longer to make, so there is some stock on hand.  They are just a work of art!

Thanks to Brian and the Aquabound/Bending Branches team for their tour and amazing contribution to paddling fun and adventure!

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