Triathletes are used to their top-end kit coming with a carbon fibre option and the accompanying price tag – but these revolutionary hand paddles are the first time we’ve seen it added to swim tools. Stärke are based in Europe and have spent five years researching how to design flexible and ultra-light paddles allowing the elusive ‘feel for the water’ which traditional plastic paddles can dull or eliminate. Three designs are available: the ‘Power’ (£85) for strength training; the ‘Wing’ (£75), a fingertip paddle for newbies looking to develop feel for the water; and the ones tested here, the ‘Flow’, which are designed to improve endurance swimming, perfect for triathletes targeting long-course racing.
Due to lockdown restrictions, we tested these in open-water on a 200m course marked with buoys. As you’d expect with paddles, the larger surface area led to quicker lap times but it was more the performance of these paddles that impressed us. Very light, comfortable and easy to use, they gently encouraged us to adapt a good stroke leading to an easy, flowing rhythm (lose the wrist strap to work more on hand entry). Due to the carbon fibre they had flexibility too, sadly lacking in most paddles, which did enable us to notice where our stroke could be improved as we moved through the water.
The day after testing we noticed fatigue in our lats on our ‘strong’ arm and more in the smaller muscles on our less efficient arm.
Verdict: If you enjoy using swim paddles these are the best – albeit at a steep price, 90%