Sunday, July 5, 2009

Aquabound & Bending Branches -- together at last

Every good outing has a great campfire story. Lacking any smoky ambience, Ethan memorably recreates Bill Murray and the Dalai Lama in the hotel parking lot. Wazzat got to do with paddles? You got me. Then again, you might think deep fried cheese curds are unrelated. Think again. Every fine stick from Bending Branches and Aqua-Bound comes straight to you from America's Dairyland, handcrafted in Osceola, Wisconsin.

A short trip to Wisconsin brought the Aqua-Bound family of paddles front and center for the Ruby Creek gear quiver. A year ago, Bending Branches purchased Aqua-Bound from founder Joe Matuska, and we're honored to be repping both brands now under the consolidated company banner. Two days of planning meetings culminated with seven miles of product testing on the gorgeous, mostly peaceful St Croix River dividing rural Wisconsin on the East and Minnesota on the West. Just an hour from the Twin Cities, this place is a world away from the rat race.

From BB's Whisper, at $60 an amazing light weight and durable paddle for the price, to Aqua-Bound's mainstream Ray series, to Branches' all-carbon Spirit set for transfer to the Aqua-Bound brand for 2010, to the SWEET kayak and canoe models in wood, these combined great names in paddling have it covered. In a factory tour, we met the crew who take such pride in their work that they can get your order off to your dealer in two days, over 90% of the time.

More amazing is the return rate of less than 1%. These guys make solid, safe paddles that are built to last. Ethan and I are proud and grateful to be a part of the family.

Ed and Jerry styled in a canoe, checking the sweet feel of the BB bent shaft paddles, while East Coast rep Tim Knight cruised the river with an all-carbon Spirit paddle, weighing in at 25 oz. in T-700 carbon, the tough, aircraft-grade fabric you'll see in Aqua-Bound shafts beginning next year.

Parting Shot -- The St Croix River gets a little Northwest love from Renton, WA's Cascade Canoe & Kayak.

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