top of page
Lighthouse in Brittany

Haywood Sports

Blogs

Getting to Grips - New Black Project Paddles

Black Project has reworked its Racing Paddle Range with an upgrade to the Hydro SprintX and the brand-new Hydro SynergyX. Scotty has been out for his first test on the new paddles, so here is his initial review.


Copyright Black Project SUP

Intro & Paddle Specs

I've been using Black Project (BP) paddles since 2017 for my racing and surfing, so I'm a BP fan, it must be said. I've always enjoyed their feel and quality, so I was keen to take a look at the new paddles, especially given the introduction of the new Hydro SynergyX. I'm also someone who analyses their kit as I look to understand the design principles and decide what's actually innovative and what's just marketing speech.


Hydro SprintX

What's the paddle aimed at:

  • Sprints and Technical races.


Key Characteristics:

  • High Cadence

  • Compact Blade

  • Instant Acceleration


Sizes:

  • Small - 77 sq in.

  • Medium - 82 sq in.

  • Large - 88 sq in.

  • X-Large - 94 sq in.



 

Hydro SynergyX

What's the paddle aimed at:

  • Middle & Long Distance Racing


Key Characteristics:

  • Optimised for Efficiency

  • Thin Blade Profile

  • Medium Depth Power Scoop


Sizes:

  • X-Small - 76 sq in.

  • Small - 80 sq in.

  • Medium - 85 sq in.

  • Large - 91 sq in.

  • X-Large - 97 sq in.



First Impressions - Looks & Branding

My first impressions are the paddles look great. The new branding is sharper than before, and I quite like the 'racing' look to the styling. My wife, Lauren (Lol), feels it's a bit over the top, and I can see that too. The branding is bold and not 'classic' like previous generations of BP Paddles. I'm a motorsport fan, so the style reminds me of a modern racing car livery with flashes of colour, streaked lines and information sections all backed by uncoloured carbon; what's not to like?


Both paddles share the same handle and shaft, which I won't go into too much detail on here, so head over to the Black Project website for more info, including a full breakdown of the new Tour Carbon Double-Tapered Oval Paddle Shaft here. In short, the Power Grip handle aims to give a wider and flatter feel when in the hand, increasing comfort and reducing fatigue, with a slightly smaller option for smaller paddles/shafts. The new shaft allows the flex pattern to remain consistent across a range of paddle sizes with the paddle being cut from either the top or bottom (there are two shaft lengths to start with), ensuring that short paddles do not become too stiff and likewise long paddles are not too soft.



On the Water - My First Thoughts

My first session with both paddles was to feel what they were like and get some initial thoughts before I dial in my specific techniques and styles to match each paddle. Both will have their own unique characteristics that I will want to exploit, so I didn't have a plan for the first session other than to blast around a bit and try a few things out.


Hydro SprintX - L 88 sq in (cut to 74")

I've not used the previous generation of Hydro Sprint paddles, so I was eager to get my hands on the new one and see what it's all about. As you expect, it feels like there is plenty of power, and straight away, you notice the acceleration the blade gives you. I took the 'oversized' blade for my size (L over M) but wanted extra power for short-distance racing and 200m sprints. Paddling a few hundred meters, the speed was really good; again, what you would expect from using a bigger blade, especially upwind, I noticed that I could keep a higher pace than if I was using my current Hydro FlowX.


The Catch - With the compact blade shape, I expected I would need some time to dial in the catch. With a wider blade than other paddles, I was expecting to hit the rails on entry and need to rework my catch so I wasn't burying the blade too deep given it's a touch shorter than the Flow. However, both were not an issue; it had a solid catch (overall blade size helped), and I instantly found a grove. The shaping in the power scoop and the outer profile having a flat face gives you plenty of confidence, meaning I trusted the catch instantly. I could lean on the paddle straight away, which resulted in instant drive and acceleration. I did some sprints and longer gliding strokes, and every catch was solid.


Power - Needless to say, there was plenty! I didn't feel I would be overpowering the blade at any point, even though I tried. It felt solid on entry and consistent through the pull. Given I have oversized the blade for my weight, I could feel on longer stints at max power that it would quickly fatigue the shoulders, so it will be important for short course racing (4- 5 km tech races or sub 10km distance), not to over paddle it. I typically have a relatively slow cadence, so my first impression is it will be straightforward to manage the power through my stroke rate and style.


Exit - Despite the size and shape of the blade, the exit was clean and easy to initiate. It dumps the power quickly, and the flat outer profile allows the blade to slip out of the water easily. This was the same even when sprinting, allowing you to return back to your catch quickly and efficiently, helping to manage the power over fatigue balance. I've always found BP paddles to be very quick and easy to exit, and the SprintX is no exception.


Sprints - Thankfully, the paddle lives up to the name perfectly. The acceleration is quick, and the compact blade ensures a quick and powerful catch. I couldn't make it slip in the water unless I did something wrong, so on sprints where every stroke counts, it will help you hit every stroke perfectly. I played around with my hand position a little, but in reality, I chose to cut the SprintX 1 inch shorter, so I didn't have to mess around too much. You can up your cadence quickly, but it immediately settles back to slower rates. It would be interesting to use it in a 200-meter dash, as well as in tech racing.


Summary - I was very impressed with the SprintX. It delivers what you expect but is also more usable than I thought it would be. With some training on it, I reckon it could be useful for anything up to 10 km, but I'm looking forward to using it in tech races where you are constantly accelerating from transitions and turns. I'm also looking to see if I can beat my 200m sprint PB this year, so let's see how that goes later.

I plan to train with this paddle regulary to build up my strength endurance and dial it in for slightly longer distances. My first race on it will be a tech race, so time to get some buoys out and work on turns and building the base up ready.



 

Hydro SynergyX - M 85 sq in (cut to 75")

My first black Project paddle was the original 'flat' Hydro at 88 sq inches. I love that paddle and still have it to this day, using it regularly when training and coaching and it's a great all-around paddle. Therefore, I was keen to see what the latest evolution of the Hydro series had to offer, having been a big fan of the original Hydro and using the Hydro FlowX for the past couple of years. Interestingly, even after the first few strokes, the new SynergyX feels closer to the original Hydro than the Flow. What is striking about that is the massive change of concept that the Flow brought in with the deep Power Scoop and the Advanced Flow Technology 'fin' on the front face. You would expect the new Synergy to be closer to this, given it's got all the same features, whereas the original Hydro was 'flat' in concept.


Very similar details on the previous generation Flow (Left and the new Synergy (Right)


The Catch - Clean and sharp, but it takes some tweaking to get 'right' if your coming from the Flow. I found the catch to be quicker than its cousin and closer to the original Hydro, which is music to my ears in many ways. I loved the original's ability to grab quickly and that you could really load up the front part of the stroke by almost pre-loading power into the paddle through your windup and tension before the blade hits the water. The catch would then be a complete unload and create instant drive, which I love. By no means was the flow 'bad' at that, but it wasn't as dynamic as the original Hydro. The SynergyX certainly feels like it's gone back to those roots. Looking at the shaping, the Original Hydro and the new Synergy share a lower-end 'scoop' right at the tip, allowing this pre-load to work and creating a quick catch. I didn't have it dialled straight away, expecting it to feel closer to the Flow, but you can see the writing is on the walls for lots of gains at this part of the stroke.


Power - The Synergy is smooth and stable with a softness coming from the blade size and shape. I feel like it could easily tick off the mid-distance events of 10 - 15km without any time on the paddle, and it's pretty obvious that it would be more comfortable over longer distances than the Flow was, especially if you're not fully conditioned. Off the back of the quick catch, the power transfer was easy to apply and towards the front of the stroke, encouraging good form, but I didn't feel it punished bad form like the Flow if you got it wrong. Whereas the Flow really needed you to be on it at all times, I feel like the Synergy would have some margin for error, which will help with fatigue and stresses over longer distances and regular paddles.


Exit - Where the Synergy and Flow are closest is through the exit. You have to be aware of the Advanced Flow Technology 'fin' at the top of the blade's front face. You will feel this catch if you over-rotate the blade on exit or are lazy and don't lift the paddle up and out. That said, being used to a high recovery from the original Hydro and paddling the Flow, the Synergy felt comfortable and easy to adapt to straight away. If you're used to a traditional blade, it may take a session or two before you start feeling comfortable. Still, the big win is the shallower Power Scoop than the Flow. There is a definite improvement in the dumping of power at the exit phase, which allows you to find more glide. I could feel I wasn't using as much energy to recover as with the Flow, and the pace was close to the SprintX over short distances under normal paddling.


A clean exit - a characteristic of all the Hydro generations


Usability - Where the Hydro series was a real winner for me in the past was its usability. The original was a jack of all trades and a master simultaneously. Put it in a Sprint, and you won't go wrong. I've found it very capable in the open sea on a Downwinder. It works well, and of course, in all-round racing conditions. The Flow wasn't as user-friendly as the original Hydro, and you could tell if you were having a bad day or even if you hadn't been training much. However, it was amazing at finding stability in any water, especially in choppy conditions. The Flow wasn't the best sprinter, but it was good enough for getting off the line reasonably quickly, and if you managed it well, it wouldn't hurt you in technical races when accelerating out of each turn. The SynergyX feels closer to the original Hydro and seems back to a more useble paddle in all conditions. I feel it will accelerate quicker, be less punishing and still take the stability from the Flow to work in whatever the water throws at you.


Summary - Overall, the Synergy makes total sense when you look at the characteristics of the blade and heritage. It feels closer to the original Hydro but takes the best of the Flow forwards. The combination with the new shaft certainly removes the edge from paddling it, so it will better protect you from injury and reduce fatigue over longer distances. The speed felt good, and the numbers I was seeing upwind and on the flat were encouraging for a first blast. I can see plenty of gains to be made once I get it dialled in.




 

Summing it up and any Negatives?

For me, after a first blast, no. The paddles feel solid, look great, and the quality is there you would expect from a premium brand like Black Project. I still need to dial the paddles in, work my style and tweak some technique to get the best out of both paddles. I always say that a new paddle will take 3 or 4 sessions to get used to it and another 3 or 4 more to become comfortable. From there, it can easily be another 5 before you are fully dialled in, so it's a case of getting out on the water, trying different styles and honing it all in. That said, if you're looking for a good quality paddle that will work from the go, both offer stability, plenty of usable power and comfort with the new shaft system.


Getting Comfortable

I think the new shafts will be the biggest thing to get my head around. Not in concept, I totally get that, especially after catching the latest article on them (check it out here), but more so in the diameter. The central part is 25mm round, whereas I've always preferred a larger diameter. Its something I used to do on my cricket bats, I would add 1 or sometimes 2 extra grips so the smaller shaft will take some figuring out. I felt the reduced size 'hook' into my fingers more than the standard 29mm shafts. I'm sure it will become normal soon, but just something for me to work on as a personal preference.


Usability

Seeing others' feedback on the new kit is always interesting, so I'm looking forward to hearing their views, especially those who have been using the Flow and are giving the Synergy a go. For anyone unsure about the change, I would try the new Synergy. It is a lot more user-friendly.



I've always been a fan of the original Hydro - a favourite since 2017

123 views2 comments

2 Comments


Thanks for your thoughts Scotty. Would be keen to hear a mid-season update after a some time with the new paddles. Particularly interested on whether sizing up to the large Sprint blade worked well, or caused issues etc.

Like
Scotty
Scotty
Apr 21
Replying to

Yep will do that indeed. Had a short blast on the Synergy yesterday (10x 1min max pace off 1min rest) which was good. Not focused on too much form in those but had good numbers and consistent pace throughout so pleased with that. Fins next!

Like
bottom of page