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The Burnwater Reactor II and an Interview with Arin Chang of Burnwater

August 11, 2010

Most of you that read ReadyandReach on a regular basis know that the Burnwater Reactor II is one of my favorite paddles.  I’ve owned a few Burnwater paddles over the years and they have served me well.

Last year, I intended to paddle with the ZRE XL at the San Francisco Dragon Boat Tournament.  I quickly ditched the ZRE “Egg Shell” as the entries I was getting with that paddle were subpar.  I left my Burnwater Reactor at home, and lent out my Kialoa Dragon Hybrid so I went over to Burnwater’s tent and purchased a Reactor II.

The Reactor II is a light paddle but not the lightest (ZRE and Merlin both have lighter paddles).  The paddle is visually beautiful – one piece construction and the visible carbon weave is a sight to behold.  The elliptical  shaft is very comfortable and gives you additional feel as to how the blade is angled in the water.  The paddle is nice and stiff allowing a solid power transfer from body to blade to water.

In my opinion, what sets this paddle apart is the taper and sharpness of the tip.  I frequently describe the entry I achieve with this paddle as “buttery”.  Don’t get me wrong, this, or any other paddle for that matter, cannot make up for poor paddling technique but if you place this paddle in the hands of someone that knows what s/he is doing, “entry nirvana” can be reached.

Is this paddle right for you?  The only way you are going to find out is if you give it a try.  Arin and the Burnwater tent are at many dragon boat festivals in North America and they usually have demo paddles you can test.  Give one a go and let me know what you think.

I recently had a chance to lob a few questions with the owner and founder of Burwater, Arin Chang.  Here’s what he said:

What did you do before starting Burnwater?

Before I started Burnwater I actually worked in the semi-conductor industry here in the Silicon Valley. But my most valuable job/experience was working for a mountain biking company after I graduated from college. It was there I learned a lot about high tech manufacturing and design.

What team do you/did you paddle for?  Do you still paddle much?

I used to paddle with the Alvin Wang and the Bay Area Dragons(BAD) here in San Francisco. I started paddling about 10 years ago and was fortunate enough to meet a lot of great people and race competitively around the world. I don’t get to race much these days since the business has been keeping me busy. I travel a lot during race season and our company’s tent can usually be found at few races throughout north America.

How does your background influence Burnwater products?

I am an engineer by training and I am passionate about creating products that people love using.

Why did you start Burnwater?

I started Burnwater because I love the sport and saw the need to create high performance gear for the racers who are fanatical about racing.

Where were you initially located?  Where are you located now?

Our company is headquarted in Foster City Ca, and we are still located here in the bay area. We currently are opening offices in Vancouver Canada to better support our Canadian customers.

What does your current line of products consist of?

This year we are focusing on three main products. 1. Our new one piece Reactor II carbon fiber dragon boat paddle 2. Our new airline rated travel bags and  3. Our Fusion grip tape which comes sporty new colors.

There have been some issues with the some of your previous Burnwater paddles.  What happened?

Yes we did run into a few snags in production of past units. What had happened was that after a couple of years after the initial introduction of the Reactor (2003) the EPA (environmental protection agency) banned the chemicals we used to create the center core of the blade. The new materials were not nearly as good and stable as the original materials thus leading to a few problems with the core being unstable.

How was this problem fixed?  Is there a difference in the way Burnwater paddles are now made versus how they were made before the problems?

Faced with this problem we went back to the drawing board and re-engineered the paddle and production process to avoid these problems. What we came up with took us over a year to develop and are now very satisfied with the results. We now are no longer using core materials that are soft and unstable but manufacture the core using very precision CNC (computer controlled) machinery. This manufacturing process is exactly how they make aerospace parts and airplanes. We also now make the blade and the shaft as one solid piece. We no longer bond the blade and shaft together which required weight adding reinforcement and a potential weak point in the paddle. Over all it’s a better process and makes for a beautiful finished product.

What can we look out for from Burnwater in the future?

I can’t specifically say what or I might get fired…hahaha. But now that production is ramping up I can focus more resources on the R and D part of things and look forward to introducing a new products that have been on the drawing board shortly.

Why should people paddle Burwnater paddles?

There have been a lot of other manufacturers making dragon boat paddles these days and like everything else ranging from cars to shoes it is nice to see so many options out there. With the new Reactor II the design intent was to come out with one of the best paddles out there. I choose to use the best quality materials, and have kept the features we have been known for like the clean entry tip, ergonomic elliptical shaft, light weight, great power transfer. Our paddles come with a one year warranty and are built to handle the rigors of racing and practice.

Anything else you’d like to share with the dragon boat community?

I want to thank everyone who has supported us in the past and look forward to many years of racing ahead of us!

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