When reviewing products it's generally best to apply some sort of scoring system for the sake of objectivity. Marks for functionality, design, style, value and so forth. So when Sam over at Surf Core asked me if I'd fancy field testing a pair of "RealWiiings", a few seconds of feedback from curious bystanders suggested I'd better add "chuckle factor" to the criteria.
The name, the name! If the thought had only flitted through my mind, then I might have buried the notion and resisted the urge to go Fnarr! Fnarr! like my old mate Finbar Saunders. But to a man - and every woman present - before any credible assessment could get underway, we had passed round the laughing gas and cracked all the panty one-liners, female sanitary accoutrement gags going.
But titter ye not, we won't let a dodgy name get in the way of an honest review. As you can see from the bumph on "RealWiiings" site these "sleek, ultra light durable paddles attach to each wrist with an adjustable (velcro) strap" and are designed to give some extra oomph to your stroke as you paddle out to get some wave action. At just under £25 a pair, with various colours and slight strap length variations if used with a shortie, the price point is reasonable enough if the wiiidgets work.
Impressive are the claims mentioned - "faster paddle out!", "get out of the churn quicker!", "longboarders reach incredible speed", "faster than a speeding bullet" – well OK, the last one's Superman's.
Mine arrived with a set of instructions double printed so I'm blaming that for the time it took me to figure out how to attach the velcro straps and angle the paddles the right way. Their website has a much clearer set of instructions and once you get the hang of it, it is pretty simple to get your Wiiings on. An "R" and and "L" on either wing wouldn't go amiss mind you. Do try fitting your Wiings at home first (fnarr, fnarr), if only to preserve a modicum of credibility when you finally hit the shoreline.
And so it was that on an unseasonably sunny stretch of Portstewart strand the winter suit was donned, the RealWiiings were fastened onto Beach Bum's wrists, tightened and aligned as instructed. Despite concerns about how these Wiiings would look strapped on, I have to say that they were reasonably discreet, far more so than I would have expected. There's a slight feel of having “done a Batman” and whipped out something from the utility belt – but that’s a plus point as far as I’m concerned. The blade-like design of the Wiiings brought out the none too deeply buried "inner child" in me, so prior to diving in to the surf, I did strike a couple of suitably Ninja-like poses. Or was that Power Ranger? But I digress.
All that shenanigans out of the way, I was into the sea and awaaay (adding extra vowels seems only natural nooow).Did I paddle faster? Did I catch more waves? To be fair, I’ve seen bigger waves in my bath and in truth I didn’t notice much difference. I suspect that there’s more performance to be gained from improving paddle technique, strength and stamina than from strapping on Wiiiings or the other alternative - webbed gloves.
Perhaps for the surfing elite, any product that offers an edge is a plus and RealWiiings will take off on the back of guys like Mike Esposito who designed and endorse them. When Sam asked me for comments, he added that he didn’t know what to make of them. For me the jury’s still out too.