New N0SA paddles and Elecraft AX1 showing off during an impromptu POTA activation

On Monday, October 4, 2021, I was set to have a lunch with my good friend, Taiyo, who happened to be in town from Japan. We decided to grab some take-out and meet at a picnic area halfway between my QTH and where he would be staying during his visit. Turns out, the Vance Birthplace (K-6856) fit the bill perfectly–especially since rain showers were in the forecast all day and Vance has a covered picnic area.

I didn’t have an activation in mind that Monday because my focus was on spending time with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, but I brought the KX2 field kit with the AX1 antenna…you know...just in case.

Radio time!

After running a number of errands in town and grabbing some take-out lunch from Whole Foods market, I still ended up arriving at Vance about an hour early, so I pulled the KX2 and AX1 out of the car.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to attempt to prove (once again) that antennas like the AX1 are super fun and portable, but you can’t expect large aperture antenna results.

Fortunately, I also had my OSMO action camera in the pack, so I made a YouTube video (see below) of the entire activation including set-up and take-down.


This activation was also the maiden voyage of N0SA’s latest creation: his N0SA SOTA paddles.

Larry (N0SA)–a long-time reader of–sent me a set of these paddles for evaluation and actually gave them to me later in support of the site. (Thank you, Larry!)

Larry designed these paddles and only produced about 20 of them. I posted an article about them and he sold all of them within a few hours. Obviously N0SA’s reputation precedes him! He might produce another run of these at some point, but this is purely a fun side project for him in retirement–he won’t be doing any large production runs in the future.

These little paddles are truly a brilliant bit of engineering.

Seeing that I would have a little radio time before Taiyo arrived, I actually pulled off the road and scheduled the activation on the POTA site en route to Vance. I like scheduling the activation in advance for RBN auto-spotting (even when I have Internet access at a site) since it’s then one less thing I have to do when calling CQ on site. Plus, it’s great spotting insurance!

As I mention in the video (below), I always keep my expectations in check when operating a super compact and compromised antenna like the AX1.

On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA and within 14 minutes had validated the activation with 10 contacts on 40M. (Thanks for that P2P KN3A!)

Keep in mind, I was running 5 watts with the KX2, in the middle of a covered picnic shelter (roof overhead), and in a deep valley.

Once again, the AX1 had already proven its worth.

I played on 40 meters a while longer working 4 more stations, then moved up to 20 meters.

I should have traded out the 33′ counterpoise for the 13′ AX1 counterpoise to work 20 meters, but I decided in the interest of time to simply use the KX2’s internal ATU to find an impedance match and keep on trucking with the 33′ counterpoise; knowing full well it wouldn’t be as efficient.

I started calling CQ and quickly worked K9IS who is very much a welcome regular in my logs. A few minutes later I worked KE5XV, then WJ0L.

I continued calling CQ, but mentally was already planning to go QRT, and pack up my gear before Taiyo arrived.

Then Elemer (HA9RE) answered my call.


Yes. Under the roof of a picnic shelter, in a deep valley in western North Carolina, I just made contact with Hungary using the AX1 and 5 watts of power.

This is the stuff that gets the radio adrenaline pumping!

HA9RE has big ears and was doing the heavy lifting for sure. He’s very much a regular in POTA and SOTA logs State-side, but it sort of blows my mind that I was sitting there with such a wee antenna and 5 watts chit-chatting with Elemer in Miskolc who needed extra details like my county (Buncombe) and copy was so solid.

I wrote to Elemer post-activation and sent him a photo of my station, noting my 5 watt power setting. He replied:

It’s really amazing what you are doing…it is something like a fairytale…theoretically it’s impossible, I mean to copy your signal…and it can be really copied…that’s the truth…


Here’s what the KX2/AX1 pair did in 36 minutes on the air (click to enlarge) :

AX1 Antenna QSO Map from Hungary to


Here’s my real-time, real-life video from the activation that day:

Click here to view on YouTube. 


Anyway, this antenna keeps making a big ole liar out of me.

How many times do I have to state that expectations should be low with an antenna like this, only for it to then make super short work of an activation?

Intellectually, I know I have much better performing antennas in my arsenal, but if I were to look at the log results and on-air time in a blind antenna survey, I’m convinced the AX1 would rise to the top of my antenna list.

My working theory is that one advantage I have here in North Carolina is being in the middle of the most populated portion of the US.  Our population density doesn’t approach anything like Europe or, say, Japan, but there are a lot of active POTA chasers well within reach of North Carolina regardless of antenna.

The AX1 also seems to grab stations much closer to home than, say, my end-fed half wave or random wire antennas. Indeed, looking only at the pattern of contacts, it would appear to have NVIS-like characteristics.

I’m not a radio engineer nor antenna theory guru–I just do my pragmatic real-life experiments so to speak: I play radio and try stuff.

I would love to hear thoughts from those of you who do understand antenna theory.

Thank you for joining me!

I’ve gotten notes from many of you who tell me that you feel like you’re joining me on the activation when watching my videos and reading my field reports.

Nothing makes me happier.

In fact, I feel like you’re sitting there next to me as we hit the air and discover how each activation plays out. I feel like I’ve got a friend along for the ride.

I’m well aware that this real-time experience thing isn’t for everyone as few people in this century have the attention span to watch lengthy videos and read long-format reports.

But you are the exception and I appreciate that!

Again, a special thanks to those of you who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free–I really appreciate the support.

Here’s wishing you some serious radio fun this week!

Cheers & 73,

Thomas (K4SW / M0CYI)

12 thoughts on “New N0SA paddles and Elecraft AX1 showing off during an impromptu POTA activation”

  1. I was lucky enough to get one of Larry’s paddles. Setup was easy and I got the action to feel similar to my Begali Simplex. Excellent video.

    1. See

      This trick could be used with many transceivers that lack antenna tuners. Yes, Y2H did do somhing to he AX1 but what he did appears to be quick, easy, and reversible.

        1. Maybe this will work. I’ll type it in without the angle brackets and I’ll put in extra spaces between all typed characters so you’ll have edit out all the spaces. I hope this works and Google stops trying to double-think me! This should begin with h t t p COLON DOUBLE FORWARD SLASH w w w all of which you’ll also have to add (and without its extra spaces as well).

          Here goes.

          y o u t u b e DOT c o m FORWARD SLASH w a t c h QUESTION MARK v = S E 2 E t V w 9 l h o

  2. Elemer (HA9RE) does have a wonderful ear. As a new POTA operator, using a Ubitx v6 and a hamstick, he pulled me out of nowhere. What a wonderful surprise and feeling ☺.
    Thanks for your blog.

    Fr Richard

  3. I’m certainly a believer Thomas!

    Inspired by all these post of yours, I recently picked up a small whip for use with my FT-818.

    While it’s not the AX-1 (it’s a model more often than not poo-pooed in reviews), 2 weeks in to using it, I’ve been able to activate Bulgaria with 6 watts from here in Ontario.

    I think it comes down to using what you’ve got and while keeping an open mind and trying things for yourself.

    1. Thank you, Robert! Hazel is doing very well. She has been with me on a couple of recent activations, but not ones I recorded. Soon, though! 🙂

  4. Hey Thomas,

    I used mine today and on top of it being an amazing Key I had my first pile up on CW and first DX stations on cw.

    The N0SA paddle is like you said a work of art a precision instrument it is perfect.

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