Wednesday, February 14, 2018


2016 was a tough year if you happened to be a paddle in my hands.  I broke 3 of them.  2 others in 2015.

One of them was legitimately my fault -- I wedged it between two rocks in a panicked high brace and it snapped immediately.  The others were either manufacturer's defects or just really crappy timing.

It took Sawyer 18 months to fix the one I broke, as well as the one that kept sucking water into the shaft.  One came back having gained half a pound, the other with no feather.  18 months.  I had little interest in sending them back, again, not knowing if they'd ever be returned.  Didn't matter in the end -- Sawyer never bothered to return another call.

I gave both of those paddles to friends whom could put them to good use and washed my hands of Sawyer.

Lifetime boaters steered me toward Werner paddles, so I bought one carbon and one glass and figured I was covered.  The glass shaft broke while I was upside down in Kirshbaum's, on it's first day in service, and no one present could see where I'd hit anything.  I didn't get warm fuzzies from that track record, so I first sent it back to Werner for them to repair, then I promptly hacksawed the blades off of that shaft and stuck them in a box.  Did the same with my as-yet unused carbon Werner, then shipped said box to a friend back east.

Said friend has been making paddles all his life, and created and installed a one-piece wood shaft for my glass blades to use as a roadside/beater paddle, and stuck my carbon blades onto a 2-piece carbon bent shaft to become my hike-in/travel/backcountry paddle.  He's converted at least 5 other paddles for me through the years -- all of which now reside with my main paddling partners, or my wife.

Both shafts are bent.  I did despicable things to my hands and wrists while pursuing a career as an endurance nerd, such that bent shafts are more or less mandatory for me for anything over an ~hour of paddling.  I opted for Werner's Sidekick blades because they are big and I need that easy-button, and because I am a low-skill/low-angle paddler and the downturned blades buy me a little more immersion.

I've now had these paddles in service for over a year.  The wood shaft beater has led me down the Grand Canyon twice, on many laps of Westwater, it's been white-knuckled down a runoff trip on Marsh/Middle/Main, laughed with on the Lochsa, the Numbers and Browns, seen me through an early season blizzard on Escalante Creek, down Taylor Canyon and the Lake Fork Gunny, kept me upright on a flooding West Fork Bruneau and Middle Fork Smith, followed by a too-high-for-me South Fork Payette Canyon run, two just right laps on the North Fork Smith, as well as a low water Jarbidge/Bruneau mission, among many, many others.  We have bonded, you might say.

The two-piece carbon has been used on exploratories of Upper Vallecito, slogs down the Warner Route into the Gunny, trips back east to visit family and paddle whatever I can find, as well as the Elwha, Straight Canyon, several shan't-be-named runs in the central Rockies, some of the steeper/juicier upper bits of the Crystal and Roaring Fork, Rockwood and the Middle Box, plus at least a dozen others that I'm forgetting.  We too have bonded.

I thought it might be fun to share a small part of how these paddles came to be as they are:

Unfortunately, said paddle-making friend has told me that he is done, DONE, making paddles with other people's parts.  No more, nada, done.  Don't ask me to share his contact info, because he no longer offers this service.  Bummer.

Thanks for checkin' in.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mike. My friend Kiwi Mike is making paddles in Seattle. Supposed to be bomb proof. #hardcorepaddles