carbon vs wood paddles

I going to buy myself a new straight shaft canoe paddle. I paddle mostly class II rivers, and recently class III with a couple of used OC-1s I bought last summer. I have a Mitchell, Hammerhead?, that I use most of the time now, but it is pretty heavy. I have been looking at the ZREs, as compared to some of the custom wood paddles like the Cricket Designs, FoxWorx, and Gillespie. I am kind of torn between going for something like the ZRE Power Curve for the light weight (can anyone tell me how they like this paddle?), or sacrificing some weight for the aesthetics of wood. Has anyone used a Cricket Designs Solo or XL? Are there other custom wood paddle makers out there I should consider? Thanks, in advance, for all the things I’ve learned, and will learn from the paddlers here.

You can get anything you might want
from Mitchell. I’d get a slalom paddle with a carbon faced curved wood blade and a carbon shaft. Get them to put a vinyl sleeve on the carbon shaft and it will last a long time. Be sure to specify that you want flexibility evenly distributed across the blade and shaft (like mine). Don’t believe warnings that carbon shafts are stiff. They can be had in any degree of flexibility.

As I recall, ZRE has a whitewater paddle you might consider. Their other paddles are not that suitable for working class 2 rivers with whitewater maneuvers.

ZRE makes top-notch paddles. I haven’t used a Powercurve, but I love my two Powersurges. Well made paddles.

Function verse Beauty

– Last Updated: Feb-23-10 8:40 AM EST –

Wood can easily be shaped almost anyway a paddle might be shaped and it is warm to the hand and easy on the eyes. It is also prone to breakage.

Carbon is lighter and stronger than wood but once a mold is made all design modifications are ephemeral.

I have lots of wood paddles I enjoy using, but for tripping I tote a largish straight blade and a small bladed bent, both in carbon.

Zav's carbon sticks are the gold standard. Prepreg construction, etc. One word of caution about the Power Curve; the cup improves slalom racing performance but dedicated a power face, and the curved blade requires a longer learning curve to control slices, which are required for cross forward strokes.

My Go-To tripping straight blade is a Carbon Raven from Gray Owl with a couple ounces of lead glued in the grip to balance the blade heavy thing out. Well mannered, mid-priced and quite rugged.

On the other hand, that Powercurve is a wonderful stick if you'll put in the time to master it. But it has a dedicated powerface that grabs water better than a straight blade and a dedicated backface which does not. One needs to train to invert the paddle for backstrokes, pushaways, etc, so the palm roll becomes a necessary technique.

So, in terms of suggestions for tripping, I always tote a Zav bent with ~ 110 sq in blade surface to sit and switch across flatwater and in wind, and a ~ 145 sq in straight or curved blade carbon stick with straight shaft for control and maneuvering.

curved vs straight blade
I have a curved blade Mitchell that I have used quite a bit, but usually take the straight blade, because in some current, I just haven’t learned to do some strokes instinctively with the dedicated curved face. That gives me some concern for the Power Curve ZRE. I don’t think they offer it with a straight blade. Which ZRE do you think would work best for me paddling mostly day trips from class I-III, some 2-7 day tripping, and hopefully that Thelon River trip someday? By the way, I have always appreciated your comments on pnet, and advice you have given me in the past. thanks.

I ain’t that good, but I adapted to a
curved blade very quickly. The Mitchell (and my similar Clinch River) curved blade feels quite neutral during various slicing and sculling maneuvers, and I don’t bother rotating the blade for back paddling. Most of my ability to execute cross strokes was developed after I switched to curved blades.

How about a custom paddle
I have a Dogpaddle river/creek blade. It’s quite light, though not as light as carbon. I don’t go rock bashing with it but it’s taken it’s share of unintentional bangs, bumps with no ill effects other than surface scratches.

The nice thing about it is that Marc will make just about anything you want. He’ll size the grip and shaft length just the way you want it. Likewise, he can put as much or as little reinforcement in the blade as you want/need.

I bought this paddle for river work but I find that I like it better than anything else I have for flat water as well.


Love my ZRE Whitewater
it’s light and very effective. (Not the Harold Deal paddle, not curved, looks like the standard Zav)

But it’s bent and I prefer straights in rapids. I’m not crazy about what banging it on the rocks does to it either.

I also love my Mitchel Premier, wood shaft, carbon over wood blade. Tough as they come, rocks hide from this stick, well balanced and quite effective. But it ain’t light!

I hefted a carbon shaft Premier, carbon over wood blade. It was lighter than mine but not even close to the Zav. It felt blade heavy which turned me off. I did not paddle with it.

I use a Werner Bandit in fiberglass
Its light, relatively cheap, and pretty much indestructible. This will be my third full season with this paddle and it has taken a lot of abuse. Compare the nice square edges of the new paddle to the wear on mine.

I’ve probably lost a half inch of the blade on the inside edge, something less than that on the outside edge. I don’t think I’m particularly hard on paddles - they just take a lot of abuse. Could also be that the fiberglass blade wears faster than wood or carbon.

I’d buy another Bandit in a minute, but I think my next paddle might be a Mitchell Premier.

Usually on paddles without tip inserts
carbon will wear faster than fiberglass. As it should. Carbon fibers are softer than glass fibers. Their advantage is their stiffness and strength for weight. If S-glass was as light as carbon, you would not see any carbon shafts or paddles.

thanks everyone
as always, good comments, and food for thought.

One more option
Werner Bandit in carbon (or glass) with door edge guard from an auto parts store on the bottom 1/4 of the paddle. Seems you have to put it up the sides up to the area where it transitions thinner in order for it stay. It’s not my idea. I got it here from somalley and after a season I’m well pleased. I can’t even tell it’s on and it protects the paddle. If my “door edge guard” wears out this season, I’ll replace it for like $3.

Folks with thin blades similar to the
Werners have often been happy with the door edging solution. I guess there might be a subtle effect on paddle behavior, but none have complained. I have a tendency to get the paddle snagged between current and rocks, and a plastic bead on the edge might make it harder to snatch the blade loose.

Back on the wood versus glass/carbon issue, when I ordered my Mitchell, I passed up the rope and epoxy edging option, and asked for ash edging. It is a bit lighter, stands up well to abuse, and is actually easier to repair than the fancy rope edging.

Get a Jimistyx
Get a paddle from Jim Snyder. It will likely outlast you.

You couldn’t buy a paddle from a nicer guy and the craftsmanship is second to none.

G2D Please clarify,
" If S-glass were lighter than carbon "

I know what you are implying but other may not.

S-glass fibers are only a little less
stiff in compression than carbon fibers, and S-glass is harder. It is “tougher” and capable of taking sudden stresses without snapping. If S-glass were as light as carbon, then, on the whole, it would make as good or better a material for blades and shafts. But S-glass is significantly heavier, as heavy as E-glass. So, one can make a good, strong, durable paddle with S-glass, but it will be kinda heavy. One can make a carbon paddle, perhaps using a teensy bit more cloth in the right places because carbon cloth is so light, and end up with a paddle every bit as strong and durable as an S-glass paddle, but quite a bit lighter.

Let me know if I got that right.



just say no…

– Last Updated: Feb-23-10 1:57 PM EST –

If you are happy with edging on your paddle, far be it for me to ask you to change; however I can think of no better way to lose the performance of a good paddle, than disrupt laminar flow... the catch... feathering... underwater recovery... and the feel that you must obviously want by purchasing a high dollar paddle in the first place. Of course we are talking edging on Werner's canoe paddles here, but I'll let that one go without much discussion... due to their lack of feel, performance, and longevity issues. The ZRE's rock, the Jimmy and Bailey Stick's are simply nice, Galasport's are primo, and Mitchell's probably the best value in the bunch. Of course it all depends, on what type of water you paddle. You mentioned class2-3 paddling... is that like a little whitewater with mostly moving water, or is it extended rocky 2-3, do you playing around any(surfing...etc), mostly deep water, or rather shallow? Also do you paddle cold weather, or just warm... to me these all make a difference.

good question
I actually almost went back to correct myself. When I am out in my SRT it is mostly class I, actually, with intermittent II. When I’m in my OC-1 it is usually class II, with some III.

new one
for me. Thanks. They look like interesting paddles.