Favorite Canoe Paddle???

What is your favorite canoe paddle? As a kayaker turned solo canoeist it seems that there is not as great a selection of top end paddles for canoes.

To me the paddle is such an critical element.

I have tried a few and found a few that I really like but am curious to hear of other top ones that maybe I ought to try before settling on one (I am a perfectionist).

The ones I have tried so far and like include the Bending Branches Espresso, BB Expedition (for abusing), Sawyer bent shaft (can’t recall model but is the carbon shaft model with 11 degree bend), Saywer straight shaft Voyager, and the BB Sunburst bent 14.

What do you like? The Whiskey Jack paddles look pretty promising as well.



Reminds me of a study done back in
the 60s to determine how high is high in high fidelity. Essentially they found that people thought what they were listening to sounded best.

I use curved-blade, slalom-type paddles, and when I first tried one, it seemed so much better than my old Norse paddles that I could hardly contain my delight. But now I seem to prefer whichever of my three slalom paddles I have been using regularly. If I try one of the other two, there are things about it that bother me. By the way, one is a Mitchell, and the other two are Clinch River.

When cruising the flats, I prefer the 5 degree bent shaft I made from scratch.

Carlisle 8" Beavertail …
… a diamond in the rough .

It’s a pretty good paddle !!

For those who prefer a paddle that can slice bread , this $55. piece of Basswood (already extremely lightweight) , might make a good place start fine tuning and add your 2 oz. and epoxy if that’s what you like … just a suggestion .

Power and ballance it has , it pushes 500 lbs. up river , down river , across the reservoir etc. on a regular basis and never gives me a second thought .

Nope , it’s not a Whiskey Straight , it’s acually better IMHO (not as purdy but) … just sayin

I don’t golf.
But if I did golf, I would take a whole sack of clubs with me. Keeping that in mind . . .

A custom made traditional paddle carved by an expert to my specifications - basically an ottertail in ash. Check out Red River Canoe and Paddle for this sort of thing. Maybe wait a year or more to really know what your preferences are.

Redtail traditional paddles - I like the beavertail in white ash, and the ottertail in cherry. I also own a birdseye maple one and it is OK, but I think the only advantage of maple is the look. Excellent value on their one-piece series. Not a fan of the asymetrical grip on their “premium”

Aquabound Edge for whitewater - Grey Owl Hammerhead is OK too.

Whiskeyjack Whiskeychaser for flatwater cruising or the odd race (for a change from the traditional paddles I usually use) Also like the Grey Owl Marathon (but it is discontinued).

Grey Owl Scout - best “cheap” paddle.

Sawyer cedar northwoods - not my favourite but a well-balanced and very light paddle.

I like most paddles. I usually dislike those with a spine through the blade, as it causes turbulence on underwater recoveries, sculling etc. The top grip is important, as is the balance. I have come to the conclusion that almost all paddles are durable enough, so I carry two lighter ones rather than a heavy one on trips. Serious WW is another story, but the aquabound is pretty light anyway.

Not fond of the Grey Owl Sugar Island or Grey Owl River - don’t like how either of them balance. I often recommend the Grey Owl Voyageur as an excellent paddle for those who have only one.

I would
go to the Shaw and Tenny web site. They make a beautiful paddle. For solo quiet water, go with a beavertail 6" wide, or less, paddle. Shaw and Tenny have been around for a long time and stand behind what they sell. If you like it light, go spruce, not as durable as a hardwood. I’ve made several cherry beavertails and they are not real heavy either.

The BEST canoe paddle EVER
Or so I thought every time I purchased or carved each and every one of the 3 dozen canoe (or so) paddles hanging in my boat shed. Under certain circumstances and with certain canoes I was right every time! :^)

As an aside: It’s funny how subjective one’s choice of “best” is in a canoe paddle. Take for instance the Whiskeyjack line. To some they’re about the most godawful lookin’ things one can imagine with their weird edge profiles and garish fruit-striped woods. While other’s think they’re the berries and get all smiley faced. …juz goesta showya…

Whiskeyjack: Save your money
I think the they’re functionally flawed. That is IMHO, but after dropping over $265 on one (Whiskey Straight with calligraphy). As I have said before, while they are executed nicely, the design itself leaves a lot to be desired.

although I have a black bar that I am starting to like…

like Mr. Canoehead
depending on the boat you’re paddling, the water you’re on, and your physical well being and energy level. I used a Werner glass and loved it, then my elbow got tendonitus, so I was back to my AB edge curved blade, which is a great basher, high cadence paddle. Now my joints are recovered so I swap between these two in WW,the Werner for attainment(McaDooian loops) and use a long wood something or other for flatwater a few times a year.

ZRE here also.
I have a bunch of wood ones both straight and bent shaft, but once I started using a ZAV I have never gone back to any of them.

I use it in calm water, rough water and WW.



Agree with Jack. Since most of my paddling is in shallow water the ZRE works best and at 10oz it has become my favorite. I guess it depends what and how you use your boat?

Tuff one…
Let me see…

Nashwaak Cruiser fer deep water - #1

Shaw and Tenny Racine fer deep water - #2

Mitchell Open Boat fer WW

Bending Branches Beavertail fer beater paddle.

Fat Elmo

Zaveral Outrigger Powersurge 9.375 mediumweight.

Bill’s got it nailed

– Last Updated: Apr-28-09 8:11 AM EST –

Zav Outrigger's the best all around. I even convinced Jack & Nanci to get one. Actually, they sell themselves.

Hey Bill
I just got my OR for this season.

I already know it is going to be great for ten miles or less, but I’ll have to wait till some long training paddles to see about a 35 miler with it. I have a little bit of doubt right now.

Uning it this coming Saturday in a 8 mile down river race, with all switchbacks and twists. It sould be great for that.



Ya, and you guys kept it secret …
for all these years.

Just watch my smoke now!

And then I woke up!



Whiskeyjack paddles…another view
I’d like to take a different tack from Kanoo’s comments on Whiskeyjack paddles. He has blasted the entire line because he didn’t like the Whiskey Straight, which is about like blasting Wenonah because you didn’t like the Rendezvous. Whiskeyjack makes a number of top quality, highly functional paddles, most of them bents. As an example, their Whiskey Jill is a small blade, small shaft, very lightweight (12 ounce) beauty. In general, it is great for the person who has smaller hands, less upper body strength or wants to move less water in order to be able to paddle longer in a day (or be less wiped out at the end of a long day on the water). That’s women usually, but certainly not always. I can think of at least one paddle from just about every good paddle maker that I don’t particularly like, but that doesn’t mean that I condemn the entire product line. The OP was looking for quality paddles and Whiskeyjack has some that, in my opinion, should always be in the discussion.

A simple equation answers this

– Last Updated: Apr-28-09 12:33 PM EST –

question for me: Which paddle pleases me for the need at hand.

For flatwater canoeing, in the go-fast mode I love my Mitchell Leader. Light, quiet, warm to the touch.

For flatwater slow cruising my Bending Branches straight feels right. It DID NOT feel right until I shaved weight from the blade and gave it a well-cambered cross section. Now it slices sweetly.

For kayak touring, I used to be in love with an AT Exception. Still a fine paddle, it has been laid aside in favor of a Mitchell Horizon GP. GPs are soooo forgiving to the arms and shoulders that I doubt I will ever spend much time with a euro again.

If it feels good do it, and if it feels right, use it!

Old Fart (hu cant spel gud)

Barton paddles
I have a pair of custom Barton graphite paddles I bought used but they were like new. My favorite of the two is a 50 inch bent shaft that weighs 10 ounces.It works beautiful with my solo canoes and cruisers.

I understand Barton was a small shop in Michigan that is now out of business. I also have a 52 inch carbon bent shaft that weighs about 13 oz.

Curious if anyone else is using Barton paddles? I would buy any of these I could fine in a minute. They make all wood paddles seem like lead weights.

Ridiculous Question,…

– Last Updated: Apr-28-09 12:19 PM EST –

because everyone will jump right in with their favorites, usually chosen by happenstance, but, that said, here are mine, selected as serendipitously as anyone else's list.

For kneeling, fav straights are Quimby FS, the Pat Moore HD Carbon Q, Silver Creek for WW and Dog Paddle Designs; only the latter is available.

I like a big bladed bents for reduced tempo touring when seated, only Mitchel now, but somehow always end up with a Zav in my hands. That weight, or lack thereof, is hard to beat. I always get the WW variant because it'll last longer with my usage.

For double blading it, the morality of same being reserved for another discussion, a toss up between the AT OS Exception and the Werner carbon Kallista and Ikelos, all bent.