Favorite Canoe Paddle???

You get what you pay for
… and with Whiskey Jack you sure get a purdy looking paddle …

Several Favorites
I have a Mitchell Premium Whitewater that is my favorite for rocky rivers. It has a good solid catch, good balance, and it’s the one I trust to get me home.

I am not easy on this paddle. I routinely pole with it as well as hit most of the rocks. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Note that this is the wood shaft carbon over wood blade version. I don’t care for the carbon shaft wood blade version because IMO the balance is blade heavy.

I also have a ZRE bent shaft “whitewater” model. It’s heavier than the medium or light paddles but it’s the lightest paddle I’ve used. It too has a good catch and balance. While I don’t feel that bent shaft offers me any advantage, I’m a %95 kneeler, I do believe the light weight and the increased stroke rate more than make up for the occaisional awkwardness of the bent.

I used this on some easy class II once. It performed quite well but I was really uncomfortable banging it on the rocks. The tip has some damage from that and other mishaps. So these days I try to keep it away from rocks as much as I can.

Finally I have a Bending Branches Traveler. I bought this before I found the Zav when I was having tennis elbow issues. It has a smaller blade and is lighter than the Mitchel which did help with the elbow. The catch is ok. Balance is good. The rock guard tip is effective though I have managed to tear it up a little on the edge above the tip. I tend to carry this as a spare when using either of the above paddles. It get’s most of it’s use when it’s too rocky for the Zav.

Oh yeah! The BB cost less than %25 of what I paid for either the Mitchell or the Zav.


…just one right now…
Yeah…I’m using that Voyageur(Sawyer)…although the shaft is narrow for me…I don’t grip it that tight. It’s grip is the right size to shape, the shaft has just the right moderate flex, and the thin blade works for me. Bogs, ponds, edges of lakes…and small streams…nothing tough.


Optometrist Jack

Every race you ever saw me paddle i was using a ZRE Outrigger Power Surge, full size blade 9.75". Randy and Charlie asked what the monster blade was for, you just kept looking for secrets in my canoe rigging.

Others kept thinking to go fast you needed the same paddle as Serge Corbin, small blade and ultralight. But we don’t paddle ultra-skinny proboats at his ultra-high cadence. At Serge’s cadence and blade speed a narrow blade works cause the water has no time to slip past the blade(think hyroplane prop). At our geriatric pace the water will slip past the small blade, but not the big outrigger blade (think supertanker prop). You noticed the improved bite right away; Randy has paddled on your team now so he figured he would let you see for yourself, and bingo, you are enlightened.

I did downsize 3/8" on the blade size to permit a bit higher cadence when paddling Team Darryl pace. At Plaidpaddler Pace the full 9.75 is fine, though it did take my shoulder a full year to take the big blade for more than 2 hours. The slightly smaller blade is my age concession for the long races and speed work.

I will be in your “veterans” age group in 2 days, not the superveterans though.


That’s fair
I haven’t used their bent shaft models, so I will make a point to make that clear in the future.

Happy Birthday


good points…
A couple of posters implied that there is no “best” paddle. I certainly agree Of course the decision is completely subjective, and it depends on teh application.

I am just curious about the paddle that you prefer…much different from asking what is the best paddle.

I am just trying to get an idea of what paddles people really like so taht I can try them for myself and make my own assessment.

So much of the value of a paddle is in the way it feels in the water. That cannot be determined by looking at pictures of pretty paddles, reading weight specs, etc. It is a non-quantifiable quality that can only be determined by paddling with it.

This question just serves to focus my attention on which ones to try.

A good example might be a paddle I recently picked up. I bought a Mitchell Surreal. Nice paddle. Super light. Thin profile carbon blade, wood shaft. Nice feel in the hand…however I am not sure about how I like it in the water. Has somewhat of a dead feel to it…or at least that was my initial impression.

I need to paddle more with it to really see.

Perhaps there is something to be said for all wood paddles adn the flex and “sweet” feel they impart.

As to my personal application…I probably need 3 paddles: one for fast flat water (bent) for kneeling and occasional sitting, a general use sweet feeling paddle used when kneeling, and a basher river paddle.



My favorite wooden paddle is the bent shaft Gillespie Oak Orchard Marathon. Brad Gillespie is a barrel chested paddle bending paddler. His younger brother Marc is a nationally rated marathon paddler now, and he got his start with his experienced brother. The Gillespie is not the work of art of a Whiskeyjack, but it won’t give you blisters in 5 miles either. The knobs fit your hand, the blade has a curled lip that just enters the water so smoothly and quietly. The ZRE PowerSurge blade uses the same curled lip and it came 20 years after Gillespie put it on his paddles. The Gillespies are meant to paddle for long marathon races and were the top choice till the carbon fiber paddles came along.

For times when wood is wanted or required, Gillespie is my choice.


I have a couple Barton carbon bent
shaft paddles that I bought used. I like them, but I prefer the Zavs most of the time.

I thought that Barton Paddle Company was completely out of business.

My favorite paddle, the one I use while tandem in my Old Town Guide 147 as well as while solo in my Old Town Pack is a Fox Guide bent shaft. For me, it excels at everything I need it to do. If you like something nice…you’ll appreciate any Fox paddle. I’m currently waiting for my Custom Fox 260mm double blade paddle to be delivered…it’s to use in my Pack canoe and cant wait to try it out!

ZRE Medium for Bent. Foxworx
Palm grip for wood straight shafts - mine is actually and old Camp Beavertail that’s no longer made.

I haven’t found a wood bent shaft that I like as well as the Zav Medium (Wenonah Black Jack is the same paddle), though the Sawyer Cedar Manta Double Bend felt pretty good when I tried it for a few minutes on a river a couple weeks ago. I’d like to have one.

Last summer, I tried a couple Wildwood bent shafts made by Peter Puddicombe (no longer in production) and liked them quite a bit. Would like to have one.


I’m just starting to mess around with straight shaft paddles this year, but here’s my take:

Foxworx palm grip is more comfortable for me for indian stroke (palm rolls) than the Grey Owl, Bending Branches or Zaveral.

Zaveral Medium straight is the lightest, but mine’s too long for flatwater and I’ll eventually get a shorter one for that as I find one used. I like it best on rivers. It slices nicely through the water for in-water recovery.

I like the feel of both the Grey Owl Tripper and the Camp beavertail in the water, but the palm grip of the Foxworx is more comfortable for indian stroke.

How very adult of you
I think that’s the first time I’ve seen someone be so mellow and accepting of a criticism on this site.

Good show.

Zav all the way
If I could own only one line of paddles, it would be ZRE.

Brad Gillespie makes a very nice wood paddle.

The Sawyer and Whiskey Jacks are very cool looking, but I’ve never used one.

he said “favorite,” not best
it’s subjective by nature, and that’s probably a good thing.

Outrigger Paddle???
A couple of posters mentioned that they like the ZRE Outrigger paddle…what differentiates an outrigger canoe paddle from a standard bent shaft?


I have tried a Surreal
that was unfortunately not my size, and it was a nice paddle but I was not “blown away” as I was with the bent version. Maybe it was too stiff for me.

I hate to advise you to wait, but the Raystown gathering in October is in your back yard. Excellent venue for trying many paddles.


Bigger Blades
Matt the difference is mainly blade size. Both the standard bent shafts in different weights and the Outrigger versions are available with the standard flat blade and lipped Powersurge blades.


Favorite Paddle
It’s time to throw in my vote.

My favorite is a Dogpaddle freestyle. I don’t do alot of freestyle but I do paddle gracefully and that paddle makes a calm lake feel smooth like warm butter. In addition to the shape of the blade, I like the fact that it is truely custom. My hands are small and Marc adjusted the shaft diameter and the grip size to my liking. He even sent me the paddle for a “test fit” before finishing it. Before even beginning the paddle we discussed how it would be used how thick or thin the blade would be and even the reinforcement of the tip. Marc was concerned that since it’s use would be rather general purpose, it shouldn’t be too delicate.

I know it cost a bit more than some of the paddles mentioned here, although less than a Quimby (which acording to CE Wilson is no longer available)but you get what you pay for.


My favorite paddle
is a kevlar Krueger bent shaft I bought many years ago at Canoecopia from Verlan Krueger.

I don’t use it much in the water any more. It’s more of a keepsake item knowing it was made by Verlan and is a bit unique.

For paddling, my favorite is by far a Zaveral bent shaft Outrigger Power Surge light.

I like the wider blade (I have a couple in 9.75") better than the standard Flat Water blade for my style of paddling. It makes turning the canoes I paddle a bit easier and accellerates well too.

I have always been a fan of wider blades though which fit my personal paddling style better (sort of fast, but not super fast cadance sit n switch).

The canoes I paddle are not thought to turn well (Wenonah Voyager and Advantage solo’s and Sundowner 18 & Bell Northwoods tandems), but with the proper paddler input and a wider blade I have no problem at all getting them up and down some pretty twisty streams around here, much less on lakes and wider rivers.

Favorite paddle
is one made by Ron Sell of Unadilla Boat Works. Bent shaft, light, all wood. Just feels right…nothing else matters. Second, third and fourth would be the 3 FS blades by Quimby I was lucky enough to acquire.