I'd like to upgrade my canoe paddle, need advice

From the git-go in my 20’s, I’ve never liked any paddle that did not have a big face. 40 years later, I’m still canoeing using a big fiberglass Norse. It is 62" and has @158 sq in of paddle face. weight of 2 lb 10 3/4 oz. It serves well as a paddle and as a lever to pry off and over shallow spots.

I’ve dropped from tandem in a 17" Old Town Tripper to soloing in a 15’ Old Town Camper. I’m now running/sneaking NC rivers coming off the Blue Ridge. Day trips on up to Class II water.

I’m looking for something lighter but with the big face and abuse of levering. Can any of you offer advice on what to look for or buy?

Disclaimer… I haven’t got a large cross section of paddle experience. Only used a very few types. I know that their are many many variations have different specific uses for different designs but that being said I really like my Fishell paddle. Modified ottertail. Weight is good and it feels really good. Prices are good for built to order also. I’m thinking in the $160 range?

As it happens, I’ve just had occasion to shop paddles recently myself and my usages are now similar to yours.
If you can get one (I like to buy from a dealer rather than by mail) I think you’d be happy with a Sawyer Voyageur. It is too delicate for much levering, but otherwise a delightful paddle to use. But I couldn’t get one through a dealer. I don’t know what’s going on with their shop but they were disrupted by fires in OR last year.
My favorite is a Grey Owl Guide (in Cherry) and has a lot of face area (as you like), but it is a deep water paddle and, like the Sawyer, is pretty delicate for levering. Its a “lively” paddle - with some flex and the grip is the most comfortable of any paddle I’ve ever used. I use it in shallows sometimes, but with care. I’m giving away my “secrets” here, but a deep water paddle used on a river can often give you forewarning of shallowing water and how far to skirt a sand or gravel bar by. You can feel your way to a deeper channel even when a slow moving surface gives little clue to guide. Not for boulders and whitewater, though.
Grey Owl Sugar Island is perhaps more in line with what you’re looking for, and is what I finally bought recently myself. Its pretty sturdy, not especially light, but has a good rock guard tip and partially around the edges.
The Bending Branches Java is similar to the Sugar Island, is a bit lighter and I’ve found it to be a bit more delicate.
Hope you find this helpful. I’m sure other options from paddlers where other makers are prevalent will present themselves shortly. Happy Hunting.

I used to like a fairly big blade too.
Now that I’m older and not as strong, I’ll probably start using a smaller blade.
If you paddle deep water, I think a good paddle for a solo is the beavertail.
I just ordered an ottertail, which is kind of a narrower version of the beavertail.
I also ordered a fiberglass bent shaft, from Oak Orchard, that’s supposed to be pretty tough and not very expensive.
For shallower water, the sugar island is a good bet.
I have a few Zaveral CF bent shafts, but not really meant for a lot of abuse.
You can have a paddle custom made, but it ain’t cheap.

Try making one out of wood.

I also have a Grey Owl Guide in Cherry. It is great for an in the water return/corrective stroke. The grip is fine. The paddle I seem to use the most Is a Foxworx paddles FFG bent shaft that weighs 17 oz. It depends on the water I’m paddling, and my paddling intentions. These 2 are my go to paddles. I bought my Grey Owl from CLC boat works, and FFG direct, a number of years ago now. Neither would I use for white water. I have a Bending Branches Arrow I use in fast water and rocks. It has held up, but doesn’t see much of it either.

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They take abuse, maybe not prying…and after a day’s strokes , ya got alot of less wear on your body…the Zav

The Zav Rec line at 13 - 14 oz. can take quite a lot of use. Mine is ~ 11 years old and going strong after many miles. I do carry a spare ‘beater’ paddle for when things look really scrapey.