Paddle for Newbie

-- Last Updated: Sep-01-06 4:38 PM EST --

I recently bought a used 12' Old Town Stillwater, and am learning to paddle it solo. I sit in the front seat facing backwards, and do okay except when it gets windy...then I really feel my lack of technique bogging me down in the water.

For now, I'm using a bending branch loon, I believe it is their entry level paddle. It works okay, but I was wondering if something with a larger blade would make my paddling in the wind easier? ie larger blade = more power?

Browsing around the net I like the looks of the sugar island type paddles, seems like they'll add alot of momentum to my stroke. I also love wood (collect custom cues) so it has to be all wood, regardless of efficiency (or cost). I paddle lakes in NJ that get windblown often, and my canoe is 40" wide and 12' long...not the most manueverable vessel on the water.

Lastly, I have no idea whether I should look into bent shaft paddles. I paddle solo, with j-stroke on one side most of the time.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


past post

I like wood paddles too. I looked at that thread and there were a lot of folks posting to it (not all) who were into carbon paddles, plastics, etc. You like wood. Grey Owl does make a Sugar Island style paddle and they are reasonably priced and I’ve found them to be of good quality. Their cherry Tripper (a beavertail) is my favorite paddle.

In general a larger blade area makes a paddle a little tougher on the muscles at the end of a long day, but I believe they give better control and power. Might help a little with the problem you mentioned, though practice and experiance are the long term solution to paddling in wind.

I’ve found that having some ballast in the boat on windy days helps - and trim the boat so the downwind end is a little lighter, it’ll help you track with the wind.

Its not a bad idea to have a bent shaft or two in the collection that you will, if you’re like many of us, one day aquire. I like them for fighting a headwind, going upstream, or if I’m in a hurry. I think they are faster, but for many of us speed isn’t everything. The higher stroke rate I tend to fall into when using them wears me out a bit faster. Its like dropping into passing gear - hurts milage. If you get into racing though, bent shaft and very light weight carbon fibre seems the way to go. Cliff Jacobson likes them for tripping too, but I’m not entirely convinced of that yet.


I loved my 25 year old wooden bent shaft
Sawyer. Alas, my son lost it.

Wind blown
The paddle probably has little to do with the boats skittishness in the wind. More likely is that the boat is out of trim and adding weight to the stern (now bow) will make a lot of difference in how the boat tracks. I had this problem with my canoe and adding a bucket full of water up front helped a lot.

Bent shafts are nice, I have a BB Special that I like, but my current favorite is a beavertail as I have discovered the joys of J-stroking.

not as bad as…
…your dumb ass cousin leaving the canoe on the beach to be smashed to pieces by the waves that night. grumble

Why not carry a double paddle?
That’s what I use most of the time, wind or not.