I think that one thing about the late 70s and early 80s is that it was a peak time for a whole bunch of very creative and passionate designers and entrepreneurs to experiment and produce a ton of cool boats. Folks like Dave Curtis and Phil Sigglekow and Tom MacKenzie and Dave Yost and Mike Galt and many others. Their boats still are works of art and many are fine paddling boats that still stand up well. Overall I think it was a peak time for canoe passion.
But MC I’m going to argue with you for fun. I think that in general the equipment was better back then in terms of “sport canoes”. Check the hemlock canoe site and look at the old Curtis catalog from the 80s. A Kevlar Nomad is 35 pounds with wood trim, lighter than my carbon Bell Merlin II. I know someone with a 22 pound lightweight Curtis Lady Bug. Some of the older canoes were narrower and intended for kneeling whereas many new solos are designed to be more stable and safe so they may give up a bit of “hotness” or character.
The shot of my Blackhawk Shadow 15.8 shows the molded flotation tanks which required unique tooling for every canoe model. It has mahogany outwales…um, unlike anything on the market today. The thwarts and carry handles are hand-fitted and I have not seen this on any other composite canoe ever. The seat is made in-house and the wood matches the rest of the trim unlike pretty much every new $4000 canoe. Oh, and Shadows were the “value” line for Blackhawk.
Regarding canoe paddles the fuzzy pic below shows a Moore Cue on the right (even more rare with the smaller of the 2 blade sizes offered). In my view it’s a better freestyle paddle than anything you can buy today. In the middle is a Black Bart Troublemaker, my favorite paddle and also no longer made. Far left is a mini-beavertail offered by Zaveral for a short time but no longer available. All three of these paddles paddle better in the water than anything I can go buy today unless perhaps I seek out some custom builders and give them one of my paddles to copy!