Recommend a decent composite paddle


One of you pointed me to the MN canoe association in another thread. I checked them out and went to the rookie racers get together last night and man that was fun! I had the chance to paddle a race boat for the first time as well as using a composite paddle. Race boats are fast! (duh) I really like being able to paddle 8+mph. One of our group flipped into the stinky mississippi. They are tippy boats. It will take a little getting used to but I dont have a problem with the feel. Overall they guys said I had a good stroke for a noob. Ill definately keep going to rookie night all year.

Canoe racing is something I think Im going to get into and I’d like to get my own carbon fiber paddle. I brought my bent shaft woodie and they all laughed =( Thats fine though! They gave me a “heavy” composite paddle to use for the night. I thought a “heavy” composite still weighed nothing compared to wood so Im ok with a heavier composite to save a few bucks. The “light” one they had was silly light. Silly I say!

I’d really like an onno paddle cause they get good reviews, I love their look and I like supporting small companies but I dont have the $400ish for one.

So, can you guys recommend a “cheap” but decent paddle? (By cheap I mean know Im in for ~$200 or more)

Also, I usually use a 54" Kailoa bent shaft. The guy I was paddling with was about my height (6’1") and he recommended a 48" or 49" for racing. Does that sound about right? If not how do you guys size yourself for a paddle?


Zaveral Medium or Light Power Surge.
Don’t get the Black Rec, it’s swing weight and balance aren’t as good as the Medium or Light.

Besides length, blade width is another decision for you to make. I prefer 8.25", but many on this board prefer wider. I’ll let others advise you on length.

2nd Zav
That’s pretty much the go to paddle for canoe racers, don’t really recall seeing much else. I’ve only used their “medium” in both standard and power surge. Plenty light for me and seem to be very strong.

I’d agree with the 48-49" length. Honestly can’t remember what width mine are. Ask some of the other racers for their opinions too. Narrower is usually better than wider for this type of racing.

I wish I lived around Minneapolis. I’d love to be able to have a weekly paddle like that as well as the Thursday Hoigaard’s races.



If you are new to canoe racing
perhaps you are unfamiliar with “Zav” paddles. It is a nickname for Zaveral Racing Equipment (or Zaveral) paddles:

You would probably be interested in the Power Surge FW-Z medium weight (10 oz) paddle which lists at $270. These can be found online at a modest discount in the $235-240 price range by vendors that offer free shipping such as Campmor:

ZRE paddles are no doubt the favorite carbon fiber canoe paddles used by racers. Wenonah offers a decent graphite bent shaft that is a bit heavier and a bit cheaper:

With shipping and MN state tax added the savings over a Zav would not be that great, though.

Paddle shaft length is a matter of personal preference and it depends not only on your torso length but the seat height in the canoe, and how much water the boat draws, and since paddles are usually cataloged by length overall, the blade length must be taken into account. A shorter paddle will have less weight and may allow a faster cadence, as well as perhaps being easier to swing over and across the gunwales for paddling sit and switch. I am about 5’ 11" and use bent shafts from 48-53" in overall length. If I were racing and paddling sit and switch in a canoe with a low slung seat, I would probably use a paddle 46-48" in overall length.

GRB/Newman Design and Werner also make carbon bents.

Correction pblanc…re: Wenonah…
Wenonah offers 2 carbon bent shaft paddles

  • Black Lite roughly equivalent to ZRE Black Rec.

  • Black Jack roughly equivalent to ZRE Medium.

    I can’t tell any difference between my ZRE Mediums and Wenonah Black Jacks, except the Black Jacks have wider blades than my ZREs. I think they’re made in the same factory.

Can you tell

– Last Updated: May-15-12 1:01 PM EST –

How much can you tell the difference between 8, 10, and 14 oz? Im not going to paddle a 70 mile marathon any time soon so Im not concerned about every gram of weight. I just need a good, cheap racing paddle to get me through a year or 2.

Is there much of a difference between the ZRE medium and their rec paddle? 4oz heavier and $50 less sounds ok to my uneducated brain or do i just fork up the $$ for the medium?

Also, what width do you prefer? What are the pros/cons of a skinny/wide paddle?

But the Wenonah Black Jack lists for more than the ZRE Power Surge FW-Z medium, and as much as the ZRE FW-Z light, so it would seem to me it has little to recommend it.

Another vote for ZRE Powersurge
I got the ZRE Powersurge outrigger light. They make the outrigger PS blades wider than the regular PS blades, so I got the skinniest outrigger at 8.75". This is good for me as a slow cadence stroker, but a really high cadence racer would probably want something more in the 8" width range. Ask the racing fanatics.

I’m 5-9 and after two tries, again as a low cadence cruiser, settled on a 48.5" paddle for my outrigger canoe. I sometimes find myself wishing for maybe an extra 1.5" when kneeling in one of my CanAm canoes. A 50" would probably be a good length for someone 6-1 and not a racing fanatic.

I also returned my first ZRE to replace the standard rigid carbon shaft with ZRE’s Flexshaft. A racer would want the stiffest paddle, but as an old-jointed cruiser I like the Flexshaft’s feel better because it’s more like a wooden shaft.

no rec
I’d recommend against the rec. paddles, at least with the plastic grip. I bought a rec. straight paddle with plastic grip and it was noticeably smaller than the grips on my carbon ZRE paddles. Enough so that I find it uncomfortably smaller. Also a rougher seam from where it came out of the mold. I should buy a new grip for the paddle since I never use it as is.

And yes, there is a noticeable difference between a 10 and 14 ounce paddle. Especially if you pick up the 14 after you’ve been paddling the 10. I try to avoid picking up 8 ounce paddles so that I can continue being happy with my 10 ounce ones.

I have both the standard as well as Power Surge in medium and am happy with both. I don’t notice a huge difference between them. If you want to save money buy the standard medium weight but opt for a factory 2nd (saves $27). I’ve never been able to see any defects.


I got my Black Jacks used…
When purchased used, they’re equivalent in price and quality to the Zaverals.

I don’t encourage the Black Rec
from ZRE, if you can afford the Medium. My Black Rec balance and feel just aren’t as good as my Mediums - but I must disclose that My Black Rec is 1" longer than my Mediums, so this will also effect my perception of using that paddle.

Be Patient and Ask Around
For there are always many old used paddles available in good to excellent shape somewhere that someone wants to part with. Check out garage sales and thrift shops, for you might find an old classic Barton or Black Bart paddle just sticking out of some box tucked away in a corner?

If you’re going to race, I’d go ahead &
get a Zaveral. But if you were just planning on hit and switch fast cruising, there are cheaper, heavier paddles that might serve.

One thing that may or may not matter, as you acquire bent shaft skills. A bit heavier paddle, if otherwise of good quality, may give you proprioceptive cues that help you learn. But once you have the skills down, the lighter the paddle, the better.

Black Bart

– Last Updated: May-15-12 8:00 PM EST –

"Black Bart" aka Bud Moll I learned was a highly regarded graphite paddle maker a few years ago. I forget who recommended him to me, but I found his web site with phone number. I had been canoe racing with a wooden Grey Owl, but I wanted to move into lighter carbon, so I gave Bud a call and we talked for quite a bit before I ordered a paddle he would make for me. I learned a few weeks later that shortly after we talked he was killed on his motorcycle when he hit a bear on the highway. I may have the last paddle he ever made. That paddle has quite a few thousand miles on it now, between training, local races, and three 1000 mile races down the Yukon River.

But that is only one paddle for one type of canoe. Since I paddle in a number of different canoes, I have need for a selection of different size paddles. My new favorite is not ZRE, but as Charlie mentioned, paddles from GRB Newman Design (Grasse River Boatworks).

The GRB website isn’t very informative.
No paddle information except cost, which seems very reasonable for a good carbon fiber paddle.

Would you happen to know the sizes available?

I use a Zaveral and love it.
I’m not racing. I use it for tripping mixed water including even easy class 2. I love mine. I have what they used to call the “whitewater” model which is extremely heavy at about 11 or 12 Ozs. Great paddle for my use. Not cheap. Well made.


– Last Updated: May-15-12 9:54 PM EST –

John and Gene Newman are known for their canoe making, not their web page. Most people know about their high quality racing and recreational boats, both carbon and woodstrip, through local word of mouth and few local outfitters. But their "Paddles" link on the web page says paddle sizes are available up to 53 inches bent shaft. I know for a fact they will make a 54 inch or longer if you want it, because my voyageur canoe stern paddler has one due to his seat height. I have 49, 50, 51, and 53 inch GRBs. My 52 is my original Black Bart. Each for a different style boat and load. I am bow paddler (when not solo) and the requirement to set the pace with efficient paddling to last a full marathon day makes me picky about having correct and comfortable paddle length.