Red Tail Paddles

-- Last Updated: Feb-20-08 8:28 PM EST --

I am knew to canoeing and I am looking at getting a few paddles to get me started.

I have looked around and Red Tail paddles seem to have the best prices. I'm looking at a one piece ottertail in black walnut for me (stern) and their bent shaft for my wife (bow). I'm also planning to get one of their beaver tail paddles for a back up.

We will mostly be on flat water with a few Michigan Rivers.

What is Red Tail's track record? Do they make quality stuff?

Is there an advantage or disadvantage with a one piece paddle versus the laminated multiple piece paddles?

Any general advice or comments would be appreciated. Thanks

Good and Bad
I love their traditional line. Well made and reasonably priced. My favourite store-bought paddle is a one-piece ash beavertail. I own several of theirs.

I own a bentshaft and I don’t like it nearly as much as the Grey Owl bentshafts I have, or the bending branches ones I have used. Not sure why - maybe the shape of the blade or the balance.

Walnut = lightweight?
Black Walnut is not a lightweight wood as their site suggests. Sure it is durable and has great rot resistance, but a solid Black Walnut paddle is going to be hefty. The same paddle in Red Cedar would weigh half as much, Cherry about 10% less, Poplar almost a third less. While it’s beautiful, I would opt for another material. Even a cheap aluminum and plastic paddle would weigh less then one made with Black Walnut

Modern verse historical sticks

– Last Updated: Feb-24-08 7:39 PM EST –

Historical, old timey sticks are kinda cool - taking us back to the beginning of our sport - before waterproof glue and composite construction.

That said, modern canoe paddle blades run 8-8.5" wide and 18-22 inches long. To learn canoing you might consider a stick that will yield optimal performance.

If you kneel, you'll want a straight blade, maybe Grey Owl's Freestyle but there are several other choices.

If you'll be sitting, Zav's bent seems the universal choice, but there are several others. Mitchell has a model with a longer blade that will work better at recreational cadences.

While you're learning, the best place for that skinny blade is in the paddle rack. After you've got draws and cross draws, forward and cross forward strokes down, and dominate the Duffek and Reverse sweeping low brace; give it a try. You may like it, but those old timey paddles are similar to using wang-leather instead of Gore Tex for rain gear. They come from the same era.

That said, there's nothing wrong with using historical gear if you want to do, just don't kid yourself into thinking it's efficient.

The advantage of laminates
is usually only that they are less expensive.

They are comprised of smaller chunks of wood that

are glued together, so their characteristics are

somewhere in a combination of the traits of woods

that are used in the paddle.

I like solid cherry or solid black walnut.

The cherry is light and will flex a bit with each

paddle stroke. That makes it easier on the body

overall. Cherry is also somewhat more delicate.

When I know I may have to do some power paddling,

I’ll use the black walnut. I know that I can count

on it to transmit the power when I need it to.

It has a great “feel” to it, and kind of makes for

a secure feeling when using it.

I have others that are ash and poplar, and some

laminates, but the solid cherry and black walnut

are my favorites. In fact, they are hanging in the

house for off season storage. Both very beautiful.

My 2 cents for 2 paddles…