River Paddle

Looking for a straight blade river paddle. Not WW though a class I or II not out of the question. I was out on a nice swift current (in places) river over the weekend doing mostly fishing. Took my old first bought “beater” paddles and found them to be laborious. I have lite laminates and Zav bent’s for flatwater and touring but thought a good light straight blade needs to be added. I like underwater strokes as well as pitch and J’s for river travel. Not discounting low level WW.

Bob.com, you out there?


general straight
Try Grey Owl’s Feestyle and Mitchell’s carbon blade, wood shaft.

Zav has a great single stick for WW comp, but the curved blade will be a pain in general use.

A few …

– Last Updated: May-23-07 10:09 AM EST –

The paddles I use are "not" the lightest weight.
The majority of them have t-grips.
Many of them are "not" the newest available.
Some of them are "not" the most expensive, or the prettiest.
I like wood paddles.

With that information out of the way; here are a few of my favorites:

Bending Branches Expedition Plus
Werner Bandit
Grey Owl Hammerhead
Sawyer Cruiser
Bending Branches Sun Shadow (bent shaft)

I use all of them on class 1 & 2.
The Werner Bandit was recently purchased for class 3 whitewater; replacing a 20 year old Werner Point.

I really like the looks of some of the FoxWorx paddles, and two of them(the Excel straight & the Guide bent) may be my next paddle purchases.

The major problem I have with paddles is that I like to test paddle them before I buy, and I rarely see a lot of them I think I'd like to own(except in mail order catalogs).

Two paddles I have that I really love are the Rio Grande & the Noatak straight shafts. They were made for Mad River(Wild & Scenic River Collection) by David Mitchell. I believe there were 3 straight shafts & 2 bent shafts in the collection. Unfortunately, I don't think any of them are now available. Perhaps under another model/company name?

Anyone who has any paddles from that collection in nice condition should "contact me" asap & rid themselves of those old "beaters". They can buy themselves a new, 12 oz., $250.00, carbon fiber something or other, and we'll both be a lot happier!



CE, just a comment that I have not
found a curved blade to be a “pain” in general use. They work just fine, though for general use they have mo particular advantage over a well-designed regular blade.

Hi Wes,

I have a Bandit you can try next time we paddle together. Also have a BB Explorer Plus.

I had the chance to use Jim’s new Bell paddle (build by Mitchell) carbon blade and wood shaft. It is a beautiful and extremely functional paddle. It was a bent shaft - if I could have found it with a straight shaft I’d have come home with one!


Some other options…
Here are a few more to look at…1) the new Bending Branches Black Widow Plus; it is made of black willow, very light and strong (and flexible, which I enjoy but some others do not), plastic-edged, 'glassed blade. 2) Sawyer Venture; t-handled, 'glassed blade, strong as an ox. 3) Sawyer Cedar Voyaguer; a lovely paddle w/a little less blade than the Freestyle. 4) The wonderful Whiskeyjack Rebellion, tough, gorgeous and beautifully finished. See one of these (and put it through its paces) before you decide. It is pricey ($160), but a great stick. Finding a new paddle it always a great adventure, as you can tell from the variety of suggestions.

Thanks a bunch Wes !!!

– Last Updated: May-23-07 5:03 PM EST –

I had my mind off paddles, and you're question got them on my mind again...........

Result: I ordered a new FoxWorx Excel; 58 inch
straight shaft of cedar, basswood, and butternut. A 8 x 20 inch blade with optional (12 bucks) Dynel wrapped tip. Ordered it with optional(no charge)t-grip, which they are going to "customize" to accomodate my large hands, for an additional 8 bucks. Weight in the 16 to 22 oz range. After all was said & done it cost me 127 bucks, shipping included.

The gentleman I spoke to (Dale), was "very patient" with me while I rattled off what I did & did not want. I look forward to it's test paddle day.


Touring Special
Without getting too fancy I am a fan of the Mitchel Touring Special as a can do anything straight stick.

river paddle
i used the longest mohawk double blade canoe paddle they made for my completed river trips of the Ohio, Mississippi , and Missouri rivers… I still have and use the paddle… it cant be beat with a stick for $50!!!

I like the feel of wood paddles – don’t like plastic. We all have our preferences.

Underwater recoveries involve a hand maneuver called a “palm roll” (as you probably already know). For a palm roll I find a palm grip works better than a T-grip. For palm rolls symmetric grips work better for me than asymmetric grips. For river paddling I like a blade with a hard yet relatively thin synthetic edge (thin for silent underwater recoveries – hardness for rock bashing). As a tall guy I have relatively large hands so I like an oval shaft with a bit of heft to it. Both Fox Works (formerly Camp) and Bending Branches offer paddles that meet these criteria. My personal “beater stick” is an old BB beavertail – cheap and available. FWIW, though I really like Grey Owl paddles I personally find their shaft sizing on many of their paddles too “dainty” for my big mitts. Both my wife and daughter use GO “Guide” paddles and like them.

My two cents – worth every penny! - RK

Mitchell varients
It’s a small enough company that it’s worth calling and asking if you’d like something that’s not in their current listing.

Disclaimer – I’ve helped Peggy Mitchell teach a beginner WW class.

How are your inwater recoveries
palm roll and paddle slice…curved blades tend to take you off course and clean slices dont happen.

I prefer a symmetrical pear grip for mild river stuff and dont like t’s. I have had nine years out of that dainty Grey Owl FS paddle. It looks it but its still in one piece. I use it exclusively on wilderness trips. It functions fine but is an embarrassment in class with all those fine boats and paddles. Its very scratched after a couple thousand kms!

I find the shaft diameter fine for me…havent heard if Grey Owl does a larger diameter shaft.

straight shaft paddle
I can fall in love with both wood and carbon…I have and use both. I think it’s ironic that the carbon paddles actually feel warmer in cold weather. My experience is that no two wood paddles are alike and I’m lucky in that I was able to test paddle most of my wood paddles before choosing the one to buy. Big variations in weight, quietness/vibration, and stiffness.

The Grey Owl Freestyle had a fine reputation as fantastic paddle for $100 for years. I have several. They are not the most durable but are fine for normal use. Several of mine have been reshaped by Ron Sell (Unadilla Boatworks) to be more like a beavertail and he also added a carbon fiber edge which makes them way tougher. Ron also sells some pretty sweet paddles that he makes himself. The cedar ones are light and sweet…they also have a carbon edge for durability.

There’s a Bending Branches…the straight version of the SunShadow…that I think is a fabulous value…light and strong and mine’s quiet.

Zav also amkes straight shaft paddles…at least they used to, or you can order any bent shaft with a zero degree angle. Both are great. I really like their straight shaft model (not sure they still make it) since for me the blade was perfect…a small teardrop like a mini-beavertail. Great for in-water recoveries and any type of paddling. If you get Zav’s ultralight lay-up it will flex quite a bit, like wood. I prefer their standard lay-up aso the paddle has at least a little heft to it…the ultralight feels like it could blow away on a windy day.

Too bad we can’t order Black Bart Troublemakers any more; that one is my favorite.

And if anyone can find Patrick Moore, his cues were awesome (if delicate).

The Grey Owl Scout is also an amazing paddle for about $30!