solo straight shaft choices

-- Last Updated: May-13-07 10:55 PM EST --

Well after my last post, a few of you recommended I look at some paddles you thought would be worth buying. I did finalize the list and want to ask which is best of those listed. I would have to order one and have nowhere locally to see them to gauge workmanship, weight and fit unfortunately.

I paddle a Bell Merlin sitting and kneeling. Already own a bent shaft ZRE medium for sit/switch. But would like to cruise with a straight shaft too. Mostly flatwater, open bays, coasts and rivers. No whitewater.

Sawyer Paddles Cedar Voyageur and Freestyle:

Mitchell Surreal:

Cricket Honey Island:

The Sawyer paddles at 18 oz seem very attractive.

Paddles for the list
A couple more to put on the list

the Sugar Island really grabs in shallow water…

Sawyer Recommendation
When I looked at the link to the Sawyer paddles, none looked familiar to me or similar to the one that’s my general-purpose paddle. Click on the link that says “Cedar”, and the cedar Voyageur is the one I have. Not only is it extremely light, but I believe the curved lower edge of the blade makes for a quieter entry, though I may be wrong about that (I have no square-edged paddles of my own, and even though one that I used one time was obnoxiously noisey, I can’t be sure that’s a characteristic of square-edged paddles).

Not saying this is the paddle to get, just suggesting the cedar model may be nicer to handle than the standard version.

I have 2 Mitchell Sureals and…
they are wonderful- Knife edge for nice quiet underwater slicing, light, the advantages of carbon with the feel of wood.


Sureal weight?
Hey Glen,

Would you know what length your Sureals are and how much they weigh?

I really love my Mitchel whitewater paddles but they are heavy. Well… I didn’t think they were heavy until I got the Zaveral and now everything else seems heavy.

It would be pretty cool to a straight shaft with Mitchel performance and something like Zaveral weight!



wood paddles
are actually my choice and that’s why the cedar voyageur and the surreal were of interest because of the light weight. Although the Mitchell Surreal has a carbon blade it does have a wood shaft. I had done some research and found posts from 2004 which had some reviews of the sawyer paddles claiming the workmanship was not of quality. Eric and guideboatguy what is latest on that?

Nobody has reviewed the Cricket Honey Island?

On a side note, you are sooo right! After paddling with the ZRE at 8.5 ounces every paddle I’ve tried seems heavier to the point that my arm starts hurting just from reading the weights online! I suffer from tendonitis from an old injury, LOL!

I am hoping that because the strokes I want to learn to do with the single blade don’t involve the continuous switch motion of the bent shaft, I can stand to use a few more ounces.

Cricket’s quality is top notch…
Saywer’s quality is far less. The Mitchell Surreals I have used seem to vary a lot from one to the other, primarily in the amount of blade flutter through the water, so I would reccommend trying the one you purchase. Another one or two you may wish to consider is Unadilla from Ron Sell, and also those from Mark Ornstein at Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Sawyer Quality
All I can tell you is that the two Sawyer paddles I have are very well-made. I haven’t heard any bad things about them otherwise. P-net’s “” was pretty impressed with my cedar Voyageur, and “pjc” liked it too and bought one for himself.

The one thing to be careful of with a cedar paddle is don’t do too much hard prying off angular vinyl gunwales, or “wedge-prying” strokes which slide along the gunwales. That’ll make dents which must be sanded out if they end up where your hand grips the shaft. That problem would probably be less of an issue if you have wood gunwales or round-edged aluminum gunwales. On a similar note, the plastic-looking edging on the blade of my cedar paddle is very tough, so banging the blade on rocks has not been a problem.

Grey Owl Freestyle
is a paddle that I have been using for tripping for a long time.

I have been hard on it and its held up ( although looking a little ratty) for eleven years.

While I do do FS with it, I prefer Marc Ornsteins or Craig Quimbys paddles for that. But the Grey Owl is a very good paddle for the price point. The Mitchells do not paddle twice as well as the Grey Owl but the price is about twice. I do own Mitchells because I did like the feel and money was not an object.

I look for a symmetrical grip and blade, so if I choose I can use palm rolls and inwater recoveries. I hate picking up the paddle out of the water when not necessary. Most of the time my top hand never goes over my nose.

Also consider an ottertail. Its not in amongst American paddles but it can be used in a Merlin II if you are in deep water. Its easier to do a Northwoods stoke with that paddle.

I too have a MerlinII and paddle kneeling and sitting when the boat isloaded for a two or three week trip.

Zaveral Straight shaft
Zaveral does make straight shaft carbon fiber paddles and they are great for underwater recoveries since the blade is very thin at the edges.

Fox Worx also makes some light straight shafts, but they are thicker at the edges.

Gillespie Paddles made straights and they are light and thin bladed. Have not seen any literature for them in a while, but they are in the book.

not easy to find rounded blades it seems
But here is a nice one by bending branches.

As long as you’re not in very shallow conditions, I find rounded blades more pleasant and maneuverable underwater.

I looked at the Freestyle
too. The Cedar Freestyle and the Voyageur are on the list for my final choices. I am a bit confused about the difference between a tripping paddle and a freestyle paddle. Now you are using the freestyle for distance paddling? Also, what length did you order for paddling from your Merlin while kneeling? I am 5’-6" and thought about ordering at 56".


– Last Updated: May-14-07 5:35 PM EST –

You all have giving me even more options on choices than I had I am thoroughly confused. I can't tell the difference between a well designed paddle or an inferior designed paddle. I just know if it's well made or not which isn't helpful. Some of you have shown me sites to paddles that are just gorgeous! But do I really need a gorgeous paddle?

What I need is something to learn flatwater paddling strokes so I can control the boat in any type of water/weather. And finally know what you all are talking about when referring to pry's, draws, christies, etc. Remember...I am just a beginner :-)

Forgot: Yes, I paddle in shallow water mostly.

Grey Owl: FS vs Voyageur
I use the GO Voyageur for work parties in the Ontario Boreal forest where we have to paddle upstream and bash against rocks. Its a thicker padde than the FS with a squarer bottom and corners. I use it for a cane on rivers like the Ogoki.(!)

It can take a beating that one would not want to do to a Zav.

The GO Freestyle has more rounder corners. That minimizes catching and pitching you overboard when you are heeling the boat yet still turns the solo boat well. I use FS techniques on wilderness trips too (particlularly posts and wedges in shallow water, so that paddle suits me particularly well. Its a much thinner blade than the Voyageur and some will say its not rugged enough for a wilderness trip.

Grey Owl Freestyle
Another vote for the Grey Owl Freestyle. I like it for the symmetry of the grip – lets me turn the paddle around in the water, changing the pressure from one face of the blade to the other, with a smooth motion of the top hand – called a palm roll. I stripped the polyurethane off the places where my hands touch the paddle and put on Watco oil instead, for smoother slippage. (I find I prefer to keep the stickier polyurethane finish for my bent-shaft paddles, because my hands don’t move around on the shaft and grip nearly as much.)

I also like the fully faired blade faces – no rib to make gurgly sounds when I slip the blade through the water.

One reason to make the Freestyle your choice is that Grey Owl isn’t making them anymore, so it’s now or never. If you ask around on, you’ll find that a few retailers still have them. Grey Owl themselves still have some (or at least they did in October), though they don’t advertise that fact.

– Mark