Good luck WaterTribe!

I hope Dawn, a founding member of our Carolina Kayak Club, will have a good time using Verlen Kruger's paddle in the Florida Ultimate Challenge!  Here's a picture of the famous paddler's paddle.  I'd estimate it has been thousands of miles and it would please him that it is still being used on big trips.

Her son Alan has built a trimaran for them to paddle and sail around Florida.  Usually he sails the Everglades Challenge with his Dad in their Core Sound 20. So I don't know what Alan's dad Paul is doing during this years challenge, but right now I'm certain he is helping getting boats ready.

Christine, another CKC club paddle is doing her first Everglades challenge this year.   Good Luck Christine!

I also noticed Ardie Olson is in the Florida Ultimate Challenge. I expect he will be finishing well this year.

Good luck to all in the race. I'll be following online as well as I can.

Why buy a custom paddle?

There are some good reasons to get a custom paddle and even better reasons to customize a paddle you already own. A custom paddle almost always costs a little more than a standard paddle and you have to wait for it.  In the case of a hand carved custom wood paddle you may wait months.  In the case of a composite paddle some manufacturers will get it to your door in a week. Still that is a little longer than if you just picked up the standard one at the store.


I think weight of a paddle is over rated but I do have to admit that on long days in the boat I am quite happy I have a light paddle.  If I am just paddling for four hours for one day, then the weight matters a whole lot less.

When I'm surfing or river paddling I do not even notice the weight of the paddle, but I do want one that is sturdy.  I've broken some really heavy paddles and some light ones so heavy doesn't always equate to strength, but it does often equate to thicker materials that are sometimes more durable..

Durability and Strength

There is no doubt in my mind that a custom paddle maker will give you a paddle with a better strength to weight ratio than a production paddle maker.  Most paddles designed for surfing are pretty heavy duty stuff, but a custom maker will give you just the kind of lay up you want.  Since the paddles are made one at a time it is easier for them.

Blade Shape

Even most custom paddle makers have standard blade shapes they want to use, but often they will be able to tweak one of their standard shapes if you request it.  Production paddle makers can only offer what comes out of the mold. Both providers offer a range of styles and sizes to fit most paddlers and I've chopped production blades to make them work better, but it is often better to leave blade shape modifications to the experts. Blade shape makes the most difference to me than any other part of a paddles design.  I don't want to push a big surf blade all day on a long windy trip. Nor do I want to use a Greenland paddle or a Werner Little Dipper in the surf.  Luckily I have accumulated a few paddles over the years so I have the right tools for the job.


Grip feel can be very important to some paddlers. I want a bigger diameter shaft, because it improves my grip and results in fewer hand cramps at the end of the day. I also like a grip that has indexing under both hands so I can feel the blade angle without having to look.  For single blades I like the shape of a ball grip, but it must have an indexed shaft. I also like a rounded T grip at times.  With a Greenland paddle I like a wide loom between 22 and 24 inches, this is much wider than most production Greenland paddles I have seen. I also notice when I was first getting my custom Lumpy Paddle from Bill that he let me hold about five paddles with different shaft sizes and transitions from shaft to blade.  This resulted in him making the only kayak paddle that has never given me hand cramps.

On a production paddle something as simple as adding tape guides on the shaft or adding indexing to a round shaft can make the paddle better.


This is the very basic part of custom.  Custom lengths are easy to order from most anyone and now many paddle makers offer adjustable length paddles so you can change it at will.

Do you deserve a better paddle?

Will a custom paddle make enough difference to justify the cost and the waiting time?  I suppose the answer lies in how often you paddle and what kind of paddling you do.  However, it also lies in what kind of standard paddles are available.  I notice that their are a lot of paddle choices for white water kayakers but far fewer for white water canoers. Wing paddles for flatwater racers and surfski enthusiasts are available in many lengths, but sea kayak touring paddles are only usually available in three or four lengths and most stores only carry two lengths.

If you are taller or shorter than average on you just want something that fits better.  If you are having joint problems or cramping with your current paddle, or you paddle quite often for long days, then a custom paddle could be the solution.  If you are handy then don't hesitate to modify your current paddle to fit your style better.

Yoga is not for me. I like Tai Chi.

I know Yoga is really great for some people but almost all of the classes I have attended have left me in more pain.  I also notice that Yoga classes are frequented by folks who are much younger and more fit.  I have enjoyed a few classes like Yoga Nidra, but that is more about meditation than it is about keeping the old body paddling.

After a time I had the chance to take some Tai chi classes and later ran across this book with simple exercises in it:

This book is available here:  Step by Step Tai Chi  from

What I like about it best are the 18 fundamental exercises in the beginning of the book.  Doing 6 reps of each exercise takes me less than 15 minutes a day and makes me feel much more comfortable in all my joints and my back.  After doing the exercises for a couple of months I noticed a real improvement in my flexibility.  Whenever, I loose the habit of doing the daily Tai Chi fundamental exercises I notice I have more joint stiffness in days and I loose flexibility in weeks.  

I'm not certain I'll ever actually practice Tai Chi in the way others do, but I highly recommend the book and beginning exercises.

Leash or not?

Leashes among surf paddlers are more controversial than rudders verses skegs among other paddlers.  I have often used leashes in the surf with my sit on top to maintain contact with my boat.  I've been over the falls many times and yet to have become tangled.  Of course my experience is different from many; I grew up sailing Hobies through the surf where being tangled during capsize was a much greater risk and more common occurrence.

I understand the the ACA recommends that you never use a paddle leash in moving water. This would include rivers, surf, and anywhere big waves happen.  I do not know the BCU position on this, but I'd expect they be against it as well.  On the other side of the argument I see that many surf ski paddlers and sit on top paddlers use them.

 Personally I'd like to have the choice of maintaining contact with the boat and without the leash I rarely have that choice. I miss my brace on a wave or get tumbled over the falls and the next thing I know my boat has washed away and I'm swimming with the paddle as fast as I can to catch it.  If the waves are breaking there is no chance of me swimming fast enough to catch an empty boat. Of course I do notice that in a sit inside this never hap[pens because I must make a conscious decision to leave the boat and I have always been able to have one hand on the cockpit and one hand on the boat.  Apparently waves have to be much bigger to strip one  out of a sit inside cockpit than from the thigh straps of a sit on top.

One article I like is here at my favorite online shop:

I'll find other articles and add them later.

I'd be happy to hear your views or read any links you can share on the topic.

Paddle Rubbish

Why are most paddle length guides on the internet and in stores so wrong?  REI says I might need a 240 CM paddle for my boat according to their guide here:  And if you go there the shortest paddle they might have is a 220 cm!  I just don't see why most shops are selling 230 cm paddles to short men and even shorter women.  I hope they'll start stocking some paddles at 215 cm or less.  Epic's paddle guide is slightly better but most of the advice I see in guides and hear in stores is just rubbish.  Why would the average recreational paddler need a 230 in a rec boat and a 194 in there white water boat when both boats are the same width?

The one I like best so far is the NRS paddle guide.  Funny how one of the best guides comes from a place that doesn't make paddles.  They mention that shorter paddles are better for white water since you use a higher stroke rate.  If the shorter paddle is easier to turn over and faster paddle stroke equals faster boat, then why would you ever want a longer paddle?  I could just turn over the short paddle at a slower rate if I wanted to lily dip.  I think it might work just as well as a longer paddle used at a slower rate.

I'm not certain the 196 to 200 cm paddles I use for surfing are actually better for maneuvers, but they do feel better when I'm slapping down a brace.  So I'll try them out against my longer 213 cm Euro paddle and my 86 inch Greenland paddle made by Bill of Lumpy Paddles.

The Lumpy Paddle makes the last 10 miles of any day over 20 miles easier.  I also notice that Greenland paddles reduce soreness felt the next day. They are a great help on multi-day trips.

So if you see me on the lake paddling my sea kayak with a white water paddle this spring, you'll know why I'm doing it.  I'll start with a gps and do some sprints and try to find some actual kayak racers. They seem to know what paddles are fast.
So by summer I might just want an Aquabound Shred made in 215 for surfing or I might shorten down my touring paddle size down to 205.  Or maybe I'll get another Lumpy Paddle from Bill at: His paddles cost less than most recreational fiberglass and plastic ones and are as light as most carbon paddles and built custom sizes at no extra cost.  They are definitely not rubbish.

I'd love to hear some feedback about how you came to pick the size paddle you have. So please leave a comment.