A wooden paddle, carved from a single piece of carefully chosen wood, is a joy to paddle with. It flexes during the stroke,
not so much as to be inefficient, but enough to reduce the strain on muscles and joints, making paddling not only less tiring
but also more ergonomic. Furthermore it is possible to tailor the paddle to the paddler (see side notes on Paddle Fitting).
The blade shape that I offer falls within the otter tail family. It is my preference for deep-water touring. The long blade
requires deep water; the angles make for very clean entry; the relatively narrrow blade allows entry close to the canoe for
greater efficiency; and having the widest point nearer the lower hand makes the mechanics of extended paddling much easier
than the other way round.
My preferred woods are ash and cherry. The ash paddle illustrated below has seen many hundreds of miles in diverse waters over
20 years and more, and is still going strong.
There are several factors to take into account when tailoring a paddle to a paddler, including:
- Length: depends on the height of paddler, body proportions and paddling position.
- Blade area: depends on the strength of paddler and intended use.
- Shaft diameter: depends on paddler's hand size.
- Blade thickness: may be a compromise of factors such as clean entry, slicing, paddle balance, flex, ease of damage.
- Balance: depends on length, blade area, shaft width, blade thickness. A blade-heavy paddle becomes tiring on the
recovery stroke, whilst a shaft heavy paddle feels unstable and includes unnecessary weight.