Next to getting a new boat, acquiring a new canoe paddle is the next thing to get excited about. And when it’s time, choosing the right stick for you can be very personal and the source of a lot of pride. It becomes an extension of, not only your body, but of your personality. It can be something of a status symbol, the status of your skill and knowledge but in contrast to a shiny Porsche or BMW its utilitarian purpose dictates something more like a classic Ford Bronco. A companion worth giving a name to or building a legend around. And for some reason the canoe paddle is closer to a true friend to me than my kayak or sup paddle. It could be due to the types of trips it takes me on but also in how it doubles as a walking stick on a scout. How I feel about my paddle might be something like the ode chanted in Full Metal Jacket, “This is my paddle, there are many like it but this one is mine”.
There are some things that I find essential for a good canoe paddle. First, it has to be strong. The paddle I bring to work as a tool of the trade needs to put up with the abuse that my personality will dish out. For instance I have never subscribed to the notion that the tip of the blade should not touch rocks or dirt or anything other than water. The eastern slopes of the rockies won't give you the option of babying your paddle. The strength obviously should be applied to the entirety of the paddle. How many shafts have snapped in the hands of a paddler at the top of a crux rapid or on day two of a two week expedition? Its no joke. You can’t leave it to chance. Something I will often comment on during an instructors course, where the things you provide a strong opinion about leave lasting impressions. As a river guide or instructor you work in a medium where you are responsible for the well being of your clients. The last thing you need is a broken paddle at that moment you're called upon to clean up a capsize in a cold continuous mountain river.
Stiffness. Any wood blade will be stiff, but composites are so much lighter especially in the shaft. The challenge with a composite blade is sometimes how much flex there is. I had a great Water Stick, it had a massive blade and it was light. However the fluttering and spring that came off of it at times I found it problematic. Although a stiff blade may be harder on the joints I feel there is a level of consistency that I prefer. Something else that I carry an opinion on is the t-grip. There is no substitute for a beefy t-grip. The teardrop palm grip on a paddle may provide a nice feel but it doesn't offer a positive grip for the person you are sending a reaching assist to and it can't hook the grab loop of a boat slipping off the rocks into an eddy. These are just the basics and I haven't even mentioned length.
So, my partner that has been at my side through 16 years of guiding, teaching, scouting, smashing, bracing, prying and tarping snapped last year. Not from a pry off a rock or hard pull but a flight returning from the north. The airline was more than helpful and sent out a check right away. Still I was down a paddle. Unfaithful in my skills to replace the shaft I ordered a new paddle from Echo paddles. Looking for a stick to do double duty and to perform mostly in a solo capacity I chose the Concept. A full carbon piece with a wood t-grip and aluminium reinforced tip. The shaft indexed for reduced cramping and solid grip. And the blade is broad and stiff and has ample curvature that flattens and tapers to a substantial piece at the tip.
I waited all winter for Andy to build this paddle for me and when it finally came I was not disappointed. I added an extra inch onto what I would normally use solo making it 57” plus I knew this paddle would be much stiffer than the Werner I had been using. I was super excited to test out this new baby. No better chance than a three day trip on the Kootenay River in flood!
And after all of that here is my report top to bottom.
The t-grip is beefy but not too big. The fact it is wood saves the warm feel that can’t be had with any other material.
The shaft is rigid and I felt zero flex in it. I may have moved the index portion a little higher. However it was far enough up the shaft to still use it when I was gripping closer to the top half of the shaft to get the blade deeper under the boat.
The blade itself holds some magic. It felt it was the perfect size. Immediately I could feel an anchor in the water. Very similar to a Werner Bandit, however less loss of catch. A most solid and positive feel, possibly from the lack of flex in the blade. The reverse power seemed to have the worst performance overall which wasn’t bad. Lastly the aluminum tip offers peace of mind.
Recovery and speed are amazing. Even with the extra inch I didn’t once clip the hull moving from on side to off side and back. I felt little to no flutter in slicing forward or while blending or compounding strokes.
A small con is It’s solid and unflexing state left no quarter when a rock was impacted. Twice hitting rocks and the t-grip snapped out of my hand.
A small consequence that I can get used to.
Thank You Andy for another amazing paddle!! I have replaced the shaft on the “creek stick” and have had it out with great success. The addition of the concept to the quiver is another reliable Echo product to lean on.