As I'm sure you already know, Tasha and I are taking several months off from the daily grind next year to go on a 2,400 mile expedition down the Mississippi River. If you didn't already know, well, you do now. And to move our 17 foot canoe along the mightiest of rivers on the continent, we'll need paddles that can stand up to the challenge.
Not only will they have to be durable enough to last three months of continuous usage without breaking down or coming apart, they'll need to be lightweight, ergonomic, and efficient. If not, it'll be our arms that fail us. Paddles are as important for such a trip as shoes are for a marathon. Too heavy and our arms wear out. Not comfortable and our wrists cramp up. Too frail and they break. Not efficient and we grow tired.
To solve this problem we got in tough with Danny at Whiskeyjack Paddles in Whitefish, Montana. A craftsman as well as an artist, his work is a wonderful blend of form and function. A little more than a week after we placed an order for some custom designed paddles, they were in. The result of Danny's hard work was simply breathtaking.
Each paddle weighs in at roughly 1 pound. The shafts and blade are bent to proved for a cleaner exit from the water (thus creating less drag) and less strain on the wrist. They're virtually weightless, yet more sturdy and stable than our heavier paddles. And the appearance... Just see for yourself.
I was worried that I'd spent too much money on the paddles and hoped that I'd notice some kind of difference when we used them. I didn't have to use them long to know that I had received my money's worth. From the very first stroke I could feel the difference. The canoe slid forward with ease and the stroke seemed almost effortless. With far less force we were traveling at the same speed and distance.
Typically, with straight paddles, Tasha would paddle on the right and I on the left. After about fifteen minutes we would switch sides as our arms grew tired. That first day on the lake with our new paddles saw us several miles over the water, exploring islands and cuts until finally, a couple hours later, we realized to our astonishment that we hadn't switched sides a single time. Our arms weren't tired and our pace wasn't slowing. By the time we wrapped up our day, we'd only switched once and that because we wanted to see how it felt on the other side. When we loaded up in the truck several hours of vigorous paddling later, we were just as fresh as when we'd first hit the water.
We could have paddled all day... which is good since, come August, that's exactly what we'll be doing.
I tip my hat to Whiskeyjack Paddles for the functional art they was crafted for us. These custom paddles are a thing of beauty and I look forward to using them for months on end.