The Paddle Thread: consolidation & index

Attempting to consolidate highlights from past threads in a permanent sticky . Give a shout if you feel I’ve quoted your past commentary too far out of context to be meaningful. If there’s something else you think should be included in this thread, post or PM me. Counter-commentary also welcome.

:arrow_right: The Primary Paddles Thread:
There more than I can really summarize while retaining integrity: discussion touches on usage, paddle durability histories, repair, and a couple different brands.

:arrow_right: Ultralight Paddle Thread:

:arrow_right: Hand Paddles Thread: BanditBo started a “hand paddles” thread, here.

:arrow_right: Maintenance, Problems, & Durability: see below.

Stuck paddles seem to be the most common paddle problem, and warrant as special summary. Quotes are from unless otherwise noted.

dukepeterson brought up a common problem:> I have been paddling my boat in the surf for a few months and as a consequence haven’t taken my paddle apart for a while. I now have found it is pretty much impossible to get the thing apart. Just wondering if anyone has any hot tips on how to solve this problem?

Answers & suggestions included…

jshannon> : A chemist paddling friend says this…

“yes at auto stores they sell tiny tubes (like 1/2 teaspoon) of silicone brake grease used to make the rubber parts slide easily into the groves that they have to be forced into. Silicone is used because unlike petroleum grease, it does not attack rubber or plastic. Most paddles are made of fiberglass cloth laminated with epoxy (plastic). Petroleum weakens that type of epoxy, so silicone would be a good choice to resist water and to not attack the plastic. The auto store also sells silicone brake fluid which also works well but you have to buy at least 8 ounces and it is pretty pricy stuff, so the little tube is the better bet if you can find it.”

cmcrooker added: > I used the eraser end of a pencil (and another time the tip of my cell phone charger - the part that plugs into the cig lighter) to push in the button, while another person slightly twisted the shaft until the button was away from the hole. The twisting action broke the seal and was much easier than pulling the paddle pieces straight apart. Once the seal was broken, I could pull the two pieces apart.

And bradmeiklejohn contributed:> I’ve had stuck blades on my Aquabound paddles and have used a razor blade to shave a tiny amount off of the male ferrule. Now, however, when the parts are dry the paddle is a bit loose. To cure that problem I put a bit of river silt on the offending joints, which tightens them up. The only problem is that then they are hard to get apart again!

Alpacka Raft talked to Aquabound, and got a fairly comprehensive set of advice from them:

The Cause of Paddle Blades Getting Stuck

:arrow_right: > Dirt or Grit. The paddle ferrule and shaft socket are counstructed with 2-2.5 thousandths of an inch of clearance. If they aren’t clean upon assembly, then a little dust or grit can easily lead to stuck blades.
:arrow_right: > Water Absorbtion in the Blade Ferrule. Nylon absorbs water over time, especially if the paddle is stored in a humid or wet environment.
:arrow_right: > Shaft Curing. The shaft tube continues to cure for several years, and might shrink slightly.

Ways to Avoid & Fix Stuck Blades
:bulb: > Don’t Force It! If the fit is really tight on assembly, clean the pieces and possibly sand them (as explained below). They were pretty emphatic that, if it’s super-tight going on, it’ll be just as tight when you try to get it off.
:bulb: > Clean Your Paddles. Get dust, grit, slime, dirt, mold, etc. off them: it only takes 1/1000 of an inch, in many cases, to make a paddle stuck.
:bulb: > Store Paddles Unassembled & In a Dry Place. They suggested storing paddles in your house, not outside in the shed, rolled up in a wet boat, etc.: that will hasten water-absorbtion & swelling, or promote growth of mold, etc. which will then lead to a stuck paddle.
:bulb: > Lightly Sand the Ferrule. Aquabound suggests lightly sanding the ferrule (the paddle-portion), taking off about 1/1000 of an inch. That should be enough to ensure a better fit. They stated that, especially after having the paddles a few years or storing them wet for long periods, there’s nothing abnormal about needing to do this and you won’t hurt the paddle.

And finaly, mikegaige added: > I had a stuck paddle problem as well. To get them apart I put the paddle blade between a matress and boxspring and had someone sit on it while I twisted the shaft as hard as I could. Sanding didn’t help much–I had to shave it with a razor blade. Works fine now.

I’ve done a similar thing to Mike.

Summary: Broken paddles currently seem to be a rare problem, but it feels anything but rare when it happens to you on the wrong side of a river, so I thought this should have its own section.
:arrow_right: Aquabound Splat & Manta Ray paddles have a solid history with (1) known freak break (sounds like a defect) that was warranted, and a known capacity to fatigue over their lifespan and eventually break.
:arrow_right: Sawyer paddles have a very good general history, and were beefed up after a brief, odd spate of breaks immediately after introduction, probably attributable to 1-2 early production runs.
:arrow_right: Pacific Designs (oars & ultralight) have a solid history on flatwater, except when exerted to extreme rigor, but don’t appear to be river suitable (which also isn’t in their design spec).
:arrow_right: Werner, Lendal, etc: Insufficient forums data / personal knowledge for conclusions.

Aquabound: Generally a very good history; will eventually fatigue. I’ve only heard one “freak” break of them on a new paddle; the other breaks I’ve heard about sound like older, fatigued paddles - but they do seem to accumulate fatigue over long use in the central ferrule, so heads up if you do lots of whitewater, you may eventually “break it in half.” If you’ve had a freak break, PM me. The freak incident:

russellnyberg had this happen: > Whoa dude…just got off of a 4 day bike/packraft trip on the deschutes, from bend to maupin. My carbon fiber aqua bound paddle stapped in half 14 miles in!! Just ferrying away from a hole and it broke right in the center, the piece that enters the hollow shaft. Bummer man. I wraped a bunch of sticks around them and it worked awsome for the rest of the trip, as long as I rewrapped them in the morning. Anybody have a problem with their paddles? I never abused it, i am awfuly burly though…

And Aquabound/Bending Branches made it good:

Nice! Brandnew paddle! No problem, i showed them a video of the broken paddle and some pics and now I have a new paddle!

Sawyer History: From this thread: Based on forum commentary, boater feedback to Alpacka, etc., the Sawyer has been solid in general use after the initial construction speck was beefed up.

The early situation was summarized by Alpacka as such:

Alpacka Raft LLC> Following on what’s been a very good service record, several of our users have broken Sawyer paddles within the last few weeks. Most or all of these breakages appear to be on new paddles. Obviously can’t happen. We’re working with Sawyer to figure out what’s going on

Which was occurring at the same time as this:

Hig: > Overall we loved these paddles. We were a little skeptical of those cedar cored blades and the clamp when we started, and then we beat the crap out of them for a year and were amazed at how well they did. They aren’t perfect, but they’re very good.

How we used them: We’d shove off beaches, run rocky rapids, and put our all into hard paddles around points against the tide. We also shoveled snow and sand, used them for shelter support, and packed them tight in our packs.

Sawyer got on it (commentary by them is also in the thread), and the construction was beefed up. It almost sounds like there was an initial inconsistency of some kind in one lot. Brad summarized the following mood pretty well, as the updated Sawyer went through the trials:

bradmeiklejohn:> After my first Sawyer paddle broke on its second day on the water, I’ve been hesitant to tout this paddle for hard and rocky whitewater. Last year the Sawyer stayed home on the harder and longer trips, displaced by my trusty fiberglass Manta Ray. This year, though, I’ve been taking the Sawyer more often, including a two-week outing to the western Arctic, down the rocky Happy River, and some other bony Class IV rivers. I am starting to trust it more, though, as it has been taking a pretty good beating with no damage yet. I still use the Sawyer with some trepidation, which is awkward when faced with a “must-make” move on a rocky river. But I am slowly gaining confidence that this beauty will stand up to the beast.

Shaggy added [referencing the fact that he was doing customer service for Alpacka at the time: > earing boater feedback, and watching the record of the paddle is that the changes Sawyer made to it have been very good. My overall impression, from the information I get, is that the Sawyer is a beautiful mixed-water paddle, but if you’re consistently doing hard water, a more robust Manta Ray or Splat is a good choice. That said, I haven’t personally heard of anything more than Sawyer cracks for about eight months.

And Roman summed it up well:> Brad’s hit the current with the blade on the Sawyer: It’s remarkably durable and its adjustability is great. I bought one for my wife but have been using it more frequently for camping trips as it makes a superb central pole for my pyramid style tents.

I am afraid to use it when steep creeking, but have other paddles for that. But for any trip that’s Class III and involves walking and especially camping, it’s going with.

Speaking as personal myself but with knowledge gleaned from Alpacka & Sawyer, as of Mar 2010, its record appears to be very good for this use envelope. Some non-performance-affected paddle cracks that can be epoxied, and inner ferrules getting loose over time (not sure if there’s any solution for this other than a new ferrule; I believe it comes from either natural abrasion of the ferrule, or natural relaxation of the clamp… need to send mine in to Sawyer, and maybe they can tell me).

Fjord Explorer / Dory Oars: Note: these have the same basic construction as the Ultralight Paddle, so the same durability commentary should apply.

Richard295 sums it up well:
am responding to your paddle question from the perspective of a pack rafter, sea kayaker, and WW kayaker and I use a wide range of paddles. The Pacific Design’s paddles are a good option for recreational paddlers but are not rugged enough for expedition use. Pacific Design’s was/is? the OEM supplier of the Dory convertible rowing and kayaking paddle sold by Alpacka. Five people I pack raft with purchased Alpacka dories in combination with a Pacific Designs rowing/paddling convertible paddle.

I did two packraft trips last year with group members who broke Pacific Designs paddles. The first failure occurred on the Upper Sacramento River in CA. The shaft snapped from just powering a packraft during an up river ferry; the paddle did not hit a rock. That paddle set and the other sets owned by fellow pack rafters I know were then modified by the manufacture to add a reinforcing sleeve to the inside of the shaft about at the midpoint. After those modifications the shafts held up but the ABS plastic blades that are riveted to the shaft tore on a couple of blades that were next used on a SF Flathead river trip in Montana’s Bob wilderness. They have now all switched over to beefier paddles.

General observations I’ve encountered suggest the Pacific Designs paddles (FE oars, ultralight) are flatwater suitable but a significant fraction have a problem sooner or later when used in rivers. Personal observation / highly subjective, but I don’t use them on rivers: it’s not what they’re built for.

Additional Paddle Durability Commentary: Additional commentary on the Sawyer (inc. the initial period) is in the main “Paddles” thread, as well on other paddles, including the old Manta Ray Carbon Fiber (which is different from the Manta Ray Fiberglass) and I believe on the Explorer Oars. The primary thread also has commentary on Werner and Lendal paddles.

Over in our Europe dedicated blog we have a post which might be of interest for all, thus the post in English.
Have look for the “paddle destruction” (and repair;)


To slightly contradict conventional wisdom: I have a MantaRay Hybrid w fiberglass shaft that has been functionally a 2-piece paddle for 2 years, the blades having been stuck on the shaft. Finally decided to tackle the problem by soaking overnight in water, to loosen the salt/rust I figured was gluing the blades to the shaft. I then put on leather gloves for purchase on the shaft, sat on the blade with a pair of rubber-soled shoes under my butt so the rubber gave me traction to pull against on the blade, and began to twist/pull. Pre-soak, I got no motion at all. Post-soak, I got a clunk and a barely-perceptible twist. So I twisted back the other way, another clunk. Repeat x 400 times, and the paddle blade had slowly worked its way off. Worked for both blades–now I have a 4-piece paddle again! And blisters. I think the soaking (which has been said to expand the blade) loosened up whatever was gluing things together. Slight amount of visible rust and no visible salt on the blade after removal. Now I’m going to file down the ridges on the blades before I put it together, like I should have done 2 years ago. Hope this is helpful!