Tuesday, May 11, 2010
It's a Labour of Love AND It's Therapeutic
Sometimes I think that people look upon wooden paddles as being the "poor cousins" of the carbon fibre ones. I'll admit that I made my first Greenland paddle because I was too cheap to buy a CF unit. A year later, I was given a fairly decent Euro CF paddle for Christmas but promptly returned it to the store as I knew that I was committed to using the wooden GP and the Euro would see little to no action.
At the risk of sounding "airy fairy", there's something very organic about a wooden paddle - "obviously", you say, as it's generally made of 100% entirely organic materials (I say "generally" because some are laminated with a glue or epoxy). But a wooden paddle is organic in other ways. First, there is a good chance that you fabricated the paddle yourself - so you know all about it. It's curves, weight, balance and, yes we all have them, imperfections!! Wood also has a very different feel than a CF or other non-wood materials. Wood never feels very cold - no matter how cold the air or water may be. A hand carved paddle is also more than a tool. A well crafted paddle borders on a sculpted carving - a piece of functioning art, so to speak
A wooden paddle by nature, can require more upkeep than a CF or fibreglass or, god forbid, aluminium and plastic. Is this a downside? I say not. I'm very careful with my wood paddles. They are stored against the wall in my living room (right behind me as I type) They are handled carefully when being transported in the car. When I notice that the tung oil finish is looking a little lack lustre, I give it a quick rub with steel wool and apply another quick coat of oil. This, in itself, is therapeutic. In a matter of minutes you can take a dull paddle and replace it with a shiny (but not too shiny) new one. It's very satisfying.
Even the dings on a wooden paddle can be attractive. A CF or FG paddle blade usually shows white when its given a hard scrape or knock. A wooden paddle, on the other hand, will bear its wound less obviously. A ding on a wooden paddle usually shows as darker - almost like a bruise. (Think of a boxer proudly displaying his battle wounds)
A wooden paddle that you've crafted, I would think, has a greater attachment to you than a CF or FG that you bought in the store. I know that is how I feel. My current paddle is 88" long, is a full 3.5 wide yet it only weighs 27oz. That's about 1oz heavier than the $500.00 Werners that many people are using. I've tried twice to make paddles to replace it (see earlier posts) but they have failed. I'm beginning to think that its kharma. I think I'll stay with this one for a while.
The intent of this entry is, in no way, to slag Euros, CF's or any other non-wood, non-GP paddles. I've tried the Euro's but they are too hard on my shoulders. Luckily the GP is more forgiving. A Euro paddle in the hands of a skilled paddler is a joy to watch. I guess I'd just like other paddlers to not think of wood as an inferior material nor should they be afraid to try a GP (wooden or CF) just to see what the grass is like on the other side of the fence.