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Submitted: 07-19-2010 by steve_in_idaho
I couldn't pass up the deal on this paddle at clearance from REI. $20 total with local pick-up. For that price, it was a steal. It is a functional and durable paddle that I am sure will last through many years of hard use, as long as the finish is kept up.
Make no mistake - this paddle is in no way comparable to a custom ottertail from the likes of Ray Kettlewell or other well-known paddle makers. It is laminated wood with a very utilitarian finish, and does not have the graceful shape and fine edges that make the better ottertail paddles such a joy to use.
The grip is too large and IMO needs reshaping for comfort. I used the roller end of a bench sander to give mine that "football" end with a concave grip area. Then I sanded and refinished the whole grip with Danish oil instead of varnish (my preference for comfort).
Although it is plenty strong, the paddle is quite light. And the blade has a plastic tip guard, which is good for use in waters that may be shallow in places. But the blade is also pretty much flat with blunt edges - so it doesn't knife silently through underwater recoveries or give an easy silent catch like a well-shaped ottertail paddle should.
For those on a tight budget or looking for a spare or loaner paddle - or one that you won't be afraid to abuse, this one is a great deal, especially at a sale price and especially if you have the ability to customize the grip to your liking.