I wish there was an option to rate this paddle a 12/10. That should say enough.
I've been paddling for many, many years and have used all sorts of paddles. Whether you're looking to mess around on the lake for an hour or you're gearing up for a 10 day in your favorite remote location, there is truly no better paddle. Jeff Solway called this a 'Zen Cruiser' when I spoke to him and it didn't take long to see why. Thanks to the oval shaft, seriously flared blade and a little extra meat in the grip, that last hour before making camp for the night is no longer spent agonizing over your aching paddling muscles.
I honestly can not recommend a better paddle. Mine is a solid cherry 54" and I know that with a little care and respect, it will be buried with me (no, I'm not going to will it). Tragically, Jeff isn't making paddles anymore. I was almost as heart-broken as when I'd heard that Omer Stringer passed back in '88. I saw a picture of a Nashwaak for sale in a Toronto store, but without Jeff's strange signature piece of African Hardwood laminated into the grip... I'm sure its a knock off.I'm now beginning my third paddling season with my Cherry Nashwaak. It has become my favorite paddle, by a wide margin. The only time I pick up a different paddle is when the water gets too shallow and I don't want to grind the end of this beautiful paddle on the bottom. It is remarkably light which when combined with its perfect balance makes it a joy for long days of paddling. In the water it is smooth and stable. Underwater recoveries have no buzz or gurgle. On edge it slides through the water like the proverbial "hot knife through butter".
It has a little less surface area than some of my other paddles. This lowers the effort per stroke, but requires a slightly higher stroke rate to maintain the same hull speed. This trade-off actually feels less fatiguing over the course of a long day of paddling. I gave similar high praise to a Ray Kettlewell Modified Otter-tail. The two paddles are very similar in their quality of workmanship and paddling dynamics. I have to give the slight edge to the Nashwaak Cruiser purely on the fact that it is perceptibly lighter weight (for the same paddle length).
This paddle is without doubt my very favorite for paddling my solo canoe. If you prefer to paddle in the "classic style", rather than the "hit and switch" style, then you owe it to yourself to seek out one of these pieces of working art. Yes, they are just as beautiful as they are functional!I tested a 56" cherry cruiser, and a 48" cherry kid's cruiser today in my Wenonah Escapade. I brought along a "standard" beavertail paddle and a 15 degree bent shaft paddle to switch with for comparisons. After 3 rounds of switching with the full size paddles, I opted both mentally and physically for the Nashwaak for paddling efficiency and the joy of the experience. My former beavertail felt like a log in comparison to the Nashwaak, and although the bent shaft yielded more forward momentum, it also required considerably more physical effort. The Nashwaak unique grip permits multiple finger and thumb placements for control, and rotates well in the hand. The slight paddle flex resulted in the smoothest paddling ever. The Nashwaak made me feel like I was more "in tune" with the paddling experience than I had ever realized before.
The real surprise came when I tried the 48" kid's Nashwaak. This ultra lightweight turned me into a turbocharged paddler! The energy return in momentum was much greater than expected, and I would recommend this for anyone needing or wanting a low physical effort paddle with a high efficiency return. Technically, it is better suited for someone less than about 5'5" tall, but it will work for special situations.
The Nashwaak does have a captivating mystery to it, and only its experience can make that realized.