I actually got a 57" Old Town beavertail first. It was the second paddle I ever bought, the first being a rectangular Mitchell t-grip.
I liked the 57" beavertail a lot (at the time) because it had a fairly thin blade and shaft. I then bought a 60" and a 54" beavertail from Old Town, but both of them were made much thicker and heavier, and hence I never used either much at all. I thought at the time this was very inconsistent quality control from Old Town or whoever was making the paddles for them.
Unfortunately, the 57" thin blade split vertically within a year. I wrapped it with tape, as I have no tools or woodworking skills. If I did, I would try to thin out the overbuilt beavertails.
The fundamental problem with long and wide animal tail paddles is the imbalance between the blade and shaft. If the shaft is short, the swing weight is imbalanced. If the shaft length is correct, you have a really long paddle overall.
I'm a medium speed paddler but appreciate light weight no matter what my stroke rate is.
In addition, I think the center of pressure of a long animal tail paddle is too far below the surface to give optimal horizontal (fore-aft) vector force. That is, it will tend to bob the bow up and down as you are plunging the center of pressure far under the surface. This may not be so apparent if you are paddling a heavy and wide 16' wood/canvas tandem canoe solo from the stern seat. It becomes apparent to me when paddling a light and narrow 13'-14' solo canoe.
Touring Kayak Paddles
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