Chad Townsend has spent a long time studying swimming birds and the science behind them*. He has built and tested a lot of prototypes, finally arriving at the Shearwater Webbed Paddle. Maybe the coolest part is that they are so compact for storage or transport.
When collapsed, Shearwater paddles fit in a 3" (8cm) wide tube! When quickly assembled, they behave in the water much like rigid recreational paddles, but with less disturbance than most. Perfect trailing tip spiral vortexes are generated, as is a very slight blade flex and whip effect to smooth thrust, both just like with birds' feet. You can see a short testing video below:
We first became aware of Shearwater paddles when we ran across an indegogo campaign that Chad ran earlier this year. Besides the fact that this seemed a perfect fit for our Duckworks store, we liked the idea immediately. Sandra is an iconoclast and is drawn to anything different or strange. I am practical and could immediately see how one of these paddles would make a perfect spare since it folds up so compactly.
We now have a couple of these paddles and intend to test them vigorously and report back here. In the mean time, Chad is ready to ship paddles and we are ready to offer them to early adopters out in paddling land.
These paddles come in two basic formats: single and double. Webs are made of thick, strong PVC material, in a color of your choice by Alberta Tent & Awning. Black fiberglass shafts are standard, for a warmer feel on the hands. For Canoe and SUP Shearwaters, a special top grip has been chosen.
There are six color options for webs and each paddle comes in a quick-dry Nylon bag. You will need to let Chad know how long to make your paddle.
In the fall of 2012, we spend a week on Lake Powell. Sandra paddled her kayak. We took a Shearwater paddle along and I was determined to try it out. Sandra was dubious, but halfway through our trip I got her to at least try it out. Once she got started, she would not give it up and used that paddle for the rest of the trip. Here is a short video clip and Sandra's review:
We first saw the duck paddle when the inventor, Chad, was soliciting funds for a start up. It was a duck foot paddle, for crying out loud, how could we not assist!!!
We received our prototypes shortly before our Sept trip to Lake Powell, and what a perfect place for a test. I was a tiny bit dubious at first—the double paddle seemed heavier than my regular double paddle, and I kept the regular paddle close at hand just in case. Did I feel like a Duck? You bet. Was I favorably impressed. Absolutely. This is, first of all, a lake paddle, not a river paddle. I would not want to use it in a river where I am often pushing off rocks and banks. Not that I ever find myself on rocks or close to banks, but maybe it happens sometimes. The duck shaped blade has amazing power, and the slight extra weight was never a problem. We typically paddle 10-12-15 miles a day on Powell, and the duck paddle proved itself. At the end of the day or trip, it comes apart and stores inside a bag about 2.5 feet long. Colors too!!
A Review from Tom Hudson:
I tried out the Shearwater double paddle with my 15’ x 25” open canoe on a sunny day in October, a light breeze creating low ripples on the Cumberland River. At first I used the Shearwater like my old plastic fixed-blade paddle, with the shaft held so that the blades enter the water at a low angle; due to the wider webbed blades of the Shearwater, my old style produced a torque on the shaft that was greater than I was accustomed to. I began to hold the paddle higher, with the blade entering the water at a steeper angle closer to the boat’s side, and found I had greater control with negligible torque. I had no way of measuring the efficiency of the webbed blades, but it seemed that I was making my normal forward progress with a little less effort. As a side benefit, the Shearwater seems not to splash as much, and I end up with less water in the canoe. And I really like the compact nylon sleeve into which the shaft and folded blades store.