Once in a while we find something in life that transcends its original purpose and design and put simply, stops us in our tracks. It is both beautiful, practical and an object you can’t be without. This is the story of Downcreek Paddles and their Big Dipper and Kingfisher canoe paddles. They arrived at Paddler HQ greeted with the excitement of Christmas morning festivities. Since then they have been tested on moving water and flat paddling trips on the Severn, Great Ouse and Dee and in all conditions (mostly flood given the liquid sunshine). They passed with flying colours.
At first glance the workmanship is exceptional with great balance in the paddles. The paddle grips and shafts are also solid feeling very comfortable in the hand. The paddles are the result of hand craftsmanship from Irish manufacturers, Downcreek, who were experienced woodworkers. Their hand-crafted process involves laminating carefully selected hardwoods, which helps provide the balanced weight and all-round performance. It has crossed our mind to place the paddles over the mantel piece with pride of place when we are not using them on journeys or expeditions.
Sizing your canoe paddle
There are number of ways to size your canoe paddle. Of course having a paddle with a blade before hand can be helpful. An important consideration is to think about what kind of paddling you are looking to do? Whether it is tandem or solo, deep water or white water and so on. The Downcreek paddles, like many manufacturers, come in two inch increments to help you get the right size and you can also select smaller or larger grip sizes.
General rule of thumbs:
Whilst on the water
Sit inside your canoe and measure the distance vertically from your nose to the water. This distance will be the required length from paddle’s grip to the throat, where the paddle shaft meets the blade.
Trying out a paddle
Kneel down with your bottom about 6 inches from the floor, simulating your seated canoe position. Hold the paddle upside down, with the grip on the floor. You should now have the throat of the paddle located between your chin and your nose.
Measuring at home (without paddle)
Kneel down with your bottom about six inches off the floor, as if sitting in a canoe. Measure from the floor to your nose. Add this measurement to the blade length (commonly 20 inches) noted on REI.com product pages for the correct overall length.
With crank shaft or bent-shaft paddles, then you might want to deduct two inches from the length you’ve determined above. For wider canoes or paddling tandem from the stern (rear seat) then you might want to add two inches to the paddle length so you can reach the water without excessive leaning and also get more leverage for steering.
For more white water use and or rock gardens then have a look at the Rock Guard tip that can be added to your paddle.
Modelled on the long narrow bladed Algonquin, which was traditionally a Cree Indian hunting paddle, this is both quiet and efficient to use. It provides effortless long gliding strokes in deep water and is super easy to knife back to the catch.
The handle or grip is gently rounded with a roll top and fits comfortably into your palm, you can hold it using different grip choices which makes the J stroke feel smoother. As you would expect for such a traditional paddle shape you can paddle quietly with the blade remaining continually in the water. This blade is great to have in your quiver, for deep water work or as your main paddle, if you are paddling deeper open water sections.
Again you can tailor the blade to your own specific needs as left.
Length: 29 1/2″
Width: 4 3/4″
64″ Kingfisher in Cherry = 810g
62″ Kingfisher in Chestnut & Walnut = 650g
Paddle grip sizes:
Regular size: approx. 80mm x 29mm
Slim size: approx. 70mm x 27mm
We have it on good authority from the canoe master himself, Ray Goodwin (The guy who wrote the book), that he was involved the design of the Big Dipper resulting in an increase in the blade size providing a better catch and significantly more power. The paddle is based on the traditional beaver tail which is great for lake journeys and deep water paddling.
The Dipper feels great in the hand across a wide variety of different strokes without any blade flutter. There is a small amount of flex in the paddle to avoid straining joints and muscles. It has a slightly ovelised shaft to improve the lower hand grip.
The Big Dipper is a fantastic canoe blade and one of the best paddles we have ever tested. You can tailor the blade to your own specific needs with choices including:
- Length of paddle
- Wood types
- Grip size
- Personalised engraving
- White water tip (Rock Guard)
Max Width: 7.5”
60” Irish Ash & Black Walnut = 800g
56” Cherry & Black Walnut = 700g