Price Paid: $119
Product Manufacturer: Pacific Designs
Pros: Low swing weight, strong, pulls well, feels good overallAfter about a year and a half I got tired of my "big box store" paddles. I started shopping around for something strong and lightweight that would take the abuse of fishing but wouldn't be so expensive that I would be out a paycheck if I broke it. Looking at all of the internet reviews on paddles didn't help much, as it seemed that everyone had a preference. Some paddles had both great and terrible reviews.
I like to think outside the box, so after much searching I decided to try a Pacific Designs paddle. I was skeptical of the design at first, but the reviews seemed promising, the price was right, and with a 30-day unconditional return policy all I really had to lose was return shipping so I thought I'd give them a shot. From the start the service was excellent and the paddle is awesome.
I started by writing an email to the company (which is really one guy, Steve). I asked his opinion on whether his paddle would fit my paddling style and intended use (fishing where it will take a beating sometimes). I got a prompt response. Steve basically said that everyone has different preferences, but he believed in his product enough that I could order one and if I didn't like it I could send it back for a full refund, no hard feelings, no questions asked. He also made recommendations on length and feather angle. He really knows his paddles and was a pleasure to talk with.
I ordered my paddle and it was at my door in less than a week (I think it was more like 4 days), which is impressive, especially considering Steve custom drilled my paddle 0 feather (at no charge).
Short story, I'm very impressed with this paddle. While not as light as some composite paddles, it feels much lighter than it actually is because the swing weight is next to nothing. Instead of swinging heavy blades on a light shaft I'm swinging featherweight blades on a strong shaft. I can paddle all day with this one. The paddle is sturdy and works well for pushing off and bracing. The construction is simple, but elegantly so. The pictures on the website don't do the paddle justice. I was worried about it being cheaply made, but it isn't in the least. Every detail shows quality and craftsmanship.
I can't imagine anyone not liking this paddle. It could be said that it is a little "wet" (drips a lot), but that's pretty much standard for a large bladed paddle. It hasn't been a problem for me, but it was noted in some of the reviews I read. The only other complaint I read about them was that the shaft was too small for some people's hands, but it fits me perfectly. Steve recommends building the grips to your preference with handlebar tape, which works great.
I'd recommend this paddle to anyone. If you don't like it, send it back. It doesn't get much simpler than that.