How To Customize Your Paddle

About Style, Length, Feather, Aesthetics...

What does it take to get a paddle custom built for you?  There are some aesthetic and structural choices- beyond just the choice of a blade design.

Blade Design
My Blade Shapes are multi-funtional but some apply better to certain missions than others do.  Consider where you will be paddling the most as a priority. If you’re surfing a lot be sure to check out my articulated shapes~ The Riot Styk and the SO Terrik.  There’s lots of big blades to look at also- starting with my Racing blades.
Your paddle length affects your stroke rate. You want to dial it in like a gear on a bike- not too much traction but a nice flowing rate.  If you’ve never thought about your stroke rate much you might want to read my Stroke Theory essay. You can also find commonly used lengths here.
The paddle’s ‘feather’ is how one blade references to the other.   In the old days peope used 90 degree feathers to limit the effect of wind on the upper blade.   A while ago people found a lower feather led to a reduced reaction time and 45 degrees became a popular feather.  There has even been experimentation with feathers as low as 0 degrees.  I prefer the 40 degree feather and I would refer you to my essay “The Feather Rap” for futher details on this subject.   But- I’m custom so I’ll make whatever feather you would prefer.
Heavy Duty?
Also- if you will be creeking with the styk I can beef up the strength of the shaft by leaving more Ash wood in it- and less core.   I can also beef up the thickness of the tips and edgings for rocky environments.  And I can even add extra glass (no extra charge) for highly abusive uses like raft guiding.
The bladewoods also affect the aesthetics and strength of the paddle blade.  Black Willow is the lightest strongest choice for blade woods and is a nice cherry color.  A good light alternative is Basswood- a creamy brown color. If you want to beef up the stiffness and ding resistance of the blade- look to nice white Aspen Fairing strips.  They are a trace heavier but really produce a strong blade.  And you might want to consider veneer pinstripes or even thicker pinstripes~ like 1/4” walnut pinstripes.

And then there is a choice of the bang strip- the outermost piece of wood in the blade.   It supports the edging so it has to be dense. Most of the bang strips get covered with the veneer tips- but you can still see them a little bit and it’s a good place to use showy woods like Curly Maple, Chestnut, Curly Sassafras, Aspen, golden Osage Orange, or Cherry.


The veneers for the paddle tips are thin sheets of wood that give the tips better looks and endurance. I have several good versions of the popular Curly Maple. I also have two excellent woods from Japan. “Tochi” is a deep honey gold color with deep wavy figure and the American name for the tree it comes from is Horse Chestnut. And “Tamo” (Japanese Ash) is a lighter blond color with deep figure that really shows up well under finish. In darker tones I have Makore (mahogany color) and Sapele (very dark). They both have excellent figure. The dark veneers do tend to show more scratches though as the paddle ages. I also have sweet Quilted Maple ( a swimmier look than Curly Maple) and Pommelle Maple- which is similar to Quilted but looks like little bubbles in the water. I also have small amounts of other veneers so don’t be afraid to ask!

Single Blade
If you are buying a Canoe or Raft paddle there are choices of woods for the T-grip.  There is Chestnut, Curly Maple, Cherry, Walnut, Curly Sassafras, Cherry Burl and beautiful golden Osage Orange.

RivrStyx are traditionally custom sized for the grip areas based on a tracing of your hand or any other specific measurement or requests you might have.

These are your basic choices.  You might want to start by deciding how heavy duty you want the paddle or how much lightness is an important quality you want.  You can base your bladewood choices on that and then choose the veneers for pretty much aesthetic reasons.

You can fill out all the details about your paddle on the order form available on the Ordering page. And I’m happy to discuss your options with you over the phone as well.  304-329-3310