If it works for ski poles, why not canoe paddles? That's the theory behind a new line of bamboo canoe paddles manufactured by Grass Sticks in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
One grab of the shaft is all it takes: bamboo just feels good–and different from any other paddle shaft on the market, a hair more au naturel.
An award-winning maker of bamboo ski poles, Grass Sticks has now taken its high-grade Bambusoideae technology to the canoe market. Built tough but light enough for a long day of paddling, Grass Sticks' hand-sanded shafts are made from kiln-dried Calcutta bamboo with an incredible strength-to-weight ratio and an ideal medium/stiff flex that’s easy on your body. Compared to stiffer shafts, the natural flex of bamboo fibers transfers energy to the water seamlessly, making braces, draws and other strokes easy and efficient.
"While carbon, fiberglass and other materials rely on a thin wall to reduce weight, bamboo's thick walls provide a strong yet lightweight paddle, letting you paddle longer and harder," says owner Andrew Beckler. "Plus, it feels great in your hand, and the fibers' natural flex let you feel the reaction of the water." Grass Sticks also hand sands multiple layers of marine-grade coating, giving each shaft a durable, beautiful finish that stays soft and grippy when wet.
The paddles' fiberglass blades—available in tropical grass design, red and blue, and bent at an 11-degree offset—come with extra reinforcement for durability and are available in 88- and 100-square-inch sizes. A carbon fiber blade reduces weight further, complete with a bamboo veneer top sheet. Paddle grips are made of carbon fiber and available in a traditional T-grip or triangular palm. Combine the feeling of palm-meeting-bamboo with down-to-earth aesthetics and grown-from-the-ground flex, and it's easy to see why Grass Sticks is making waves.
For Beckler, it's also about environmental sustainability. "Industrially manufactured carbon fiber and aluminum shafts use an incredible amount of energy and burden the environment," he says. "Per acre harvested, bamboo produces three times as much lumber as trees, absorbs more CO2, and produces more oxygen than any other plant. It’s a more sustainable, durable, light weight, and better looking paddle."
The paddles also come with an unlimited, no-questions-asked, two-year warranty. "That's a big selling point," says Beckler, adding that custom paddles can be made to any length. "No matter what happens we'll replace it within two years, with free shipping." $184, grasssticks.com
— C&K editors pay tribute to the Gear We Love.