About Gillespie Paddles

You can feel free to contact me with any questions. I'm pretty much it here. I make all the paddles, take care of the email, and answer the phone. I am the person you deal with, and I am the one who makes your paddle. (I have a couple of part-timers, who do a bit of gluing and finish sanding, and who do their best to keep the dust from building up too much.)

Information on  length and width, grips and that stuff is available on specific paddle pages -- with length and width selections;  I don't have charts for length because there really isn't anyway to say a certain length is always suitable to a certain size paddler; feel free to ask me if you have any questions/

 Please note that I am much more of a custom builder than I am a manufacturer -- I don't do huge chunks of paddles all at once.  So, if you have a special paddle you want, just let me know. 
Frankly, I love making paddles as a craft, much more than a business.  This is one of the main factors that separates true craft/builders from business/marketing builders.  If you are into building paddles by way of an occasional design, which is made by others, or farmed out, then the craft side of it is secondary to the business side. 

I paddle quite a bit -- with a 10 degree balsa/cedar ultralite, 52" long, 8.25" wide, in a flatwater marathon canoe....a Sawyer Shockwave, so pre- V bottom style.  It's not as fast as the new marathon canoes, but it's a helluva lot more forgiving in waves, is actually a lot of fun in moderate waves, just because you can still survive, and it's a bit risky at times (not like super risky though!).  So I know a lot about paddling and paddles -- and I'm always experimenting with different things.  The paddle I use is 7-8 years old.  I love it.  I've refinished it once...yes, just once.  It shows no signs of distress, other than scrapes and scratches.  But that's not distress.  There are things about this paddle that make me love it; it's the right length for how and where I paddle, it has nice flex, and super bite! -- what is bite?  It's how the paddle grips the water when it enters.  This paddle has superb bite because of the moderate lip on the powerface,  on blade bottom. This lets the blade slide into the water without any complaints.  There's an immediate, gratifying purchase.  And then the stroke moves up the blade into the shaft, quick, and I'm doing around 60 of them per minute.  Also, I taper the shafts, but NOT into the lower grip area.  This is critical -- you don't want the shaft to get smaller where you grip; it HAS to stay the same.  I taper about half of the way down the shaft from the  (top) grip.  So, these things you don't think about, the lip, the taper, they matter!

I don't do any gimicky stuff with my paddles -- like putting grooves up the side to save weight or whatever.  If you are a  paddler and think this has any advantages, it doesn't, other than to make you think it does.  



I am mostly about wood because that's the neatest medium to me.  Shaping wood with your hands and small machinery is a very satisfying form of work.  I do mix in carbon fiber, kevlar and fiberglass blades -- hybrids.  This allows me to make blades that are lighter and tougher, and that paddle very well also!  There honestly isn't a lot of difference in weight with the 3 different hybrid blades -- maybe the carbon fibre is a half ounce lighter.  The kevlar is tougher.  The fiberglass is just a great deal, with a solid tulip shaft -- it is very light, very tough, looks cool, and paddles cool.  And the price for such a super paddle just can't be beat.  
There is the mistaken impression that carbon fibre is tougher than wood when it comes to paddles.  This is only true if the carbon fibre paddle is overbuilt.  Carbon fibre fractures and splits; wood of course splits as well, if it is mistreated, or not properly laminated; wood tends to dent when you bang it on the gunwale...hardly an issue, and that's mostly what the harder edging is about.  Wood doesn't cost nearly as much, has flex, beauty, and weighs more.........but any difference in weight is more than compensated for by the wonderful feel, and flex, and beauty, of a nicely made wood laminated paddle.  For more rugged paddling, wood wins.  It absorbs shock, and won't just crack or break if made for it's intended purpose (and barring any innate issues). 

Most importantly, when you consider who you want a paddle from, one of the main questions you should ask is this:  who is actually making your paddle?  Just because you buy your paddle from a major 'builder' means little; he  may or may not be the designer, and most likely, if he sells lots and lots of paddles, he does very, very little of the actual paddle 'making'. His job has become selling and marketing, and coming up with more gizmo designs that have nothing to do with paddle feel or performance, and more to do with show and tell.  

And me:   I started making angle wood paddles back when the angled paddle was just making it's presence known.  I had a collegiate wrestling background, and my coach got my brother and me into flatwater racing -- a very popular form of canoe racing in the Midwest and Eastern part of the country at that time.  I became enamored with the angled paddle very quickly, and began making my own and selling them.  They weren't so hot frankly!   Nice angled paddles were made by guys who paddled and had woodworking backgrounds, and some of them were really cool -- and that inspired me to try and do the same thing.  
        It wasn't like you just started making angled paddles and made a living then either.  So I worked part time jobs and eventually turned it into a full time business.  Now, many of the ideas I incorporated into paddles are commonly accepted attributes of angled paddles, like the double angle (I first made these in the late 70s) and the moderate lip toward the bottom of the powerface.

If you're looking around for
double angles, I originated them; there are goofy designs around now that distort their actual purpose, which is to soften some of the stress on the lower wrist and shoulder.  They aren't magic, and making the lower angle more severe so the blade is compromised as it enters the water -- and at the same time, if you are a gal, you can leave the blade in the water longer -- makes no sense at all.  Sexuallity might be a nice selling feature for cars, but for paddles, the angle junk is just  nonsense  When the angle is over 13 degrees,  you lose leverage on the water -- this actually weakens your stroke.   


About Page Last Updated: 5/20/2016