Toksook Paddle

Derek Hutchinson designed the Toksook paddle. According to Derek the blade is a willow leaf style based on the paddles used by the Nootak and Kotzibue paddlers (Western Alaska). The blade is completely symmetrical. The power face and back face are identical. If it weren't for the grip on the shaft or the decals you couldn't tell the faces apart. Derek, having tested it in 120-mph winds under the blades of a hovering Sea King helicopter was happy to report the high dihedral spine successfully reduced the influence of the hurricane force winds on the paddle.

The beauty and joy of the blade is due to the center spine on the faces of the blade. This center spine allows for added support when sculling or planing the blade. The width of the blades also adds to the stability when bracing and sculling. The modern day paddles with a flat face and thin blade are not very forgiving when bracing and sculling. The Toksook in not prone to flutter or cavitation thus enhancing it's performance. The symmetrical blade allows for equal performance on both faces giving equal support for low and high braces.

There has been a trend over the years toward lightweight paddles. I am all for lightweight equipment but I am also concerned about the strength of a paddle. The vacuum bag method of making paddles does produce a strong blade for it’s relative thickness. Another part of the lightweight equation is the lightweight shafts. I have to honestly say there are things I will not do with my lightweight paddle.

The requirements you will have of your paddle will increase as your skills increase and the conditions in which you paddle expand. When sea kayaking, a paddle can be used for many things other than paddling. My greatest concern is the performance of the blade. Then I look at the strength of the shaft. Durability of the blade is my third consideration.

I remember when Derek first handed me his paddle. I handed it back and said no thanks because it was heavier than my paddle. However, he asked me to perform a number of maneuvers with the paddle. I suddenly had a different appreciation for the paddle.

I have found the Toksook blade the best paddle for teaching and learning sculling, planing strokes, sweep strokes, in water paddle maneuvers and bracing. When a student is having difficulty with these skills I give them the Toksook which is a much more forgiving blade.

I know when I get in rough conditions I want a paddle that will give me maximum support. I have not found a blade yet that matches the Toksook in that arena. Yes, I wish it was lighter but I do NOT find it too heavy for me. I found the thick blades provide floatation, which reduces the amount of weight I am actually holding when paddling.

Since I have not found the perfect paddle with all of the features I want I have adopted a two-paddle philosophy when kayaking. When I am in relatively calm water and going a good distance (10-15+ miles a day) I may use my lightweight paddle. However, if the wind picks up and conditions get rough I put my lightweight paddle away. I will NOT use my lightweight paddle for launchings, landings, surfing, rock gardens or teaching. The carbon reinforced tip on the Toksook blade is great for launchings, landings, caving and rock gardens. I carry two paddles with me when I tour. I will switch off dependent upon the water and wind conditions and the second paddle also provides a back up in the event I lose a paddle or break one. Given the variety of places and conditions in which I paddle I find myself using the Toksook most of the time.

The length of the Toksook blade is longer than common blades you will find on the market. Therefore the overall length of the paddle will be longer than you usually use. I use a 240 cm Toksook which has an equivalent shaft length as a 230cm paddle. The weight of a new two-piece Toksook is 37 ounces (230cm).

Regardless of the paddle you choose ask yourself at least these three questions:
1) Do the blades perform the way I want in the conditions in which I paddle?
2) Is the paddle shaft strong enough to be used during recoveries & rescues?
3) Is the blade durable enough for the way I use my paddle?

The great thing about our sport of sea kayaking is the diversity of equipment, tastes, needs and abilities. One of my basic tenets is "Do what works best for you."

Toksook paddles are available from the USK Store on-line.

We do rent Toksooks if you are interested in trying one out. Please e-mail us for more info.

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