The artists/woodworkers at Sanborn Canoe understand that connection better than most. What they bring to a canoe paddle simply can't be done by a robot. Their Minnesota paddle, which we were lucky enough to test this summer, may be the ultimate "universal" paddle, transitioning from calm flat-water to heavy current rivers without issue.
The first thing we noticed was the blade shape. The skinnier tip helps ease entry into the water, but the wider mid section adds the power you need to battle the whitecaps. Add to the shape the fan style laminate design and you have one beautiful paddle.
The majority of Sanborn's paddles are made exclusively from Red and White Cedar, but the Minnesota gets a bit of an upgrade. For the first time Ash and Cherry woods are added for both beauty and durability. The perimeter of the blade is wrapped in Ash, which is much harder than Cedar, and should hold up far better to abuse. Throw in the Epoxy blade tip and you can beat on this paddle and it will still look good when you get home.
On this year's BWCA gear test trip, we were blessed with great weather. Bluebird skies and 80+ degrees, it was amazing. Until we had to head home anyways. Canoes were loaded to the gills with gear, we were riding about 4 inches above the waterline at the center yoke. Just as we left shore the wind picked up, we were surrounded by waves far taller than our canoe, and the wind wanted nothing more than to turn our boat hard left. I credit the Minnesota paddle, and definitely NOT my paddling skills, with getting us off the lake dry. From rudder steering to power strokes, I got what I needed - when I needed it.
It does weigh in a smidgen heavier then their other paddles, but I am talking about 1 or 2 ounces... basically unnoticeable. You will have to cough up $160 for one, making it one of the most expensive paddles we have tested, but it has by far the most intricate design in the laminates.
All in all, these guys make some of the best paddles we have ever touched. Now, I just need to get down to Winona Minnesota and see their shop, something I have been trying to do all summer.