CUSTOMER REVIEWS OF DOWNCREEK PADDLES
“I purchased my first Downcreek Paddle, a Big Dipper, in 2015 after being introduced to them by Ray Goodwin. I absolutely loved this blade. It’s feel and responsiveness superb, the balance perfect and the combination of woods a work of art. There is no doubt that the right paddle makes paddling a pleasure.
So, when I decided to make the first ever circumnavigation of the UK in an open canoe, I spoke to Jude. I told him that I needed a paddle that was light enough to use all day and robust enough to take a daily pounding in rough seas and rocky shores. Jude was confident that his paddles were up to the job, and so was I.
I tried a prototype of the new bent shaft Curlew which was amazingly light, compact and superbly made.
The decision was easy, Davis and I would take a Big Dipper and a Curlew each.
After 86 Days and 2064 miles around the UK Coastline involving 8 Open crossings of over 40 miles, running the gauntlet of many tide races including the Pentland Firth and 3 crossings of the Irish Sea, the paddles had gone through far more than most would in a lifetime.
So how did they perform? In short, they were faultless.
Both paddles had their uses and I was glad to have the choice. The lighter Curlew was great in calmer conditions. It made 12hour paddling stints less of a chore. It was light and powerful when needed. Our Curlews, embossed with our names and “Canoe Around Britain” really are works of art.
The Big Dipper had the more powerful blade of the two and allowed for solid support strokes where necessary. But with its slender shaft and thin blade, it felt precise and efficient. We used these when it was rougher or against the tide, they also made for great tarp poles!
The daily hammering and abuse these paddles took can’t be overstated. Saltwater, sand, rocks and hard paddling for hours on end did nothing to detract from their proficiency. Every few days we would use Danish Oil to protect them but nothing more.
At the end of the trip the paddles were in unbelievably good condition, a bit battered in places and the rock guard on my Big Dipper had been chipped. Jude offered to give them a quick clean up and once over which I took him up on with the Big Dippers. The result was unbelievable, two blades as good as new after one of the hardest open canoe expeditions ever undertaken. I have left my Curlew in its “used” state and it takes pride of place on my wall at home!”
Colin Skeath, Canoe Around Britain 2017 Team Leader
“Downcreek’s Kingfisher is my favourite paddle in a very extensive collection. Coupled with their Big Dipper, I have found a great combination for deep water paddling. To get the Kingfisher from me, you will have to have to pry it from my cold dead hands!”
Ray Goodwin, RayGoodwin.com/Frontier Bushcraft
A couple of months ago I invested in a “Big Dipper” (60” Cherry & Walnut) paddle hand crafted in Ireland by Downcreek Paddles . I’ve loved to paddle canoes with wooden paddles for some time but have two stiffer ones for times of heavy loads and/or heavy water. I’m currently working for the amazing Canoe Safaris out in New Zealand guiding on the Whanganui and the Rangatiki rivers on the North Island. The canoes are loaded to the heavy side of heavy enabling us to provide a three-course meal in the evenings as well as a good hearty breakfast with all the trimmings…Just what you need when exploring some of the finest temperate jungle on the planet!
On my first trip, I was reluctant to use my new pride & joy with such a heavy load and opted for one of my glass blades due to being worried about the potential flex and loss of power that a wooden paddle can have…in the past I have snapped a shaft or two of lesser wooden paddles whilst trying to keep up with a head wind, and certainly didn’t want to do that on the first trip. I truly found this blade to be solid in the face of wind and water with the grace and ease of a knife cutting through butter when recovering. When buying this paddle, I put all my trust into Jude asking him to select the wood type. The inscription is my company name and I opted for a RockGuard tip for protection and longevity. I also bought a paddle bag that is like a fleece lined wax jacket for your paddles…perfect for protecting a work of art! If you’ve not paddled with one, then do so. The only question on my mind is how to explain to my beloved that I’d like to invest in another one…maybe for Ptarmigan, our 3 year old, but in my size, I’m sure she’ll grow into it! I explained to a friend and colleague Lucy that I was going to post something about my new pride and joy and she came up with this…
There once was an Irish guy from over the sea, Who made a canoe paddle especially for me, It was called the Big Dipper Great when water was quicker, The paddle from the Irish guy from over the sea.
Warwick Redway, Wrexham, Wales…November 2016
“The paddles (64” Kingfisher & 57” Avocet both in Black Walnut & American Cherry) arrived safe and sound today, thanks. Currently sat staring at and caressing them in the lounge. Very impressed with how you’ve hidden the resin tip in the end. I’m not sure we’ll be able to put them away for Christmas now we’ve seen them and we have a Scotland trip at the end of the month to try them. It would be rude not to.”
Update: “It’s been eight months since we received our paddles from you (64” Kingfisher & 57” Avocet both in Black Walnut & American Cherry) and they’ve had quite a bit of use now. Their first big trip was on the Shiel circuit in Scotland so that includes Loch, river and sea paddling. They’ve been used in the Lake District multiple times, the River Thames and recently another big trip around the Inverpolly Lochs in Scotland where they were portaged for several miles.
Liz is over the moon with her Avocet and can paddle all day with it without any aching muscles and the Kingfisher is my favourite paddle by far. Effortless while cruising and silent when needed but doesn’t suffer with too much flex so also allows you to put the power in if required.
Great paddles and great service, long may it last.”
Rob (BootstrapBob) Marshall, Kidlington, Oxfordshire.
“Another stunning paddle (62” WWBigDipper) from Downcreek Paddles and it really is a thing of beauty. I was truly amazed at how the paddle felt, well balanced, lots of power when needed, together with great control. In no way did it feel fragile or like it didn’t belong in the White Water river environment. It looked so good I was almost too scared to take it on the river but braved it on a run down the Lower Treweryn. See you on the water!”
Jules Burnard, Voyageur Canoe Coaching & Guiding, Derbyshire.
Having seen the prototype of the WW Big Dipper while coaching at the Welsh Canoe Symposium I decided it was the paddle for me. Inevitably as Christmas was approaching my wife asked what did I want. Without hesitation, I said a canoe paddle, but not any canoe paddle, the WW Big Dipper from Downcreek Paddles. So, after a few messages with Jude the order was placed and it duly arrived all boxed up for Christmas. Unfortunately for me I was not allowed to see it until Christmas Day – just to look at the box next to the Christmas tree.
And wow what a paddle! The style, finish and sleek lines are obvious. The feel on and off the water are excellent. Doing the J- stroke and Indian stroke a joy. And occasionally I find myself stroking the paddle and smiling to myself. I have even let my son use it – just briefly. I cannot wait until the next canoe trip to use it in either the lake (loch) or river.
Happy paddling and thanks Jude.
John R. Dean of JRD.CANOEING.
I spent a hard couple of hours on Loch Sunart today putting my new Downcreek Paddles Curlew (bent-shaft) through its paces.
It performed faultlessly, enabling me to paddle against the tide and a F4 wind. A blend of perfect balance, lightweight and stunning to look at.
Colin Skeath, Canoe Around Britain team leader, Acharacle, Argyll
“I first met the guys from Downcreek Paddles at the Paddlefest on Lough Erne a while back and was immediately impressed with the quality and range of their paddles. Imagine how I felt when I got to test them on the water and they paddled as well as they looked!
I’m in the enviable position that I live quite close to where Downcreek are based so I was able to try a few of their new designs as soon as they became available. But I was looking for a deepwater paddle for touring, so when Jude showed me their Heron blade, I couldn’t wait to try it out.
It was “almost” perfect, but I preferred the handle on the Kingfisher. No problem said Jude, just tell us what you want and we’ll make it. So I am the proud owner of a 69 inch Heron with a Kingfisher hand grip made of Walnut and English Cherry and it is beautiful.
The flat top grip allows me to shorten the shaft length if I want to put in a few quick strokes, and the wider flat area sits nicely on my upper arm when paddling “one handed”. It’s long and sleek and slices through the water like a hot knife through butter so it’s ideal for long power strokes as well as relaxed leisure paddling. I have a selection of wooden paddles, but it’s my “Go-to” paddle now and I wouldn’t leave home without it.”
Alan (Big Al) Bates, Bangor, Co. Down
“I first came across Downcreek paddles through SOTP, and through a few messages with Jude about a Big Meet a couple of years back. Not making that meet, it was some time before I actually got my hands on one, but when I did, getting a chance to borrow a few for a few minutes, I was struck by the quality.
A large proportion of my paddling is on still-water or open water. Here I have come to love the feel of an ottertail blade. I’ve been using a Grey Owl Guide for a few years now, and have found it pleasant enough to use. In fact, I’d never really thought about upgrading before, but having been trying a few other blades recently, when I had the means I knew I wanted to get a better blade.
Jude got wind of this through comments I’d made on Facebook I think, and was soon on the phone to discuss what would suit me. It’s clear he is completely passionate about his work, and committed to making sure his customers are very happy, and thus I would definitely recommend having a chat with him as he will help steer you onto the perfect blade for you.
Anyway, I decided on the Lapwing, in cherry and walnut. I also plumped for having my name added as a “signature”. Being made to order, there is a lead time, but it wasn’t long at all before a long, thin cardboard package arrived at work, to cries of “what’s he bought now” from my bemused colleagues who are used to a strange mix of paddling and outdoor gear arriving at my desk. Unwrapping it was like opening presents at Christmas as a child. I was very pleased with how it looked.
I was going to wait for the weekend, but couldn’t, and a couple of mornings later found me out on Shoreham harbour very early for a quick play, despite the tide not being right. I loved it – details below. I was excited enough to ring Jude, probably still eating his breakfast, to let him know I liked it!
Looks: There are some products that need to both work well, and look beautiful. Paddles are one of these. And here, the Lapwing shines out; it really is a beautiful paddle to look at. The “signature” personalises the paddle, and makes it unique. I wasn’t quite sure about having my name on a paddle at first, but am glad I did. You could also add on your favourite saying (if short!) or SOTP name or something.
In the hand: On picking it up, the first thing that strikes you is the lack of weight. The shaft is quite slim, but this works for my smallish hands well. The balance point feels spot on. The grip on mine is quite small, which suits me perfectly, but you could have a slightly bigger one if you have larger hands. Obviously Jude will make the shaft length exactly as long as you want it (not just the lengths on the website), something I’d recommend you to get straight in your head before ordering, but again Jude is happy to advise. All this means that in some ways, the paddle feels quite delicate, certainly compared with my Grey Owl.
In the water: So, what’s it like in use? Well, fantastic! Despite the delicate feel of the slim shaft and smallish grip, there is plenty of stiffness. In fact, it transfers power remarkably well to the water, unexpectedly so. I genuinely feel I am travelling at a faster pace despite putting in no more effort. It feels like you could keep going all day at a good pace…and so it has proved. There is just enough flex to ease some of the pressure on your joints, I don’t seem to tire at all. When on an open loch with a bit of wind to fight, I often switch to the spooned carbon blade I have, but with the Lapwing, I don’t think I’ll have to do this as often, it has plenty of power.
At the same time, you really feel in touch with what’s going on, there is loads of feel, the shaft communicates what’s going on in the water really well. Going back to the Grey Owl Guide from it, the old paddle feels dead & clumsy in comparison, and that’s actually a pretty reasonable blade. Playing around, spinning the boat etc, the Lapwing is the first wooden blade I’ve had that really seems to sit still in one place as you rotate torso and canoe around the spot in which its anchored.
When it comes to slicing, as you would expect from a quality ottertail, the blade moves smoothly and quietly through the water; a joy to use. I am now totally sold on owning a quality paddle like this. It’s not cheap, but if you paddle often, such as I am fortunate to do, it is well worth the money for the sheer pleasure using it will bring you.
The Downcreek Lapwing is absolutely my “go to” blade now, I can’t wait to use it again soon.”
Mal Grey (Paddle Points, SotP), Sussex
“I recommend The Dipper (58” in Black Walnut) if you like a nice paddle that will do all you want. I have had mine for about a year now and use it for absolutely everything (Sea, Flat water, Moving water and up to Class III). I use it professionally and it still looks like new without a lot of TLC – I’m known for not particularly giving TLC to my kit and used almost on a daily basis the Dipper has shown very little sign of wear and tear, a testimony to its superb craftsmanship. Slightly stiffer than the ottertails I use, but not so stiff as to be troublesome on the muscles. This is an asset when paddling moving water as is the shape of this Beavertail – allowing you to grab the maximum amount of water in the shallower rivers of the UK. If Downcreek made all the paddles I used, they’d be the only ones I would want to use.”
Matt Thompson, Wilderness Canoe, Knoydart, Scotland
“I have purchased 4 paddles (2 x 66” Am. Cherry & Walnut Herons, 64” Chestnut & Walnut Heron and 60” Walnut & Am. Cherry Big Dipper) from Downcreek Paddles for use when coaching open canoeing both in the UK and abroad. The build quality is outstanding and they move through the water brilliantly. Quite apart from being excellent technically, they look beautiful! Well worth the investment.”
Ben Parker, Head of Outdoor Pursuits, The Perse School, Cambridge
“This is my first traditional style canoe paddle (60” Pintail in Black Walnut and Sweet Chestnut). Having a slalom and WW racing C2 background I have mainly used paddles with huge blade areas often curved with minimal flex, even for gentle trips in traditional boats. I realise using this paddle will be a completely new experience.
First impressions: It looks like a piece of art and it feels delicate and balanced in the hands. On the water the first thing I noticed is how buoyant it is. It can also be completely silent; it’s just made for the Indian stroke. It’s no way near as powerful as the paddles I’m used to, but it has great feedback to your bottom hand and no flutter on a slice recovery or a forward power stroke. I feel there is a lot more to learn about this type of paddling. I just can’t wait to get out and use it again.”
Paul Knight (Yellow boat), PK Paddlesport, Lingfield, Surrey
“I went out paddling this morning with my new Lapwing paddle (58” in Chestnut & Walnut). It has very nice feel, fantastic light weight, and good power in the water. Swapping it for my normal wooden paddle, I was impressed with its lightness and the nice feel through the water. Paddling with my normal wooden paddle felt like I was paddling with a spade by comparison! Overall, a great paddle which complimented the mirror lake surface of the water.”
Colin (GoatieBoater) Daysh, Kells, Co. Antrim
“I have had this paddle (60” Avocet in English Cherry & White Maple) for about 8 months now and have done some serious mileage with it from river tripping through to a coastal sea trip. It is wonderful how much power it puts through the water. It cuts effortlessly for various strokes that are impossible with some blades without mega flutter at the neck.
The options are huge and the personal feel of the whole ordering process is great in this day & age where you would be expecting to pay double for the service and quality of these paddles.”
Gareth Mahood, Editor of The Put In Paddling Magazine
“Just wanted you to know the paddle (64” Kingfisher in American Cherry & Ash) came today, I must say it wasn’t what I expected, so much more, unbelievable! I so love functional art, to paddle in complete silence, sculling was incredible, I couldn’t wait to try it, was on a local lake within two hours of receiving it, if it were not for working a night-shift, I would’ve paddled well after dark, thanks so much for a beautiful paddle and such great service. The Kingfisher allows you to paddle in complete silence. I love it for paddling around the small lakes here stalking game. As for turning & cruising performance, nothing else compares. For stream paddling I rarely use it as I’m afraid of damaging it. When not in use, I have it hanging on my living room wall, showing it off for the art it is. The finish is holding up great. Thanks again for a great paddle.”
Raymond M Wright, Woodsfield, Ohio.
“I first bumped into Downcreek Paddles when they knocked on the door after spotting my boats from their workshop, the nicest fellas you could ever deal with.We chatted back and forward for a while about my ideal paddle, and I managed to borrow some of their demo paddles whilst working towards my level 2 coach award.One of the big attractions of the company to me is their love of woods, and in particular for some of the native woods that they work with. I love the idea that woods for which we were once so well-known can be used instead of something from thousands of miles across an ocean.
Anyway, finally I had Jude make me a Dipper traditional beavertail, and he had saved me some of his guest wood English Cherry for the task. The finished product is absolutely beautiful and the paddle outperforms everything I could imagine. I like paddling with a shorter paddle than most, and Jude was able to create me a paddle that fits me perfectly. My faithful Grey Owl Sagamore is now left tucked away as a spare. The Dipper has a great mix of lightness and flexibility, a delight to paddle with all day, I try to maintain a high cadence with my paddling and the blade area suits this style well, moving back to the Sagamore feels like real hard work.”
Owen McAuley, Coleraine, Co. Antrim
“Paddle (64” Kingfisher in Black Walnut & English Cherry) arrived today safe & sound and it looks fantastic!
The Kingfisher: My first time using this style of paddle and after 10 minutes or so, it just felt natural to use. Like the Lapwing, the blade cuts easily through the water on the return stroke and there is no reason to lift it clear of the water as it offers so little resistance. There is enough flex in the blade that you can feel it but not so much that it causes any issues or concerns. I used this paddle for about 10 hours over the weekend and even after a slog across a windy Loch, I didn’t feel tired from using the paddle. The paddle design allows you to use these standing which was interesting (due to the wind). Not sure I’d do this too often but may be useful when trying to scout ahead or see what’s beyond the next drop.
The Lapwing: The blade sliced through the water easily and J-strokes were efficient. Paddling solo and using both Indian and Canadian strokes, the paddle return through the water offered little resistance and it didn’t feel like you were forcing the paddle to do anything.”
Paul Maxwell, Egremont, Cumbria
“Paddle (61” Swan in Black Walnut) just arrived; it’s a thing of beauty! Everything was intact with no damage to the packaging or the paddle. Got to test drive the new paddle today. Pleased as punch I am. No flutter and it slices through the water like a knife through butter.”
“An update on my lovely Swan in laminated black walnut: This is my first oiled paddle and I’ve found it so much nicer and tactile to use than a completely varnished paddle. In use I love it. Whilst it’s not the lightest paddle in the world, I never notice any weight disadvantage when I’m paddling. If using the Indian stroke, which I do sometimes when just pootling along, the blade slices through the water with no flutter at all, making it a joy to use. The grip is a good, comfortable fit in my hand, and whilst the shaping of the handle may look fussy to some, I really like it and it never interferes with my paddling.
I was lucky to get a test paddle before ordering, something I’ve never managed to do with other paddles in my possession. So when it arrived I knew I’d like it, rather than taking a leap of faith as I’ve done before – and regretted it a couple of times. Of course, the other upside is that Jude was an absolute pleasure to deal with, and he kept me informed about the whole process, from taking the order to getting it delivered.”Paul (Old Man) Flecken, Puriton, Somerset.
“Paddle (56” Dipper in English Cherry & Irish Ash) received on Friday, its lovely, almost too nice to use.”
Juliet Wells, Hinckley, Leicestershire“
The paddle (58” Avocet in Irish Ash & Black Walnut ) is very nice and feels great to use on the water. It cuts well with little resistance and puts in the correct amount of power needed for long distances.”
Thomas Thompson, Lisburn, Co. Antrim
“Safely received (58” Dipper in Irish Ash & Black Walnut) and it looks wonderful. I have just completed the second Open Canoe Association trip down the River Severn. As always the Dipper paddle is a joy to use, coping well with both shallow and deep water sections.”Dave Bennett (Dave B), Kidderminster, Worcestershire
The Little Egret – “The only Junior-sized paddles I’ve come across which are genuinely great for little people.”Greg Spencer, Singleblade.co.uk