I know that when we go on our treks to the Boundary Waters our paddles take a beating. There’s just so many rocks and stuff up there! So if you’re like us and you use and abuse your paddle how do you keep it looking great for years to come?

Below we outline good paddling techniques to prevent wear, ways to fix your paddle if it is broken and how to quickly restore the finish.


There are a few things to keep in mind when using a cedar paddle that will greatly extend its life. First try and keep the banging on the gunwales to a minimum. Cedar is a soft wood and even though there is quite a bit of epoxy and spar urethane protecting them the repeated friction this causes eats away at your paddle. Second remember that the rock guard is there to protect inadvertent jabs on the rocks. If you repeatedly use your paddle to dig into rocks and even get it twisted between things this will jeopardize the longevity of your paddle. Now if you do any of these things inadvertently or occasionally it probably won’t affect your paddle. It’s when you do these things repeatedly over months and years of use. So practice good paddling discipline and technique!


Even the most careful paddler with the most durable paddle will need to do a little up-keep. So what does it take to restore the finished beauty to your paddle you may ask? Most things are easily restored with a minimal helping of elbow grease. First you need to identify where and what needs a little spit and polish.

Does your paddle have minor scrapes and scratches to the surface?

Once a year you should re-poly your paddle. I find the best time to do this is when the season wraps up in the late fall. All you do is locate the places that require a little finishing and give them a diligent sanding - don’t go overboard with sanding. Just sand enough to give a little tooth to the surface. Use something around 200-grit sandpaper. Be careful not to sand down to the wood—there is a layer of epoxy underneath the urethane. And if you sand through that the finish on your paddle won’t be even. Then brush on a marine varnish or polyurethane. For the best result brush on three coats, sanding in between each coat. Follow directions on product.

Is the damage a little more than just scratches? Can you see the fiberglass cloth poking out anywhere?

If you have gouged into the fiberglass cloth anywhere you won’t be able to get a good finish with just re-varnishing. You will need to apply some epoxy resin to the area to wet-out the fiberglass. This isn’t too much work, but does require some know-how. If any of the following talk isn’t making sense or you need more instructions please shoot us an email and we’ll help you out!

Here’s the quick version. You will need to sand the area. Make sure you sand out the varnish around the problem area. Around 200-grit sandpaper will work great here. Then you will mix the epoxy/hardener according to the product and apply a thin coat to the area - wetting it out. After this dries you will be able to sand the area again and proceed with re-varnishing the area.

(Note: Epoxy resin is highly toxic and sanding uncured epoxy is even worse. Take the necessary precautions! And read the instructions on the product.)

Are you questioning the integrity of your paddle? Does if have splitting or cracking or something?

There are any number of things that happen to paddles over time. If it is getting into this grey area between a functioning paddle and toxic kindling send us an email and we’ll try to help you out with fixing it.

Of course with any of these options we could just do it for you. We have the know-how and expertise to fix almost anything that may happen to your paddle. If you’d like our help please contact us.