Trekking: Sanborn paddles are as functional as they are handsome


Man isn’t meant to stay indoors — our weekly “Trekking” column can attest to that. It’s a column dedicated to the adventurer inside of all of us, the one pining to ditch the office humdrum for a quick surf session or seven-week jaunt in the Grand Tetons. One day we may highlight an ultra-light stove and the next a set of handmade canoe paddles. Life doesn’t just happen inside the workplace, so get outside and live it.

Nostalgia is a funny thing, particularly when it goes directly against convenience and practicality. However, although aluminum canoe paddles might win when it comes to durability and artificial plastics when it comes to sheer weight, there’s something that’s just right about skimming over a glossy lake in the wee hours of the morning with nothing but a dog by your side and a wooden paddle in your hand. Fortunately, the Minnesota-based Sanborn Canoe Company hand crafts some of the best around.

Related: Norquayco’s paddles let you skim with style

Sanborn is no stranger to making paddles, either. Cousins Zak Fellman and Todd Randall have been putting out their elegant wears from a small woodshop on Fellman’s family land for more than six years, continuing to capitalize on a venture that once began as a mere hobby between buddies in a garage. The company’s line of artisan-painted paddles make use of a traditional blade shape, one representing a laminated combination of western red cedar, aspen, and black walnut. Fellman and another local artist hand paint each offering to reflect the heritage of the surrounding region and that of the canoe, and afterward, finish each with a durable varnish dip for longevity. The sheer variety of the designs only compliment the quality.

Last year, Sanborn Canoe Co. even partnered with the folks at Jack Daniels to release a limited line of paddles salvaged from spent bourbon barrels. It may seem like a bit of a gimmick, sure, but the white oak used in the aging process remains one of the most resilient hardwoods in all of existence. Now, if only we could muster the courage to tear the gorgeous paddles from the wall and actually use them as intended.

Check out Sanborn’s line of artisan paddles online to make a purchase ($180), or to peruse the company’s excellent selection of knives, apparel, and other outdoor goods.