Fun Gift for Paddlers

Years ago my grandpa made a canoe paddle, painted it red, and, in yellow block letters, added “REVERSE GEAR” to the back of the handle. I thought this was hilarious, so my grandma let me have it when Grandpa passed.

When I got into paddling I wanted to have a paddle like this for trips. It was so easy and inexpensive (less than $15!) I made similar paddles as gifts for friends.

This is a great gift for any paddler or outdoorsman. It’s a fun decorative item for offices, dorm rooms, bedrooms, family rooms, a study, or anywhere you can think to put it.

This page will take you through the steps to make a personalized canoe paddle.

From start to finish the project should take 2-3 afternoons, due to paint drying times.

Materials needed:

  • Wooden paddle
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Clear coat
  • Sand paper
  • Permanent markers (optional)
  • Stencils (optional)

You don’t need to get a fancy paddle. Since this is mostly decorative you don’t need to buy a high end paddle. Wal-Mart sells wooden canoe paddles for $8-$10 depending on size (3.5′ or 4.5′).

1) Sand the paddle to remove the varnish. It’s best if you don’t sand the paddle perfectly smooth, but all the varnish needs to be removed. This way the paint will stick.

2) PAINT! Some paints require a coat of primer. If you select a paint that does, you may wish to do this otherwise the paddle company logo will show through your paint (I didn’t mind this, but you may). I like flat enamel paint for this type of a project. Try not to use gloss if you want to write on the paddle later. Laying down several light coats is much better than one thick coat.

If you are doing a design, sketch lightly with a pencil or block off areas with masking tape for clean lines. It’s easiest to paint one side at a time.

Ideas for designs are:

  • Paddler’s name
  • Couple’s names
  • Fun phrases
  • Outdoor scenery
  • Paw prints or animal tracks
  • Multi colors/Team colors
  • Stars & moons, flowers, etc.
  • Commemorative (family reunion, special trip, graduation, etc.)

Make sure the paint is completely dry before continuing.

If you want to add writing to your paddle, a stencil and/or permanent marker will make this task much easier. Sharpie markers did the trick for me and come in many colors (including opaque silver for writing on black).

3) Clear coat. I used a spray can of gloss enamel clear coat. 2-3 coats should be efficient to protect the paint and give a nice shiny finish.

4) Give away! Be warned, once people see your paddles they will beg for one of their own.