I give the paddle an 8 because I find that there is only one position in which I'm completely comfortable using it due to some lack of symmetry between the two ends.
The paddle has a 21" flattened oval 1-3/8 inches x 1-5/8 inches loom. The maximum blade width is 4+ inches tapering smoothly to 1-3/4 inches just before the semi-hard shoulder. Due to my request for a wider blade, oversized loom, and Redwood (think gorgeous) center, this paddle has the stiffness I need. Yet, due to the box beam construction that Don employs - is still a good weight.
While paddling, I notice that it makes rolls even easier than my previous GP I used due to the higher buoyancy of this construction. It also does sculling in a way that I am not used to....I can hardly feel the blade in the water.
Don took a lot of time to get this paddle right, sent it to me within 3 weeks, and instructed me not to pay for it unless I was completely happy with it. Good luck finding any other company out there willing to say that!
I can't say enough about this paddle, except that I need to get a skin-on-frame (SOF) boat to go with it!
Don spends a lot of time with his customers getting the measurements for their paddle so it will be right for them. Everything is custom made. I told him what I liked about my old GP and what I didn't and he gave me some advice about what works for him and what doesn't. I learned a lot just from ordering the paddle.
It took three weeks from the time I ordered the stick to when it arrived - and Christmas was during that time.
The paddle has a very clean catch and enters the water in absolute silence. There is a very definite grab when the paddle finally catches. The release was extremely clean too and you can actually feel your boat get a bit of a kick from the lift developed during the release phase of the stroke.
I found the paddle to be very buoyant and it sculls very nicely - you almost can't even feel the paddle slicing through the water.
Because of the lighter weight of this paddle, I found my cadence increased and as a result, my paddling speed increased. Instead of being near the back of the group when we started out, I was at the front and that was without putting out any more perceived effort on my part.
One of the nicest things was that Don didn't want any money until I had tried the paddle. He wants satisfied customers and will re-work it or make another for you if it isn't satisfactory.
Now all I have to do is save some more money and purchase a storm paddle from him.