Ray Special Description
This is the one that started it all. This was Ray Kettlewell's first innovative design which changed how we thought about paddles. The Ray Special is a well-balanced all-purpose paddle designed for lake paddling and ideal for canoe tripping as a whole. The Ray Special is more than just a beautiful paddle. It combines a well-proportioned blade with an appealing ratio between the blade and shaft lengths. Specials pair a shaft and blade of equal length. This results in a paddle with a longer than normal blade that is mechanically superior to other paddles. The long narrow blade which is 5" at its maximum width is designed to reach deep into the water providing greater leverage and force. This design results in the paddler taking fewer strokes to equal the distance covered by a shorter blade paddle. The paddle pulls the canoe through the water rather than pulling water past the canoe. The Ray Special is a great paddle for canoe tripping, lake paddling as well as paddling solo. The long blade provides a solo canoeist with greater reach and responsiveness. Although not for whitewater the Ray Special is great for all other paddling needs.
- Wood Options: Cherry, Maple, or Ash
Ray Special Reviews
Greg, My daughter and I…
My daughter and I just got back from a trip on a river using your Ray Special paddle. I am very, very impressed by that design! It slices into and out if the water with incredible, silent ease. Both its cross-sectional contour and it longitudinal contour are wonderfully streamlined. This makes it the most effortless paddle I have ever used--not only for general paddling, but also for sculling, which is a big part of my canoe control. We were able to slip the canoe sideways through the water to avoid obstacles more efficiently and easily than I have ever experienced. It also is better balanced, out of the water, than any paddle I have used. Having the widest point is at the base of the blade and a fine tip places its greatest mass closer to the hand. This means that lifting it on the return is far easier. But the best news to me was that at the end of the trip, I had no (zero) shoulder discomfort in my rotary, which has been a disconcerting problem for me in recent years after several days' paddling. Following this trip I had none, and I attribute that entirely to the efficiency of your paddle's design. Less energy is wasted with your paddle, and that means there is less strain on the body. That was a very pleasant surprise to me.
Thank you for making such an amazing paddle.
I was paddling at the local…
I was paddling at the local lake here in Los Angeles when another canoeist showed up (literally the only other person I've seen with a canoe around here!). I was scooting around the lake with a plastic river paddle, and he was gliding around seemingly effortlessly with a Ray Special, or maybe it was his ottertail, can't remember. Either way, he let me try his paddle out for a few minutes and I was instantly hooked. The beauty and craftsmanship was like none other and it just felt so good in the hands.
Fast forward a few months and my parents got me one for my birthday. The box showed up with everything packed nicely and the presentation was great! I really like the burned in logo and the customized protective sock he put on the blade. Unfortunately, it looked like the shipping company ran a forklift through it and put a serious ding in the shaft... I guess fortunately it wasn't all that bad, it's not in a spot I grip and purely a cosmetic ding... I'll just hold it on the power side of the paddle and nobody will ever notice except me ;-). I emailed Greg to let him know and let me tell you, he's great to work with and has excellent customer service. I can't say enough good things about him, honestly! I'm keeping the paddle because I love it even though he offered to exchange it for a new one, and will be buying another one soon for my wife.
I got the half oiled and varnished paddle, which is great because it gives a nice comfortable feel on the hands. I'd get full varnish if you like a smoother feel, oiled if you like a more 'woody' and breathable feel to it.
I was holding off posting this review because I wanted to actually get out in the lake and paddle with it first. Vacations and Covid got in the way this summer, so I made it out to paddle for the first time this labor day. What an excellent paddle! It is so comfortable and relaxing to paddle around in and I really like the deep blade for the calm lake trips. I also gave solo canoeing a try with it and it has great control and power, and it glides through the water easily during the recovery.
We love these Ray's Special…
We love these Ray's Special Fischell paddles, got the "wedding package" for our anniversary.
Greg is so great to work with, he got them to us so quick and in time for the gifting.
they power our 19 ft Wenonah Itasca like nothing else fact is last time we were out I grabbed another paddle when retunong to the put-in and after about 15 or so the wife turns around like "are you paddling at all?!" Then she sees Im trying the high dollar bent shaft, carbon fiber (.....) and is like" oh I see". These things rock, are they heavier than that high end bent shaft? well yes, but you need to make 2 strokes with that bent shaft to equal one stroke with Ray's Special.
You can have your bent…
You can have your bent shafts and fat laminates and carbon fibre lightweights.
I'll take my cherry Ray Special.
Which I did, on fact... to the Bowron Lakes in northern BC about a week ago.
12 lakes, 116 kms, 11 of it portages (with snow this year).
People usually do it in a week, we did it in 4 days. This old guy just trying to keep up with the young bucks, one old-school Algonquin Park-style J-stroke at a time.
Could not have done it without this beautiful piece of functional art. Perfect fit, weight, glide and power. Headwinds, minor whitewater, glassy calm... even came in handy as a fish bonker. Try that with carbon fibre. (Actually, don't.).
I have two Ray Specials - both originals made by the man himself more than 25 years ago. But I have also gifted Greg's current version to friends - with the Fishell name and logo - with just as much pride and confidence as the old beauties I own.
They love it. How could they not? It comes in a paddle sock!
Thanks for carrying on the tradition of excellence, Greg. You are appreciated.
Well here it goes. I have…
Well here it goes. I have several paddles and you don't know how glad I am that I listened to Greg Fishell’s of Fishell Paddles recommendations especially regarding length and style. i.e. "The Ray Special". What a work of art and a real dream to paddle. Easy to handle and moves water like I couldn't believe. This style actually moved my canoe faster and less effort even compared to my lighter paddles. I was in heaven. This style shape & length is incredible, and I now see why Greg Fishell recommended it. "Spot On" my Friend!! I highly recommend contacting Fishell’s Canoe Paddles. Greg is patient and extremely helpful if one listens!
Got this beauty at…
Got this beauty at Canoeacopia in Madison, WI. Paddle a Solo Plus canoe and was looking for a longer paddle when paddling from middle seat alone. Talked to some other places and reps but what set Greg apart was how he listened. Then he made suggestions and we continued to discuss type of paddling and what goals were. The "Ray Special" is definitely different than any other canoe paddle have ever used. Braved the muddy launch when sun came out and 45 degrees. Was a bit windy and wondered how would handle. Was absolutely in love 5 minutes in ! The feel in hands was comfortable and handled easily switching sides. Definitely a learning curve of different strokes compared to my shorter bent shaft paddle, but very excited to practice! Stopped to take pictures and canoe was blown sideways. Had small moment of almost grabbing kayak paddle had thrown in canoe. But was very easy to straighten out with Fishell paddle. Excited for paddles ahead and continuing to form a bond with paddle. Thanks Greg for taking the time to help enhance my paddling.HUGS, Meghan M
i am a guide in the…
i am a guide in the Adirondack park. I paddle daily for work.
This is my favorite paddle.
Beautiful. Efficient. Tough.
I was recommended fishell by a friend, after my 2nd bending branches (now called by local guides ‘breaking branches’) paddle broke apart for the season. My friend, showed me the beautiful Ash blade he purchased from fishell , as a solution to the forever issue of cheaply made paddles splintering then shattering with a mere scrape of a rock or glance off the bottom of a pond.
I now use this elegant wood blade in all canoe environments from pushing off the bottom (essentially poling) on water to shallow to paddle and too deep to walk, glass calm ponds, to technical class 3 whitewater.
Construction: Fishell’s paddles are cut from a single piece of top quality hardwood and thus are sturdy like a club with no weak points, unlike the many weakness found in a laminated sorftwood paddle. You can choose from 3 basic hardwoods. I prefer maple, for durability and some heft ( i prefer heft.) the cherry paddle i ordered is light like composite material, and stronger. The cherry compared to other blades is not a compromise like most assume about wood paddles. As for my friends white ash blade, it’s a good compromise between the cherry and the maple. Light and tough.
Beauty: Unbeatable. You can choose from 3 basic hardwoods or request specialty woods depending on availability. I just ordered a walnut paddle, it’s stunning. I order my girlfriend a cherry paddle. It’s sort dark red, and i swear i see it glowing once in a while, when the light hits it just right.
Performance: I ordered the ray special and i have not tried the quill or modified special. The ray special is made with an deep understanding of how a canoe actually works. The long blade allows for a deep, smooth and sturdy catch. The length also allows the majority of the power phase to happen beneath the paddler’s center of weight as it cuts in and under the canoe. Best of all, the narrow and long blade makes for a comfortable and efficient release/correction phase. The length provides leverage and ample surface area during the correction phase, so that paddlers can afford a subtly as it only takes very little pressure and angle to keep the canoe tracking straight. This is made even easy and more efficient by a power phase being inline with the paddlers center of weight, as very little correction is needed in the first place.
Not everyone is going to take this blade into whitewater, and to my want to keep around a cheap plastic blade as sacrifice from paddling through rocks and rapids. IF you take it into rapids, like any blade you do run the risk of damaging your gorgeous hardwood canoe paddle. BUT, if you do want to paddle a rapid with this blade then, it’s tough enough to handle a few runs. The most damage my maple paddle has taken is a wearing down of the varnish and the tip of the blade. It shallow water to will be mostly pushing with the paddle rather than paddling, this is when the paddle it most likely to break. In deep water rapids, this paddle provides a surprising amount of control and therefore confidence. Don’t kid yourself though, this is not whitewater kayak paddle meant for hucking yourself through wave trains and booking off drops. It’s a reliable sturdy wood canoe paddle that offers control on class 2 sometimes 3 rapids. But hey it’s canoeing so you shouldnt be launching through waves anyway, rather we canoeists will know that a slower more controlled approach works.
NOTICE, you will need to learn a bit about canoe technique to enjoy all the paddle has to offer. For example, if you simply put the blade in the water and pull straight back with the blade at a totally flat angle, you will not get enough power. However, if you are practicing a proper and smooth J stroke, while setting a roughly 10-15 degree cavitation, it will naturally direct you into an efficient powerful stroke.
Comfort: I recommend the leather wrap. It provides great grip and cuts down on blisters and hot spots. I choose the oil finish for the pommel. It feels great on my top hand and again rolls smoothly in my palm and cuts down on blisters. Also, it just feels right. Second, i chose maple ( the heaviest of the options) with proper technique the weight is negligible. Keeping the paddle’s pivot point sliding along the gunwals, I didn’t notice the weight, as the canoe essentially bore the weight for me as i refined my technique to accommodate a more elegant blade shape. I will say that the designer smartly tipped the balance of weight towards the blade side of the paddle. This means that all i really had to do during the catch phase was allow for the blade to drop into the water and really do the work for me. Also because the valence pulls the blade side down and the pommel side up, the blade naturally tracks straight through the water and guides you along it’s preferred path through the stroke. Simply beautiful.
Finally, the hardwood construction offers some flex. While stiffness = power transfer and flex= power loss, stiffness also equals shoulder pain and potential overuse injury if you dont have the shoulders of a NFL line backer. The slight flex as taken a lot of stress off my joints and tendons. However, if you a stiffer blade with a quicker power transfer try the cherry, its the best composite material match/alternative.
Conclusion: this is a great paddle, dont judge it too quickly, try one out at least once. If you order one customize it and make it your own. The performance matches the beauty, and it was more beautiful it person than i had hoped for when ordering.
I own two Fishell paddles -…
I own two Fishell paddles - the modified ottertail and the Ray Special. Both cherry. Prior to owning my Fishells, I paddled with a beaver tail made by another well know Canadian company. After paddling with my Fishells for almost a year, the beaver tail just sits on the rack.
I love the beauty of the wood that Greg uses, as each paddle is a work of art. The grip is a little smaller than what I was used to, but I now really like it. I use the modified ottertail when I’m going to be paddling in shallower water and the Ray Special when I’m in deeper water. Both of my paddles are oiled, and feel great. No blisters from these. The Ray Special has a long, narrow blade that digs deep and provides plenty of power. It pulls through the water easily without sacrificing power. Both of these paddles are easy on my shoulders. You cannot go wrong with a Fishell paddle. Get one and I guarantee you will love it.
Beautifully designed and fabricated.
Incredible service. Super simple to order, communicated to clarify instructions, safely packaged for shipping and rapid delivery.
Couldn’t ask for anything better.
I received my Fishell Walnut…
I received my Fishell Walnut oil finished paddle. The skill and craftsmanship that Greg possesses is obvious in the design, balance, and feel of this paddle. A perfect work of art.
Thank you Greg,
Curtis in Billings, MT
Hi all. My experience with…
I am purchased a cherry…
I am purchased a cherry Special, with leather wrap, varnished blade, and oiled shaft. I am very happy with the paddle and my interactions with Greg.
The Special's blade is long enough to move a lot of water and narrow enough for underwater-recovery. I chose the length based upon the recommendations provided on the Fishell website, and it fits perfectly for both conventional and "Canadian" strokes.
Given the performance, fine craftsmanship, and strength of the paddle I purchased, I highly recommend Fishell paddles. When one considers the variety of woods and other options available, the included paddle sock, and the free shipping, Fishell really stands out among similar manufacturers.