Submitted by: mr_canoehead on 6/12/2009
The top grip is great on both, full and round so as to produce little hand fatigue or pressure points. The top grip has matching grain which is very attractive. The shaft is ovaled and a suitable diameter on both. The O'Blenis looks to have a laminated cedar shaft with ash facings for durability. The blade is a bit smaller on the O'Blenis paddle, allowing for a higher cadence, and better for long distances, especially in a loaded boat. The blade shape is similar to a Zav in that there are pronounced shoulders. The Grey Owl blade is obviously prettier, but the O'Blenis has a pleasing contrast of dark and light laminations.
The O'Blenis paddle has a curved bend at the elbow, and somewhat less angle than the 14 degree grey owl. The blade of the O'Blenis paddle is covered in s-glass which should make it durable, but there is no edging, which suggests that pushing off rocks is a poor idea. I inadvertently stepped on mine and it flexed nicely with no damage while I cringed in fear. The O'Blenis paddle is about 4 oz lighter (my kitchen scale says 16.5oz). The workmanship is first rate, with a smooth finish throughout and an excellent job on the glassing of the blade.
In the water the paddle is noticeable in its quick recovery time, and smooth, quiet entry. I found no flutter or imbalance in the stroke, and it performs as one would expect a premium paddle to.
In summary, the O'Blenis paddle will be my choice for a flatwater tripping bentshaft, and long-distance recreational races. I'm sure bigger blades are available, as he custom makes these paddles.
Contact info: http://www.joeoblenis.com/