Monday, January 20, 2014

Rare Omer Stringer Paddling Video

Came across the strange video postings of Vimeo User Kind Eyez which feature some reworked footage of flatwater paddling master, Omer Stringer. I've never seen action footage of the Algonquin Park legend before so these video experiments are a real treat, despite the funky soundtrack and optical effects.

Here's the first clip showcasing a basic cruise in Omer's heeled position. Although tough on the knees, this is the type of paddling is what I find most relaxing and actually comfortable for the back.

This next vid has some slow motion capture of Omer's famed "C stroke" used to power his custom build cedar canvas design.

Back in '08, I made a Yellow Birch paddle based on the blade design from Omer's little booklet, The Canoeist's Manual. It used to be sold for a the amazing low price of 1 Canadian Dollar but the cost of living has made this little gem go up $2.

The Canoeist's Manual - Omer Stringer

The booklet is filled with black and white photos of paddling techniques and includes dimensional info for Omer's favourite paddle design. It looks to be identical to the cherry paddle used in the video.

Omer also used a custom cedar canvas canoe based on the Chestnut Chum design. Issue 25 (Winter 1986) Wooden Canoe, the Journal of the WCHA, has an article which described Omer's custom boat. Here's an excerpt...

"Omer's canoe is also unique. He began with a 15-foot Chestnut Chum, built in New Brunswick. When it was under construction, he asked that the cedar plank-and-rib shell be left without inwales, thereby allowing him to vary the sheer line after the shell was removed from the form. He then increased the depth of the canoe to 15 inches and reduced the bow height by 1-1/2 inches. With weights, he rounded out the ribs in the center of the canoe slightly. This rounding produced a canoe that was deeper and a bit more tender and maneuverable than the original Chum."

Today, this canoe is hanging in the Algonquin Park visitor's Centre (km 43)'s the faded red one.

Photo Credit: Andre Cloutier from WCHA Forums


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I like your blog very much. Reading it has taught me so much about traditional Canadian paddling. This particular post has prompted me to comment on a couple of traditional paddles a friend purchased last year, a Kettlewell and an Omer Stringer. To his astonishment and mine, the blades were tremendously thick and heavy and the grips very small. The blades were so thick that they had no flex whatsoever and when you swung them they felt like you were swinging a sledgehammer. Truly a terrible pair of paddles. I have sanded down both blades to a decent thickness and now they feel good, with the exception of the tiny grips, one of which I am going to rebuild for myself (he's keeping the Omer). How it is possible that a paddle maker like Ray Kettlewell, who has been praised to no end for his fine paddles, produce something like this is beyond my comprehension. Have you come across examples like these from these paddle makers?

Murat said...

Hand made paddle carving means that every paddle will come out quite different. The one and only Kettlewell paddle I came across was a beauty, but it was the grip that I didn't like - too small for me personally. In fact, that's why I got into this hobby...almost all the commercial paddle makers were using a tiny, pear grip that I found uncomfortable. Since paddling styles and comfort levels are very personal, it can be difficult to satisfy everyone. In the end, I think the carver designs these things to fit their own needs first.

I had brought some of my paddles down to a paddling expo a while back and most of the folks who tried them out found them too flexible and the grips too bulky. In a way, getting the paddles as you did and then customizing for you needs will probably be best.

By the way, where did you get the Omer Stringer paddle? The only place I know selling them under Omer's name is Carrying Place Canoe Works

Anonymous said...

Yes, my friend bought the Omer Stringer from the Carrying Place. But they apparently offer three sizes of grips, which they refer to as the men's, women's and children's sizes. He thought he was getting the men's size, but it looks pretty obvious to me it has to be the women's size. It is barely adequate and he is not a big man.

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