Re: did dagger ever make wooden paddles for kayaking?
Date: Jun 07 2008, 4:18 GMT
Keith Backlund made his first Dagger paddles gypsy style travelling on the kayak slaom racing circuit in the early 70´s. The blades were not fiberglass reinforced and the woods used not always the best. Then he married, settled down a bit and launched Woodlyte paddles outside of State College, PA in 1974. Woodlyte failed when an associate promised every member of the US team headed to the World Championships in Yugoslavia a free Woodlyte paddle. In the ensuing rush to get the 40+ paddles done on time, many had fiberglass delamination problems leading to lots of breakage. This led to the untimely demise of Woodlyte in 1975. This is when I first met Keith. I was a student at Penn State and ended up spending all my time at the Woodlyte shop. This is when Jimmy Snyder started to apprentice with Keith and also when Keith experimented with a multiple paddle carving machine (Butch) which he finally realized would never produce paddles of the caliber he wanted.
Keith was then offered some backing by Bill Masters who had recently founded Perception. Keith and wife and kids moved to Easely, SC and within a year broke away from Perception and started making Dagger Paddles with Brandy Leeson (father of John). It was at this point that he switched from ester resins to using West system epoxy. Keith had done some design work with Perception on the Quest and later the Mirage, the boats that propelled perception into the plastic age. I went south and worked with Keith in the fall of 77.
Note for you creekers:. In the early spring of 1978 Keith and the late James Harrington Bruno bagged the first descent of the Toxaway (in 13ft fiberglass boats. Though it was a portage fest, they accomplished something way ahead of its time.
Brandy kept making Daggers and Keith moved north first to Albright and then to Friendsville and finally settled outside of Ohiopyle where he still makes Backlund and his premier paddles, New World, to this day. In my opinion they are nothing less than the very finest wooden paddles ever made.