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Kayak paddle-making hobby developing into business for Chatham man

COVID-19 has kept Jeff Phaneuf from his passion for coaching rugby and volleyball, so the Chatham man has devoted more time to his hobby of creating handmade kayak paddles.

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And now it’s beginning to develop into a nice little business.


Phaneuf, a teacher at Ursuline College Chatham, said he’s been kayaking for a decade and began making handmade paddles a few years ago.

Spending time honing his paddle-making skills has also been a good way for Phaneuf to stay sane during these trying times.

“It’s one of things, after dinner, you try and find something to do, and I find it’s almost like meditation – just get away from the world,” he said.

Since he only uses hand tools to make his paddles, “everything is a custom carve,” Phaneuf said.

He starts with a two-by-four length of western red cedar and goes from there.

He has begun to laminate pieces, using local cherry wood, walnut and maple to make patterns in his paddles.

“It’s been a pretty cool journey to see what you can do.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided Jeff Phaneuf more time to work on his hobby of making homemade kayak paddles, which is attracting attention from people interested in buying them. Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network Photo by Ellwood Shreve /Ellwood Shreve/The Daily News

Phaneuf began posting photographs of the process he goes through to make his paddles to social media, which has attracted more attention then he imagined and has resulted in some sales.

But it all began with a trade.

Phaneuf saw the work of artist Scott Kish, a watercolour painter, on Facebook. He took a photograph of a kayaking trip on Lake Superior last summer and contacted Kish to ask if he would interested in making a trade for one of his paddles in exchange for creating a painting from the photograph.

Phaneuf was surprised to learn Kish had seen the paddles he posted on Facebook and readily agreed to the exchange.

“It was a pretty sweet deal.”

Then a friend asked if he’d make a paddle for his girlfriend and, soon after, someone else requested a paddle as Christmas gift for her husband.

He has also created a Facebook page – JRPaddles – where he posts photos and videos of his paddles.

“It’s kind of taken off,” said Phaneuf, adding he currently has an order for two more paddles.

“I enjoy doing it and I get some monetary compensation, so I just use that to buy more wood, some different tools, and a couple more toys for kayaking.”

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