When it comes to being on the water, there is one vessel that all of us know and many of us love: the canoe. Canoeing is a method of travel, a mode of fun, a physical activity, even an art form. But what makes the experience of canoeing possible? The answer is simple: the paddle. And for a paddle that provides dexterity, precision, and is durable, long-lasting, and uniquely yours, local paddle makers Badger Paddles has you covered.
Badger Paddles, established in 2009 and owned by husband and wife team Mike Ramsay and Fiona Westner-Ramsay, creates hand-crafted solid wood canoe paddles.
Sidney Badger, Westner-Ramsay’s great-grandfather, founded the family wood-working business, Badger & Son in 1945. It was passed down two generations before its retirement in 2010. It’s where Badger Paddles derived its name, keeping tradition alive.
Badger Paddles practices many of the same methods and techniques that Badger & Son used in their business. The paddles are machine cut from a single piece of solid wood such as cherry, sassafras, or walnut, are individually shaped using various sanders, and are then given a hand sanding to ensure a smooth and stable surface. Their preferred finishing method follows tradition: wood oil, applied by hand. They also offer watercolour paddles and laser-engraved or hand-painted customized paddles. At the end of the process, each paddle is a completely unique piece of art, because, as Badger Paddles says “no two paddles are the same”.
In order to know the business, one must understand its past.
“In some ways, our paddle business was a natural progression starting from the very first time Mike and I met,” Westner-Ramsay says.
Both are lifelong outdoor enthusiasts who have been part of the outdoor industry in Ontario for many years. When the couple met, she was an artist who painted wildlife scenes on paddles and he was a recent college graduate working for Swift Canoe & Kayak, endeavours they continued after they married. Their son, Makobe, was diagnosed with autism in 2002, so Westner-Ramsay put her painting on hold to focus on Makobe’s needs. In 2009, Ramsay was approached by an Austrian retailer who expressed an interest in a market for premium solid wood canoe paddles. Along with the support of an Austrian dealer and Swift Canoe & Kayak, the pair were able to create and launch their business in the paddle-making industry.
“The request for premium paddles and Mike’s long-standing desire to create his own paddle-making business, as well as the opportunity for me to work from home while still being able to care for Makobe’s needs, became the catalyst and driving force for the birth of Badger Paddles,” Westner-Ramsay says.
Badger Paddles actively strives to be socially and environmentally responsible. They are the first paddle company to offer a maintenance oil for canoe paddles that is all-natural, made from cold pressed hemp seed oil. They are also the first to offer a reusable cloth paddle sock, an environmentally conscious alternative to the traditional one-use plastic sleeves.
Along with portageur.ca, Badger Paddles co-created the Paddle in the Park contest, a nature-advocacy campaign designed to encourage outdoor activity and appreciation for nature. In 2019, Badger Paddles celebrated their ten year anniversary by creating a special edition paddle in partnership with TreeEra, and planted ten trees for each of the ten special edition paddles that were created. They have also donated paddles to various programs and charity organizations, the most recent being Warrior Adventures Canada and Mike Ranta.
With the arrival of the pandemic, the interest in outdoor recreation increased tremendously. In order to keep up with the higher demand for canoe paddles, Badger Paddles partnered with Swift Canoe & Kayak, who were also in the process of expanding their business. This new partnership has generated increased recognition for Badger Paddles and has been a major stepping stone in their path of exponential growth. Their new shop is located on Hwy 11 at Paddle Shack in Gravenhurst.
“We are excited to see what the future brings,” Westner-Ramsay says. “Our main goal moving forward is to grow Badger to an even more internationally recognized and well-loved brand…and continue to put paddles in the hands of those who truly dig the water.”
Badger Paddles are available through local retailers Algonquin Outfitters and Swift Canoe & Kayak. For more information visit badgerpaddles.com.
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