Thursday, July 24, 2014

SC&K Staff Profile - Ben Fontenot

Savannah Canoe and Kayak's newest addition to the team is local son, Benjamin Fontenot.
Aside from working at Skidaway State Park, schlepping boats here at the shop, and paddling a lot, Ben is an avid woodworker. We are pleased to showcase and sell some of his fine Greenland inspired paddles. We thought we would interview him and share a little of what makes him tick. Take it away, Ben...

What led to your interest in Greenland paddles?

Initially it was all aesthetics. Such beautiful and simplistic paddles, I immediately wanted to try one. After snapping my aluminum paddle in half, I decided to make my own paddles. After experiencing the versatility of these paddles, I was hooked on paddling with traditional paddles.

What do you see as benefits of using a Greenland paddle?

I find them to be extremely comfortable both in the hands and in the water. They tend to be easier on the shoulders and offer more endurance for longer trips. My rolling skills and technique were improved greatly after switching over to traditional paddles. The natural buoyancy of a wood paddle really helped with set ups and orientation under water. My overall technique was improved, increasing my confidence to do new and more challenging things.

Tell us about choosing which paddle is right for someone.

 I like to go by two factors.
1/ A person’s height and arm length.
Standing up straight, reach up with one arm, hand pointed to the sky. Now measure from your top knuckles to the floor. Ideally, you should be able to comfortably place a grip over the end of the paddle.

2/ Style of paddling.
-       If you have a high angle stroke or plan to surf, I would recommend a slightly shorter paddle by a couple inches. If going on longer trips, then a slightly longer paddle for a relaxed low angle stroke.

Don’t forget about a spare! Storm paddles were created in West Greenland to paddle in high winds. These are short paddles, generally the paddler's total arm span, and require a sliding stroke. Storm paddles make great spares and are ideal for paddling in katabatic winds.

How does kayaking affect your life?

Paddling is my passion, career, friendships, and outlet for exploring, relaxation, and excitement; I can escape for a few hours or days and enjoy the wilderness. Being able to go with friends on a relaxing marsh paddle along hammocks and cord grass then get fired up with some surfing to end the trip.

How about a little information on the actual making of the paddles?
It starts with a lot of searching and sorting. I like to use 2x4's of Red Cedar and every board is hand picked. I’m looking for straight boards with few or no knots and straight grains.

After ripping and cutting the boards to shape, I have a paddle blank. This is a rough shape that I will follow until the final coat of oil.
Once the paddle is carved out, I compress the wood grain to create a solid and uniform finish. Going from 80 grit sand paper down to 0000 steel wool I get a soft near perfect finish.

After drying over night, my paddle is ready for the water.

Well, there you have it. Ben is currently working on his ACA Coastal  Instructor Certification as well as guide and leadership skills. It's great having Ben working at SC&K, and we think he is well on path to a fulfilling an interesting career in the outdoors.

Benjamin Fontenot Paddles and norsaqs come in one piece Red Cedar, or with custom hardwood tips and siding for extra protection. Benjamin Fontenot Paddles are available in the shop for pick up, or place an order for a paddle that is right for you!