Quickblade Paddles

When he first started standup surfing, Jim Terrell got heckled. It wasn't because he was missing waves though. "Ron House used to laugh at me and say, 'Jimmy, you're wasting all your energy, just wait inside until it gets bigger,'" Terrell says, recalling his ferocious sprint canoe strokes ahead of every potentially ride-able wave. "I'd go, 'That's what I like to do: I'm not a surfer, I like paddling.'" It's a lifelong love. His dad built him a tiny canoe paddle at age 3 and by 6 he'd won his first race. He was hooked, and his passion for paddling drove him through more than a decade of international canoe competition, including four trips to the Olympics. Along the way he built paddles, honing his designs and construction techniques. Once a garage business, Quickblade has rapidly expanded to fill a 1,500-square-foot production facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., buzzing with a revolving door of elite SUP athletes, event organizers and dealers with urgent demands for his line of high-performing composite creations. — Dave Shively

We started canoe racing locally in Ohio, then Indiana, Kentucky. I went to my first nationals for Olympic canoeing in 1980, at 15. I graduated from high school in '83, trained the whole winter in Florida, made the Olympic team in '84, then stuck with that for a while. Seoul in '88, Barcelona in '92, Atlanta in '96. Then I retired for a couple years, and went to the world championships in '99.

I moved back to California in 1999 and started making outrigger paddles. That was three-quarters of my business. So then, 2003-2004, I started making standup paddles. Now standup has become three-quarters of our business and the outrigger, kayak, Olympic canoe and kayak paddles are the rest.

This guy, Drew Aiello from Malibu, Googled and found me and asks, 'Can you make a paddle that's taller than me?' So I send him a really big C-1 [Olympic racing canoe] paddle and he says, 'The ones I've been seeing have a little more angle,' so I just threw an outrigger paddle blade on the end. I said, 'We can do better than that,' so we started tweaking the shapes until we got something that worked better.

We've been fortunate. If you look at the [2009] Battle of the Paddle as being the premier event, we've placed first, second and third in all the distance races, and in the Elite races, we had Jamie [Mitchell] and Danny [Ching], Slater Trout we didn't have last year, but we do now. We have Shakira [Westdorp], Candice [Appleby]. We've got Dave Kalama and Laird using our blades. Our team list is 20-30 athletes I help in some way.

And the majority of the people that are getting into the sport now are women. Some of these shops are telling me that 50 percent of their sales are gals that go and cruise around.

What we pride ourselves on in is being the strongest and lightest, which is hard to do. With our 16-ounce Elite Racer, I don't think there's any other standup paddle on the market I've seen that's as light. And on the strength, you can take this shaft, and it will literally hold 350 pounds before it breaks.

That's where my experience of making paddles for 20 years [comes in]. I can play around with different constructions and I know a lot of things not to do, how a paddle always breaks at the weakest link. You have to try to under-build them to see where they break to know, because one broken paddle does more harm than 100 good paddles.

Terrell put his years designing composite materials for an aerospace manufacturer to work on his futuristic, new 18-ounce Magic, taking advantage of a dimpled blade power face that, like the drag reduction on a golf ball, sheets water more efficiently off the blade face on catch and exit. "At the perpendicular stroke position, it also grabs more and holds water better than any paddle I've used—I guess that's the magic," says SUP race stalwart Dane DeBoer. Quickblade also brings style to the performance end of the spectrum, integrating a bamboo laminate into the blade of its new 19-ounce Timber. Both feature super-stiff (prepregnated) all-carbon shafts ($395 Magic, pictured top; $395 Timber, bottom, quickbladepaddles.com).