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Thread: A whisper from the Downcreek Paddle shack?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Bangor, Co Down.

    Default A whisper from the Downcreek Paddle shack?

    A few years ago, I was given the heads up by my paddling friend Owen McCauley that there was a paddle maker close to where I lived, making canoe paddles, and interested in feedback from experienced paddlers. Would I like to have a chat with them and perhaps try some of their paddles?

    Well of course I would.

    They were father and son Billy and Jude Todd from Holywood, and they were mastercraftsmen with all sorts of wood. Billy came for a paddle with Mr Nick and myself, and brought a few prototypes for us to play with. We gave him a little feedback on the paddles in exchange for a few paddling tips, for in as much as Billy and Jude had built a cedarstrip canoe, and made a couple of paddles to use in it, they were novices when it came to using them.

    Billy went away, seemingly happy with our day on the river.

    The next time I saw Billy was at the Paddlefest in the Share center in 2014. Here he is standing in front of their range of paddles that they'd brought to display for the paddlers attending the event.

    I still hadn't met his son Jude. Apparently Jude was in the van, oiling paddles. Yes even then he was caring for his babies that he'd lent out to paddlers to try, but was making sure that the following day's punters would get the "Demos" in tip top condition.

    I was one of those punters the following day, and even though most of them were too short for me, I could feel the quality in the paddles made by this couple of artisans. I was particularly impressed with the diverse "Handles" in their range, having produced paddles from traditional designs, the like of which I'd never seen before in real life.

    I still wasn't sure if Jude actually existed though, as I'd not managed to find him to have a chat. But I had been given a contact number to "keep in touch" after the show, which I fully intended to do.

    I did end up meeting Jude some time later, having decided to order one of their paddles. But I had a challenge for them, I wanted a paddle that they'd not produced yet. I wanted a hybrid of two of their designs, the handle from one and the blade from the other. Their names for the paddles were the Kingfisher and the Heron and it would be 69" long. I also had another request, that they take a few photos of it during the manufacturing process, and they did.

    It was to be my Christmas present that year, and Jude personally delivered it to my house. It was a beauty, and I was busting to get it wet, but I had to wait, as no-one could see it til after the big day. But he revealed its name to me saying that it would be a new model on the website called the "Heron King".

    It paddled as good as it looked.

    I was chuffed to be there near the beginning, and watched with interest as they grew from strength to strength, but on the odd occasion when I met Jude to help out with paddle deliveries or carrying demo paddles to events, I noticed how much stress he was under. Stress that eventually led to him calling it a day.

    However, I read the piece that Jude put on their website (here's a link) and I hoped that the following paragraph from it might one day come to be true.

    My Dad, Billy, might well keep on making a few paddles as he dreads the thought of not having something rewarding & engaging to fill his days. If he does, it is with my blessing but won’t be under the “Downcreek” name or via the website … this is not due to issues of ego, ownership or copyright, but of consistency, customer experience & practicality. As a “brand”, end-product and method of ordering & purchase, it was both of us, not one or the other. If Billy continues as a paddle-maker, our designs should all still be available, but enquiries & ordering will be handled personally via phone & email …

    So imagine my surprise when the other day I got a phone call from Billy. He invited me up to the paddle shack (a secret location) for a chat. I went and we talked canoes for a bit. He has a beautiful cedar strip canoe under construction in the middle of the floor, testament to the skills of the man. Walked round it stroking it, feeling the smooth finish, marveling at the patterns in the wood. This would be a beauty when it was finished. He showed me the previous one they'd built, finished in red because the perfectionist in him didn't like the finish of the wood. Mistakes he wouldn't repeat, in building his current one.

    But the good news is that Billy is almost ready to bring paddles to the market again. He had them at various stages of production, some just strips of wood clamped together, others ready for sanding. They will be available to order eventually in stock sizes, in the popular models. Same quality and workmanship, and in wood combinations that are tried and tested. As Jude said, they aren't labeled with the Downcreek name. I'll let Billy announce the new name when he is ready (I know what it is and I love it).

    So Billy is hoping to have the new website up and running to sell paddles by the end of his words, "nature abhors a vacuum", and he hopes to be able to fill the void left after the demise of Downcreek.

    Lets wish him every success in his new chapter of the family's paddle making story.

    Watch out for more developments.........................
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    It would be simply fantastic if some of the Downcreek heritage continues. Fingers crossed!

  3. #3


    Great news I’d be so lucky to receive one from Santa for sure....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    SW France


    Nothing bad about that. Good luck to Billy and regards to Jude
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Lingfield Surrey


    That is good news. I will be watching with interest.
    Coaching, leading and supporting Paddlesport.
    Plastic welding and repairs.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Ulverston, Cumbria


    Excellent news. Best of luck to Billy going solo and to Jude whatever he's up to (does anyone know what he's up to?)

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using Tapatalk

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