Keith Backlund, a master woodworker who created canoe and kayak paddles of unmatched quality, died on the evening of October 25th. He was 60 years old. Born in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania, he grew up making many of the things he needed. An interest in whitewater lead him to concentrate on wood paddle making and he soon became expert at both. He knew wood and woodworking better than anyone we know and his paddles were probably the finest ever produced.
Although he started two mainstream paddle companies, Woodlight and Viking, his first love was building custom paddles. He rarely built more than 200 per year. His apprentices, including Phil Coleman, Jim Snyder, and Jess Whittemore, credit him with being "a catalyst for excellence" that helped them develop the focus and craftsmanship they needed to produce outstanding work. Jim became a paddlemaker himself while Jess has done much innovative work in the paddlesport industry.
Keith is sorely missed by his devoted clients, who will remember him each time they launch their boat.
For a wonderful article about Keith, click this link:
A link to the many remembrances on "Keith Backlund's Friends" facebook page: