To provide the highest level of Craftsmanship, making each paddle unique, resulting in Pride of ownership and Harmony between the paddler and the water
The History of Greg Fishell and Fishell Paddles
Carrying On Ray Kettlewell's Legacy
When I was 14 I made my first attempt at making a canoe paddle from an old ash paddle blank I found in my grandfather's basement. My paddle ended up heavy, bulky and stiff...but 14-year-old me loved everything about it. At the age of 16, I decided to give paddle making another go, but this time from a cherry wood board instead of a paddle blank. I was using a Ray Special from the 80s to refer to as I went through the process. Much more work was involved and it certainly wasn’t easy. That same summer (2010) I took the cherry paddle I finished to Ray's shop in Kinmount. I finally had a chance to meet the paddle legend and show him my work.
As a kid I didn't know that my father, uncles and grandfather were very close with Ray back in the 70s and 80s from their time at YMCA Camp Pine Crest. So, while I thought that visit was about me it was mostly a reunion for John (my father) and Ray.
He took us on a tour of his shop and gave me some tips on where to improve my cherry paddle; little did I know at the time retirement was heavy on Ray’s mind.
Ray and Greg in Ray's shop 2015
The following winter I took Ray’s tips and improved my cherry paddle, I still have that paddle today. The summer of 2011 I followed in my dad’s footsteps, and I became a staff member at Pine Crest. When Ray came for his annual camp visit, he immediately recognized me and asked to see how the recrafting went on the paddle. He flexed the paddle, looked it over and handed it back to me with a thumbs up. I still remember what an amazing feeling it was, to get a thumbs-up from a legend like Ray!
During that visit, Ray asked if I wanted to buy his paddle business...thinking very little of it at the time, I laughed and walked away.
I spent the next few summers working at Pine Crest running trips and making paddles for fellow staff members. In fall of 2013, Ray announced retirement on his website and it quickly went viral on Facebook. I sent the link to my father John with a simple sentence "We need to do something about this...".
After many phone calls, conversations, and coffee meetings with Ray finally Fishell Paddles INC. was born in March 2014. In April we moved the machinery to our shop in Kinmount Ontario just down the street from Ray. We launched our website on May 1st and shortly had our first order. Ray spent 4 days a week for 3 months working with me on perfecting the craft to carry on his legacy.
Ray and I built a very close relationship over the many seasons I spent in Kinmount. He became like a grandfather to me, and to this day is a great mentor and source of knowledge.
In April 2019, I relocated my shop from Kinmount Ontario to Flagstaff AZ where I went to university and met my wife, Maggie. It was a tough transition, figuring out wood suppliers, negotiating shipping prices, and smoothing out the kinks of working in a new location. But the move has been the best thing for Fishell Paddles and my family.
Greg and Maggie - The West Sound, Orcas Island 2021
With the business settled in Flagstaff, I make and sell more paddles every year. Even with all the hours clocked in the shop making paddles for you I always make sure to get my own paddles out for a spin with Maggie and our pup Leary.
From the beginning, we have had the support, love and trust of all of our customers, and we wouldn’t be who we are today without you. So, thank you. Thank you for helping my dreams of being a professional paddle maker come true.