If you are looking to take your kayaking to a different level, or pick up an easily stowed backup if your regular paddle gets Wallaced, look no further than Shockerz HandPaddles. Husband and wife Ben and Tera Robinson handcraft each pair in their garage in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and it is truly a dirtbag operation in every sense of the word. Only in our crazy close-knit community of whitewater boaters would that be a compliment of the highest order, which it is. Their story is as awesome as their product. I’ll let them tell it best.
Tera explains, “this is a mutual endeavor we share as husband and wife, something we love and enjoy doing together. Before Ben and I met, I was hand paddling the Green River and dating Keith Sprinkle, a handpaddling champ of the Green. Keith showed me how to make hand paddles. Most of my skills in making & creeking with handpaddles were derived his teaching. After we broke up, I started making handpaddles for friends, and that’s when I encountered Ben. I must say, I was not too good with a jigsaw and my work was a little rough around the edges. Much like my personality at times.”
“Ben and I started dating,” she continues, “and I must say, not only is he handsome, and kind, he is very talented. He is a skilled master craftsman. We both had sets of handpaddles made by different people and his engineering mind went to work. Not only did he create the Shockerz design from scratch, he crafts them as beautifully as you would find in a commerical operation. In addition to his skilled workmanship, he does custom engraving and artwork on our gear. I sew the straps and give feedback. Our work continues to evolve and improve. We have a mutual love for paddling, creating things, giving back to our paddling community, and each other.”
The Robinsons are most definitely dirtbag paddlers to the core. “We are also designing our own raft, we have 6 kayaks between us,” Tera tells us, “and have many years of paddling experience between us. Our motto is that we want people to smile and have fun.” Cheers to that!
Just like a hand in glove, or should I say hand in handpaddle, Ben continues the story. “Tera and I started tinkering around last summer making hand paddles together,” he says, “and decided early on that if we could provide something that would bring a smile to someone’s face for a price that was affordable, we would be doing our part in giving back to the sport that has given so much to us. It is a lot of labor to make a quality set of paddles, but it is a labor of love.”
“We do not have cable TV, or go to the mall, or attend baseball and soccer games,” Ben says, “so we use some of our spare time to source, trace, cut, and sew hand paddles. We sell them at a price that is sustainable for us, but we have no disillusions about selling scores of them. Whitewater paddlers are a small demographic, hand paddlers even smaller. But the joy we get from seeing someone else enjoying the water with our hand paddles makes all the effort that went into building them worth it.”
Ben gets into the nitty gritty truth about these high quality items, and how handy they can be. “I am not going to discuss the benefits of hand paddling, or say that one brand of hand paddles is better than another. Each has their own advantages. But I will say that just having a backup pair of SHOCKERZ hand paddles is a good thing to keep stashed in the back of your boat. In the event of an emergency, you could cut the straps loose and use the nearly 8′ of polyester webbing if needed. The webbing could come in handy in a pinch, with a working load of our 1″ polyester straps is 800 pounds, and the breaking strength is 2000 pounds.” He warms to the subject. “We take pride in the materials we use and the paddles we make. The polyester webbing we offer as standard combines the best properties of nylon and polypropylene. It has the high abrasion resistance and soft feel of nylon, yet offers the UV protection, low water absorption, and stretch resistance of polypropylene. While not cheap, the straps are extremely rot and mildew resistant, even when kept in the back of a boat for weeks on end.”
Quality is job one for Ben and Tera. Ben says, “We only keep the hand paddle blanks we cut that pass our flex test. Too flexible, and we recycle them. The paddles we end up with are fairly thick and stiff, and should last through many years of abuse. We make them by hand one at a time, and do not have the ability or desire for mass production. Some people appreciate this in a product. If the straps ever wear out, or are cut in the event of an emergency, we will be happy to sew on another pair of straps at no cost.” Hats off to you guys!
When asked about the name, Ben relays this quick tale. “Tera once told me a story about how years ago a tourist at the Little River in the Smokies was taking pictures of her paddling group at the Sinks, and when she waved to Tera, Tera held her hand paddle up to wave back. Now on this paddle Tera had painted a giant shocker symbol, and we both laughed for a long time at the lady’s reaction. So if for nothing else but a good laugh, we decided to call our paddles SHOCKERZ.” Yep, that’s as dirtbag as it gets! “We offer several colors of straps with our name and logo on them, and many other colors of webbing without it. We sell them direct to paddlers, and a few stores have even picked them up. Many thanks to Jamie at Rock/Creek and Derek at Asheville Adventure Rentals for allowing us to get them into the hands of paddlers we may never meet.”
So there you have it. Get that backup plan in place, and support two real members of our community. Or maybe… Take it to the next level, and become a full time hand paddler! You may never go back!
SHOCKERZ HANDPADDLES on Facebook
Want to see these paddles in person? Visit the good folks at
when you next visit Ashevegas!
Or if you’re in Chattanooga, they are available at
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