Keith Backlund, Paddle Engineer, Dies at Age 60


A master woodworker who constructed magnificent canoe and kayak paddles, Keith Backlund died on the evening of October 25 at the age of 60. Born in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania, he grew up making many of the things he needed.

His interest in whitewater paddling early in life lead him to concentrate on wood paddle making and later enabled him to master this trade. Backlund’s paddles were said to be some of the finest ever produced, and his knowledge of woodworking was of the highest degree.

His first love was building custom paddles, which later lead him to start two mainstream paddle companies, Woodlight and Viking. His apprentices, including Phil Coleman, Jim Snyder, and Jess Whittemore, all paddling legends themselves, credit him with being “a catalyst for excellence” that helped them develop the focus and craftsmanship they needed to produce outstanding work.

Keith Backlund was able to inspire others with his work, and helped set a high standard in the paddling world. His work is greatly appreciated and his legacy continues with every paddle of his that still graces the water.