A little history of my adventure with paddles. My first paddle was a C4. I cut it 7" over my height as recommended by C4. I had all kinds of problems with that paddle. As a newbie, it felt way too short. It wandered real bad and I banged the rails a lot. Now as a newbie, you'd expect to bang the rails a lot, but then one day I switched paddles with a friend using the Surftech Laird and presto, no more wander and my paddle strokes felt sweeter. More powerful and the shaft flex energized my stroke. I immediately felt like a better paddler. I put the C4 on EBay and bought the Surftech paddle. I understand C4 claims the dihedral in their blade prevents paddle wander. All I know is, at my skill level at that time, it wasn't as nice as the Surftech.
By the way, the Surftech paddle is heavy compared to the C4.
I happily paddled my way from newbie to competent SUPer using the Surftech paddle. I eventually installed car door edging on this paddle. See photo. It looks ugly, but works. I omitted the edging on the blade bottom. I tested full edging, edging omitted on the bottom and no edging. This was the compromise I could live with.
Next I got the urge to give a premium wood paddle a try. I liked the idea of shaft flex and the beauty of wood. I ordered a Malama from Maui. Shipping cost was a killer by the way. The paddle was the best looking one I've seen. Way higher quality finish and workmanship than the Jimmy Lewis or Sawyer paddles. See photo of new paddle. The maiden voyage of the new paddle didn't go as planned. Way too much paddle wander. The blade was 9.5 wide with a little scoop built into the tip. It stroked straight when paddled at a slower pace, but if I paddled hard, it jumped sideways bad. Dinged the rail several times. Maybe the blade was pulling to much water. Don't know, just my theory. Then I began to wonder if what Leleo Kinimaka was doing with his dovetail design might be the answer I was looking for. I suspected the vee notch in the blade tip might create a blast of water through the gap creating more stability in tracking, the harder you stroke.
Next step, pulled out the saber saw, orbital sander, and sun cure resin and converted the Malama to a dove tail design.
First session with the modified paddle was incredible. The paddle stroked straighter than any paddle I've ever tried. I might just have the perfect paddle now. See photos. Maybe the carbon paddle makers should copy Leleo. I think he's onto something special.
Regarding paddle lengths, I went from 11" over my head with the Surftech, then progressively cut it shorter as my skills improved. Today my paddles are 8" over my head. By the way, shortening a carbon paddle after you have used epoxy to glue the handle is easier than you might think. I would cut the handle off about 2" below the handle. Next I would make a spiral saw cut of the shaft stub below the handle using a hacksaw blade. The spiral cut would penetrate the outer layer only. Then using a screwdriver, I pry the outer layer off. Sand the stub smooth, then epoxy it back onto the shaft. 5 minute epoxy is fairly easy to break free from the stub.