Space-age composite oars for rocking big whitewater.
Navigating rivers. We've been doing it for millenia. But not like this. By virtue of their constituent materials and our filament winding process, Cataract Oars oar shafts possess unprecedented strength-to-weight, tenacity and durability. Our ancestors would have killed to get their hands on these oars. Literally. And now, in the early twenty-first century, you can get your paws on a pair of Cataract Oars for a measly few hundred bucks (see our price list). We think that everyone should feel the magic of continuous carbon and fiberglass filaments harnessed in an epoxy matrix for insane structural and mechanical performance. Once you experience a pair of Cataract Oars, you can't imagine life without them. You wonder how you ever got down a river with inferior oars. You are reborn. You wince, cringe and possibly whimper at the thought of wood oars, aluminum oars or any other type of oar—all of which seem positively primitive in the afterglow of a Cataract Oars SGG, SGX or X-Wound oar. But hey, let's take a tour to better understand how such phenomenal oars come about.
Advanced Composites Inc.: a composites manufacturing powerhouse.
Cataract Oars is the whitewater and drift boating oars brand of Advanced Composites, Inc., a maker of high-performance carbon and fiberglass products, predominantly for aerospace, defense and biomedical applications. But we do make a lot of oars, too. We think we're pretty good at it, and our customers agree with us. Which is what counts.
Some history of Cataract Oars and Advanced Composites Inc.
Advanced Composites developed and began manufacturing oars in 1983. Two years later, in 1985, ACI founded the Cataract Oars brand. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Cataract Oars is the oar brand most trusted by professional river guides, recreational whitewater enthusiasts, anglers and casual adventurers worldwide.
The best oars contain the best materials.
It starts with industrial epoxy resins and spools of fiberglass and carbon filament, which we source from US manufacturers (it's good for the American economy and for the environment). These raw materials are the same that we use in our ultra high-tolerance aerospace and defense contracts. Think torpedo tubes. Nuclear submarine driveshafts. Specialty components for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Knee joints. In other words, these materials are tops. Premium. The pinnacle of modern material science. Totally sweet. You get the idea.
Spin doctors of oar shafts.
Each oar shaft is made using a process called filament winding, which, as everyone and their grandma knows, is the manufacturing method that makes the strongest composite tubes possible on Planet Earth. Filament winding, in brief, involves rovings of carbon or fiberglass wrapped around a rotating metal mandrel in a predetermined and computer-encoded woven pattern. Not only are these filaments wrapped under tension, but they are embedded in an epoxy that oven-cures to extreme toughness. After the cure, the mandrel is extracted, leaving the hollow tube, that, in this case, becomes a shaft for one of our oars. For even more info on filament winding, possibly to the point of TMI, head over to our Advanced Composites filament winding section and feast your eyes and mind.
Or, watch this video, short as it is, for a teaser.
Chopping down the lengthy filament wound oar shafts.
To benefit from economies of scale, we wind our oar shafts in 24' lengths, which we cut down to match the length specifications of individual oars (at this step in the process, we can easily cut custom lengths for special orders).
Finishing touches to the oar shaft.
We apply multiple urethane layers. And this is not just any urethane. We engineered this coating ourselves. It's formulated to be super durable, with just the right flexibility and hardness for the sort of punishment to which an oar gets subjected. After we apply this toughened marine clear coat, we have a final oar shaft.
Meanwhile, the rest of the oar.
An oar, naturally, is more than its shaft. While the shafts are being filament wound, we're busy making all of our handles, blades and many of our accessories. Blades are compression molded of high-grade urethane. Or, in the case of our Razor oar blade, of carbon fiber. Read more on our Cataract Oar Blades page.
Assembling the final product: a Cataract Oars SGG, SGX, X-Wound, or Mini Magnum oar.
Blade, shaft and handle come together and another oar is ready for the river. A finished Cataract Oar is a thing of beauty—we don't mind saying so ourselves. Useful, tough, simple. Nothing superfluous. Shockingly lightweight and strong. Ready for the meanest whitewater, the biggest rapids...we could go on. And probably will. But on a different page.
Oar customization opportunities.
As noted above, it's easy for us to cut our oar shafts down to custom lengths. So, don't hesitate to ask!