Welcome to The Sawyer Blog!

Our Story

American Craftsmanship since 1967 (with the Smoker™ Brand going back to the 1930’s)

Sawyer offers a full line of modern and traditional products for oarsmen, canoeists, kayakers, surfers and paddlers of all genres, delivered into your hands to provide unsurpassed function, performance and beauty. We design and handcraft every product in Talent, Oregon USA, ensuring everything we make is from the highest quality materials with careful attention to detail. We take pride in our employees, stewardship of the environment and our country. In return, you have the assurance of knowing the product you receive from us is genuine, made in America and cannot be replicated. Sawyer products are designed by paddlers, oarsmen and surfers alike to fully meet your performance needs. Pick one up today and experience “The Feel of Water!”

Sawyer’s Roots

After a legendary canoe racing career, which includes being a 10 time AuSable River Canoe Marathon Champion (and recently being inducted into the Canoe Racing Hall of Fame), Ralph Sawyer began building paddles and oars. In 1967, he established Sawyer Paddles and Oars in the small town of Rogue River, Oregon, where he quickly fell in love with whitewater rafting and began producing whitewater oars. Sawyer oars were soon found in the hands of river outfitters all over North America with a reputation for quality, performance, value and beauty. Ralph drove the use of Douglas fir, for its high strength to weight ration and flex in combination with Ponderosa Pine and Sawyer’s signature Walnut racing stripes. His use of these woods in combination with fiberglass popularized the concept of composite paddles. Ralph is now retired and enjoys exploring the Puget Sound and Alaskan waterways from his home, an ocean faring catamaran, with his wife Roberta (a.k.a. Bobbie).


Bruce Bergstrom took the helm in 1987 and propelled the company’s innovation and reputation of durability. Most noted was the introduction of the Sawyer SquareTop Oar matched with another of his innovations, the Cobra Oar Lock. This combination is a favorite among drift boat fisherman and whitewater rafters, which may row a thousand strokes per mile positioning for the perfect cast or negotiating heavy whitewater. The two innovations paired together make for the highest performing whitewater oar and oarlock system in the world. Bruce also acquired chief rival Smoker Oars & Paddles in 1992. The acquisition set up Sawyer to be the premier paddle & oar maker in the USA, complete with a durable line of composite oars balanced by a line of legendary solid ash wood oars for extreme conditions. Bruce was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by the American Outdoors Association for his contributions to our industry.

Our Future

Current President and Owner, Pete Newport, has returned to Sawyer after 20 years, where he worked on the night shift while attending university. Since that time, Pete has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience through being a competitive whitewater kayaker, developing markets with the Pepsi distributors in the Pacific Northwest and growing Breedlove Guitar Company 20 fold before selling the company in 2010.

After retiring from Breedlove and taking some time with family, Pete has decided to return to the business world in style. “I read a book that explained: to be truly happy as an entrepreneur, you need to design your dream customer. I appreciated my time with Pepsi and I loved Breedlove Guitars and the music industry, but I was not a guitarist at heart. At Sawyer, I feel like I have come home. This is what I have been hoping to do all my life and I have found my dream customers.” illustrates Pete. The experiences gained in manufacturing exotic wood guitars, learning all aspects of distribution and brand building with Pepsi combined with a lifelong passion for boating has been a perfect education to lead Sawyer into the future.

This future includes continuing to innovate and evolve our product line so you can experience a clear connection to water. We have a great team of craftspeople and get great satisfaction in manufacturing the best paddles and oars. If you are inspired to create a product that you do not see in our line, please feel free to contact us. If you can dream it, we can build it.

Thank you for choosing Sawyer!