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The Making of Cataract Oars

VideoJune 20, 2011

Cataract Oars are made by Advanced Composites, in Salt Lake City, Utah. They’ve had over 40 years of composite engineering and manufacturing expertise and have been making oars since 1983. How did a company that makes guided missile parts, armor piercing projectiles and parts for advanced aircraft get into making oars? Simple—the folks running the show are rafters! They said, “Hey, we can make better oars than we can buy. Why not make them for other boaters?”

And make them they have. Cataracts are propelling craft of all types on the waters of the world. They’ve become a standard for boaters looking for lightweight, strong oars that require a minimum of maintenance. They’re twice as strong as aluminum oars and 40% lighter.

The process starts with a polished steel mandrel that is coated with a release agent. The mandrel rotates at a precise speed. Strands of fiberglass and carbon roving dipped in colored epoxy resin are transported up and down the mandrel, laying up the correct number of layers, at the correct angle, to give the designed strength and flex. The greater proportion of carbon fiber in the layup, the stiffer the oar. Extra layers are applied at the end to compress the matrix. The winding process is precision controlled throughout by computers.

After winding, the 24-foot oar blanks are transferred to an oven to cure the material. Then, the outer compressing layers are ground off to give the correct outer diameter. Two coats of a durable, toughened urethane material are applied to seal the outer surface and give the appealing, clear Cataract finish. Finally, the mandrel is forced out of the oar blank, the shafts are cut to length, handles are applied and holes for the oar blade buttons are drilled. The finished oar shaft consists of approximately 70% fiber and 30% resin. Random blanks are pulled and numerous quality control tests are run on them to ensure consistency.

Heavy-duty shafts are made in three models. The SGG™, in 8-11 foot lengths, meets the needs of most boaters. They flex and rebound like wood, efficiently transferring muscle power into each stroke, without wood’s maintenance. They are available in stock colors of blue, black, yellow, and exclusively for NRS, white.

SGX™ shafts have a higher proportion of carbon fiber and are 33% stiffer than SGGs. We stock them in ice blue color in 10 and 11 foot lengths. The SGX is your best choice when rowing large, heavily laden boats in extreme conditions.

X-Wound™ shafts are designed to respond similarly to the SGG shafts, with a similar flex and rebound. By using an all-carbon layer on the outside of the shaft, the weight has been reduced by one-half pound for less muscle fatigue over a long day of rowing.

We also stock SGG shafts with rope wrap and stopper and SGGs with rope wrap, stopper and counterbalanced handle.

Cataract Oar Blades

Cataract gives you a choice of four excellent blades. The original Cataract blade has a tough polyurethane skin around a lightweight composite foam core. It’s 6.25" wide and very buoyant. An accessory tip protector gives extra protection to the blade.