It’s about a soldier who loved a nurse, a man who loved the outdoors, and a family that loved great craftsmanship.
It’s also a story of the American Dream— an immigrant who started a successful business out of his garage. It's a story about the true PNW spirit.
Werner Furrer was a Swiss soldier in World War II. Shortly after the Second Great War he was in a car crash. There in the hospital he met his future wife, Martha. They were both outdoorsy types, Swiss mountain climbers with a fondness for scaling the Alps. The young couple eloped to Canada.
In North America, the newly-married Furrers began to fervently explore the Adirondacks. Werner’s love for the outdoors manifested itself in the gear that he began to design and build. He started making solo kayaking trips down rivers in the Northeast. He travelled in a kayak of his own design. His background in Swiss engineering drove his obsession for fine craftsmanship.
The Furrers moved to the Northwest, settling in the Seattle NorthCountry, and began exploring the local rivers in earnest.
This was in the 1950s and 1960s, in the days before big outdoor gear companies were commonplace. The more Werner Furrer got into outdoor watersports the more his garage came to resemble a manufacturing center for outdoors goods. His children and wife started joining in the production. They built kayaks, ice picks, ice axes, personal flotation devices, and, of course, paddles.
Friends and extended family started borrowing the handmade gear, so the Furrer family began to brand their products with their trademark symbol— an encircled W over an M. The W stood for Werner, the M stood for Martha. This Werner Paddles emblem is still used today, still stamped into their molded carbon fiber paddles that travel the globe.
Business took off organically from there. Production naturally grew as demand escalated for these fine paddles. The Ferrer family started employing more people. They moved from a garage to a factory and began to earn a reputation for fine handiwork in the global economy.
Today, fifty years from its inception, Werner Paddles is that rarest of things: an American-made manufacturer employing people with good jobs in the global community. Werner operates out of Monroe, Washington, nestled in the Skykomish River Valley; an area favored by kayaking and whitewater enthusiasts.
The Werner factory employs 75 people in engineering, manufacturing, and marketing roles.
Whatever your watercraft sport is, Werner makes a paddle for that. They do whitewater paddles, fishing paddles, and high-end touring paddles. They do canoe paddles. They do packrafting paddles.
Six pairs of hands touch every paddle from start to finish, all on site at the factory. Today the brand is globally renowned among outdoors enthusiasts.
Werner’s youngest son Bruce is president of the business. The company founder and patriarch still comes in to visit once in awhile. He’s over 90 years old years now, but his frame hasn’t been stooped by time. The old Swiss soldier has the upright figure of a lifetime outdoorsman and paddler. His dream has come a long way from the days when he tinkered in his garage.
Werner Paddles is a company that grew organically from this man’s love of the outdoors. That passion is inherent in every piece of equipment churned out in this river-heavy region of the Seattle NorthCountry.
Good work, Werner Paddles. Here’s to another 50 years.
17520 147th St SE, Monroe, WA 98272