You must check out Woody Custom Paddles at http://www.woodycustompaddles.com
. There is no doubt in my mind that they are at least as tough as anything else in the industry.
My buddy started the company and he has told me about the reliaility of his paddles: He's been making paddles for a few years now. Only ONE paddle has broken and that was a prototype being used by a pro on some giant massive wave in Africa. And that was over a year ago.
Another one of his team members has broken every other paddle he has used (he broke seven paddles one season), but has been paddling with Woody since the beginning and has yet to break one.
You wanted to know if a good paddle is worth the money? Yes. I am not a hard-core paddler, but I am much more confident with a Woody because I know their reliability record. And I know that the guys who make them take pride in their work.