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Carbon fiber river canoe paddle?

I'm interested in trying a light carbon paddle, and Zaveral appears to be a common recommendation here, at least for bent shafts. However, given that I paddle lazy bony rivers at a leisurely pace, don't switch paddling sides and frequently kneel, I thought a straight shaft may be more useful to me. Not sure if small degree bents are worth the bother.

The (newer) straight Zaverals aren't liked nearly as much as the bents, though. As I understand it, the blade isn't centered on the shaft and flush with it on one but not the other side. I assume they simply aren't designed as straights.

Any recommendation on a straight carbon fiber paddle as good as Zaveral? Or maybe my beginning skills would just eat up an expensive paddle on the river and I should stick with my wooden straight.


  • If you're fit enough to paddle carbon...
    -- Last Updated: Feb-04-14 3:26 PM EST --

    a low-angle bentshaft will be fine. Sounds like the water is not an issue...but rock hits..y/n? I'm wondering...if the "leisurely pace" why the desire for a thinner, stiffer material(carbon)? If you don't use enough torso in the forward stroke motion you're going to feel the downside over time..regardless of material..but especially with carbon.
    Carbon's inherent stiffness lacks the shaft/blade flexing that's comfortable on one's elbows and shoulders...and picks up the vibration from a "hit" on rocks/stones..etc...but then I'm not overly muscular unless I spend more time with the bells. Not dissing it, if you think you WILL be doing some deeper, flatwater paddling...a bentshaft will be cool, but am skeptical where carbon will fit in with your regimen..$.01.

  • some to consider
    -- Last Updated: Feb-04-14 4:21 PM EST --

    Is your concern regarding straight shaft Zaveral paddles that they are not symmetrically shaped to allow palm rolling and free exchange of the power face with the back face, or that having a bit of a rib on one side of the blade will interfere with the slice of the paddle through the water during sculling, in-water recoveries, and such? If you are not necessarily looking for a symmetrical paddle, I find that having a flattened rib on the back face side of the blade need not necessarily render in water slicing of the paddle awkward. I have both a Werner Bandit and a ZRE Power Curve paddle constructed that way and they both slice just fine IMO. But I have never used one of the other straight shaft Zav paddles, so I can't comment there.

    Of course, a paddle with any degree of bend or elbow in the shaft will have a dedicated power face and back face. I know some paddlers who really feel that a bent shaft with an angle of 6-8 degrees offers an excellent compromise between forward stroke efficiency and overall stroke maneuverability and flexibility, especially if they alternate kneeling and sitting.

    If you are looking for a symmetrical straight blade paddle the options are more limited than they are for bent shafts. I have heard pretty good things about the Wenonah Blacklight Straight which comes with a T grip. The Wenonah site currently shows this paddle only available in up to 54" overall length but some vendors show it available in up to 56" length:




    Grey Owl used to import a very nice carbon version of their Freestyle model paddle. I don't think it has been available for some years but if you can get by with a 54" paddle, this vendor claims to still have one:


    This vendor has carbon fiber, foam core straight shaft version of Grey Owl's Raven paddle available with either T grip or palm grip in 54 and 56" length, and T grip in 58" length (scroll down to see):


    It is not really a carbon paddle since it has a laminated wood shaft and a cedar core blade, and as a result it is considerably heavier than a carbon, foam core paddle, but a lot of people really seem to like the Mitchell Surreal and it comes in up to 63" length:


  • I never held a ZRE paddle,
    but I remember unfavorable comments regarding the offset blade (flush on one side, indented on the other). The offset blade must have to do with how they manufacture the bents, maybe, but it's not by design. At that price point, I was hoping for something without that oddity, which seemed to at least irritate several members.

    Thank you for the recommendations. I like the Wenonah and Grey Owl Raven, but they don't quite approach Zaveral weight. My current paddle is 20oz.

    I now understand why the consistent recommendation for people wanting to go fast or far is Zaveral. Obviously no one else reaches their weights.
  • Carbon is not inherently stiff. If one
    orders from an intelligent maker like Mitchell, one can get very nice flexibility, and longevity. My carbon shaft Mitchell is about 18 years old. I also have a Clinch River paddle with a carbon/Kevlar shaft that is reasonably flexible.

    We really need to get over the stiff carbon shaft myth. What do they make pole vaulting shafts out of?
  • I made a 5 degree bent shaft
    with an ash shaft that is a bit superior to my Mitchell slalom paddle for straight-ahead cruising. But it is much heavier than the Mitchell, and lacks the Mitchell's neutral handling for compound maneuvering strokes.

    I'm not sure if a Mitchell carbon slalom paddle would get down to 20 ounces, but you can ask them. I saved a bit of weight by asking for ash blade edging instead of glass rope.

    If you get a carbon shaft, ask them to put about 18" of vinyl shrink-down tubing over the shaft. Saves wear and nicks that might cause the carbon to snap under heavy load.
  • I hate the T-grip on the Wenonah's.
    Especially when wearing gloves - it catches in the web of the thumb.
  • what would be your estimation of the
    -- Last Updated: Feb-05-14 6:10 AM EST --

    percentages of carbon to kevlar?
    To the OP, Mitchell's Touring and Seneca are two okay wooden paddles. Rather inexpensive for good paddles and can be seen, once in a while, in the Monthly Special listing. One can always sand down the polyeth and bulbous bulk that present in some wooden paddles, especially the edges and often the throat...then thinly epoxied...adding a little stiffness...fwiw.

  • 5*
    -- Last Updated: Feb-05-14 9:15 AM EST --

    I like the idea of a low angle bent shaft, like 5* or so, as others have mentioned. It might be the best of both worlds in this case. Also, Zav offers a flex shaft if you want a less rigid feel. I think you just have to ask for it in the comments section, or call ZRE and bob can advise you on your options. He's a good guy.

    I have 3 Zav's and highly recommend them to everyone with the money to burn. You'll never regret a carbon paddle.

  • I now use two ZRE's for everything
    -- Last Updated: Feb-05-14 9:24 AM EST --

    After many decades of wood and then hybrid paddles, I now use one bent and one straight Zav for everything.

    One exception: for real whitewater I'd use my old wooden Mitchells, but I hardly ever run real whitewater any more.

    I'm 90% a kneeling paddler and 90% of that time using single-sided correction strokes. I probably use the 48.5" bent 90% of the time on lakes and easy rivers. That's the carbon paddle I got first and would still get first.

    I've had a 57" ZRE straight for three years. It has the offset blade, which does not flutter or bother me in the least. It's good length for bumpy water, reach and control strokes, but a little long for repetitive forward stroking on flat water.

    I managed to get a symmetrical Barton carbon grip for my ZRE straight, but the last I heard all the current ZRE grips are now the same asymmetrical ones as on their bents. That would bother me somewhat, as it would be a little less smooth to palm roll, but others such as Harold Deal use it that way. You could make, or have made, a symmetrical wooden grip.

    I find the standard ZRE carbon shaft to be too stiff and returned my first bent partly because of that issue. Both of my ZRE's now have the flexible shaft option, which has some linear fiberglass inside the shaft and is slightly heavier.

    If you use a carbon paddle on bony rivers you might consider the whitewater blade, which I have on my straight and which also adds a little weight.

    I wouldn't spend ZRE money on an intermediate bend shaft. 12 degree bends have been settled on now by canoe racers and cruisers as the most efficient angle. Outrigger paddlers have also settled around 11-12 degrees. You also can do all flat water freestyle control strokes with a 12 degree bent. I invert the paddle for side slips and bow jams (wedges).

    As for the ZRE Power Curve, it's very nice, but I would only consider it if I was again running a lot of heavy whitewater. It's too big and powerful a blade for flat water and not all that light. I prefer my original wooden Blackburn Lutra if I want to go to that big-bite a blade on flat water.

  • Flex shaft
    Glenn, I saw in an earlier post that you found the flex shaft too flexy in your straight shaft when you first got it. What do you think now?

    I swear I saw the flex shaft options on the ZRE website last night for some models, but today I no longer seem to be able to find it.
  • Not too flexy
    Perhaps I voiced concern before I got the straight shaft that it might be too flexy at the relatively long 57" length. (The shaft is long because the blade is ZRE's relatively bottom heavy tulip shape, or whatever they call it.)

    Having used it for three years, I like the flex. Sort of like a solid wood shaft of about the same length and diameter. Racing types or people who want every gram of force for efficiency may want the stiffest possible shafts, but not my old and slow shoulders.
  • Not sure what you need to know, but
    ww paddles reinforced only with Kevlar were a disaster, because Kevlar has crappy compression strength. Kevlar should be used mainly where strength in tension is important. Though brittle, carbon can supply strength in tension where needed in a paddle, and provides great strength in compression as well. I'm not sure why anyone chose to include Kevlar in carbon/Kevlar paddle shafts, because every bit of Kevlar subtracts from compresssion stength on the concave side of a stressed shaft.
  • Glenn, for kneeling, a five degree
    bent shaft angle is best for forward paddling.

    The twelve degree angle used in marathon racing and for sitting hit-and-switch simply does not apply for kneeling. Five degrees is consistent with optimum catch and no-J-stroke paddling.

    People seem to adapt to kneeling with 12 degree bents, but physics is physics. AND a five degree paddle can be managed rather like a zero degree.

    Silver Creek offered a three degree ww paddle, late in their life. Roger Nott has one. And hidden in the blade mount and geometry of my Mitchell slalom is a bit of "trail" which makes it feel like a 3 degree bent, while it handles near neutral for maneuvers.
  • Composite Straight Shaft Paddle
    -- Last Updated: Feb-06-14 5:21 AM EST --

    With dual power face (front or back) with razor thin edge by Patrick Moore. Simply exquisite for the kneeling canoeist who paddles only on one side.

  • My feeling is
    that if you are paddling bony rivers all the time and at a quite pace you probably have little need for a carbon paddle and in all probability you will beat the s**t out of it in short order anyway. I use a Zav bent shat all the time but the environment you describe is one situation when I would leave my Zav in the car. I do not baby my Zav either. I use it regularly on trips and in whitewater. But slow and bony rivers? Nope.
  • No longer made or available.
  • My feeling is pretty much the same
    but I generally try to avoid telling people they really don't want what they want.

    But a very lightweight carbon paddle would probably not be my first choice either. A paddle like the ZRE Power Surge really shines for paddlers using a high cadence or going long distances. But I will admit that a featherweight paddle can become quite addictive no matter what type of paddling you do.

    Having said that, I will point out that all ZRE paddles are made in three parts (grip, shaft, and blade) so it is possible to replace a damaged or badly worn blade (although it is not cheap). I don't know how the durability of ZRE's bent shaft Power Surge and FW-Z paddles compares to that of my ZRE Power Curve paddle, but I so use the Power Curve in whitewater and it has held up to some pretty good knocks so far.

    As g2d points out, if you anticipate spending most of your time kneeling, you will be better served bio-mechanically with either a straight shaft paddle, or one with considerably less angulation at the elbow than the typical 12 degree bents that marathoners and racers use. Those guys are always seated. When paddling from a kneeling position you can plant your stroke farther forward, and it is desirable to do so.
  • I had similar doubts
    However, I thought light weight is nice no matter what. I like to go down the river for 2-3 days and do have to paddle through some longer stretches of pools. But, I'll admit that I may encounter submerged rocks all of a sudden.

    While the ZRE paddles are racing paddles, people seem to enjoy their lightness even in non-racing contexts.
  • Carbon paddles can be ok going down
    bony rivers. I use carbon ZRE paddles pretty much 100% of the time on the central IL bony rivers & streams. The edge will get nicked & scratched when contacting rocks, but won't likely break unless it gets wedged or is used like a crow bar. I haven't severely damaged a ZRE going downstream, but I don't do whitewater.

    Going upstream in a bony river is another matter. In just one upstream venture that lasted about an hour last summer, I really abused the edge of my ZRE Medium straight shaft paddle. Very disappointing.
  • During most of its life, my Mitchell has
    been used on rivers that are often shallow and rocky. Same for my similar Clinch River. Both have carbon shafts. The Mitchell's blade is glass faced, the Clinch River has carbon facing. The Mitchell is well over 15 years old and is not in need of any maintenance, though one can see that it has been used. The Clinch River has the carbon fibers worn off the bottom part of one side of the blade.

    I know I'm easier on paddles than most, but that's not because I paddle deep, muddy rivers. Sophisticated ww paddles can last a long, long time, in the environment for which they were designed.
  • That's Sad?
    You mean no one makes composite canoe paddles with identical and symetrical front and back power faces anymore? That's too bad, for the convenience of being able to use either the front or back of the blade equally sure saves a lot of time and effort doing various maneuvers where the canoe responds almost instantly. Certainly, maybe, those freestyle paddlers might use them?
  • +1
    ....Hope it's just a temporary lull, butttt....things are really getting consolidated in the paddling world.
  • Meaning nobody makes Pat Moore Ques.
  • Sure...I have one
    and I use it primarily for FreeStyle. I also am always on the lookout for another for a price that my meager budget allows. Pat Moore had a tough time making much of a profit for those fantastic one-piece paddles. Most paddlers are not willing to spend $400 plus for a paddle, so the limited paddle market tends to go where the demand and the dollar intersect.
  • There are a couple
    which I mentioned earlier in this thread, to wit:


    and the Grey Owl Raven listed on this page:

  • Those are the same paddle.
  • Disagree about low degree bent; cue
    My disagreement in this post has nothing to do with measurements or bio-mechanics, which I will accept if data are available, but simply with my own personal preferences paddling on my knees with many, many bent shaft paddles since 1982.

    I have bents of various degrees: 2.5, 5, 10, 12, and 15 -- with a variety of blade shapes and curves. I also have a Mitchell double bend, 8 deg. on top and 15 deg. on bottom. I don't know if that means this is equivalent to a 7 degree single bend. I doubt it, as the mechanical differences are more than just the bend angles.

    In a very real sense, the angle of bend does not matter much to ME for MY type of paddling, which is medium speed cruising on my knees about 90% of the time. All the bents work for forward strokes and the usual (fairly trivial) turning strokes on flat water. For maneuvering in rapids, I much prefer a straight shaft, though I have done long class 3-4 runs -- e.g., the Hudson from Newcomb to North Creek -- with a 15 degree wooden bent shaft. All the paddles are "doable", and I find that I can quickly adjust my personal bio-mechanics.

    My long-evolved and current preference for FORWARD stroking, on both knees and while seated -- FOR ME -- are my higher degree bends, the 10-15 degree ones. The 12 degree ZRE now seems just right for any paddling posture.

    Much to my wooden traditionalist horror, I found that the ZRE's light weight trumped all other considerations once I started using them. I also like the efficiency and power of the ZRE blade shape. It became intolerable to pick up one of my wooden straights after paddling mostly with the 12 degree ZRE Power Surge 8.75" bent, so I bought a companion ZRE 8.75" straight. However, I wanted a symmetrical blade for palm rolling the straight, so I got a Z-WW blade for that.

    BTW, Pat Moore propels a canoe with a cue not a que.

    Patrick Onno once volunteered here to clone in carbon any wooden paddle sent to him. I don't know if that offer is still open.

  • Grey Owl Raven
    The webpage the second link directs to has (in addition to carbon Wenonah paddles) a Grey Owl Raven paddle.

    Scroll down farther.
  • They used to have a carbon straight
    shaft identical to Wenonah's.

    Now, it appears, they just have the bent shaft.

  • It's mostly personal preference
    -- Last Updated: Feb-07-14 5:57 PM EST --

    For forward stroke efficiency much of the advantage of a bent over a straight shaft paddle is that the stroke can be taken closer back toward the hip without "lifting water" at the end of the stroke.

    The further forward of the paddler's hips the stroke can be taken and completed the less paddle elbow angle is required to keep the blade face within 10 or so degrees of vertical. Kneeling paddlers are typically able to utilize more torso rotation to plant the paddle further forward of the hip, so they can get by with a straight shaft or a bent with less angle.

    The majority of marathon paddlers and racers utilize torso rotation more effectively, keep their torsos upright and weight forward and their strokes shorter and like bents with around 12 degrees of angulation. Recreational paddlers are often a bit more relaxed (read slouched), planting the paddle not as far forward, and bringing the stroke farther back and some of them prefer bents with something like a 14 degree angle.

    There are a couple of other advantages to bent shaft paddles compared to straights. The bent shaft allows the shoulders to stay a little lower at the plant and the grip hand arm can be a little straighter so that the top arm can be in an ergonomically better position to pull. The more angulation at the elbow of the paddle shaft the easier it is for the blade to clear the gunwales when swinging it across the boat when paddling sit and switch, which is basically what marathon paddlers, flat water, and down river racers all do.

    Many (not all) individuals find that doing J strokes with a bent shaft of 12 degrees or greater puts more stress on the wrists. Many also find bent shaft paddles more difficult to use with in-water recoveries. Nearly everyone finds some loss of efficiency doing lateral draws and sculls with bent shaft paddles as opposed to straight shafts.

    I tried David Yost's custom ZRE Power Surge a few years back, which I believe was a 7 degree (could be wrong). But David likes to kneel. He found that to be the best compromise for himself. I have heard a few individuals recommend using a 12 degree bent for the bow partner and a 7 degree bent for the stern partner in tandem canoes if the stern plans to control using J strokes.

  • The best thing about more angle for
    kneelers is it helps keep them from falling forward on their faces at the catch.

    Interpersonal abuse aside, I find that adding just 5 degrees of "bent" is exactly right for slipping the blade in neatly and taking a firm catch, so I can feather the blade out to the side as it passes my hip, and skip J stroking.
  • Pblanc, could you clarify
    Nice overall summary, but this one sentence confuses me:

    "The bent shaft allows the shoulders to stay a little lower at the plant and the grip hand arm can be a little straighter so that the top arm can be in an ergonomically better position to pull."

    Since I can happily paddle from my knees with a straight or a 15 degree bent, I have no disagreement with anyone who prefers an angle somewhere in between.

    The J is less effective with a bent than a straight shaft, unless the bent has a curved blade as many of mine do. The answer is not to use the J. Who likes it anyway, regardless of paddle? Use some combination of C, Canadian and pitch strokes with an emphasis on the component of the stroke that is forward of the hull's longitudinal center of buoyancy. (This assumes a centralized solo seat.)

    Sideways maneuvers and Duffek pivots are more effective with a long straight paddle, especially when crucial in whitewater, but inverting a short bent shaft can give nice results in flat water for side slips, draws and bow jams.
  • I'm not sure I can explain well
    I find that with a straight shaft paddle I need to lift the blade higher at the end of the recovery and start of the plant than with a straight shaft paddle. Of course, a big part of this is because my bent shaft paddles are typically 4" shorter on average than my straights.

    But I think the same is true even for paddles with the same overall length. I seem to recall seeing a website with some excellent graphics demonstrating the biomechanical differences between straight and bent shaft paddles somewhere but I don't recall where.

    As for the top arm being less flexed with a bent shaft, imagine 2 paddles, one straight and one bent shaft with the blades entering at the same angle to the water at the plant, say 10 degrees off plumb. Because of the angulation on the shaft the grip on the bent shaft will be further forward relative to the blade than it would be if the shaft were straight.
  • I think I understand
    When you say the top arm is in a "better position to pull", you don't mean you are pulling the paddle with your grip arm. You mean you're grip arm is in a better (extended) position when you pull on the paddle with your shaft arm (plus torso).

    Actually, I push downward on my bent shaft with my grip arm as I pull with my shaft arm. I can do that because the paddle is so short, which in your description allows the shoulder to be lower.

    I also accompany this top arm down-push with more of a stomach crunch than a torso twist. I see pictures of top racers doing the same thing. Torso rotation, in my opinion, is a torsionally tortured concept -- but I'm getting too far afield from the carbonization of the canoe world.
  • There's a push-down component
    with slalom racers also. And there are things going on with the shoulder girdle moving over the top of the torso.

    I've found that torso twist is not extensive when the stroke is ended around the hip. There definitely is a twist, and a downward flexion, and something going on with the shoulder girdle. I think that exaggeration of any of those components is inefficient, just as exaggeration of arm push/pull is inefficient.

    When you watch Bob Foote demonstrating torso rotation, you have to remember that there's no way he can rotate like that with his short stroke. Not enough time or space.
  • Yes Glenn and Gary
    -- Last Updated: Feb-08-14 3:10 PM EST --

    I agree with both of you. The semantics pertaining to the biomechanics of the forward stroke is kind of tricky. Terms such as push or pull usually grossly oversimplify or misrepresent what is actually going on.

    I cannot find the site with the graphical depictions of the forward stroke I alluded to earlier. Perhaps I saw this in a video. In searching for it I came across a couple of other sites, one of which I had seen in the past. (Warning: some of this stuff is rather arcane and most people will probably wish to scroll on. What follows is intended for the certifiable.)

    Here is an author who compares stroke mechanics with straight shaft and bent shaft paddles and makes a case for the 7 degree bent:

    I don't care much for his diagrams but it so happens that he uses language similar to what I did when he describes the straight shaft paddle in comparison to the bent shaft and says:

    "Because the straight shaft paddle does not clear the body of a paddler like a bent shaft paddle does, the paddle-swinging dynamics change. The paddle gets lifted higher into the air before it's dunked in the water. Then, as it is pulled through the water by the blue arm, the green arm ends up actually pushing forward. This makes the blue arm point of contact act like a fulcrum or the "pivot point on a see-saw"."

    As the diagrams show, the "blue arm" represents the shaft arm and the "green arm" the grip arm.

    Years ago, Harry Roberts described the forward stroke thus:

    "At entry the upper arm cocks rearward as if preparing to throw a jab. Simultaneously, the lower arm reaches forward while the torso rotates to increase the reach
    of the lower arm. From this paddle entry position, the upper arm thrusts forward, the lower arm pulls rearward, and the torso rotates back to the neutral position. During the lower arm's pulling phase, the elbow remains straight and rigid."

    I think most competitive paddlers have rejected this bottom arm straight and rigid style of paddling. I still hear people talking about the top arm punching forward from time to time.

    I think this piece gives a much more accurate description of the forward stroke:


    Notice that George Arimond advocates maintaining a bend in the lower arm elbow at approximately 140 degrees throughout the power phase of the stroke. So the bottom arm does not really flex during the power phase, but it is not maintained in full extension.

    As for the top arm, George says:

    "The top arm (i.e. the arm holding the top grip) moves with the bottom arm, but instead of pulling it presses in a forward/downward arc (see Figure 1)."

    So he doesn't describe the top arm as either pushing or pulling but "pressing" forward and downward.

    As for the thing I mentioned about not having to lift as much at the plant with a bent shaft paddle, take a look at Figure 1 in that last link which depicts the "Preparatory Position", the part of the stroke just before the paddle enters the water. The author points out that at this position the paddle shaft will be angled backwards from the horizontal about 40-50 degrees with a straight shaft paddle, but about 52-62 degrees with a 12 degree bent.

    Sit in your chair and imagine yourself getting ready to plant the blade of a 12 degree bent shaft paddle. Put your arms and hands in that position. Now imagine planting the blade of a straight shaft paddle of about the same length, with the blade entering the water at the same angle and do the imaginary adjustment of your arms and hands that is necessary considering that the paddle shaft is now going to be angling back toward you by 12 additional degrees.

    For me that involves increasing the flex in the grip arm elbow and moving both hands back toward my trunk, but also upwards, the grip hand much more than the shaft hand. That is what I meant by having to lift the straight shaft paddle more at the plant.

    The article by George Arimond is actually based on a graduate research paper he did for Bemidji State University (where else?) back in 1980:


    He filmed 3 top marathon canoe racers with markers placed on their joint centers at wrists, elbows, shoulders, center point of head, and center point of torso. A stop action projector was used to project still frame images onto a computer digitizer tablet. I imagine that computer graphics capabilities have advanced a bit since 1980.

    There were some interesting findings. Although there were more similarities than differences, he found significant variations in body mechanics from paddler to paddler, and even in the same paddler from paddling side to paddling side.

    I reread this and will summarize some of his findings that I thought were significant.

    1. For each paddler the in-water phase was about 60% of the total stroke duration, and the out-of-water phase about 40%.

    2. During the in-water phase there was an axis of angular rotation or "pivot point" at the interface of the water surface and the throat of the paddle. The paddle shaft rotated forward and the paddle blade backward relative to this pivot point during the power stroke.

    3.During most of the power phase this pivot point remained stationary relative to the camera and shore as the boat moved past it. But the pivot point actually moved forward relative to the shore somewhat at the start of the in-water phase, and slightly backward at the end. The fact that the pivot point moved forward somewhat during the plant argues that competitive paddlers do not load the paddle until the blade is fully immersed.

    4. During the preparatory phase of the stroke the top forearm of the paddlers was extended to within 25 degrees of full extension. During the power phase the upper arm forearm showed a very gradual extension until reaching the end of the in-water phase. But there was significant fluctuation in this extension pattern, especially in the middle 40% of the in-water phase, and it showed no consistent comparative pattern test subjects or strokes. Moreover, one test subject when paddling on the left side (but not the right) demonstrated flexion of the upper arm forearm during the first part of the in-water phase, followed by extension in the latter part of the phase.

    5. The paddlers all had some degree of lower forearm flexion at the preparatory phase, typically with the forearm at 155-170 degrees (10-35 degrees of elbow flexion). The lower forearm flexed further during the in-water phase by a mean of 43 degrees, so the paddlers typically ended the in-water phase of the stroke with the lower forearm at around 120 degrees on average. (Note that this finding is somewhat contradictory to the advice given by George Arimond in the prior link.) But again there was significant fluctuation of this lower elbow movement during the middle 40 percent of the in-water phase with no consistent comparative pattern of this fluctuating movement between strokes.

    6. (This is I think the most significant finding.) At the preparatory phase the top upper arm was extended above the shoulder girdle and the bottom upper arm was at or below shoulder level. From this preparatory position both upper arms began flexion which continued throughout the in-water phase.

    "The top and bottom upper arm movement was almost identical between subjects during the in-water phase, especially during the middle 40 percent of the water phase which provides greatest leverage for the paddle blade. Remember that during this middle 40% of the water phase there were significant variations in the manner in which the paddlers were extending or flexing their forearms.

    7. All of the paddlers demonstrated some degree of torso rotation away from the paddle side and slight forward flexion of the trunk at the preparatory phase. The degree of torso rotation at the preparatory phase was observed to vary between paddlers. At the preparatory phase the upper shoulder was elevated and the lower shoulder depressed.

    8. During the in-water phase the thorax rotated back toward the paddle side. The trunk flexed forward during the first 10-30% of the in-water phase, then extended until reaching approximately mid-air phase. But the subjects demonstrated considerable variation in the trunk flexion/extension movement. Mean degree of trunk flexion during the initial water phase was 9 degrees with 19 degrees of trunk extension occurring during the rest of the water phase and beginning of the in-air phase. During the latter part of the in-air phase the trunk flexed back to the starting position.

    9. Movements of the head/neck were always opposite those of the trunk and seemed to initiate movements of the trunk, but there was considerable variation in movement patterns between individuals.

    In his conclusion, George Arimond makes the following arguments:

    "The uniform flexion of the upper arms was one of the most significant findings of this research. The importance of this movement is recognized in the fact that it occurs when the paddle blade is in a position to exert maximum leverage on the water. It was further noted that the upper arms showed the greatest degree of movement. Considering this large degree of movement and the paddle blade's maximum leverage angle, it is reasonable to suggest that the upper arm exerts the greatest leverage on the paddle. Movement within the trunk allows the upper arms to achieve a maximum range of flexion as well as maximum leverage. As the water phase beings, the trunk flexes, which assists the upper arms in submerging the paddle blade. As the paddle blade becomes submerged, the trunk extends, which allows the upper arms to continue flexion without uselessly submerging the blade deeper. The torso rotation and the shoulders' return action also aid the upper arm."

    So although you could argue that the upper arm is "pushing" and the lower arm is "pulling" it seems that the most important driver of the stroke is the powerful upper arm flexion on the trunk, coupled with movements of the trunk (both rotational and flexion/extension) arcing the paddle shaft forward and downward while rotating the blade backward around a pivot point near the water's surface.

    We think of the paddle shaft and paddle blade moving backward during the power phase but in reality what is happening during the power phase after the blade is fully immersed at the plant is that we are imparting a powerful angular rotation around an axis near the paddle throat as the boat moves past that axis (or pivot point). The motion of the paddle blade is more like that of a paddle wheel steamer with only one paddle blade than a blade being pulled back through the water.

    And the upper arm motion during the paddle stroke is nothing like a jab or a rapid "thrusting forward" of the upper arm. In a jab the forearm is rapidly extended while the upper arm is simultaneous extended, rather than flexed.

  • Amen...You nailed it...
    For as my canoe guru, Patrick Moore, would remind me many many years ago (back in the days of long sleeve silk shirts): "the purpose of the top arm is to move the bottom arm forward."
  • Seems neither redrock nor Arimond
    deals with paddling while kneeling. I can apply most of what Arimond says to kneeling with a straight, or straigter, paddle shaft. I wonder if having a very long torso (me) affects optimum paddle shaft angle when kneeling. Five degrees is fine for forward stroking, but I can't see going higher than that. A more compact paddler might be more efficient, kneeling, with a 7 degree, or a bit higher.

    Redrock's diagram shows an exaggerated version of a sitting stern paddler using a straight shaft. Kneeling in a tandem, one can use the same sort of shortened, firm catch, early feather stroke as works so well for solo paddling. One *will* have to J, but not the sort of trailing J shown by Redrock, which is more like a rudder stroke. The J should be done when the paddle shaft is passing through vertical. (I need to practice this. I don't paddle stern often anymore, and I don't J much paddling solo.)
  • Lutra from Curtis Canoe (then)
    I have a much sought after Lutra with a 5 degree bend that an amazing person(Tony Fig) sold to me to compliment the Sawyer Autumn Mist that I was paddling with his wife and him at the time. It's a great paddle but it has a HUGE blade. I had Zaveral make me a paddle with the same 5 degree bend with one of his widest blades available(a much smaller blade area than the Lutra). I have loaned this paddle to others on group paddles for short times and have noticed both kneelers and sitters really LIKE the 5 degree bend as well as the exteme LIGHT WEIGHT! You can't go wrong with Zav.... You just have to figure out what you want .....
  • Its funny -
    you guys are all over the light and bent graphite craze (I've been there too and I do love my ZRE) and here I am having a wood canvas tripping canoe built and thinking about ordering a couple of beaver tail paddles from Shaw and Tenney. Funny how our interests evolve. Seems I'm going backwards.
  • Nothing wrong with going back to
    "Canadian" paddling style and corresponding equipment. If we're not trying to cover water like marathon paddlers, I wonder whether the Canadian style isn't very relaxing and efficient.

    I have a 60" Nashwaak paddle with a long blade, and I'll admit that it didn't feel right at all when I first tried it, but it's a respected "Omer Stringer" style paddle, and if I keep at it, it should start to feel right.

    Have to get a proper boat to go with it though, like a wood-canvas Prospector.....
  • All the Way Back to ZRE Pizza Paddle
    Blades? Remember all carbon Barton paddles and Black Barts? Should be able to find used ones around? Sold the 8 inch wide Black Bart, but still got the ball cap and t-shirt. Any offers? Sorry, won't part with them yet.
  • That's Why I Like Dual Face Paddles
    Where you can use the front face exactly like the back power face, especially when doing wet recoveries.
  • T&Ss are a pretty dense 1piece rpg51
    .....for a wood paddle....fwiw.
  • By dense - you mean
    heavy? Do you know other builders of very traditional wood paddles?
  • Tremolo Paddles
    Caleb Davis has been making handcrafted wood paddles for more than 20 years. Typically finished with a fine knife edge, they slice effortlessly through the water. Caleb lives in the town of Long Lake, NY.

  • Unbelievable!
    SUP paddle with "two power faces?" That's wonderful, thanks for the link.
  • No, not really weight(although a little)
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-14 1:18 PM EST --

    They're excellent paddles but...depending on how aggressive your "pull" is..in conjunction to what one's physical makeup is, they can be a little on the "stiff" side for some of us on the lighter-build.
    In a little contrast to T&S...Redtail and GreyOwl are two companies that are 2nd to none..(just imho..others online can vouch for)....and those ~5deg-bent companies should be acknowledged, to at least looked at...a great degree of it is personal preference geared with one's physical makeup..
    Capitalism at its Finest...




  • I see what you are saying -
    I love my ZRE for lightness when paddling long hours - but I also like the stiff and beefy S&T traditional paddles. Hard to explain. A friend has a Grey Owl and it is a very nice paddle but not really a traditional paddle.
  • Which Gray Owl does your friend have
    that's not really a traditional paddle?

    I Have the Chieftain and I think a Sagamore and they are pleasant to paddle with when I'm going for aesthetics and am paddling water deep enough to submerge them all the way. The Chieftain is a bit larger blade than my joints & muscles like to use for too long.

    For most of my paddling I'm using either a bent or straight ZRE Medium and haven't found anything I prefer over them.
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