Ben or straight shaft paddle?

I have an ONNO straight shaft paddle for touring but I wanna pick up a 2nd paddle. What are some advantages / disadvantage of a bent shaft paddle…

Should i go for another straight shaft or try a bent one


a big fan
I am a big fan of bent shafts, owning a Werner Kalliste and a AT Xception. I don’t worry about advantages or disadvantages. The bent shafts just feel better and more natural to me. Different people will present various arguments for and against. Don’t pay any attention. Try one of good quality and see if you like it.

Both work
for me. I cut both in half then welded them back together. Now I have the best of both worlds and I can switch without having to put it down.

My opinion(s)…

– Last Updated: Jul-10-10 5:41 PM EST –

Though I've been a devoted GP user for the past 10 years, before that, I developed some opinions on the straight vs. bent shaft EP as well. In general, my vote is for the straight shaft. Here's why...

Perhaps not for all, but at least for many I've seen--including many I've known personally--their first impulse to try a bent shaft was inspired by, in my opinion, a misguided attempt to solve a problem caused by "improper" techniques with a bit of hardware. In doing so, also imposing unnecessary restrictions on their own stroke repertoire.

With a straight shaft, one can easily slide the hands along and around the shaft in various ways to instantly--and predictably--respond to particular conditions ("changing gears", adjusting leverage, adjusting blade angles, etc.). Not as easily accomplished with a bent shaft (especially if one has become used to the "ergonomic feel" of the bent shaft "default hand position").

The "ergonomic" argument made in support of bent shaft paddles seems to assume that a paddler will want to keep their hands in one position at all times (otherwise, any "ergonomic advantage" offered by the bent shaft is lost).

In most cases, I truly believe that if anyone is having problems with a straight shaft that they feel can only be solved by using a bent shaft, they're simply doing something wrong with their straight shaft technique. There may well be exceptions to this "rule" (some particular physical disability, perhaps), but when it comes to otherwise perfectly capable paddlers, I'd first look to refining one's techniques before trying to find a "hardware" solution to a "software" problem.

Beyond all that, with even greater enthusiasm--and for many, many reasons--I'm always happy to recommend a GP instead of either a straight or bent shaft EP! :)


Since you have an Onno…
contact Patrick and ask his opinion… I brought this topic up earlier in the year and Patrick’s advice dissuaded me from going to a bent…

I have to disagree with this - I think it’s incorrect to say that bent shaft paddlers are using them trying to makeup for poor technique. I’ve had a series of wrist injuries on both sides, and the paddle made a big difference. I use an AT bent shaft paddle and freely move my hands along it with no problems. The bend is in the right place for a straight touring stroke, but does not inhibit maneuvering strokes. I even removed the drip rings and de-feathered it, due to my own use of a GP about half the time. Making the ‘poor technique’ comment is only going to discourage people from trying a bent shaft, which might make a difference in paddling comfort. My wife, for instance, will only use the bent paddle, as it is easier on her wrists, so I’m happy I have a couple of GPs to fall back on.

I specifically used phrases like…

– Last Updated: Jul-10-10 6:56 PM EST –

..."Perhaps not for all...", and "In most cases...", and even mentioned "physical disability" (could also be interpreted as chronic problems due to injuries) as a possible exception to the "rule" I posited, so I do feel that I've adequately covered the caveat angle. Perhaps I should add that some just prefer one thing, and others prefer something else. Otherwise, I stand by my previous statements. :)

That said, I'm curious about your wife's situation...

You wrote: "My wife, for instance, will only use the bent paddle, as it is easier on her wrists".

Has your wife suffered any particular injuries, etc.? What are her specific complaints with regards to using a straight shaft? What is it, exactly, that makes the bent shaft "easier on her wrists"?

If anyone is to be concerned with wrist comfort, and wanting to avoid potential undue stress or injury to one's wrists, it's me, as I'm a musician first, paddler second. Don't you think that if technique had nothing to do with wrist comfort when considering the choice between bent or straight shaft paddles, my preference--and everyone else's--would be for a bent shaft as well? And yet it's not.


About "moving the hands"
I keep reading about “moving the hands” along the shaft. Wondering if that’s a misconseption…

In forward paddling one has pretty much very limited range where one would place their hands. So that does not count.

For control strokes, again, to have maximum power, one has to put the hands more or less where the bends are. Again - not much of a movement.

The only time one would move out of the bend seem is if one is doing an extended paddle brace or roll or something like that. In that case, the bend is not an obstacle either - one just slides to the straight part of the shaft as if the bend is not there.

Correct me if wrong though - the bent shaft I have I have not paddled much and I may as well be wrong. My mostly used paddles are a GP and a wing (straight shaft), so my bent shaft Lendal Kinetic is usually a spare or for travel.

From using the bent shaft (had an AT Xception once too), bent is actually very nice. The paddle just feels better planted and the hands are in a natural position without having to think about it too much. With a straight shaft it is easier to paddle “wrong” causing discomfort, where the bent shaft I think gives a bit wider margin of “error”.

I can’t make-up my mind about benefits/drawbacks enough to make a choice one way or another for me. I just happenned to come across a very good deal on the bent shaft Lendal and that’s why I have it. I’ve tried bent shaft Werner Cyprus and it too felt great in the hand but I have not paddled it enough to be able to tell how it feels.

Unless I spend many hours paddling intensively with the same paddle I can’t really tell if it is of any benefit over another paddle - in the first hour or two, unless there is something totally wrong or annoying in a particular paddle, most paddles feel fine to me…

Is a secret handshake required? Or…
…could you share with the rest of us–Onno paddle users or not–what Patrick told you? :slight_smile:


something to the effect of if one isn’t experiencing any pain or other problems, then going with a bent isn’t adventagous very often…

not all alike
One cannot accurately divide paddles into straight shaft and bent. My bent shaft Kalliste is very similar to a straight shaft Kalliste, and totally different from a bent shaft Lendal. My bent shaft AT is very different from the bent shaft Kalliste. My own opinion is that either the bent shaft AT or the bent shaft Kalliste is way more pleasant to paddle with than the Lendal. No comparison! But this is just personal preference.

My switch to bent shaft had nothing whatever to do with wrist problems. Never had any with either straight or bent.

I don’t know about advantages, but my rolls and braces are better with the bent shaft. Too much thinking and not enough trying it out.

Cut and paste from the old website.

Written about 7 years ago but still think its relevant.

Thoughts on Ergo or Bent Shafts ( bs )

O.k., I paddle alot and consider myself fairly sensitive to changes in equipment. I do not paddle multi day tours where the cumulative effects both positive and negative have more of a chance to build up. Many of my knowledgeable customers and I have put lots of miles on my prototypes and I know what I am going to build. The people who want the bent shaft who already have one of my other paddles want this new one strictly for long distance touring. They do not want to use the b.s.paddle for fast /long day paddles.

I talk to a lot of industry people and always ask for their opinion on the bent shaft, these are people who have been paddling a long time and can use any paddle they want. “What for?” is usually the answer. I think the paddling for a long time part has a lot to do with that answer, but many think Bent Shaft paddles only live up to their initials ( b.s.)… THEM… Not us.

I think the bent shaft paddle would shine on a long point a to b type trip or crossing where a joint problem may even be threatening. This is mere speculation on my part, I am buying into the hype that this paddle will minimize flare-ups. One thing I do know is I have been working with my hands my entire life with no problems other than elbows that rattle more than the spray can I might be shaking while my total keyboard time (as of today) is less than 48 hours in 38 years. I can honestly say that I truly sympathize for carpal tunnel sufferers…I really can feel some stiffness, right now! If this can come on so fast, I cannot imagine being forced to debilitate oneself just to pay rent. Or cross a blown out channel.

If the bent shaft paddle will prevent or lessen the chance of your being off the water, I’m all for it. If you like skillful finesse type paddling and you do not have any problems now or pending I would not fix what is not broken. The bent shaft paddle may take the ‘crispness’ off some of your best skills (for a while?) but you will be happy with it going straight. Like many things in life you may not love what you once did.

I do have plans to come out with a bent shaft paddle (bs) , but have been talking about it for almost 3 years now. Over 3 years ago I set out to sort of reinvent the wheel so to speak. I made up six different prototypes shafts some of them with two different configuations on them ranging from just under 3 degrees to 15, some with blade forward of shaft center axis , etc. and lent them out to the paddling community here in S.D. with comments and feedback welcome. A seventh paddle was also handed out as a sort of placebo and although folks also thought that one was different, it was identical to another one in the group which I thought was going to “win”.

After a almost a month, surprisingly, I got them all back. During this time I some how developed what I guess was some kind of tendonitis in both of my elbows… probably due to overwork and paddling. Paradoxically, those were the two things I could still do while without much pain while I was actually unable to lift a can of soda to drink from. Perfect time to really see how the ergo shafts work I thought. On to say, while I really liked the ergo shafts, I was not totally sold on them for everyday paddleing nor as the magic silver bullet they have long been touted to be in terms of instant relief for folks… I do feel they have a perfect spot for some people but most mixed styles paddlers would be better off with a standard straight shaft. I am not really down on them either. IMO for some paddling styles or at least certain parts of some paddling styles I think the ergo shaft is counter productive and may even make things worse for some people.

I - M - O On the catch phase they feel great for everyone as they do let a couple more fingers ( ring and pinky) get into the act. As the paddle comes aft my personal opinion is the shaft really makes things worse as ones (lower) wrist is now expected to go through a sort of contortion when the blade is ready to exit = not good. The higher the paddling style you use, the worse it gets. Same goes for the push hand as one gets less contact up here.

Again I - M - O I do feel that if a person has tried all other options (see below) and is still having trouble. By trouble I mean wrist and or lower arm pain, swelling, weird twinges, reoccuring type stuff or just not feeling right. I feel then that one might find relief by trying the following (within the paddle realm) not exactly in order.

  1. Switch to unfeathered. Especially if you paddle with a super low paddling style.
  2. At least try a super light, smooth (ONNO:) paddle.
  3. Try paddling strokes with more torso, less arm.
  4. Try above at a lower angle too.
  5. Try a smaller blade as the higher loads of your current ( bigger?) paddle might be causing something… or…
  6. Try a really big paddle which you can just set in water and pull on smoothly with a slower cadence because your current ( smaller?) paddle is having you turn a faster cadence than your joints are happy doing a 1,000,000 times.
  7. Try a properly sized bent shaft paddle

    One thing that really gets me is how the majors sell the one size fits all shafts. If you have to have one of these paddles make sure you measure your hand spacing on a paddle you like and then MAKE SURE your hands fall in the middle of the ergo section on the off the shelf bs paddle you buy… if not order a custom one. Tell them you want “X” hand spacing first and foremost then let them size the paddle from the middle out for your personal specs. THEN trim the outboard ends to size for overall length.

    On to say, i really tried to keep the “flat” or ergo area as large as possible in order to be able to slide ones hands around as much as possible while still keeping on the flat or intended grip area. Found lots of reasons why I could not go as big as I wanted… the need for subtle curves for strength instead of overbuilding the shaft ( heavy) with sharper radiai( sp?) for one, being able to accomodate a 31" C-C grip area but still having a 210 length being another…Our ‘flat’ area is still larger than any other manufacturer and this is real handy for sliding the paddle over for bracing, windshifts etc.

different stokes
Get one, learn to use it, then get the other and put the one you don’t like as much for that particular day on the deck.

has the best advice yet.

Ah,Watersprite…that’s what he said

sounds like…just another “Expert” book

– Last Updated: Jul-11-10 10:19 PM EST –

They're a dime a dozen since the "camcorder explorers" were born.

Good question

– Last Updated: Jul-11-10 11:44 PM EST –

Well, my wife did break a wrist a number of years back and it gets inflamed sometimes. The bent paddle reduces it dramatically. I think there is also the fact that the AT paddle is really light and I think the buoyant foam core probably helps too. I know the bends and the oval shaft also help with automatic indexing while paddling.

My wrist problems come from multiple breaks (both sides) and long term abuse from carpentry (hammers and screw guns). I will say that the AT bend feels different and more natural to me than the Werner paddle I tried - it is less extreme, and because of that I think more amenable to moving ones hands around. Some of the other bent-shaft paddles look way too bent to me. I guess we should admit that there are many different types out there, so our general arguments are just that - overly generalized. I don't doubt what you say that some people are buying bent shafts they don't need. I think there are also those who could benefit from a bent shaft who shouldn't be discouraged.

PS - having re-read Patrick's article below, I wonder how much of the positive effect of the bent shaft paddle may be due to the relatively low surface area of the AT blades, and their really nice shape that works so smoothly in the water.

Care to explain? (n/m)

IMO bent shafts are for people who have trouble using a straight shaft, for whatever reason. And perhaps racers?

I’d say if a straight shaft is working for you, stick with it. Your body is used to it, they weigh less and transfer power more directly.

Like my bent shaft
It’s a Lendal Kinetic.

It’s more stable during the pull of the forward stroke because the blade is behind your hand and thus is less subject to the forces that cause flutter.

Extending my hands during different paddle strokes is not a problem at all (extended paddle sweep stroke, sculling brace).

The one downside is that for the forward stroke, you are limited as to where you can place your hands. My paddle is a 215. This is the longest I would go as my boats are 21 and 22 inches wide and I like a high angle stroke. The problem is that my arms are unusually long (I’m 6’ and my wing span is wider than my 6’5" father-in-law) and I like a wider grip on the paddle. With a bent shaft I can’t get it. In order to gain the advantage of the bend you can only put your hands in one position.

Sounds like with an Onno you can get Pat to custom make the shaft (I’m assuming you’re talking about an Onno bent shaft if they make them) and avoid this problem. Otherwise be sure to try before you buy.