Bent or straight

Looking at Werners either a Kaliste or Camano. I am a beginner but looking for very light weight and am leaning to the Kaliste. Don’t know if I want bent or straight. Leaning toward a 230 based on the fitting profile. Help? Bent or strait?

actually it’s hard to suggest bent or straight.

It really depends.

If after paddling for a while (you say you are a beginner) with a straight shaft you notice that your wrists kind of hurt (tendinitis) maybe a bent shaft might fix the problem.

Occasionally the opposite can happen.

Most paddlers opt for the straight shaft and will swear by it.

Myself, I started with straight, had wrist problems and then went to bent.

Problems were gone.

Now it’s only bent (4 different Werners) and if occasionally I have to paddle with a borrowed straight shaft, after 20 miles I start to feel it.

no help
I think I am leaning to the bent for no good reason other than intuition. Is the straight more “adjustable for position” than a straight?

Bent or Straight Paddles

You need to define what kind of paddling you plan to do before a good answer can be given to your question. Generally speaking bent paddles are better for long distance paddling on lakes or Class I & II Rivers. Straight paddles are better for Rivers with Class III rapids or where manuevering your canoe is necessary. In strong winds and waves I also prefer a straight paddle to a bent paddle.

I carry as many as three paddles on extended trips with varying conditions. In conditions where I use a spray skirt on my canoe in big waves and wind I use a double blade kayak paddle. For multi day trips on big lakes or rivers of Class I-II I use a Black Wenonah Light Carbon Bent or a Bending Branches Beavertail Straight. On Class III rivers or on windy days on big lakes I use a Bending Branches Explorer Straight with a wide blade.

Many of the paddlers I know swear by Whiskey River paddles in both bent and straight models. They are wood combination paddles which match composites in some cases for weight. They are hand made and the owner will built special orders. They are on the expensive side starting at $170 on up. For looks they are a whole lot better than composite paddles.

Bending Branches Double Bend Viper has some backers, but it is a lot heavier than the composite models of other makers.

My suggestion is find an outlet which has different models and brands and put them in your hands and get a feel for each paddle. If possible try them out on the water. Go to one of the Canoe Paddle Days held by some of the manufacturers or stores, or ask other paddlers you meet if you could try out their paddles for a few minutes. Everyone I know carries at least one extra paddle on every trip.

Normally, a bent paddle will make paddling feel a whole lot easier on the body and will increase your speed through the water. A straight paddle will give you a feeling of greater control in tight areas needing turning. Good luck in finding a paddle you like.


I will be paddling a Chesapeake 17 which is almost finished after more than a year. Mostly calm river and the Mississippi Gulf Coast out about ten miles to our barrier islands. Some long cruises. Now leaning straight for the adjustment factor.

I have both…
A straight Camano and a bent Kaliste. I got the bent to relieve a tendon problem and it is my favorite paddle. I paddle with either shaft and after a few minutes I don’t notice a difference.

I prefer the Kaliste blade because of it’s smooth back which makes it much quieter in the water.

They are both a lower angle blades and unless you are very tall or have a very wide boat a 230 will be too long for you, try a 220 before buying one. Shops sometimes are out of 220s and will try to sell you a 230 which they have a hard time selling.


Kayak not canoe
I started paddling sea kayaks with a bentshaft/crankshaft/mule’sleg paddle because of the way the ergonomic advantages of the shaft were described to me and I had suffered carpal tunnel syndrome from building houses and playing drums in a blues band- not recommended for good wrist health. Paddled with the crankshaft for several years and discovered, as my skills developed, I wanted to reach along more of the paddle shaft to take advantage of leverage- with the crank my hand position was mostly predetermined by the bentdesign of the shaft. So I went to a straight shaft and feel much better with it because I can grip all over the place depending on what I’m trying to do. This gripping all over the shaft assumes you have a very relaxed and light grip on the paddle- if you are tense and concerned for your wrists, then learn with a bent shaft and, as your grip relaxes, go for straight- or go greenie. I was very conscious of protecting my wrists when I started, but as I relaxed that ergonomic design was no longer needed, in my opinion. Relaxing is what good paddling is all about. Cheers-------------

avoiding a $400 mistake
Good on you for starting out with a really nice paddle. I envy you that opportunity to start out right. But as a beginner contemplating a $400 purchase, I’d encourage you to do everything possible to make sure you’re getting something you’ll be happy with. That means trying some out, and maybe even getting some training first.

More important than bent or straight, IMO, is length and High or Low-angle style blade. Those are both Low angle, and IMO 230 is pretty long.

It may be that after paddling for a month or two and learning more about technique that you decide you really want a shorter paddle, or you prefer a higher-angle type of stroke. (My instructors are proponents of a 205 cyprus for everyone from small women, to fairly tall men.)

Maybe you’ve already got all this figured out, and if so, disregard my ramblings. Just thought I’d throw that out there in case you hadn’t considered it.

again thanks for help
Thanks for the responses. I am 6’4" and my kayak is 24" wide. The Werner recommended length is 230. Unfortunately there are no demo stores nearby so I am going to try to get it right the first time. I realize that this is an expensive shot but I want to do everything to make the sport enjoyable so I will stick with it.

Don’t do 230cm. Forget about what
the computer program is telling you. If you buy 230cm you will be just another of tens of thousands who has a 230cm paddle as a spare in their closet, only yours is carbon fiber. Get a dealer to let you demo a 210-220. I also use 205’s, so try that. I’m 6’2" so not little, either. Btw, if you think boat width is such a big deal, my whitewater boat is 26" wide and I use a 199cm. Go with a high angle paddle. You already have a low and slow angle.


bent or unbent
I have a 220 bent Kalliste. No wrist problems before and none after. The only reason to choose bent is that you prefer to paddle with bent. The only reason to choose straight is you prefer that. Don’t take anyone’s advice on this. There is no substitute for testing yourself.

I also have a bent shaft AT paddle. A straight shaft now feels awkward and unnatural to me. But I would never recommend either straight or bent. A strictly personal decision, like feather angle.

Likewise you should at least try the Kalliste in 220 before buying 230.

Loose grip
A loose grip goes a long way curing wrist issues. See Danny’s video on the Werner Website. Only my WW paddle is bent shaft.

I agree with others that 230 is almost certainly too long. I would look no longer than 220 and maybe shorter. Also I would look at a higher angle paddle like a Shuna, Cyprus, or Ikelos. Might as well start off right.

230 too long
I had the same width boat (24.5") and I’m 6.4. I had a 225cm AT2 Xception paddle - really nice but way too long, unless you hold it really-really low all the time (and that’s not what you want to do all the time). 220 was about right for some paddles, for others - 215cm.

It took me more than a year of paddling to figure out my length as my technique and use of the paddle evolved. I started with the 225 cm and quickly found it was too long for that particular paddle (I was using it as mid-high angle paddle and it behaved like a the equivalent of a 235cm low agnle paddle used at low angle due to its shape!). This same AT paddle paddle should have been 215 to be right for me in that boat.

Then I went to gradually shorter paddles where at one point I thought that as short as 210-212 would be good for a high angle paddle. I’ve been using the same adjustable 210-220 wing paddle since that time and now I am at a point where I feel I want at least 220cm and often feel the need to go to 225cm if I had it, even though my boats are 22" and 19" now. At the same time a Werner Ikelos I used briefly was fine at 215 cm, the Epic wing I use seems to be right at about 220cm at least.

Would be great if you can get yourself an adjustable length paddle from 215-225 or so, depending on model so that you can experiment with it.

In my personal experience the Epic paddle wizard on Epick’s web site gives a very good approximation of paddle length.

Finally, to confuse things, with a Greenland paddle (GP) I think 230cm seems to be fine for me. I’m surprised no one has mentioned that option yet :wink:

going to mention a Greenland paddle…but it’s a cult thing :slight_smile:

doesn’t come in bent style

Best wishes


for the poster…if you post where you live (general area) you might find someone nearby that has some other paddle options to try and give you a better idea… might even get to try a cult paddle

I prefer bent. I have an AT that is
really a great paddle. To me it is an ergonomic thing. I would test a few different configurations. I tested the AT once and bought it.


as a beginner
I couldn’t tell which “felt” better to me, or even if what felt better at that time meant anything, because I figured I had a lot of development to do with my forward stroke. I didn’t feel able to make good conclusions from demos, be it a paddle or a boat. I could tell differences, but wasn’t really aware what difference those differences would truly make as I developed as a paddler. Looking back, I’m always glad that I thought that way. So I definitely understand seeking the advice of paddlers in addition to demos. So for another opinion about straight or bent (or crank or whatever), I prefer straight for the same reason as others - I shift my hands to different positions on the paddle. It isn’t something I worked on, it’s just something that I started doing without really thinking about it over time. We know what causes most wrist problems, and we know what has to be done to avoid it. You keep your wrists in a neutral position, the paddle doesn’t. Don’t let your hand fluctuate from side to side and up and down as you paddle - keep your wrist and hand in straight alignment. Your ability to actually do that, and to pay attention to it when you start to feel something in your wrist, and make an adjustment to make the feeling stop, that I think will leave you more versatile with your paddle using a straight shaft. I’m sure some are more tolerant than others when it comes to wrist problems, but I would bet in most cases it’s more to do with the recognition of a need for adjustment, along with the know-how and willingness to make that adjustment, vs just paddling along until it becomes true pain, never really coming to that conclusion of taking the energy to make a change until it’s too late. I certainly would also acknowledge that a bent shaft may make the difference between an acceptable adjustment to keep the wrists neutral vs an unacceptable adjustment to keep the wrists neutral with a straight shaft for certain people. Although I can’t explain the reasons why that would be, I’m sure several exist. Either way, you will learn to use the one you end up with, become familiar with its characteristics and the advantages it offers, and I think you’ll find good paddlers using both types of shafts, and that says something.

From the whitewater peanut gallery…
I’ve used a crank shaft since 1989, with 75 degree feather, and I still prefer it. That paddle forced me to spread my hands more, which helped my style.

I have noticed that many very good slalom paddlers still use straight shafts. Scott Shipley used a straight shaft Werner throughout his racing career, though Werner was his sponsor and would have made him any sort of bent shaft he thought would confer an advantage.

Adjust your angle to about 30 degrees which reduces the amount of wrist action in your right hand thus reducing wrist problems.

bent is a sales gimick i think.

old mate eskimo didnt have a bent shaft

Just when I think I have an idea of which way to go a new post comes up. Can’t a Werner Kalliste, two piece , be cut down if 230 is too long? P.S. Now leaning towards straight.

Not all “bent” are the same

– Last Updated: Mar-11-09 11:18 PM EST –

I used an AT whitewater paddle with a bent shaft and 45 degree feather for a long time. Was very pleased with it. Others I tried were quite different in angle and hand placement. Now I have a Lendal bent shaft with variable feather. I prefer the Lendal to the AT and have moved to zero degree feather. I also have a Lendal bent shaft sea kayak paddle which I prefer to the Lendal straight shaft back up paddle I bought at the same time. But since I now use a GP most of the time for sea kayaking I find whether the shaft is bent (Lendal) or not (GP) does not make much of a difference. I prefer the GP for other reasons. Among the reasons for preferring a straight shaft, the assertion that you cannot move your hands around with a bent shaft is bogus. I move my hands around all the time. Most of the time I place them where it was intended. But it is easy to shift them if you need more power on one side or want do do an extended roll or brace. We are all different. And what we prefer changes over time. You really have no choice but to buy something, try other paddles, buy something else, and so on. Your paddle preferences will certainly change and probably never settle down unless you are not open to new ideas.