Bent Shaft Canoe Paddles

Pretty new to canoeing and paddling solo. Have a few questions about bent shafts.

right now I paddle a straigh 56. if I get a bent shaft should it be one size smaller…a 54?

I paddle using a J stroke and prefer to kneel. As I understand the bent shafts are more intended for the sit and switch style. Does this mean they require less correction and tend to cause you to track straighter than a straight shaft, or just that they suck for the J stroke?

Does this also mean that they are more optimized for sitting rather than kneeling?

If I use a 56 when kneeling would I then maybe want to go with a 56 bent shaft when sitting given that I would assume you want a little longer paddle when you are sitting vs. kneeling?

thanks for your help


Well I went further down
from a 54 to a 49.5. It depends on the shaft length of the particular paddle (not LOA) and your seat height.

dont mean to be ad nauseum as I have written this before but the best measurement is to sit in your boat with ruler and hold it as best as you can like a paddle so it goes from your nose along your hip to the water. Note the measurement…Then I would call the mfr to find out the correct length paddle to order as they would know the shaft measurements of each paddle…the various angles of blades can confuse things.

Bet this is clear as mud…sorry.

Js are more awkward with a bent due to the dedicated grip. Not impossible. No bent shaft paddles do not self correct…that would be a for sure revolution.

Yes more optimized for angle for sitting. Not impossible for kneeling but you may have to pay attention to blade approach angle as you hit the water and leave the water.

For sitting in my Bell Magic
I use a 52" bent and a 56" straight. Always sit in this boat.

For comparison, when kneeling in a WW boat I use either a 58" or a 60".

For me the sit-in-a-chair-and-measure technique yielded a shaft length that was two inches too short. YMMV.


Going Bent
Once you get used to the bent shaft, you’ll rarely go back to straight. It’s biggest advantage is its efficiency. Once you get comfortable with it, you can simply paddle longer with less fatigue.

I’ve used mine for many years and I use it sitting, standing & kneeling. I used it “sit 'n switch” when paddling with my wife, but can paddle for hours with it on one side only. A correcting stroke is a little flick of the wrist, but mind you, I paddle a Prospector which is a very responsive boat. I’ve also continued to shorten the shaft length over the years as I’ve become more comfortable with it.

To sum up, I would highly recommend a quality bent shaft e.g. Zaveral, but be prepared to be quite awkward for a while as you become acustomed to it in different circumstances. It may take a full season of paddling before you truly get the hang of it.

my experience
You can use a bent shaft when kneeling. You just have to adjust your technique a little bit. And it is still faster than a straight shaft if your technique is good.

Like Eric said, part of the benefit from using a bent shaft comes from switching so that you don’t have to use corrective strokes.

As fas as doing a J-stroke with a bent shaft is concerned, yes, you can.

I see from your profile that you are in Havre de Grace. I’m down in Westminster. If you’d like to get together for a paddle I can bring some different paddles for you to try out (both bent and straight) and a Bell Merlin II for you to test paddle - I think that is one that was on your short list.

If you use a bent shaft for paddling in
a kneeling position, the angle of the bent shaft should be quite a bit lower than for a sitting position. I made a 5 degree bent shaft to use while cruising the flats in my whitewater canoes. Five degrees seems to be the most that can be of benefit when kneeling. It is an asset for cruising, and not as much of a liability as a 10 to 14 degree bent shaft for whitewater maneuvering strokes.

Im 6 ft 2in tall.

I use the biggest bent at 52 and its too big i feel.

I prefer even as low as 48 esp. for upstream paddling and or speed paddling when i need quick return and response. I would never go over a 52 inch unless i was in say…a voyaguer canoe where i would be sitting 2+ feet above the water.

A straight shart i use a 54/56

we must be same size
your measures for all are exactly what I use. Your analysis of the measurement technique…same result as I have too.