Bent shaft paddle angle

I am using, and am pleased with a Bell Voodoo bendie made by Mitchell. About 14 degreebend, straight shaft. I use it for solo sit and switch.

I have never tried a paddle with a milder bend - say, 12 or 10 degrees. I was curious as to whether anyone who is using a shallower bend has any strong feelings about it. Any big advantages? Do you spend more time on one side, sneaking in mini J-strokes?

At this point, just idle curiosity.


Marathon racers
The kings and queens of the bent shaft, marathon racers, seem to have settled on 12 degree bends, as per Zaveral paddles.

That said, those folks have a very short and forward stroke, so maybe for rec paddlers, who’ll tend to carry the blade too far aft of the body, the greater bend is fine.

Certainly the Mitchell’s larger blade makes perfect sense at slower, recreational, cadences.

If it works for you, it’s fine.

Year ago I used a stright shaft, but
once I switched to the bent with a 12 degree angle, I never went back.

I have a bunch of straight shaft ones sitting unused.

I use the bent wether I am paddling in a swamp a river or ake and naturally when I am racing.

I find I can do every stroke that I did with the straight and some even better.

For instance I think ruddering is much quicker with a bent.

I am not sure what you mean about spending more time on one side “sneaking in mini J strokes”.

I think over many years of paddling all the strokes that you use just seem to come naturally as they are required.

If you want to do sit and switch that is fine. If you want to stay on one side for a longer duration, then some J’s combined with some leans will allow that also.



bent shaft angle
My buddy has an old Grey Owl Marathon with 7 degree angle. It’s a 54 inch paddle…longer than a normal bent and shorter than a normal straight. We both enjoy using it occasionally since the short length makes it handy yet the shallow angle makes it feel more like a traditional paddle for boat control. I’d like to get a 5 to 7 degree bent some day since I know it would get used.

I’m not a real racer and I don’t really notice much difference between my 12 and 14 degree bents, it seems like the bigger difference is the blade size/shape than the angle. The normal 12 degree Zav’s with smaller blades (8.25 inch or less) do seem like the most effortless of all but I also enjoy the power of the bigger blade on my Black Bart sometimes.

Just my two cents.

Low-angle bents
I often use an early Sawyer Zephyr low-angle bent (7 degrees, I think, though I recently saw a current one described as 11 degrees.) I find it more useful for correction strokes than my 14 degree Camp/Fox and 12 degree Puddicome sticks. If I “feel the need for speed” the Puddicome gets the call, simply because the bigger blade moves more water. Oddly, after about 20 years of bent shafts (and switching back and forth) I now spend about 70-80% of my time with a straight shaft Bending Branches Black Widow Plus (which BB now calls an Espresso Plus ST.) I feel more in control with a straight on the twisty little rivers where I do a lot of my paddling these days. On bigger water, the bents do come out more often.

I know nothing…
…about bent shaft paddles. Why use a bent shaft? Under what conditions would you use one - i.e. flat water vs. white water? Advantages and disadvantages straight paddle vs. bent? I paddle pool and drop rivers with a lot more pool than drop, the drops are class I-II with an occasional III. My straight paddle and j-stroking seem to do me just fine. Am I missing something good by not using a bent shaft? (no jokes please)

bents are great for the sit and switch paddler (in the recrational mode). Is an optimum angle for the seated paddler, requires a short stroke-often at high cadence and practice and synchrony between paddlers if tandem. Or practice to perfect the timing so you can get a completely vertical blade and switch efficiently and at the right time to avoid yaw.

Thats not the kind of paddling you are doing. Bents are a different paddle with a different purpose.

Thanks Medic NM

Where on the continuum?

– Last Updated: Nov-23-08 3:46 PM EST –

First I would decide just where on the paddling continuum I want to be.
If I want the speed of sit and switch in either a tandem or solo canoe, I would choose a 11 to 14 degree bend, with the typical 8" x 20" blade, and invest in as light a paddle as I can afford, and keep the cadence up high, and forget the control strokes.
If I want traditional style paddling with a bent shaft in either the stearn of a tandem canoe or in a solo canoe, I would choose an 11 degree bend with a longer or bigger blade area (more than 135 sq in) than the typical 8" x 20". This gives me lots of raw power when needed and very good control of the canoe, but it is at the expense of being able to hold a high cadence; the weight of the paddle will be heavier; and the resulting boat speed considerably less than sit and switch. If I were a smaller paddler (which I am not) maybe a better option for using a bent shaft paddling traditional style would be to keep the blade at the typical 8" x 20" size, but reduce the bend to 5 to 8 degrees in order to increase the boat response to control strokes that way.

Simple; if you want to go fast you need
a bent.

If you are content with slower, stay with the straight shaft.



Zav is 12 deg?

– Last Updated: Nov-23-08 7:09 PM EST –

The only bent I've spent anytime with is my Zaveral. While it's my favorite paddle for making distance and I typicaly paddle switch when I use it, I'm a %100 kneeler and I don't think the bent shaft has any advantage for me.

I really like the light weight. My cadence picked up dramaticaly as soon as I started to use it. I also like the catch. It grabs the water quite well.

It's fine for J-stroking. In fact I'd say I can do about %85 of my control strokes just fine with the bent shaft. But boy do I miss the other %15! I'd love to find a good straight shaft that light with that sweet catch.
Unfortunately I tried Turtles straight Zav last summer and that's not the paddle I lust after. The power face is flush with the aft of the shaft rather than centered and tends to wobble on a strong power stroke. It's better if you turn it around though the asymetrical grip discourages that. But even then it's not as nice as I'd hoped.
If they made it with a T or symetrical pear grip and centered the blade on the shaft I'll bet it would be SWEET!
Hey I can dream right?


straight Zav
Zav used to make a teardrop shaped blade (like a mini beavertail) for straight shaft applications and it was centered on the shaft as you wish…they also used to offer a more-symmetric grip but they were rare.

The Black Bart Troublemaker was also exactly what you describe and it’s my favorite paddle…nice balance and stronger than a Zav. But Black Bart (Bud Moll)passed away I think.

If you keep your eye out you might find one or the other used, and you might call Zav and ask about the mini-beavertail that they actually marketed as a straight shaft paddle…I’d love to know if they still sell them.

I almost always paddle kneeling, and
as CE has pointed out on other occasions, a marked bent shaft, 10-14 degrees, does not work well for paddling kneeling. However, I made a paddle with a five degree bend that certainly drives my whitewater open boats better on the flats than my slalom paddles. It is OK for most control strokes, even crossing strokes, but feels fishy for low braces.

I think anyone who has to cover a lot of class 1-2 river should consider a 5 degree bentshaft, maybe even a 7 degree. The shaft must be somewhat longer than what one would choose for hit and switch in sitting position.

Reverse the handle on the straight Zav
to eliminate the wobble, at least that’s what someone posted here recently. Supposedly the back side of the blade is more stable than the designated power face.

I think I remember that right.

I haven’t tried it on my Zav straight, because my main problem with mine is that it has a blade that’s a bit too wide for cruising. It’s fine for rivers. It’s also a bit long for some of my boats.

I have a wickedly beautiful Quimby 7degree touring bent that works perfectly kneeling. It is sized the same as my straight paddles.

But to address my original question
has anyone

a) spent time in a flatwater touring solo canoe (Magic, Prism etc)

b) sat in such a canoe

c) used a bent shaft for sit-and-switch

4) compared a number of bend degrees (7 through 14)??


I sit in and paddle a lot the Magic, Merlin II, Indy (Independence), MRC Tempest, J201, J203, and Prisim. I almost always use my Zav. That said, I do like to relax sometimes with my Mitchel Leader (bent).

My Zav of 10 years (which got stolen) was 8 degrees. I now have a 12 degree. I’ve paddled lots of Mitchell 15 and 14 degree paddles. I spend 80% with my Zav.


So rob,
you prefer the lower bend angle? Or is it more a preference for teh Zav overall?


Being a Zav sure helps,

– Last Updated: Nov-24-08 10:56 AM EST –

but the lower angle is the major reason. I use the Zav in all kinds of conditions and I find that the lesser angle is more benificial when posting, drawing, sweeping, etc. because you get more effiecient purchase. The more the angle, the more you have get your top hand/grip out over the front face of the blade.


Thanks Rob.