Bent shaft paddle width

-- Last Updated: May-05-06 10:47 AM EST --

Bent shaft length has been covered quite a bit but I can't find anything in the archives about width. I'm sure there is something out there but I can't find it.

The reason I'm asking is I went to Oak Orchard yesterday and tried out a number of bent shafts on their little pond. All of them were wooden because I paddle some wide solo hulls (Malecite, Solo Plus and Supernova) and thought that carbon occasionally riding the gunnels would eventually cause shaft problems.

I got the Gillespie Marathon in my hands and just couldn't seem to let it go. It's a sweet paddle with a very comfy grip. I decided to get one and went through all the paddles to pick out the one that looked nicest to me. Well my cell phone started ringing off the hook and I had to leave right away to attend to work.

I quickly made my paddle decision and checked out. Once I got home I realized that I had picked out a beautiful paddle that turns out to be a more like 8 3/4" wide at it's widest.

I took it out on lake erie for a couple miles of paddling last night and I could definately feel the extra width. I can't say I was overly enthusiastic about it. It definately pulls harder than my Grey Owl Sprite. I have to say though, paddling back home into a pretty good wind, I didn't mind extra bite at all.

What do you guys think? I'm not a racer of any kind. I'm a river, creek and and occasional lake paddler. Do you think I'll grow into this paddle or should I see if Oak Orchard will exchange it for me?

Edit: for what it's worth, I changed this post to more accurately reflect the width as 8 3/4"

bent shaft paddle width
The book I refer to quite often reccomends 8" or smaller if you can find it.Hope this helps.

Happy paddlin’

Width makes a difference

– Last Updated: May-05-06 9:39 AM EST –

I recently got a Zaveral Outrigger paddle for racing and it's 1.5 inches wider than my other Powerlight. I can feel the difference in my shoulders when I switch back & forth between paddles. There's actually greater than a square foot of additional surface area pushing the water. The Outrigger seems to work better when paddling tight twisty rivers as if you get more bight, whereas for going straight on open lakes, the Powerlight seems to work better and is less fatiguing. It doesn't make any difference what paddle I use or whether it's wood or graphite when it comes to bumping the gunwhales with the paddle. That seems to be more a function of fatigue, wind, and paying attention when hutting over to the other side. I'd definitely consider keeping your purchase as you indicated that you do some tighter river paddles often. I do think you'll grow into it.

with a 8" wide for high cadence. Have a bunch of paddles and a tape:

Bending branches 7 1/2 x 18

kevlar maxicraft 8 1/2 x 20

zav powersurge 8 x 18

zav rec 8 3/4 x 19

unidentified wood 8 3/4 x 18

my favorite for knocking about in my wood stripe canoe was the unidentified wooden paddle That was modified to have a blade shape similar to a zav.

It almost seems that the specific bite of a paddle is more of an issue then the wideth. you might get use to it, might not. You can send it to me and let me see how it feels.

The plaidpaddler has a different take on blade size that you might find interesting

What feels right at the moment may
not be the best in full-time practice. Paddle weight lightness is definitely an advantage overall, but there are 2 work efforts in paddling.

The paddle weight is the main factor when you consider the out of the water movement of the paddle. This is from the end of the stroke to the beginning of each stroke, and also includes switching sides. Here a few ounces of paddle weight difference can make a major impact in a few hours of paddling. A lighter paddle means less work in the out of water effort.

As you have found out, the other work effort is in the pushing of the water with the paddle blade. This effort does not change significantly from the paddle weight factor, and is based mainly on the paddle blade area size. A bigger blade means more work, both in length and width.

If you are feeling some aches from paddling, maybe you should downsize your paddle with a smaller blade width and/or length. Better to do that than to injure yourself in the process.

Many paddlers suffer some aches, but an injury can take you out of it. Happy paddling, not painful paddling!

A lot of paddle
If you consider yourself a strong paddler, this paddle should work for you. I suspect, though, that you should look into exchanging for a narrower paddle, based just on you having enough doubt to ask the question. Only you know how it feels in your hand in the water.

You did not mention the blade length, which is just as important and will affect your decision. If it’s relatively short (say 19") then you’re likely fine; if 20", it’s questionable; >20" you’ll likely want to exchange. Total surface area is relevant.

FWIW, I am a strong paddler and my primary bent-shaft paddle (Bending Branches Cruiser Plus) is 8.5" x 20", which works well for me.

Give it a chance
The Gillespie is my favorite wooden paddle and it does feel different coming from a flat faced paddle. It does not slip once its planted. Those “easy paddlling” paddles feel that way because they are slipping thru the water and not moving your canoe as efficiently as they could. The ideal paddle would stay planted in one place in the water and the canoe would move past that point as you moved thru your stroke. In the real world the paddle moves thru the water a bit as the canoe moves toward it. The more the paddle slips thru the water, the more energy that is wasted.

The solid plant you are now getting from the paddle is putting more strain on your shoulders than you old paddle, but you will adjust to it by not pulling quite as hard and your muscles will strengthen and adjust. After a dozen or so hours on the water, you will not want to switch back to your old flat faced paddle. It will seem like a plank compared to the Gillespie, the entry will seem so noisey, the blade will seem loose in the water.

Zaveral added the “PowerSurge” blade profile to their catalog and its a very good carbon fiber copy of the slightly curled tip of the Gillespie. RedCross Randy had to learn to adjust to his PowerSurge since it put so much of his prodigous power into moving their battlecruiser of a canoe. He’s working now making lots of thrust and forward movement instead of waving a blade thru the water like a magic wand. Baldpaddler has to tie his hat to keep from losing it at the start when the canoe leaps forward so violently. Seriously they are a sight to see at a race start, similar to a Mack truck doing a burnout.

Give that paddle some time on the water, i think you will shortly grow to love it.

Did you see my old Spirit out there at Oak Orchard? Its in for some repair, after almost 25 years i managed to crack a cross rib going over a boulder during a race in Cortland. I need to pick it up before the Round the Mountain Race in Saranac Lake on the 20th.


Narrow. For fast cadence 8" or less.

was hoping you’d weigh in plaidpaddler

– Last Updated: May-08-06 11:56 AM EST –

When I checked the archives after coming home with the Gillespie I saw that you had a lot of very good things to say about it. After paddling it some more over the weekend, I am definately going to keep this paddle. My shoulders have already stopped protesting. I expect my wrists will too soon enough.

You are right about the way it catches water. On closer examination the blade has about the same surface area as my Grey Owl Sprite (which I think is a hell of a paddle for the money). The Sprite is wider at the shoulders. But the Gillespie catches and holds water much differently. I can tell you I didn't want to pick up the Sprite for bracing into large waves after feeling Gillespie as outrigger.

As I said, I accidently picked one that is about 1/4" wider than most of the others, but I think I'll be fine with it. Can't wait to get out on the water with it again tonight.

Edit: No Bill I didn't see your Spirit there. It must already be in the shop. I did see a freshly brought in Merrimack that was wrecked in whitewater. Just like Mary's at Blue Mountain Outfitters, the hubby took out her Baboosic and smashed it. The stories were almost identical except this time I didn't hear the words "dark" or "waterfall."

Thanks for the input everyone
I’ve decided to keep it and let my body and stroke grow into it over a short time. I already feel almost good with it after only a couple of outings.


Sneaky Trick
Give the wider paddle to your brother in the front seat of the boat. He’ll have to work much harder to keep up the cadence. You’ll just wear him out in about ten miles.

“Come on Bro paddle faster” Ha Ha Ha ha

I like it!!!