Bent Shaft vs Otter Tail

-- Last Updated: Jun-08-05 2:00 PM EST --

My 52" 23oz bent Wenonah wooden bent shaft paddle feels much longer and clutsier than my 51" 20oz Old Town wooden otter tail paddle. Is it that one inch in length that makes the difference in the way the two paddles feel, the 3oz difference in weight or the design of the paddles? Or is my technique (or lack of) what makes the paddles feel so different?

The 52" bent shaft feels too long awkward when I'm sit & switch paddling in my Sawyer summersong, but the 51" otter tail feels just about right.

I'm considering purchasing Zaveral Z paddle or Rec paddle in order to have a lighter paddle for longer trips and am pondering which length to order, or if bent shaft is even the way to go. The length I'm considering is 50", since the 52" bent shaft I have seems too long for sit & switch paddling for me in the Summersong. I'm 5'6" and there aren't any Zaveral dealers within 200mi of central IL for me to check them out in person.

I'm not married to Zaveral, they just seem to get good reviews and the blem Recs are $130 and 14oz. Suggestions for other options are also welcome. The lighter weight (7, 10 & 12.5oz)paddles are very attractive, but I often paddle on shallow, rock bottomed rivers and am concerned about durability of the lighter weight paddles. The lighter paddles also cost much more.

I'm considering paddling the Great River Rumble solo this summer and am convinced that a lighter paddle would be advantageous for seven days of paddling (130 miles). Most of my experience is using kayak paddles for both kayaks & canoes, so I'm just getting to know canoe paddles.


paddle differences
Just a suggestion, but you might want to compare the shaft lengths on the two paddles. I would imagine that the otter tail has a shorter shaft and a longer blade.

It’s hard to be 100% sure without seeing you in the boat, but I would imagine that the bent shaft you are using is too long. I use 50" Zaverals, and I’m 5’10" with an average size upper body (if you don’t count the 24-pack abs).

You probably already know this, but it is pretty easy to shorten a Zaveral. Hopefully Chad19 will chime in, as I think he has shortened them a few times. The basic procedure is to heat the area where the grip slips into the shaft with a heat gun until the epoxy softens, then work the grip out. Shorten the shaft the desired amount, clean up the inside of the shaft and the grip, apply epoxy to the inside of the shaft, insert the grip, and let cure. I think the complete instructions are on the Zaveral website. If not, they always have them in their paper catalog.

As far as the weight of the paddle for a 130 mile, seven day paddle, a lighter paddle will be nice, although that isn’t really very many miles to paddle in that amount of time.

You might also consider two different paddles so that you can switch back and forth to give your muscles a break. I generally carry two different bent shafts (a Zav and a Camp/Foxxworks microlight) because they work the muscles just a little bit differently. I’m sure other folks will have some recommendations that might be even better.

BTW, paddler01 recommended that I try the power surge blade from Zaveral. I think it’s worth the extra money, but if you don’t, even the rec paddle is a blast to use.

I bought the same length…
bent shaft paddle too. I went through Bending Branches website and calculated my need to be that 52" length as I’m also 5’6". I found it to be much clumsier than my 56" beavertail. I paddle an Autumn Mist.

Usually bents are shorter
I paddle with a 49 inch Zav bent and a 54 inch Grey Owl freestyle straight … the shaft length is all what its about. And while I havent done it it is not a big deal to shorten a Zav.

Indeed, the dimensions of the shaft make a huge difference, if not make or brake your stroking efficiency & comfort, both in length and shaft diameter.

With a bentshaft…the blade is punching through in addition to a little momentum of the hull. You can really feel the difference in just a few minutes…from a thinner edged blade VS the round off-the-shelf bent shafts.

I’m 5’11" and Use a 52" Bent
In the Summersong. At 5’6", the 50" bent would be much better.

Many paddlers prefer the beavertails, which, as has been posted, should be much longer than the bent shafts.

By the way, see my post re: Hull Width Going Down River…


My paddle measurements:

– Last Updated: Jun-08-05 11:42 PM EST –

---------------Total---Shaft---Blade---Blade--Nose to

Bent Shaft-----52"---32.5"---18.5"----8"----~5"

Otter Tail-------51"---26"----25"------6.25"--~.5"

According to ericnyre's formula:

"Sit on a chair. Put the paddle grip between your legs (next to the jewels, with the top of the grip resting on the seat of the chair). Pull the shaft up to your nose. Your nose should be about 2" below where the blade starts. If you have more than 2", your bentshaft is too long. If you have less than 1", your bentshaft is too short.",

my bent shaft paddle is about 3" or 4" too long and a 48" or 49" bent shaft paddle should be about right. This would explain why the I've been struggling to keep the top of the blade at or above the water when I rotate during my paddle stroke. This paddle may be just about the right length for paddling my MR Slipper, which has a higher seating position and is 27" wide at the gunwales.

If the same formula applied to straight/otter tail paddles, my otter tail may be a little short and a 52" or 53" may work as well or a little better than my 51". This paddle feels about the right length in this boat, but I do often see 2-4" of blade out of the water as I rotate during the paddle stroke.

Of course, there is some degree of error in these measurements due to variations in head tilt and posture when placing the paddle handle on the chair between the legs and marking where the nose meets the shaft at the blade end, but the formula and measurements seem to confirm what I observed yesterday while paddling and what the above posters suggested.

Thanks for everybody's input and suggestions. I'm still open for more suggestions, hints & tips regarding paddle selection whether it's size, materials, manufacturer, model or vendor.

I’ve been alternating three paddles
so far:

52" Bent shaft

51" Otter tail (beaver tail?)

220cm Bending Branches Infusion crankshaft. (41oz)

They all use the muscles a little differently and provide a break from the previously usage pattern, but the otter tail feels most comfortable so far.

I’ve been using the kayak paddle less and less as I learn this boat and practice with the canoe paddles.

Zaveral’s less surface than standard
bent shaft? Although the blade measurements listed on the Zaveral web site are 19" long, the same as my wooden bent shaft, it appears that the wide part of the blade actually starts several inches lower than my wooden paddle and would thus have much less surface area in the water for a blade of the same width. Is this a reality or an optical illusiion? I’m referring to the Z paddle or the black rec paddle, not the Power Surge paddle.

If the Zaveral does have less surface area in the water than my wooden bent shaft, could I also assume that I would also expend less effort on the forward stroke with the Zaveral than my wooden bent shaft and therefore be able to paddle more strokes with the Zaveral before wearing out (even if the paddles weighed the same)?

52" paddle better with seat higher.
I moved the seat in my Summersong up to the middle position from the lower position and the 52" bent shaft feels better in this higher seat position than it did in lower position. Maybe this paddle will be ok in this boat after all as long as I keep the seat at this height or higher.

I don’t seem to have lost much initial stability by raising the seat and I don’t have to work so hard to lean the boat for turns with this higher center of gravity.