bent shaft vs straight shaft kayak paddl


I know there have been some posts on the above but I would appreciate additional help. I have had surgery for tennis elbow and have weak wrists. I am working on improving the muscle on both as well as posture. However, I am wondering, from an equipment standpoint, if a different type of paddle and/or kayak will help. I use an unfeathered straight shaft werner camano and have an Eddyline Merlin LT. I was looking into the bent shaft paddles but was told by my physical therapist that it is not recommended as it makes the elbow stretch longer than the a straight shaft and would be worse than what I have. I was looking at the small diameter paddle (I am small) and was told that would make my grip tighter. It was suggested it could be the kayak as the cockpit of the Eddyline sits back farther than most kayaks. I know it depends on the person and technique, but would really appreciate any suggestions as I don’t wish to re-injure myself and I paddle every weekend when it is warm (10-13 miles).


Your therapist might be confused
A bent shaft paddle definitely is easier on elbow and wrist than a straight shaft. That is the whole point for the bent shaft. I would suggest you call or send an e-mail to Werner and get a recommendation. If you are a small person you probably would find the Little Dipper puts less pressure on you than the Camano. Arm extension has more to do with shaft length than anything else. Shaft length in turn has something to do with the width of your kayak. So you might want to consider a smaller/narrower boat if that is an issue. The gent who runs Impex is named Danny and he is very helpful in selecting a proper paddle for his customers. You might visit the Impex websit. My wife is a wee bit under 5-feet tall and is happily paddling an Impex Mystic with a small diameter, bent-shaft Little Dipper. Maybe something similar would work for you.

I use bent shaft paddles.
They just feel better to me. But the question is complicated. For example, feathering makes a big difference. In terms of arm and wrist stress you want an offset that does not require you to rotate the paddle. That is probably somewhere around 12 degrees. Once you have that dialed in you can worry about the rest. If you have small hands then a smaller paddle shaft is in order. The grip too tight thing is nonsense. You can learn to grip the paddle correctly. What your p.t. is telling you does not make much sense to me either. Is he/she a paddler? If you rotate your torso and take the paddle out soon enough then stretching should not be an issue. With paddles it is very important to try them out. There are a lot of differences between brands and models of bent shaft paddles. Some will feel right and some will not. In the group I paddle with we trade paddles all the time. If you get a chance that is a nice way to get additional experience with different paddles.

Ergo shafts
Try looking at the AT Exception web page. They have a great dissertation regarding the ergonomics of bent shafts, and hold a patent on the design. Their shaft not only rotates your wrists inward, but another bend allows your elbows to stay closer to your torso. Your therapist should be impressed. After using a Werner Camano for a season, and suffering elbow pain, I bought an AT and have been pain-free ever since. Of course, the AT also has a smaller blade area than the Camano. I also find the AT’s shaft cross-section perfect - much better than the Werner’s.


Bent vs. Straight Shaft Paddle
Hi -

While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I’ll be happy to share my own experience plus a thought or two on the bent-vs.-straight shaft question.

But first, you do not say if you are currently having tendinitis problems, and if you are, whether they are connected to your paddling.

If you are not currently having problems, my own opinion would be not to worry about changing things: “If it ain’t busted don’t fix it.” Of course, this would not preclude experimenting with a bent shaft if you wish.

I formerly used a straight shaft paddle (feathered at 75 degrees) exclusively. My paddling regimen consists of three or four fairly long paddles per week amounting to 7-8 total hours at moderate aerobic to high intensity effort.

Over time I developed a persistent soreness in my right (control) forearm beginning at the elbow and running over the top of the forearm toward the wrist. While not totally debilitating, it was pesky enough that I realized I needed to try something different to reduce or eliminate it.

Enter the bent shaft.

I got a 212-cm. Lendal crankshaft (bent shaft) paddle and started using it almost exclusively. I found that it has reduced my tendinitis substantially while allowing me to maintain or even increase my already decent workout regimen.

I would note that the Lendal shaft is fairly thick which may facilitate a looser grip - which is recommended as you know.

I have read where a bent shaft allows for more contact of the hand with the shaft and also for better alignment of the wrist/arm than a straight shaft, and I think some combination of these factors is what makes the bent shaft more “ergonomically correct” for some paddlers.

I would note that if you are currently experiencing paddling-related tendinitis problems as I was, do not expect a miracle bent-shaft cure overnight. For me, switching to a bent shaft resulted in a gradual reduction of my symptoms over a period of several weeks and longer. Thus if you do decide to experiment or switch I would advise patience - give it time to work.

And of course, if there is some contraindication as your physical therapist evidently believes, that could change things altogether. But you still might ask him/her about experimenting with a bent shaft paddle in a controlled manner - no harm there, IMHO.

Hope this helps and good luck.

Bent – Maybe GP?
Having paddled one for 7 years, I think the bent shaft is easier on the wrists. Don’t think there’s much difference on the elbow. You need to pay attention to the spoon size, however. Many bent shaft paddles such as the Lendal Nordkapp have a large spoon which can put a lot of pressure on the wrists, etc.

You might consider trying a greenland paddle (GP) as an alternative. These paddles seem to be significantly easier on the body and move the boat just as well once you get used to them.

!2 Degrees (Of Difference…)
I just received a ww/surf paddle on extended loan with 12 degree offset. Haven’t used it yet. I know I should just wait. But why not just go to 0 degree and be done with it. I currently use a GP for touring and 45 degree offset for white water and have gotten used to each with no confusion on the water. No pains either. What I like about this 12 degree paddle is the thinner shaft and a very pronounced indexed ridge for blade orientaion. Anyway, we’ll see (hopefully not too far off) how this paddle works.


AT is great
I have a 225 cm, 60 degree feather one piece AT. The bent shaft works very well and is more comfortable over distance than my straight shaft back up.

One thing to keep in mind with a bent shaft: if you want a shorter or longer shaft, the bends at the grips move with the length of the paddle. I would like to move to a 215 cm bent shaft, but the grips would end up being to close together for my natural grip width. Not sure if the same problem happens for longer lengths. Anyway, something to keep in mind as you look at bent shaft paddles.

AC crank!!!
i got an AC crank from bending branches this passed summer an enjoy it alot. its another option for paddles i plan on getting my wife 1 this summer.

AT - - -
i fell in love with this paddle the first time i tried one and will never use another. what a TERRIFIC paddle. it feels incredible and effortless underway, the ‘catch’ is perfect and aggressive, the release is clean and wobble free, the paddle has absolutely no ventilation and the through stroke is effortless. it braces, it rolls and it ‘plays’. i’ve tried both the standard narrow blade and the OS and much prefer the standard. i can paddle all day with it and never get tired. it weighs less than 800 grams in carbon, the only material to consider in this paddle. yes, it’s expensive but you DEFINITELY get what you pay for and more.

Thanks for tips…some more info
Thanks to everyone for all the info! To answer a few questions, yes. I just had surgery and have bilateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). I had the arm that hurt the worse operated on first. Currently the other arm is ok. However, I am stretching and trying to build stregnth up in the arms, wrists, back for this coming kayak season. My PT is not a kayaker but he give PT to some professional kayakers and they gave him this feedback. However, after everything I have been reading, I really think bent shaft is the way to go. I don’t have a lot of kayak stores near me. Can anyone provide input on how they were able to trial different bent shaft paddles…was it through the local stores only?. Also, if anyone has additonal information that would help it would sure be appreciated.

i met a guy while paddling - - -

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 6:38 PM EST –

and tried his. you're not likely to find an AT to try unless you want to visit me or my friend John in Raleigh. where do you live?

BTW, i can almost GUARANTEE you'll fall in love the the AT the minute you hold in your hand. lot of money to take a chance on but i've never met a paddle like it in 30 years of paddling. who knows, if you call the folks at Adventure Technologies, maybe they'll ship you one and you can return it if you don't like it.

straight or bent
Interesting about your PT although I don’t agree. I too have tendenitus(golfers elbows) and posted a question regarding this on this site. Most people said the ergo shaft would be the answer. Also talked to a kayak store owner and he recommended the new Shuna paddle by Werner. Check out the AT Carbon too as that was recommended to me.I too am small and have a straight shaft but plan to switch. My PT recommended the bent shaft along with stretching exercises. My boat is a touring Perception Catalina. Not huge but enough to give me a work out.

trying paddles
Try this site under Buyers’ Guide. I found the AT carbon is on sale for low 300.00. Not sure though about returning it. You could also go to the actual product site as they might be willing to take returns but products could be pricier.

AT designs a Great paddle, but
they have a history of breaking after only a year or so (I’m talking about Whitewater use-- They would probably last forever doing casual touring).

AT Paddle
Dan is right. I’ve tried a bunch of paddles–be glad to sell all my Werners, including the Kalliste–nothing compares to the AT. The AT is completely unobtrusive. It never gets in the way of what you want to do with it. And did I mention light. (I recently demoed a Tooksook–neat paddle–but not for 25 mile days.) The only downside to the AT is that you have to be careful with it. It isn’t for bouncing off rocks. John

That was some time ago.
So far as I know they have corrected the problems. In my own case my AT whitewater paddle keeps going and going. My AT touring paddle shows more wear despite the fact that I do much more white water paddling than touring.

I also have chronic tennis elbow and
it takes very little to aggravate it. I’ve found that the bent shaft moves the stress from my forearms to my biceps and chest. The larger muscles take the stress off my tendons , I guess. Anyway, I think it really helps.

AT paddles
I’ve got one that I bought 2 years ago. Both blades have become covered in a spider-web of tiny lines. Couldn’t be a good thing. I bought a Werner and put the AT away as a backup/loaner.

I hope you’re right about AT getting their quality thing taken care of. I love the feel of their sticks. When you’re on the river, you meet a lot of people, gear discussions usually ensue. Over and over again, I hear it. “yeah, I had one; loved it, but they break too easy”. “Mine broke, and I know 3 other people that had the same problem” and so on.

If their reputation for quality is restored, I’ll buy from them again.