Bent vs. Straight for touring - Tall Man

Two questions really: (1) bent vs. straight, and (2) variable length shaft vs. fixed length.

I’ve read tons of posts on bent vs. straight shaft, and I can’t make-up my mind. Cost also matters and bent seems to demand a good premium over straight for some reason.

The second question is for adjustable length. Is 220 to 225 adjustment (eg. Lendal Varilock 220) just a gimmick or helps for this particular situation - occasional longer day trip vs. way more frequent short active paddling? Or does it just cost more and make the paddle heavier?

Many say the bent shaft helps with reducing wrist strain. Others say a straight shaft is just fine (on ONNO paddles’ web site for instance).

I plan to be demoing some paddles/boats in a couple of weeks, but there are a few good deals on straight shafts I am considering right now…

My main “unknowns” are how will I find a properly sized paddle when I’m 6’4". I’ve found so many other things are usually sized for the “average” person and I really have to be in a sub-optimal position to use them (e.g. car seats distance from the steering wheel: the seat moves back enough to fit my legs but causes my hands are stretched out causing fatigue over long distance driving, etc.).

How does this translate to a bent shaft paddle? If I simply pick a longer paddle, does this mean that the spread between the hands will be adequate for me? Would a 220cm bent shaft (per Werner’s web site calculator) be spaced out properly for my hand spread?

Also, would I miss the ability to change hand spread for various conditions - wider for more powerful/sprint type of strokes like in waves/surf vs. a more relaxed/closed-in position for somewhat less aggressive paddling?

Also, I read that a bent shaft should be a little shorter than a straight shaft all else bing equal. Any idea why or if this is right at all?

Primary use will be for fitness paddling a touring kayak. I want to learn WW too, but apparently I would need a shorter and sturdier paddle for that, so I’ll keep the two topics separate.


I’m 6’ 5" and, for touring kayaks, have
not found that I need a really long paddle. Granted, because I am also a WW paddler and use a high-angle style, a shorter paddle is appropriate. I use a 215 for touring, and a 206 for whitewater.

At least for whitewater, I have not found that a bent shaft can be shorter. I use the same length for crank shaft and straight shaft.

The first thing to avoid is getting

– Last Updated: May-07-08 8:46 PM EST –

the 240 cm everyone seems to start with; it looks like you are past that. I am 6'5" with a 38" sleeve and a 230 works nicely for me but I paddle a canoe with it.I tried a 220 and it was too short.
Paddle length also depends on the boat width. In my SOT, which is wider, the 230 can result in bruised knuckles from hitting the sides.

Boat width
Right now I’m with a WS Tsunami 145, which is just under 25" wide. And my 220cm padlle seems fine with it and the 230 is too long. But then the 220cm was supposed to be fine with the 30"+ SOT it came with and it felt all right there, even though I sit higher in it… I’m wondering if I get a narrower boat like the Tempest 170 (22" I think) would I be better off with a 215 cm? I guess I need to try for myself, the thing is I’m not sure if my technique is right to figure it out for myself. May be I should sign for the “free” kayaking 101 clinic that came as a bundle with my boat to just find a thing or two about fitment -:wink:

Any other straight vs. bent considerations?


Werner bent shaft
paddles don’t have the “bendy bits” sized for longer or shorter paddles.

One size bend fits all… kind of.

The Lendal can be ordered with the bendy bits where you want them but is a bit heavier.

I get sore wrists if I tour with a straight shaft but the problem does not occur with the bent shaft.

I only recently realize (after a Nigel Dennis clinic) that most kayakers use paddles that are way too long and therefore never develop a proper body rotation with their forward stroke (


'220 seems fine’
exactly. there isn’t a right or wrong, or even a better or worse. you are very tall (i’m 6’5") and like your paddle. good. if you want a second/spare paddle, and like sporty paddling, go down to a 215, and buy a really nice paddle, a high end Werner or something, you’ll like that too, maybe more. if you do a lot of sculling, and vertical strokes that come with assertive maneouvering a shorter paddle is nice and a bit easier to handle.

as far as bent shaft goes, it’s arguable. you’ll never see it in racing/fitness paddling, but many swear by it. i have one as well, same size as my other 3 and it’s a bit more comfortable on long distance outings with a loaded boat. takes a bit of strain off of wrists, but it’s not a as big a deal as a really light, high quality paddle.

Not all bent shafts equal
This is personal enough that you should try a bunch, but be aware that there can be some variation in how well different manufacturers’ bent shafts seem to fit your personal comfort point. I find that Werner’s bent shaft for example just doesn’t feel good to me, but the bent shaft on my H2O WW paddle felt right from the first moment. I know some who like Lendel’s bent shaft a lot, and so on.

Some like Ken Fink and Ben Lawry argue for good form and a light paddle as accomplishing more than a bent shaft, others swear by them. Good luck sorting that out.

I had a BB bent shaft and went back to
my straight shaft. The BB just never felt right, yet 2 of my friends love them.

Save Yourself a Lot of Misery
Get yourself a Greenland paddle now.

That’s something I’ve never considered
so far. Why would I want to do this? Does it work better in someway? Bracing? High angle paddling (needed for poewr at times)?

Not trying to be argumentative as I’ve never tried one.May be I should try. Moslty trying to understand whay would I want to get one for fitness/recreational paddling? From just thinking about it I don’t see it doing the above tasks better and I see a few reasons that it would not do it better…

I only use my straight shaft when
in fast moving water; otherwise, I use my bent shaft. With the bent shaft you can make a much more relaxed stroke than a properly done stroke with a straight. I made my own bent shaft paddles. Making paddles is relatively simple requiring a minimum of equipment. You mostly have to do a lot of sanding if you don’t have a planer – which I don’t.

How do you do the shaft?
I’ve seen some instructions about making fiberglass blades on a straight wood shaft that are very straightforward. How do you do a bent shaft though? I’m not sure I want a wooden shaft though - will probably be too heavy. My searches on fiberglass/carbon DIY shaft/mast/pipe etc. did not come-up wtih anything useful…

don’t like em’
I’m tall (almost 6’7") and every bent shaft I’ve picked up doesn’t work for me. My grip is too wide so my hands are outside of the bent shaft. If I put my hands in the right spot on the bent shaft paddle it’s really uncomfortable.

Be sure to try a bent shaft on the water before you buy one.

Michael , I think that was my problem.
We aren’t average build, so a paddle made for average might not work.

I Switched Completey

– Last Updated: May-08-08 5:52 PM EST –

Sold one of my Euro paddles and the other one is collecting dust.

The Greenland, in my opinion, catches less wind, sculls much better, and manuevers underwater better than the Euro. Rolling and bracing are stupid easy. There's no right or wrong way to use it because there's no power face and no 'up' or 'down' to the blades. The wood even feels better in the hand than a 'glass or carbon shaft.

The only downsides I can think of are that wooden Greenland paddles can't take the abuse that 'glass or carbon ones can. I've never seen a GP that breaks down into two pieces either... a little more difficult to transport. Still, I don't see myself going back to Euro.

I have one for travelling
It’s a Feathercraft Klatwa and is very similar in size and shape to my custom made Beale. It’s a bit heavier, but it’s fine for travelling - that’s the only time I use it.

Oh Yeah. Tall.
There are Greenland paddle makers around that will make your paddle according to your dimensions for about $175.

Here’s a site
that has take-down Greenland paddles.

Hide your VISA
Kayaking is a dangerous habit. Seriously, most of us have gone through multiple paddles of various lengths until we finally dial in (like a bike seat) what’s best. You can demo, and that will help, but takes a while to make friends with a paddle. I went from straight shaft Werners (Camano) to crank shaft Werner (Kalliste) to crank shaft AT Xception (for 5 years) and then 5 years ago went completely Greenland paddles and kayaks. Just figure you’ll do the same and pick your starting point. If you’re drawn to simplicity, do give serious consideration to trying a Greenland skinny stick. There is no front or back, right or left, you can use (extended) the whole paddle, and the lift with a GP makes sculling and rolling very easy. They are also much easier on the shoulders and wrists. I like to surf and play in rough water and don’t feel at a disadvantage with a GP. OTOH, if you’re mostly into fast distance paddling or racing, you might like one of the touring style wing paddles, say an Epic. Best way to sort this out is to go find a paddling group, and ask to try a bunch of paddles during the weekly group gathering.

two part GP from Superior
Superior makes a very nice two part carbon fiber GP that is also very expensive. The nice think about the two part is it allows you to dial in the length in one inch increments by combining to haves, e.g. 1/2 from an 86" and 1/2 from an 88" makes an 87" paddle because the blades are equal length and the loom is what’s varying.