Best Bang for Buck Canoe Paddle?

I am 5’9" tall with a Wenona Jensen 18. The vast majority of my paddling is on relatively calm lakes or deep slow rivers. No white water.

There are so many paddles out there that I’m finding it impossible to decide which is best for me. Can anybody give their opinion on the best light weight paddle for the money? A ballpark length would be nice too. I think I would like to try a bent shaft, but that is not an absolute. Just good quality and durability.

Any input would be appreciated.


If you are sitting in your Jensen
yes a bent shaft is an absolute.

The lighter the better. How light and how expensive and how much bang for the buck depends on how often you paddle.

Your boat seems to scream for high cadence sit and switch.

I have had a lightweight Zav for some 15 years. At first it was expensive. Cost $200. I used it 14 times the first year. Thats about fifteen bucks a use. I used it more and more as I got better at the skill of paddling. Now it is in the millipennies of use.

You can get a cheap paddle and not paddle often and get a reasonable rate of return or not…if its too heavy…or get an high priced paddle and paddle often and get a nice rate of return. Or if you cant go out often, that high price paddle is an expensive wall ornament.

You can check out classifieds. Often very nice paddles are available used.

The Jenson 17 and 18 were designed from the first line up to reward bent shaft, sit and switch, technique.

To “clinic fit” a bent, get a good grip on the paddles top grip then invert the paddle, careful not to let your hand “lodge”, ie slip around the grip. The junction of blade and shaft should be about at the tip of your nose.

Experience may suggest a little shorter, especially if toting camping gear.

The best entry level bent is from Fox Werks, but Bending Branches, Cricket, Gray Owl, Mitchell, Sawyer, among others, all make good wooden bent paddles.

When you’ve got length figured, a move to carbon may be in order. Bending Branches, Grey Owl, Werner and Zaveral all make fine carbon paddles; maybe best to eschew the racer’s ultra lights for recreational purposes.

You’ll probably find smaller blades that allow higher cadences work better.

I have a Jensen 17
Get a ZRE (Zaveral) bent shaft.

I am the same height and use a 52



– Last Updated: Sep-22-12 6:42 PM EST –

Depends on what you mean by "light" and your ball park budget. A Wenonah quetico paddle is a "light" woodie at 20oz and $90. A Zaveral Extra light is 7oz and $320. That is the extremes of what you're looking at.

(check out for all the models mentioned below)
You can get a ZRE black rec paddle for just about $200 shipped (with the factory 2nd option. Always get a 2nd. its a perfectly good paddle thats 10% off) The black rec model is 12oz and the cheapest semi light paddle.

I switched from an 11oz to a 8.5oz ZRE power surge light and have to say there is a big difference in feel even though its only 2.5 oz, but its $100 more if you buy new. If you're just going to paddle casually with a nice paddle the 12oz will do you fine. If you intend to race at all the 10 oz and 8.5oz will be noticed (if you care to spend the extra $).

I bought my power surge "used", though it was in like new condition for $220 shipped. If you search ZRE or Zaveral on there is a 50 and 51" medium (10 oz) for sale for $175.

I now have 3 zav paddle and love them all. Im 6'1 and use a 48"-49" in a pro boat (or any boat that is very low in the water) or I use a 50.5" in my solo or in boats like a MNII.

I own a jensen 17 and usually use the 48". If you are unsure of what size to get you can order the shaft long, like 52", and ask Zav to leave the handle not glued in. you can tape it, paddle with it for a day and if its too long cut an inch off, repeat until it feels right.

I think everyone will reccomend Zav as the standard bearer for carbon/light paddles.

My last $.02: I found I like a skinny paddle. The 8" power surge blade is my favorite so far but on my next one I think I will even go skinnier (7.75") as I have bad shoulders and they prefer less force, higher cadence paddling.

So with all that said, If you just want a nice touring paddle I recommend a Wenonah Quetico. If you want to race or just want to spoil yourself with a light paddle get a ZRE medium or light.

Thanks much for the excellent input. I really helps. What I mean by “light” is anything lighter than my 60" 50 year Old Towns. They’re still in great shape and were fine for the Boomaloom, but the Jensen deserves more. Somewhere in the ballpark of 20 oz would probably be fine for my intentions which at this time are nothing more than pleasure, no racing, and I’m a bit of a cheap skate.

Good advice on the factory 2nds. Is that something one has to call the factory on?

Wow, I lose 8.5 oz when I clip my nails! I’m 67 and my serious racing days are probably behind me (former motocross) so I don’t need to go to extremes, but then again, it’s always nice to feel like one has the best that is offered. I guess if I found a good deal on a real “light” one there is no limit to what I would be talked into. I’m weak when it comes to making deals.

Good advice on the Wenonah Quetico. Thanks.


More go ZRE
I’m 67 and I don’t have any racing days in front of me or in the 60 years of paddling behind me. I also have lots of paddles, including lots of very nice bent shafts.

But the one paddle I now reach for the most for overnight trips or just a 30 minute spin on my local river is my 48.5" ZRE Power Surge Outrigger Light at 8.75" width. I’m 5-9 and shrinking, but I’d probably go to 50" if I bought another one. Probably the best idea is to get an uncut shaft with unattached grip, and then cut it down to your preferred length.

I also prefer the ZRE flexible shaft to the regular carbon shaft. It’s probably an ounce heavier but much easier on my touchy shoulders and elbow.

Bite the price bullet and go light weight. Wood is beautiful but it can’t match carbon’s weight/strength for any price.

You can actually order a factory
second Zav online. I do not know the wait time.

Look at some catalogues for ideas, and make one.

other things done with a paddle …

– Last Updated: Sep-24-12 9:56 PM EST –

..... other than paddling in deep waters are , using it to push your way out of skinny waters , tight chutes in a river ledge , gravel bars , pushing off rocks either on bottom or in a tight pass (basically using the paddle more like a pole but still sitting) .

A paddle makes a great ballancing stick when exiting a canoe on a steep or slippry river bank . Makes a good walking stick getting up that bank also .

Every now and then it males a great wasp swatter for that insistant pesky bee who wants to land on you regardless .

A paddle is a fine tool for helping to thread your way through or around fallen trees .

There's a multitude of things you might find yourself doing with a paddle if it just so happens to be in your hand or handy at the moment ... that you probably will be reluctant to do with a fine expensive paddle (carbon or not) . That's why I recomend having at least one decent paddling paddle that's not expensive along with you .

I like the Carlisle Beavertail in 57" and 54" for those types of things . It has a tip gaurd built in and paddles pretty decent also , not expensive , has a pretty thin blade edge , the 54" ones I have weigh under 20 oz. and the 57" ones just a little more . If you call Old Town Canoe Co. they can send one right to your door . There are other brands that cost about the same and are comparable ... but in my experience , such a paddle is a must , especially if you find yourself spending time on the mountain rivers and streams .

ZRE or other carbon or expensive fine paddle , yeah great (got some nice ones myself)... but have that more practical paddle onboard too , just sayin ...

Found a set!
Thanks for all the good input. It all helps. I just found a set of Gray Owl paddles, like brand new, for $100. 50" and 48" so they’re the perfect size for me and my lady. That even included delivery!

Thanks to all who gave their advice.


Grey Owl Sprites?

They are a nice, light entry level bent.