Canoe paddle advice

I am looking for some input on canoe paddles. I have a swift shearwater. I am 6’4" @ 220lbs and trip with around 50 pounds of gear. I was thinking of either getting a bent shaft or a traditional paddle. I have interest in a whiskey jack and Kettlewell. Obviously the chioces are very different. I am asking those with experience wich they prefer for solo tripping on both big and small water in all types of conditions from big waves and wind to flat quiet water. I look forward to your responces.


Consider a double bent
I use a Sawyer Manta double bent and like it alot. I just ordered a Whiskey Jack Double Whiskey (their double bent) to try next spring as it looks very similar to the Sawyer but is about 5 ounces lighter. I have used both straight shaft paddles, bent shaft and double bends and I prefer the double bends. I have no experience with a more traditional paddle like an otter tail or beaver tail.

Canoe paddle advice
Bents are great if your goal is to get from point A-B as quickly as possible and if you like the hit and switch style of paddling. I’m not intimately familiar with the Shearwater, but from the specifications I suspect it is a bit wite to efficiently paddle hit and switch.

I generally prefer to take my time, enjoying the journey itself. The destination (if any) will still be there whenever I arrive. Straight shafts (in my humble opinion) are far better suited to enjoying the journey. I can use a wide range of strokes/styles to work different muscles and add variety to my travels. If I’m poking along the edges of a pond or stream exploring the contours of the shorline I can use a variety of techniques to turn the canoe or side slip it as necessary.

One should generally cary a spare paddle sooooo…, why not carry one of each. You can experiment to your hearts content. By the time you determine which style of paddling you prefer, you’ll probably be ready to upgrade to a better paddle ( or at least add to your collection) and by then you will have determined the style of paddling that is best for YOU.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

one of each
When kneeling, you’ll want a straight blade. Since you’ve a Swift hull, you’re probably North of the border, and Grey Owl’s Freestyle is a fine stick.

Sitting, you need a ~ 12 dg bent. Grey Owl, Zaveral, Werner, among others, make fine synthetic bents. Zavs are

These suggestions address keeping the blade square to the stroke from the two most likely stances in the boat.

Kneeling, you can torso rotate from your knees to reach forward, which minimizes yaw. The blade is square, and the stroke should be isolated to the foot forward of the knee. Sitting you rotate from your fanny and that almost eliminates the squared up part of a straight blade stroke. 12 dg Bents square up from the knee to mid thigh.


– Last Updated: Jan-08-08 4:31 PM EST –

best to carry a spare anyway.

I carry a 12 bent. Works fine for both hit and switch and also for more traditional styles adapted to the bent. The other is an old clement straight that I believe they will bury with me.

I use the bent most of the time. The straight comes out in rapids and places with tight maneuvering. Also for some evening freestylin' if I am in the mood.

Thinking changed to one of each
I also have a Shearwater I use primarily for river trips but would not hesitate to take to the BWCA. I’m 6-3 and 220 so comparable in stature. I tend to use 54-55” straight shaft in the Shearwater for river trips but these are normally only two or three day trips without a lot of demand for mileage. I find the correction strokes a little easier with a straight vs. bent shaft, at least for me.

For longer lake travel I paddle a Bell Magic and go with a 52” Zaveral and my spare is also a bent 52”. Planning on making a change to this and carrying a straight shaft on these kind of trips. We tend to do a good deal of fishing and will troll lures around to locate “hot spots”. For those times a nice light straight shaft would be enjoyable.

Personally when we are making mileage on trips under all conditions the light bent shaft doesn’t leave my hands. If the spare paddle is needed for any reason a quality (strong, light) straight would not be a great compromise. At least that is my thinking now.

Currently, Whiskeyjack is making me a “Whiskey Straight” with a slight variation on the shape of the blade. The folks there have been great to deal with and very interesting to speak with. Anxiously awaiting the paddle from them.

You might try a longer straight that will allow cross strokes- cross forward and cross draws.

Hey Charlie…
Were you directing the reply above to me? If so, please elaborate. I’ve ordered the 55" length for just the reasons you cited. I actually cut down an old straight to 53" and put a “T” grip on it. Began feeling it a bit short using it in the Shearwater and MR Guide on moving water. Nothing big but class II at best.

Like to hear your further thoughts, you know my boats and I had second thoughts on the length I ordered.



paddle length
Yeah, I was.

I’m 5’10" and most of my straight blade single sticks run 58-59 inches, but I have a ~ long torso and a predilection towards cross strokes, and I only/always use them kneeling,

My bents range 54-55 for kneeling boats, where I’m sitting high on a cane seat or kneeling thwart.

For Sit and Switch hulls with lower seats I use a 52 12 dg.

I don’t know your seat height, but you’re five inched taller than I and must have a longer torso, so TRY a 58-60 in some demo situation where you won’t be betting cash on it.

Blade length matters, too.
A 58" paddle with a 19" long blade will feel longer than a 58" paddle with a 22" blade, if you’re fully burying the blade with each paddle.

As you should be
I am amazed how many paddlers never utilize their whole paddle. Sometimes they are holding it way too high,sometimes the shaft is too short.

More often they hold it too high because it is too long and they dont like the burble of a paddle blade whose top is two inches below the water.

In my ideal world paddles would be marketed according to shaft length…the rest is for the fishies.

And paddlers could get tatoos so they remember the length that is for them.

and as we get older the shaft length shortens…of the paddle of the paddle!