Canoe paddle preferences?

I am in the market for a paddle to use with my Osprey solo canoe. Just gathering info and opinions right now. We have a couple Bending Branches straight shafts already, and they are fine, but are Hopsing’s and are actually too long for me. So, I am looking to buy my own.

What’s your favorite canoe paddle and why do you recommend it?

my favorites won’t apply

– Last Updated: Jan-25-08 4:47 AM EST –

as I'm 99% paddling granite infested WW, but Aaron and I have four AB EDGE paddles now, three at 58" and one at 56". Seem to be breakproof; tough, light, curved blade, thick shaft(but that's another thread ;-)). I got Aaron a 58" for Christmas and couldn't help but get myself another. Nice to have a matching back up paddle. Our poling boats we have straight shaft woodies, Canadian, real pretty, can't remember what type. I like the Bending Branches brand, very light paddle in wood, feel almost too light.

I prefer ZRE Medium bent and straight.
I like the light weight, balance and relatively small blade.

I much prefer the ZRE Medium over the ZRE Black Rec. I have one of each about the same length and the lighter swing weight and better balance of the Medium are much more to my liking than the Black Rec.

I’ve only tried the ZRE Light once, and I liked it too.

All of my wooden canoe paddles are over 22oz, including my Bending Branches Loon, and that’s much heavier than I like.

The nicest wooden bent shaft that I’ve tried is the Sawyer Manta, but it feels so heavy and awkward compared to my ZRE Medium bents. I’d like to try a Whiskey Jack sometime.

Have fun with your search.

Never try a ZRE med paddle unless you
intend to buy one, everything else is a log in comparison.

Ness, fer flat water

– Last Updated: Jan-25-08 7:47 AM EST –

Ah' likes willow type paddles such as me favoorite Nashwaak Cruiser (unfortunately no longer made) or Shaw and Tenney Racines.


This is NOT expert advice
For solo canoeing, so far I appreciate straight-shaft paddles more than bent. My favorite soloing paddle is my Sawyer Voyager. The blade is broad for a good bite, but very thin for slicing when sculling or under-water recovery. I recently bought a pretty light-weight Bending Branches paddle that’s about two inches shorter for use in shallow water. I can’t recall what model it is, but it was one of the higher-end ones. The grip on the Bending Branches paddle feels really “knobby” to me, with very little bulk except at the extreme end. I like the more-rounded grip of the Sawyer a lot better. The blade on the Sawyer is only a little broader and a little longer than that of the Bending Branches, but it really grabs the water and “stays put” a lot better during abrupt maneuvers than the Bending Branches. The Voyager may be made for long-distance cruising, but you can really horse your boat around with this paddle too.

The Sawyer Voyager is cedar, and the shaft is prone to denting when pried against vinyl gunwales. That is, I thought it was pretty easily dented until I got the Bending Branches paddle, which dents even easier. Gotta be careful about that with a lightweight wood paddle.

After reading Yanoer’s remark about weight, I put them both on the scale. Rounded to the nearest ounce, the Sawyer is 20 ounces and the Bending Branches is 18.

For whitewater I use another Sawyer paddle, but again I can’t tell you what model it is. It has a T-grip, it weighs a ton, but like the other Sawyer, the blade thickness is really quite minimal (at least, considering how rugged it is), so it slices pretty nicely.

Dear Ness
Before you buy anything you gotta try all you can, just like boats.

The most important thing is getting the correct length. If this is not established correctly for YOU then you’ve lost whatever benefit various designs and materials bring to the table.

A very good guideline is to measure your stature when sitting in upright posture on a flat wood chair. From the seat of the chair to…

well various places…some measure to the eyebrow, to the bridge of the nose, to the bottom of the nose…you get the idea.

I throw in with the eyebro/bridge of the nose crowd. There is not a great deal of difference in these measurements.

This is the SHAFT length of the paddle. Add that to the BLADE length and you have your overall paddle length.

Now from this reference there are variances whether you kneel (longer paddle) or sit (shorter) bent shaft (shorter) or straight shaft (longer).

Whew…start with getting an idea of the type of paddle, bent, straight, flatwater, lumpy water…then size it as best you can for length.

You’ll end up with a bunchful of paddles before you settle in on the “best” for you.

That said; I use my zaveral 52" bent shaft medium weight (10 oz.) exclusively for flat water. For rivers and lumpy stuff I’m still looking for the “best” for me.

Hope this helps,


Handle on the top end, blade below.
Seriously, I mostly use WW slalom paddles with curved blades and carbon shafts. Light, fairly neutral in the water despite the curved blade. For cruising I have a home-made 5 degree bentshaft. I mostly paddle kneeling, and am very tall, so paddles are 60" or more.

Check out this Whiskey Jill - only 12oz!

Something to consider if you want wood and bent shaft.

It’s also only 7" wide if you prefer and easier stroke.

I’ve heard that they’ll do custom paddles, so maybe they could make you a straight shaft version of the Jill, if that’s what you’d prefer.

ZRE light
bentshaft for cruising , in shallows aI use a ZRE Rec. Ended up poling the last 15 miles of a race one time and the Rec held up fine…


Paddle Preferences
Useful recommendations aren’t possible without knowing the intended usage.

Will you mostly be cruising ponds or looking for fishing holes? Are you tripping? Paddling for the shear pleasure of it in itself?

Since you are paddling an Osprey, I will assume that you are not racing or trying to be the 1st boat to a distant campsite. With that assumption I would rule out small blades designed for high cadence stroking. With it’s 39" beam I would also rule out bent shafts since they are designed for hit and switch paddling. The hull is too wide for that. I’ll also assume that you are not heavily into whitewater.

Composite paddles are extreemly light. Wooden paddles are available in a wider variety of styles and have an asthetic quality that can’t be matched by synthetics.

If you tend toward slow cadence paddling, consider larger blades, smaller for a faster pace. I won’t get into the length guideline issue here as that has been covered before other than to say that all of the length guidelines are just that. Make borrow and test paddle plenty of blades to be sure you are comfortable with a given length before making a commitment. Remember, It is the shaft length that counts. The blade should be fully immersed.

There are many quality paddles on the market with prices ranging from $50± to $250 for production blades and up to $400± for custom. Custom paddles. Mostof us carry a selection in our quiver and chose that which is best suited to the days’ use and mood.

Mrc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Grey Owl FreeStyle
is for me. I spend about 40 days a year wilderness tripping and do not want to baby my paddle. I dont want to worry if I drop a pack on it. I dont want to juggle my investments should it have an accident.

I notice however that on Grey Owls website its only available in carbon fiber while mine is wood which I prefer.

I paddle a boat similar to an Swift Osprey…but are you talking the fat Osprey from I think Old Town?

Ness paddles a SwIft Osprey,29 in.Beam.


One to try
I have a 50 inch Bending Branches Sun SHadow bendie that I would be happy to sell. It is barely used, my having found it too short for me. But try before you buy!


I paddle a Swift Osprey solo (FG).

I paddle Lake Erie, Niagara River, and local creeks. From flat water, to some waves/textured water, to beginner moving water.

My favorite places to paddle are creeks. The local ones tend to be muddy and high-banked and full of downed trees. A few, like Oak Orchard Creek, have their fair share of rocks and gravel.

I don’t abuse my stuff, but I don’t baby it either. And I really USE it…a lot.

I’m looking for a straight shaft canoe paddle to start with. I want to learn the basics first.

My Two Favorites

– Last Updated: Jan-25-08 10:11 AM EST –

I love the double bent Bending Branches Viper and the ZRE Rec. The wood is more comfortable when the weather is cold. The ZRE's been banged around on Ozark streams going on 4 years now so don't think because it's so light you have to "Baby" it. WW

My next paddle
Will be a ZRE straight. Hopefully in the whitewater layup because I’m pretty harsh with my paddles.

Now I go between the Mitchel Premier Whitewater and the ZRE whitewater bent. Both feel good in the water.

As previously noted once you paddle with the ZRE , even the relativly heavy whitewater, every thing else is a log. A big fat HEAVY log.

But I’ll stake my life on the Mitchel. Not sure I’d do that with the ZRE.

This is not a hijack!

– Last Updated: Jan-25-08 12:12 PM EST –

I really respect ness's decision to learn the straight shaft before getting bent.

But, what if she were to get something like a 5 degree bend (say a Zav) ... would that take away much from learning straight shaft technique? Ness paddles in all weather, and in Buffalo that often means cold. I find that a bent shaft is dryer for casual paddling.

I paddle bent so much now that when I switch to a straight, I sometimes wonder why my hands/gloves are wet. Then I realize, "oh yea water ran down to my hands when I laid the paddle across the gunnels."

Anyone else have this experience? Does a 5 degree bend take much away from learning straight shaft technique? BTW, ness is sometime kneeler too.

Foxworx’s…smaller bladed bent…

– Last Updated: Jan-29-08 8:34 PM EST –

Foxworks(sp??) makes a bentshaft(all wood) whose blade is their smallest...forgot the name and I'm about to run out the door..back to pseudo-work. Nice sand-able grip...and the blade isn't that fat(to begin edge-sharpening afterwards;-))...think it's ~8deg but I kneel and it's comfortable. Pretty good blades for off the shelf....It's pretty sold...haven't felt any of the "hinge-ing" feel that many wood blades have.
*But, of course have done most of my years with straight-shafts..for flatwater.
If you're ever doing ww ness...see if you can find an Echo Creekstick(carbon shaft/wood blade) and/or Galasport DoubleTorque(carbon) to try(if possible)...Yummmm those last 2 are nice...not just for performance but on your wrists, arms & shoulder...this rambling brings on the paddling-cabin-fever;-)

Kneel/sit split
I’m guessing I kneel half the time and sit the other half.

I think the BB bent shaft I do have is 14 degrees?