Canoe Paddle Selection

-- Last Updated: Apr-16-09 10:05 AM EST --

I bought a Old Town Penobscot 164 and am looking for a "performance" paddle. I am looking for a bent(?), comfortable, all day paddle with good bite. I solo paddle 25% of the time, and like the "J" stroke for the flatwater. Is a 'bent' paddle alright for this stroke?
Any recommendations for around $100?
I am a fairly strong paddler, but is too much bite going to make me real tired?
Any other considerations?

Lots of questions here.
1. You have a big boat and narrower longer paddle shapes will be less tiring for all day outings. Wider paddles help in turning better. Both usually have the same surface area in the water. Wider blades are often used with smaller boats which lack mass to aid in turning.

2. A J stroke can be done with a bent shaft but is awkward because of the dedicated grip. There is a lesser variety of strokes that can be done well with the bent…than the straight. Bents were designed for paddlers in a seated position who did coordinated hit and switch paddling minimizing boat yaw. For your needs the bent seeems to be less suited than the straight.

May I ask why a bent shaft?

You might look at the Grey Owl Chieftain or the Voyageur if you want a wider blade.

Canoe Paddle Selection
I thought a bent shaft had better ‘bite’ and pushed better? I was looking at the Bending Branch Explorer Plus or Mitchell Seneca in straight shaft.

Do you sit or kneel? Bent shaft works
with sitting, and also works better with a longer, straighter tracking boat than you have.

However, from my own experience, if you are kneeling, you can benefit from a 5 degree bent shaft with a length appropriate for kneeling. A kneeling paddle will be several inches longer than a sitting bent shaft. For J stroke correction, a modified t-grip is better than the palm grip seen on bent shafts.

Actually I would suggest starting with a quality affordable straight shaft, and then once you sort out whether you prefer sitting or kneeling, get a bent shaft to use when just covering ground without maneuvering. If you can develop a good reach, firm catch, and short stroke, you may not need to j stroke much.

The aim for “bite”

– Last Updated: Apr-16-09 12:22 PM EST –

is to go in vertical and out vertical.

Straight shafts don't do that for the sitting paddler. Most casual paddlers don't seem to care. A kneeling paddler can often alter their body mechanics to use a mild bent angle.

Straight shafted paddles are more versatile. Paddles used for whitewater are straight shafted and have large blades, They are wide for directional control. We still dont know how you are going to paddle your boat.kneeling in the center, with a center seat or from the bow seat backwards.

I'd go as advised below. There are good reasons to have paddle wardrobe.

Mitchell and Grey Owl make decent paddles at your price point.

When I paddle my Penobscot 16 solo I use a ZRE bent shaft while kneeling,I usually use the bent shaft when the water is calm with a J stroke.I use my beaver tail paddle when the wind starts blowing.You can buy the ZRE with the plastic shaft and you can buy blems to save money.I bought a blem and I cant find anything wrong with it.


Kneeling and J stroking w/ a bent shaft
I use a Zav bent shaft kneeling with pretty good results. The J is quite doable though I switch more often than not. Other more refined, strokes draws in particular are pretty awkward with the bent.

IMO the advantage to the Zav when kneeling is the light weight. I don’t believe the bent shaft is of any value for a kneeler. I wouldn’t bother with a bent otherwise.


cewilson has pointed out more than
once that a typical bent shaft is NOT efficient for paddling in a kneeling position. So if you guys are using 10, 12, 14 degree bent shafts, you’re not doing your best.

I built a 5 degree bent shaft (ZRE will make 5 degrees on request) and I find it effective for cruising while kneeling in a whitewater boat. I don’t have to J or rudder because I use a short forward stroke with no correction. I can tell from my experience kneeling with a 5 degree paddle that I would NOT want a 10 degree paddle, not would I want a short bent shaft for kneeling. A kneeling position requires a full length bent shaft.

or kneeling is not as efficient
as sitting for paddling forward…

I proved it to myself with a GPS
It sure felt like I was doing a lot of work kneeling with a 12 degree bent (and I’m sure I was) but it just wasn’t translating into as much forward speed as I could generate sitting.

I re-remembered that lesson last weekend when I was kneeling with a bent doing attainments. After I remembered, I sat down.

95% sit while paddling
I am looking for a paddle to use while sitting (sitting in bow seat while facing toward the stern).

What about a 7 degree paddle?

I am leaning toward a palm grip or modified palm and am not considering a T-handle.

Also, what brand would you buy? Mitchell, Bending Branches, Grey Owl, etc.

Grey Owl Sprite
Possibly the best bang-for-your-buck bentshaft out there. It was my first. Since then I’ve paid a lot more for others and haven’t gotten all that much extra for a whole lot more for money.

That would easily be my recommendation for a first bent.