Canoe paddles

I have two old aluminum shaft plastic blade canoe paddles. I am currently looking for a used lightweight canoe. I am 5’ 10" with long arms. I could use some advice on good light weight canoe paddles to use for canoe touring.

My choice is Zaveral Bent Medium.
At over $200, they’re quite a financial commitment, unless you can find one used.

Some might suggest the Zaveral Black Rec paddle and say it’s not much difference in feel than the Medium, but I take issue with that. The Medium feels much better to me.

I never found a less expensive paddle that I really liked.

Oh no
Sitter or kneeler?..I suspect you might sit and ergo want a bent shaft paddle.

BTW keep those old beaters. I do not like jamming my Zav into the mud when I take the wrong channel in the Everglades.

Anything is light compared to what you have. What is the budget…now that you are not paying for a boat AND paddles ? (LOL) $100 per paddle?

I wouldn’t want anything less than a
ZRE bent shaft.

I use mine for lilly dipping, touring and racing.

Jack L


– Last Updated: Jan-04-13 4:25 PM EST –

ZRE (Zaveral Racing Equipment) paddles are indeed nice as well as lightweight, but will set you back $200 or more apiece.

Figure on spending a minimum of $50-60 per each for a decent "entry level" paddle. Makers of quality paddles in the $60-120 range include Grey Owl, Bending Branches, Sawyer, and FoxWorx.

Bent shaft paddles are a bit more efficient for paddling from a sitting position, but straight shaft paddles can be used by seated paddlers, obviously.

A number of the paddle makers websites have sizing info. Although paddles are generally listed by overall length, in determining the proper length paddle for your use, it is the shaft length that counts. Shaft length depends on a number of factors including your torso length, the seat height in the canoe (if sitting), the draft of the canoe (which varies a bit with load), and personal preference. Bent shaft paddles are typically several inches shorter than a straight shaft paddle used by the same boater.

I am about your height (maybe an inch taller) but again it is torso height that is important. For what it is worth, I use straight shaft paddles anywhere from 54"-58" in length and bent shaft paddles anywhere from 48"-53" in length.

I Use E-bay

– Last Updated: Jan-04-13 6:28 PM EST –

Have bought all my canoe paddles for several years on E-bay. I picked up a new, lightweight $200 paddle for $51 last time I answered this question on last summer.
Bent shafts are not that hard to use, even for maneuvering on rivers. But a nice Beavertail or Ottertail can feel good in the hands too. I've found what feels good to me may not to the next person. Wenonah's outfitter carbon paddle is really nice as are Zaverals. Also Mitchell's and Bending Branches makes some decent paddles that won't break the bank account. Here's a few to peruse over:

Foxworx has some nice paddles around 100 or less. I love my Guide model.

Lots of folks love their Zavs, but for my tastes wood is good!

I’m 6’ 5" and use 61.5" paddles with
20" X 8" blades to paddle kneeling.

Canoe racer and designer Howie Labrant devised a way that people could make fairly light paddles with a modest 5 degree bent shaft. I made some, and found that 5 degrees is quite nice for cruising midwestern flatwater. While it is less than would be best for paddling in sitting position, it is just about right for paddling kneeling.

The paddles use douglas fir closet pole or “2 X 2” for shafts, and quality mahogany marine plywood for blades. The last ~20" of the shaft wood is scarfed in a simple jig, using a jigsaw. Then the face of the scarf is epoxied to the plywood blade with epoxy. I prefer to use 2 X 2 because it gives a better junction to the blade, but one must then round the shaft with spokeshaves or small planes.

This could make a good project for scout groups. I think these paddles are as good for covering flatwater as anything one can buy for less than $100.

Let’s start
You’ve already got more, “you’ll like what I use”, than will ever prove useful.

Do you sit or kneel?

If you sit, you’ll optimize cadence and speed with a bent paddle, probably ~12dg.

If you kneel, a straight blade will optimize power and control.

Then there is the money question. More almost always yields a better stick, but what will you spend?

You’re late
read the first post.

BTW the sprouts were delicious.

Thanks all!
My thoughts as a kayaker are buy the best light paddle you can afford as it is easier on you, and most times can be used in any other boat. This said I have a mid price $150 carbon Aqua Bound (29oz), a used Lendel carbon bent shaft (34oz), and a pricey Werner carbon cypress (24oz). I use all 3 but the Werner is my favorite.

I could go $200 a paddle budget wise, but as for now I may opt for two decent entry level canoe paddles until I have a better feel for what length and style. Then buy the best. I don’t think of a good paddle as expensive, but rather as worth the ease, efficiency, and reduced wear and tear on me. I haven’t used a bent blade so that will be new to me. Though I did lots of canoeing 25 years ago I can see I have much to learn. I do know a number of the paddle strokes.

Thanks for all the ideas and advice keep them coming if you have something you like. G2d, I really like the home made idea, and might give it a try as I could fool with the length, and see how I like a bent blade at the same time.

I sit mostly, but also kneel.
I have only used straight blade in the past. I suspect a straight blade as back up might be a good option and bent for sitting. What is the common practice. If I use the tandem as solo I suspect I’ll add a kneeling thwart.

Get a straight and a bent
Practice a lot with each one from both the sitting and kneeling positions. Don’t worry about what’s theoretically optimal unless you are a racer. Find out what gives you comfortable paddling pleasure.

I always take a straight and a bent on day trips or wilderness trips. The bent is for the 90+% of the time I’m just doing forward strokes on flatwater. I’ve been using bents while kneeling for 30 years, and that’s what I prefer.

I use straight paddles when in rapids, when I want turning control on twisty streams, when I want leverage in lake wind and waves, and when I want to push-pole off the bottom.

What is really sub-optimal is swinging heavy weight tens of thousands of times in a day’s paddle. Therefore, I like carbon paddles. However, if you can afford only one carbon, I would spend that on a ZRE Power Surge bent shaft - the paddle you will be swinging the most on all those forward strokes.

A decent straight wood paddle with chip resistant edges, though heavier, can serve the straight paddle purposes I mentioned above just fine. Several good wooden paddle companies have been mentioned.

used paddles
Zav paddles are highly praised by nearly everyone who makes the commitment to buy one (I know a couple of folks who don’t care for them) so you probably couldn’t go wrong with a ZRE if it is in your budget.

On the other hand, since you have not canoed for a while and really don’t know your preference at this point, it probably makes sense to take Terry’s advice and buy some used paddles when you find them at a good price.

There are a lot of factors that go into paddle choice apart from overall length, material, and whether it is a straight or a bent. You might find you have a preference for a T-grip as opposed to a palm grip, or vice versa, if it is a straight paddle you might prefer a symmetrical blade and grip that allows either face to be used as the power face, or you might prefer a dedicated power face. If you chose a bent shaft you may find that a particular angle suits best. And then there is blade shape and size.

Some elements can be customized by the buyer of high-end paddles like ZRE’s such as blade angle, blade width, etc. So if you can experiment with a few different models before you shell out $500 or so it might be to your advantage. If you buy a decent paddle at a good price you will probably be able to sell it again at little or no loss if it doesn’t suit.

Wenonah sells two versions of carbon
paddles, one is equivalent to the Zaveral Medium and one is equivalent to the Zaveral Black Rec.

I much prefer the Medium equivalent over the Black Rec equivalent.

Take a trip
Go to a real paddle shop and take a look around.

Then ask for help and they will explain what they have and what its for.

tell them straight up how much you have to spend.they will work with you,you may even want two different paddles; one for the bow and one for the stern paddler.

but befor you go sit in your canoe and try to get a good measurement of how you paddle to what your average waterline is.

Dont listen to the pro’s that say get this or that paddle.You may even be better off with the basic wood cavaness (or whatever their called) paddles of the proper length.

Dont let anyone fool you,we all have or had them at sometime.

Personally,if your just a recreational paddler you probably could get a set of paddles for the canoe and be quiet happy for many years if you look at werner and bending branches.And probably right around $200 for both.


Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
I have checked out the many makers and suggestions. A 10oz ZRE is in my future. However I think I am going to start out with a 19oz 50" foxworx standard bent, and get some mileage under my belt with it before dropping the big bucks on a ZRE.

Trying paddles
In my paddle group while on a paddle,someone is always trading paddles to try a different one. This gives you a chance to try lots of different paddles and at the same time get everyones evaluation. many of us have picked a new paddle this way.


Foxworx is good
That was my first lightweight bent, when it was originally Camp Paddles. Before carbon, Al Camp made just about the lightest weight wood paddles with a foam blade, which is what I bought two of. You might ask whether they still offer the foam blade and how much weight it would save.

Watch the Foxworx length…
many of the blades are only 17" long, rather than the more common 19" or 20", which means your Foxworx paddle with a 17" blade can be about 2" shorter than a Zaveral with a 19" blade.