Carbon fiber river canoe paddle?

I’m interested in trying a light carbon paddle, and Zaveral appears to be a common recommendation here, at least for bent shafts. However, given that I paddle lazy bony rivers at a leisurely pace, don’t switch paddling sides and frequently kneel, I thought a straight shaft may be more useful to me. Not sure if small degree bents are worth the bother.

The (newer) straight Zaverals aren’t liked nearly as much as the bents, though. As I understand it, the blade isn’t centered on the shaft and flush with it on one but not the other side. I assume they simply aren’t designed as straights.

Any recommendation on a straight carbon fiber paddle as good as Zaveral? Or maybe my beginning skills would just eat up an expensive paddle on the river and I should stick with my wooden straight.

If you’re fit enough to paddle carbon…

– Last Updated: Feb-04-14 3:26 PM EST –

a low-angle bentshaft will be fine. Sounds like the water is not an issue...but rock hits..y/n? I'm wondering...if the "leisurely pace" why the desire for a thinner, stiffer material(carbon)? If you don't use enough torso in the forward stroke motion you're going to feel the downside over time..regardless of material..but especially with carbon.
Carbon's inherent stiffness lacks the shaft/blade flexing that's comfortable on one's elbows and shoulders...and picks up the vibration from a "hit" on rocks/stones..etc...but then I'm not overly muscular unless I spend more time with the bells. Not dissing it, if you think you WILL be doing some deeper, flatwater paddling...a bentshaft will be cool, but am skeptical where carbon will fit in with your regimen..$.01.

some to consider

– Last Updated: Feb-04-14 4:21 PM EST –

Is your concern regarding straight shaft Zaveral paddles that they are not symmetrically shaped to allow palm rolling and free exchange of the power face with the back face, or that having a bit of a rib on one side of the blade will interfere with the slice of the paddle through the water during sculling, in-water recoveries, and such? If you are not necessarily looking for a symmetrical paddle, I find that having a flattened rib on the back face side of the blade need not necessarily render in water slicing of the paddle awkward. I have both a Werner Bandit and a ZRE Power Curve paddle constructed that way and they both slice just fine IMO. But I have never used one of the other straight shaft Zav paddles, so I can't comment there.

Of course, a paddle with any degree of bend or elbow in the shaft will have a dedicated power face and back face. I know some paddlers who really feel that a bent shaft with an angle of 6-8 degrees offers an excellent compromise between forward stroke efficiency and overall stroke maneuverability and flexibility, especially if they alternate kneeling and sitting.

If you are looking for a symmetrical straight blade paddle the options are more limited than they are for bent shafts. I have heard pretty good things about the Wenonah Blacklight Straight which comes with a T grip. The Wenonah site currently shows this paddle only available in up to 54" overall length but some vendors show it available in up to 56" length:


Grey Owl used to import a very nice carbon version of their Freestyle model paddle. I don't think it has been available for some years but if you can get by with a 54" paddle, this vendor claims to still have one:

This vendor has carbon fiber, foam core straight shaft version of Grey Owl's Raven paddle available with either T grip or palm grip in 54 and 56" length, and T grip in 58" length (scroll down to see):

It is not really a carbon paddle since it has a laminated wood shaft and a cedar core blade, and as a result it is considerably heavier than a carbon, foam core paddle, but a lot of people really seem to like the Mitchell Surreal and it comes in up to 63" length:

I never held a ZRE paddle,
but I remember unfavorable comments regarding the offset blade (flush on one side, indented on the other). The offset blade must have to do with how they manufacture the bents, maybe, but it’s not by design. At that price point, I was hoping for something without that oddity, which seemed to at least irritate several members.

Thank you for the recommendations. I like the Wenonah and Grey Owl Raven, but they don’t quite approach Zaveral weight. My current paddle is 20oz.

I now understand why the consistent recommendation for people wanting to go fast or far is Zaveral. Obviously no one else reaches their weights.

Carbon is not inherently stiff. If one
orders from an intelligent maker like Mitchell, one can get very nice flexibility, and longevity. My carbon shaft Mitchell is about 18 years old. I also have a Clinch River paddle with a carbon/Kevlar shaft that is reasonably flexible.

We really need to get over the stiff carbon shaft myth. What do they make pole vaulting shafts out of?

I made a 5 degree bent shaft
with an ash shaft that is a bit superior to my Mitchell slalom paddle for straight-ahead cruising. But it is much heavier than the Mitchell, and lacks the Mitchell’s neutral handling for compound maneuvering strokes.

I’m not sure if a Mitchell carbon slalom paddle would get down to 20 ounces, but you can ask them. I saved a bit of weight by asking for ash blade edging instead of glass rope.

If you get a carbon shaft, ask them to put about 18" of vinyl shrink-down tubing over the shaft. Saves wear and nicks that might cause the carbon to snap under heavy load.

I hate the T-grip on the Wenonah’s.
Especially when wearing gloves - it catches in the web of the thumb.

what would be your estimation of the

– Last Updated: Feb-05-14 6:10 AM EST –

percentages of carbon to kevlar?
To the OP, Mitchell's Touring and Seneca are two okay wooden paddles. Rather inexpensive for good paddles and can be seen, once in a while, in the Monthly Special listing. One can always sand down the polyeth and bulbous bulk that present in some wooden paddles, especially the edges and often the throat...then thinly epoxied...adding a little stiffness...fwiw.


– Last Updated: Feb-05-14 9:15 AM EST –

I like the idea of a low angle bent shaft, like 5* or so, as others have mentioned. It might be the best of both worlds in this case. Also, Zav offers a flex shaft if you want a less rigid feel. I think you just have to ask for it in the comments section, or call ZRE and bob can advise you on your options. He's a good guy.

I have 3 Zav's and highly recommend them to everyone with the money to burn. You'll never regret a carbon paddle.

I now use two ZRE’s for everything

– Last Updated: Feb-05-14 9:24 AM EST –

After many decades of wood and then hybrid paddles, I now use one bent and one straight Zav for everything.

One exception: for real whitewater I'd use my old wooden Mitchells, but I hardly ever run real whitewater any more.

I'm 90% a kneeling paddler and 90% of that time using single-sided correction strokes. I probably use the 48.5" bent 90% of the time on lakes and easy rivers. That's the carbon paddle I got first and would still get first.

I've had a 57" ZRE straight for three years. It has the offset blade, which does not flutter or bother me in the least. It's good length for bumpy water, reach and control strokes, but a little long for repetitive forward stroking on flat water.

I managed to get a symmetrical Barton carbon grip for my ZRE straight, but the last I heard all the current ZRE grips are now the same asymmetrical ones as on their bents. That would bother me somewhat, as it would be a little less smooth to palm roll, but others such as Harold Deal use it that way. You could make, or have made, a symmetrical wooden grip.

I find the standard ZRE carbon shaft to be too stiff and returned my first bent partly because of that issue. Both of my ZRE's now have the flexible shaft option, which has some linear fiberglass inside the shaft and is slightly heavier.

If you use a carbon paddle on bony rivers you might consider the whitewater blade, which I have on my straight and which also adds a little weight.

I wouldn't spend ZRE money on an intermediate bend shaft. 12 degree bends have been settled on now by canoe racers and cruisers as the most efficient angle. Outrigger paddlers have also settled around 11-12 degrees. You also can do all flat water freestyle control strokes with a 12 degree bent. I invert the paddle for side slips and bow jams (wedges).

As for the ZRE Power Curve, it's very nice, but I would only consider it if I was again running a lot of heavy whitewater. It's too big and powerful a blade for flat water and not all that light. I prefer my original wooden Blackburn Lutra if I want to go to that big-bite a blade on flat water.

Flex shaft
Glenn, I saw in an earlier post that you found the flex shaft too flexy in your straight shaft when you first got it. What do you think now?

I swear I saw the flex shaft options on the ZRE website last night for some models, but today I no longer seem to be able to find it.

Not too flexy
Perhaps I voiced concern before I got the straight shaft that it might be too flexy at the relatively long 57" length. (The shaft is long because the blade is ZRE’s relatively bottom heavy tulip shape, or whatever they call it.)

Having used it for three years, I like the flex. Sort of like a solid wood shaft of about the same length and diameter. Racing types or people who want every gram of force for efficiency may want the stiffest possible shafts, but not my old and slow shoulders.

Not sure what you need to know, but
ww paddles reinforced only with Kevlar were a disaster, because Kevlar has crappy compression strength. Kevlar should be used mainly where strength in tension is important. Though brittle, carbon can supply strength in tension where needed in a paddle, and provides great strength in compression as well. I’m not sure why anyone chose to include Kevlar in carbon/Kevlar paddle shafts, because every bit of Kevlar subtracts from compresssion stength on the concave side of a stressed shaft.

Glenn, for kneeling, a five degree
bent shaft angle is best for forward paddling.

The twelve degree angle used in marathon racing and for sitting hit-and-switch simply does not apply for kneeling. Five degrees is consistent with optimum catch and no-J-stroke paddling.

People seem to adapt to kneeling with 12 degree bents, but physics is physics. AND a five degree paddle can be managed rather like a zero degree.

Silver Creek offered a three degree ww paddle, late in their life. Roger Nott has one. And hidden in the blade mount and geometry of my Mitchell slalom is a bit of “trail” which makes it feel like a 3 degree bent, while it handles near neutral for maneuvers.

Composite Straight Shaft Paddle

– Last Updated: Feb-06-14 5:21 AM EST –

With dual power face (front or back) with razor thin edge by Patrick Moore. Simply exquisite for the kneeling canoeist who paddles only on one side.

My feeling is
that if you are paddling bony rivers all the time and at a quite pace you probably have little need for a carbon paddle and in all probability you will beat the s**t out of it in short order anyway. I use a Zav bent shat all the time but the environment you describe is one situation when I would leave my Zav in the car. I do not baby my Zav either. I use it regularly on trips and in whitewater. But slow and bony rivers? Nope.

No longer made or available.

My feeling is pretty much the same
but I generally try to avoid telling people they really don’t want what they want.

But a very lightweight carbon paddle would probably not be my first choice either. A paddle like the ZRE Power Surge really shines for paddlers using a high cadence or going long distances. But I will admit that a featherweight paddle can become quite addictive no matter what type of paddling you do.

Having said that, I will point out that all ZRE paddles are made in three parts (grip, shaft, and blade) so it is possible to replace a damaged or badly worn blade (although it is not cheap). I don’t know how the durability of ZRE’s bent shaft Power Surge and FW-Z paddles compares to that of my ZRE Power Curve paddle, but I so use the Power Curve in whitewater and it has held up to some pretty good knocks so far.

As g2d points out, if you anticipate spending most of your time kneeling, you will be better served bio-mechanically with either a straight shaft paddle, or one with considerably less angulation at the elbow than the typical 12 degree bents that marathoners and racers use. Those guys are always seated. When paddling from a kneeling position you can plant your stroke farther forward, and it is desirable to do so.

I had similar doubts
However, I thought light weight is nice no matter what. I like to go down the river for 2-3 days and do have to paddle through some longer stretches of pools. But, I’ll admit that I may encounter submerged rocks all of a sudden.

While the ZRE paddles are racing paddles, people seem to enjoy their lightness even in non-racing contexts.

Carbon paddles can be ok going down
bony rivers. I use carbon ZRE paddles pretty much 100% of the time on the central IL bony rivers & streams. The edge will get nicked & scratched when contacting rocks, but won’t likely break unless it gets wedged or is used like a crow bar. I haven’t severely damaged a ZRE going downstream, but I don’t do whitewater.

Going upstream in a bony river is another matter. In just one upstream venture that lasted about an hour last summer, I really abused the edge of my ZRE Medium straight shaft paddle. Very disappointing.