How badly do I need a bent shaft canoe paddle?

Solo paddling 99% of the time. Shallow rivers, small ponds, just simple recreational, canoe paddling, a longer trip a couple times a year. I’ve only ever used straight shaft, wood paddles.

I forgot to mention that this is for canoe paddling, not kayak.

You didn’t say whether you sit or kneel. I have both types of paddles but when kneeling I never use a regular bent shaft paddle with angle around 12 degrees…but I sometimes use a 6 degree which is considered more ideal for a kneeler (and it feels great). I have one sitting boat and use a 12 degree almost exclusively since it works great for me. In any case you don’t NEED one.

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I have always sat, but would like to try some kneeling.

Hi, mike93lx,

If you typically aren’t out for many miles of paddling and are comfortable with a straight shaft paddle then I agree with TomL, you don’t need a bent shaft paddle. But they have their purpose.

I use both, depending on the canoe, the water, and how far I’m traveling. For leisurely paddling on small lakes and streams I kneel and use a straight shaft paddle. If I’ll be out for longer days on larger lakes or gentle rivers I sit and use a bent shaft paddle.

However, if I’m out for the day on a lake that has some interesting inlets or shoreline, I bring both. I sit and use the bent shaft paddle to get to places quick and then switch to the straight shaft paddle and kneel to meander and explore. When I’m ready to head to the next interesting spot I switch to the bent shaft paddle and go.

If I’m out in my fast canoe for some serious exercise and/or a long day in the seat I just bring bent shaft paddles.


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Bents 12 degree are optimal for sitting; more efficient. Straight for kneeling ( or at leas less bent) It is possible to use a 12 degree bend for kneeling but really practical for show axles in FreeStyle where the bend allows a dynamic brace while the body is parallel to the water.

Need? No. But it adds another dimension for the rec paddler. Racing, the need is yes.

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Until you try one you won’t know. I use a bent canoe paddle, not a bent shaft, with a 10 degree angled blade on a straight shaft. All but one of my kayak paddles have straight shafts. The bent one is dusty, the others aren’t.

My hands don’t fit the bent shaft right, they don’t fit a bent weight bar either. I know some folks who have a hard time without a bent shaft, so you never know until you try.

That said, I don’t pull with my elbows with either canoe or kayak paddles.

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Hey TomL- As you know from another post, I recently purchased a Sawyer Shockwave. The boat is meant for sitting, but I’ve been kneeling instead while using a straight paddle. I happen to have a 5 degree Gillespie bent shaft. Your post makes me think I should give it try.

Saying bent shaft was probably not the best on my part. I’m really referring to bent paddle

Bent canoe paddles are great. They keep you from trying to paddle behind yourself and reduce the possibility of hurting yourself.

Make sure you use it the right way, it amazes me that every commercial with an SUP has the paddle pointing the wrong way. With the bend facing forward it keeps the motion in front of your waist. They are also quieter and can make for a faster cadence. They don’t work as well for a J-stroke, but that isn’t really a necessary stroke when you gain experience.

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I really like my Fox Worx bent canoe paddle and use it at least half the time. It is light weight and efficient. I like to leave the blade mostly in the water on recovery, and just angle it forward while in the water for any needed correction. I also enjoy my different straight paddles.

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Thanks. Which one from fox worx do you have?

Yes it makes sense to try your Gillespie in your new Shockwave and in a fast sitting boat like that you really do owe it to yourself to try a 12 degree bent shaft (angled blade) paddle. I bought a used Bell Magic over the summer because prolonged kneeling is sometimes uncomfortable for me and in that boat I use a 12 degree bent shaft. If you are open to a carbon fiber paddle, GRB Newman Designs makes a fine paddle for around $200 and I think it’s a really good value since the Zaverals are over $300 and the GRB is just as good.

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“I forgot to mention that this is for canoe paddling, not kayak.”

My mistake. I should have realized you were talking about canoe paddles.

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I updated the OP after you posted. It’s all good.

We just bought a bent shaft kayak paddle for my wife to use with her new wee lassie. I’ll definitely try that out as well, but my tandem will be a little too wide for a kayak paddle, I think

I only use bent and have never desired a straight shaft. I just learned to J stroke, post, cross, etc with the bent shaft. It may be slightly harder to learn, but is not significantly so.

No, you dont “need” one, but I prefer them for efficiency. a sub 10oz paddle is a great thing as well.

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Sub 10? Can you point me to one?

I do a lot of shallow rivers, so I need something that can hit rocks and push off.

Hi Mike, I have the FFG, My wife has the FoxWorx Standard. Mine weights in at just under 18oz for the 52" length and the standard at 50" a bit over 17oz.

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One of the challenges with the current situation is difficulty with testing stuff out before buying. I have two paddles, but no idea if they are the right length, plus both are straight.

One is a beavertail that I do enjoy using as it allows me to keep the blade in the water, but it is very old and a little heavy

I have ZRE canoe paddles. The Medium is 10oz, Light is 8.5, and Pro is 7oz!

They’re expensive but oh so very nice. You dont even know its there.

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