How badly do I need a bent shaft canoe paddle?

Hey TomL— In that other thread I told you that I do NOT have too many paddles. And I don’t. But if I buy just one more paddle— I WILL have too many paddles. :blush:

Those GRB paddles are interesting. I didn’t see weights listed on their site, though.

I do have a carbon hybrid paddle. It’s a Bending Branches Sunburst ST 17 oz. It’s my favorite paddle. When I bought it 17 ounces was light. At the time I didn’t know a paddle could be as light at 8 ounces.

For the sake of the rest of this conversation, the Sunburst is also offered in a bent version.

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I actually prefer the “heavy” (Medium) 10 ounce ZRE lay-up to the lighter ones because you still feel like you’re actually holding something…plus on windy days the super light ones really do feel like they might blow away. I’d guesstimate the GRB’s to be 10 ounces as well…they are lighter than my 12 ounce Black Bart straight shaft and feel just like a ZRE Medium to me. And for me 12 ounces or less is just fine for an all day paddle. They (both GRB and ZRE) are surprisingly durable too, you don’t have to pamper them. If you shoot an e-mail to GRB I’m sure they’ll give you a weight estimate.

I’ve got too many ZRE’s. :slight_smile:


I’ve had my eye on the bb sunburst for a bit. Very pretty and I love the mix of carbon and wood

It’s hard to find reviews on the Sunburst. At least some here don’t like it. I absolutely love mine. The BB Expresso is an all wood paddle that weighs only one ounce more but costs a whole lot less.
I agree about the looks of the Sunburst though. It’s just plain pretty.

I have a straight Bending Branches Sunburst and it’s one of my favorite canoe paddles. I’m not a traditionalist though. While I appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of a fine wood paddle, I like the weight savings of carbon fiber even more, although all wood paddles are getting pretty light these days. The Sunburst is a nice combination of the two. Plus, I really like the blade shape and proportions. The blade has less surface area than many designs but for just messing around in a canoe it’s great.

For going fast and covering the miles I definitely prefer a bent shaft carbon fiber paddle. Ergonomic and stiff for efficient power transfer, thin blade for clean, quiet water entry, and VERY light for energy savings. You can definitely feel the difference between 17 oz. and 10 oz. after a long day of paddling.


What some folks love about a paddle others dislike. That is why it is best to try out any candidates if you can and if you can’t buy from a dealer who allows returns without penalty. I have a ZRE that I have had for 24 years and love paddling with it. I also have wooden paddles I love but when putting the ZRE down the wood ones feel darn heavy.
Amazing the games your head can play with you. I did not like the Sunburst for two reasons ( and I bought it unfelt!. I did not like the feel of the shaft and the shaft was way longer than most paddles of its length. I now insist on knowing the shaft length of any paddle I buy. For me 33 is the magic number for me and my boats.

Hi, kayamedic,
Interesting you should mention the shaft length of the Sunburst ST; the overall length of the paddle didn’t reflect the blade and shaft lengths I expected. I ended up cutting the shaft down about 2 in. and replacing the handle. One of the benefits of a carbon fiber shaft. I now pay more attention to shaft length and blade length.

You’re right about people having differing ideas on the perfect paddle; the overall feel and balance of a paddle may be what’s most important. That’s what I like about the Sunburst ST, it has a nice balanced feel. Same with the FoxWorx Roka paddle (wood shaft, composite blade), it has a comfortable balance to it. On the other hand, I have a Northstar paddle with a wood shaft and carbon fiber blade and while I do like the paddle, especially the handle shape and blade control, it doesn’t have the balanced feel that the Sunburst and Roka have. I will also mention that I rounded out the square shape of the Northstar blade. I don’t like how square blades catch on things and the feel of the blade as it enters and exists the water. To each their own. :grin:


@tketcham, Can you offer any advice on length for a sunburst? I’m thinking about grabbing one now and am very unsure of what length to grab

A couple nice things about carbon fiber paddles is that there is much less paddle to paddle variability plus you can order them with the handle unglued so you can trim until it’s just right. I have an older Sunburst XL that I love and it’s got an exceptionally light blade but I had one of the newer ones with symmetric grip (actually on a long term loan from a friend) and even though the blade was much smaller it was still quite a bit heavier. And oddly enough I didn’t like my friend’s Roka but I did have a very nice Bell VooDoo with wood shaft and carbon blade and it had great (for me) balance.

Are you looking at the Sunburst 11? The length will depend on several things but you can read some ideas here:

It has some useful advice about bent shaft paddles, especially for competition, but there’s also a lot discussed about using bent shaft paddles for everyday use.

If you have some more questions, specifically about the Sunburst let me know.

PS: TomL, it just proves that if you ask a dozen canoers about gear you’ll get 50 different answers. :grin:

Thanks. Yes the 11.

My current main paddle, a cheap caviness, is 64.5". It sometimes feels a little long, but i don’t have a comparison. My beavertail OT is a couple inches longer yet.

I am 6’5" and have really done nearly all of my paddling seated, in a big tandem canoe.

Chair to nose tip is 32", so on a sunburst 11,i think that would put me at about 50. Seems odd at my height that it wouldn’t be longer

What is the shaft length of those paddles @mike931x? The ones you have that is. It seems that you would be served well with a 36 inch shaft. I don’t know the blade length of the BB Sunburst but someone here who has one can help.

It is normal to subtract about five inches from your normal overall length paddle when going bent. There is actually a good bit of wiggle room. My formerly 6"1" hubby ( now 5"11 3/4") can use a 46 inch bent in a Rapidfire. ( the seat requires a short paddle as its 2 inches off the bottom). I am 9 inches shorter and use the same paddle.

I am 5"5 and use a 49.5 Zav bent.

Well, I’m only 5’ 9" and would have chosen a 50" Sunburst 11 for sit-and-switch paddling so I think you should consider a few things to determine what paddle length you might prefer.

First off, the length you came up with is probably OK for competition but for recreational paddling it’s recommended to use a paddle 2 to 2-1/2 inches longer. And, Zaveral, who probably sells more bent shaft paddles than anyone, recommends measuring from seat to eye-level for “torso height”, so that’s probably closer to 33-1/2" for you.

Secondly, the blade on my Sunburst is more like 17-1/2 inches, which doesn’t seem like much but in your case it puts you comfortably into a 52 inch length.

If they sold a 53 inch length that would be even better for all-around use but I prefer to go a bit short rather than long for bent shaft sit-and-switch paddling. A 52" length would probably be fine if sit-and-switch is primarily how you’ll be using the paddle.

One last comment is that the Sunburst blade length is relatively short with a smaller surface area compared to many (most?) straight shaft paddles. It’s not going to have the same power for corrective strokes as the blades you’re used to but it’ll work well as a sit-and-switch paddle.

Again, I suggest reading through all the comments about bent shaft paddles, there’s some useful information. It’s good to get a range of opinions.


Caviness - 41.5" from the grip to where the blade starts to flare. Blade is 19.5
OT- 34 shaft, 26 blade

That Pic is of them standing in front of a 78" door

ie. the short light blade makes it more ideal for faster cadence paddling. The Zav is very short bladed too but I can push it at a faster cadence than my wooden paddles which were designed for low cadence paddling at 21x 8 inches dimensions

Agreed, and after rereading the part about the Sunburst blade length it didn’t convey very well what I was trying to point out about the differences between high cadence sit-and-switch paddling vs slower tempo corrective strokes. I edited my post. Thanks.

i’ve been trying to focus on single side paddling and minimizing switching sides. i really need to get out paddling with some experienced folks or to take a class

mike93lx maybe you’d be better off renting or borrowing a bent shaft canoe paddle before you spend the money.

Maybe even renting or borrowing a straight shaft paddle with a shaft/handle length that’s about 3 inches shorter than your Carlisle’s. You might find that you enjoy paddling even more.

Clear as mud, eh? :grin:

I think it’s good to focus on single side paddling and in that case you do not need a bent shaft paddle (yet). Your Caviness paddle seems super long so I’d suggest that you use your beavertail.

If you tell us the area where you live maybe you can hook up with someone on the forum to paddle together and hopefully try a few other paddles. It’s definitely best to test paddle paddles if you can since the trial and error approach can be frustrating and expensive.

I am in MA.

Maybe renting something next year will be possible. Right now though, I would just assume spend the $200 and give it a go to avoid interacting with too many people.

The caviness is pretty light and reasonably comfortable. I may just grab a shorter version from cabelas to see what it feels like. They are only $20