I will second Tom’s recommendation of a GRB bent. Do you “need” one? No, not really. I have 6 GRB carbon bents in different lengths, but I race with them in different boats and conditions, and train with them too. Most of my paddle racing friends have ZREs, but as Tom said, GRBs are just as good at a better price. When not racing or training I prefer a straight cherry wood otter tail or similar shape blade for its increased maneuverability and their ability to perform a larger variety of advanced strokes. More fun too. I often carry both, since if I want to cover distance quickly (but not necessarily at race speed), I pick up the bent carbon. If I want to poke around and easily cruise a shoreline, I will use the wood straight.
I too like a bent, and a cherry not quite an otter or beaver tail, but sort of in-between it’s a the Grey Owl Guide. I have both with me when paddling.
Not badly at all. A straight shaft paddle does everything. A bent shaft can be more efficient for cruising flat water.
Bent shafts are not necessary for anyone. They are at best a convenience and at worst a lazy way to avoid the steep learning curve of the Forward stroke with a straight shaft. One can do anything with a straight that can be done with a bent, plus some things that cannot be done with a bent. Get a straight, find someone who is a real student and teacher of the game and can instruct you on the nuances of the forward stroke and don’t get all caught up in these aberrant paddles. It’s harder in the long run but you’ll be much happier eventually.