J stroke with a bent shaft???

I am getting a canoe and need to select paddles. I can only afford a couple of nicer paddles right now but don’t know what to get. I was thinking of getting myself a bent shaft paddle (I have never used one before) and a st for my wife who will rarely use it. Most of the time I will be paddling on flatwater rivers and lakes. I will probably be spending a good pint of time taking my kids in the boat who would not be contributing so I need something good for solo paddling. Do the bent shafts work well for solo? REI is putting all of their Bending Branches stuff on sale and I am looking at the espresso. One concern, though, is that I am a big guy and that espresso doesn’t come in the se longer lengths as the others. Any suggestions?

Since I started using a ZRE bent shaft
canoe paddle, I have never gone back to a straight shaft.

I can do every stroke as good or better then I did with the straight shaft including a J, and I believe you can rudder and pry even better wiith a bent shaft.

My opinion.

Others might think otherwise.

Jack L

me too
I agree with the last post wholeheartedly.

Like Jackl Says…
…J-stroking isn’t that difficult with a bent shaft. If you’re a beginner, well, I wouldn’t start with a bent. But once you learn to paddle, a bent is no problem. Even on rivers I prefer bents. Of course, I take straight shafts and use them occasionally. But I’ve found there are few things besides an underwater recovery that can’t be done with bent shafts. WW

Do you paddle from a seated position…in that case the bents provide the best chance for a vertical entry and exit from the water.

Your size does not matter.

Yes you can J.

with mine, but for me it was harder than with a straight. They are better for sit and switch I feel.

They do work though, and like Jackl, I wouldn’t go back to a straight.

There are reasons bent shaft paddles
haven’t taken over whitewater canoeing, though I have a 5 degree bentshaft that works well in class 1-2, even for elaborate maneuvering.

Some thoughts

– Last Updated: May-21-10 9:24 AM EST –

One never wants to mix a straight and a bent in the same tandem. We think we're in cadence, but the power pulses, where the blade is perpendicular to the stroke, occur at different times and in different fore to aft locations on the body, so what seems to be matching cadence isn't and the hull rolls side to side.

Most bents are, or should be, ~ 12dg, slightly outside the "Winters Window" of effectiveness. That side, I did a quick little J at the end of each forward stroke with a ZRE across five miles of windswept Lower Saranac Lake last Sunday and it allowed me 5-7 strokes per side in a FlashFire with a cross wind!

Blade physics are still ruled by paddler bio-mechanics. When kneeling, we get more power to the water with a straight blade. When sitting, we're better off using a bent.

The other side of that equation is that stern corrections, draws and pushaways are certainly compromised with bent paddles compared to straight blades. For that matter, sculls and reverse sculls are more effective than draws and pushaways, as cadence once again trumps power and blade physics, but even less effective with bent than straight blades.

So it goes. I'll be glad to meet anyone anywhere reasonable and demonstrate the superiority of straight blades for control / corrections / draws, etc w/ GPS measurement of lateral movement before a unbiased jury of peer paddlers.

1 Like

Charlie’s replies are like a bestseller
Charlie’s replies are like a bestseller novel to me.

yes and G2D
Bents haven’t taken off with white water paddlers? The down river wild water paddlers I talk to all use sit and switch with bent shaft paddles. All the play boaters I see do seem to use straight shaft.

For the original poster I would like to know what type of boat he is intending on paddling before I recommend. Some boats are more fun with one paddle or another.

Get a straight and a bent …
… and experiment with each. You need a spare, anyway.

I think it’s best to practice with both and form your own opinions.

More completely:

  1. Of course you can do a J stroke with a bent. But the J correction will not be as strong as with a straight.

  2. You will not progress much as a solo correction stroke paddler if you employ the (EGADS!!!) rudder stroke.

  3. With lots of practice with the bent, you will probably not be correcting with a simple J stroke, but rather with some mixture of a C stroke, pitch stroke and Canadian stroke (which you can Google). That is, you will learn how to apply corrective vectors not only at the end of the stroke, but also at the beginning of the stroke (the C), during the stroke (the pitch), and during an in-water loaded slice recovery (the Canadian).

  4. In addition to a corrected forward stroke, there are lots of other strokes to be concerned with and learn, in each of four quadrants of the canoe. The significant majority of these strokes, in my opinion, are executed more effectively with a straight paddle, notwithstanding that the bent shaft was once rhetorically praised as a “magical tool” for freestyle maneuvers.

  5. A straight paddle is much more effective for maneuvering, bracing and reaching in whitewater than a bent paddle.

    Again, I would recommend one of each.

Speed is so important to downriver
OC-1 and OC-2 racers that they use boats that don’t do anything else but go fast. Then they race sitting even though they would be the first to admit that they would have more security and control kneeling. Why are they sitting? Because bent shaft paddles are the best for speed, and for bent shafts you have to sit.

The boats and paddles used for slalom racing are much closer to what one uses for routine river running. In fact, my slalom boat is the best river running craft I’ve every used, as long as I can tolerate the knee discomfort. Slalom canoeists almost always use straight shafts because low bracing and rolling don’t work very well with bent shafts. You have to rotate the bent shaft 180 degrees to get the power face in the right relationship for low bracing and rolling.

Some c-1 racers use a cranked shaft, where the paddle face is still parallel to the main shaft, but that shaft is cranked for more forward reach. Low bracing and rolling are not quite as secure. I did not see anyone in the Olympic c-1 slalom who was using a cranked shaft.

Bent shaft canoe paddles are absolutely the best for covering ground fast and are entirely adequate for all purposes except serious whitewater maneuvering. People who are very good with bent shafts sometimes act as if us whitewater types are wrong for not using them. It isn’t like that. Bent shafts don’t work for what we most need to do.

I mostly use a bent - even with J-stroke
My bent is a ZRE (Zaveral Racing Equipment)

Follow up
From what I have read I will probably go with two bents for now. I have done a fair amount of canoeing. I have spent more time kayaking than in a canoe but am now just getting a 16’ recreational boat for use on lakes and flatwater rivers. I know I need a spare and that will be a straight. Spending time in a whitewater kayak I don’t think I would want a bent for whitewater canoeing but I don’t plan on doing that in the canoe at all anyway.

So, I will be getting myself a bent (if I knew someone who had one to try I would but I don’t) and it sounds like I need a bent for the wife. My wife is not a paddler at all and will probably spend very little time in the boat but there is an 8" height difference between us so I don’t think we’ll ever be swapping paddles.

Thanks for the input.

Yes You Can
It’s very easy to do a good J stroke with a bent shaft paddle.

In fact I find I can do roughly 90% of my strokes equally well with a straight or a 12% bent. The other 10% require the straight shaft and yes I do like to be able to use 100% for fine control. I find the bent shaft a disadvantage in whitewater.

I go with Charley’s statement that the bent shaft is best if you sit as is it allows a more effective blade angle.

Since I kneel 100% of the time, I’m finding that my straight shaft paddles are giving me better blade angle as well as 100% of my strokes.

What length and width paddle
are you using?

Bent vs. Straight
I find that specialized strokes take more effort with a bent shaft. I can do them but they so much easier with a straight paddle.

My wife uses a bent shaft in the front all the time. I basically use a bent shaft on lakes and flat, fairly straight rivers. If it’s a narrow, twisty, or rocky river or there is whitewater I use the straight paddle.

I’ll usually have both in the boat (having an extra paddle along is a good practice no matter what).

This is a long complex subject involving a great deal of self examination and soul searching.

Actually one should start by reading Herman Hesse’s “ “Siddhartha”. Assuming that is never going to happen, let me just say that ultimately your choice of hull design, stationing, and paddle will depend on what type of person you are and what you need to get out of paddling. If you want to compete in marathons then start sitting with a bent. If you are an individual who just wants to get out of doors for a day and go from point A to Point B with a picnic lunch, then I’d say sit with a bent. If you are an individual who wants to do some serious WW or wilderness trips then learn to kneel with a straight. Especially if you are a Type A who lies to challenge yourself. Many folks who paddle over several decades evolve from one to the other. In my case In my case I puddle ducked around for several decades and would often sit with a bent. When I became a student of the activity I found that only by kneeling with a straight could I fully understand hull dynamics, bio-mechanics, and full paddle mechanics. This was especially true for white water canoeing. The control resulting from this style was much preferred. My current preferred paddling style cannot be done seated with a bent and I find kneeling with a straight much more satisfying. If one ever gets to a point where in-water recovery, full use of muscle groups, and cross strokes is an important part of paddling then they will be kneeling with a straight.

Bottom line, it’s one’s personality type and long term goals which dictate these matters. Search your soul and try to determine the type of paddler you will eventually become then go for it. Some folks just go in and out of paddling for light recreation for others it is a life long passion of self discovery. It’s apples and oranges.

Got an inquiry about my 5 degree,
wrote a reply with pictures, tried to send it, and IE says the address is improper.

The inquiry came from a person who apparently uses roadrunner.com.

Send me a working email address, I’ll try again.

the only caveat is that for some of us
who just cannot resist a nice paddle, you might leave room on your walls for hangers or property for a paddle shed.

Funny, they all get used be they bents or straights. Currently 43.

Your paddling personality has a lot to do with the definition of “boat that is right for you” too. I remember vividly the frustration a friend had with his Souris River Tranquility Solo…a go ahead boat. The friends passion was exploring small creeks and old routes.