For an extra $50 here, you will have a top notch performance paddle. I’m sitting here with a Werner Cypress 215 cm and a Bending Branches Navigator 220 cm. Standing on the floor, the Navigator is indeed 5 cm longer. Measuring between the blades, the shaft of the Cypress is 6.5 cm longer in between the blades. The Navigator’s blades are a little longer, and a little narrower. The effect is that the shaft is actually shorter on the 220 Navigator than it is on the 215 Cypress. I’m 6’, and the 220 Navigator is a very nice high angle paddle for me.
If you use rotation and keep your paddlers box in a proper high angle stroke, your stroke starts right next to your hull where you plant it. As you rotate, your boat moves forward past your paddle. If you’re not arm paddling, your blade will not be right next to your boat at the end of the stroke. It will slip out to the side a distance. (This side-slip motion is where wing paddles get their extra “lift”.) If you’re not arm-paddling, you will not experience a fluttering blade. The Navigator is not dihedral. If you pull the paddle straight back via arm-paddling, there is a potential for flutter. I assume that since you’re thinking about your forward stroke enough to be thinking about high-angle paddling, this won’t be an issue for you. I’ve never had any issue with it, but I understand how poor forward stroke technique could potentially lead to flutter in a non-dihedral paddle. What I’m saying here, is that flutter is not an issue with this paddle.
What is the main reward in the Navigator’s paddle shape? I always think leaving out the dihedral gives a little bit more solid catch. But I think the main advantage is in blade angle control and maneuvering. Both a spoon shape edge-to-edge and a dihedral shape edge-to-edge, when a paddle is held verticle slicing through the water on the move, will cause the paddle to curve one direction or the other. The less of this you have, the less turbulence is created in your maneuvering strokes, and the more smooth and natural the control of your blade angle feels. This is also true of sculling. While you can get used to controlling a paddles natural tendency to curve as it slices through the water, I find it to be like a breath of fresh air when you don’t have to.
Paddle swing weight? Is that a marketing gimmick? Not at all when it works in practice. If I plop one of the Navigator blades in the water, it will come right back up to the surface due to the buoyancy of the wood blade. What that means in practice is that a submerged blade is just a bit better than weightless. It actually has that touch of built in lift. This paddle has a noticeably light swing weight when you’re in your forward stroke cadence.
So you know how when you spend more money, you can often get a noticeably better feel from a paddle. I put the Bending Branches Navigator with other nice paddles at the top of the heap. You can get a different feel, but not necessarily a better feel. It works great for a high-angle stroke, no reason you can’t take a lower angle, and it’s truly a top-notch feel for maneuvering and sculling. And the shaft has just enough of an oval that you can positively orient the blade for rolls and re-enter and rolls and such, just by the feel of the shaft, which is no small benefit in my experience.
This is a very nice paddle at a bargain price.