Newbie Paddle Question

You people have been a lot of help with my questions about a “first boat.” Now it’s time for some “first paddle” questions:

Bent shaft vs. straight shaft



Is there a difference among manufacturers?

Any and all input gratefully appreciated.

You need to specify if it is a bent
shaft canoe paddle or a crank shaft kayak paddle that you are talking about.



Dear new paddler…
I paddle sea kayaks that ive made mysself…been doing it for some time. Ive gone on a 40 day solo and a 15 day solo. I think its preferance what feels good and comfortable to you. I like no bend, simple simple simple…so just experiment and whatever your brain seems to do best with I say hone that skill…Later you can add to your quiver differewnt paddle shapes etc. Peace

Sorry about that. I am talking about paddles for whitewater kayaks, river boats, etc.

I agree with godskayakman,


– Last Updated: Jun-21-07 11:11 PM EST –

The bent shafts are supposed to put your wrists at a more neutral angle. Some folks love them, some don't. As a beginner I'd start with a straight shaft and work on keeping a loose grip to prevent wrist problems.

Shafts can be wood, aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. Blades can be wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or reinforced plastic. As with boats, more money generally gets you less weight and better shapes. After a point less weight also means less durability. I personally don't like aluminum shafts. As a beginner I think a good fiberglass paddle gives you good value. Somewhre around 32 ounces or less for a touring paddle is a reasonable place to start. Whitewater paddles usually are heavier than touring paddles and typically have one-piece shafts. Touring paddles usually have two-piece shafts.

Length varies with paddler size, boat width, and paddling style. Folks who use a low-angle style like a longer paddles, while folks who use a high-angle(more vertical)style or who paddle whitewater or surf prefer a shorter paddle. Typical lengths for the mythical average paddler might be 190-200cm for whitewater, 205-215 for high-angle touring, and 220-230 for low-angle touring, rec boats, or tandems. Beginners often seem to end up with paddles that are too long for easy paddling.

Blade sizes vary, with bigger blades for stronger paddlers, racing, or sprint activities like surfing. Smaller blades are favored by smaller folks or those doing long-duration paddling.

Several manufacturers now make two different shaft sizes to fit different hand sizes.

Every manufacturer has features they claim are unique, and every one has fans. I've been happy with my Mitchell whitewater paddle and Werner and Lendal touring paddles, but I've demoed others that I've also liked. My Mitchell Cougar has taken all the abuse that a whitewater beginner can dish out in bony rivers and is still going strong.

In addition, there are Greenland-style paddles, which are also fairly easy to make, and wing paddles, which have been used for years by racers but are starting to become more popular with touring and fitness paddlers.

Love the name Grump!

Clear indexing and toughness

– Last Updated: Jun-22-07 7:01 AM EST –

Clearly marked index spot(s) on the shaft are huge - the H2O blade I have has a lovely soft plastic overlay at each bent point that makes it really, really easy to tell which way is up. Also feels nice on the hand. Some WW paddles only have clear indexing on one side (the right). Also, all bent shafts are not the same. For my sizing and comfort, the H20 and Lendle bent shaft angles and distances fit better than the Werner does.

Also toughness - gotta recommend whatever they use for the H20 blades - at the end of two days of solidly whacking rocks I couldn't find a knick.