Opinions on bent shaft paddle?

Been paddling regularly for about 15 years (I’m 59). Started in short rec boats and then built a CLC boats Chesapeake 17lt (17’x23") about 10 years ago. It’s the only “nice” boat I’ve ever owned or paddled. I’ve been using Werner Camano and Kalliste paddles, both are 220 cm. Werner recommends both of these for low angle paddling, My forward stroke is definitely high angle. Lately I’ve been having regular soreness in my wrists, shoulders and upper back so I’m thinking about switching to a Werner Cyprus bent shaft and maybe going to a 210 cm length. The Cyprus also has a somewhat smaller blade. Most of my trips are in the lakes and rivers of East Tennessee and range from 15-20+ mile days. Never used a bent so would like to hear the pros and cons .

I have two with bent shaft, a Werner Shuna 215 cm and a Werner Ikelos 210 cm.

When I bought the first bent shaft paddle, I thought that I would be locked into a fixed hand position and hand angle, which would have to be either right or wrong for me.

However, it turned out to be quite the opposite, more like having a bicycle with a non-straight handlebar:
It gives me an opportunity to move my hands a bit around and vary my hand angles, which makes long trips less tiring.

Regarding your wrist problems: Are you paddling with a feathered paddle? Have you tried with and without feathering?

Right off the bat the crank doesn’t allow for paddle shifting.
Why are you using high angle? There is no shame in low angle paddling, but it might reduce the strain a bit on everything.

I’ve used Werner cranks for sea kayaking and whitewater for about 12 years. I’ve come to love the natural position they put my wrists in and they provide a bit of feedback as to hand position even when I’m underwater and can’t see. I don’t find my hand position is fixed; I am able to regrip for an extended paddle roll just as I would with a straight paddle. I wouldn’t choose any other, apart from my wooden GP’s that I love.

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the high angle just feels better and more efficient when I’m trying get from point A to B. I do paddle lower angle when I’m just easing around. I’ve tried feathering a few times but it always felt a bit awkward, maybe I should practice that more. I do try to concentrate on keeping a relaxed grip as well.

I’ve been using a bent Kalliste for many years. I traded an Epic wing that was giving me tennis elbow when using it on my ski. Also traded the ski.
Bent just made more sense when growing old.

I didn’t like the bent I had but that’s been years.
I stopped using an Onno Full Tour because the wide blades were stressing my beat up shoulder. I now use a Wind Swift that allows me to paddle further with no pain .

I use a bent shaft Kalliste at 220, and various GP’s, all about 220. Paddling exclusively low angle. I am 5’ 11" and find 220, whether the Kalliste or GP way too long for effective high angle. But 220 is perfect for low angle.

For high angle I use a wing at 208 cm. But much prefer low angle.

The bent shaft of the Werner Kalliste is great.

Can you borrow someone’s and spend a day with it?. As above Werner’s bent shaft is a great angle for a lot of people. But nothing is universal, I and others I have encountered found that something about Werner’s bend was not a match for me. It isn’t a dislike of bent shaft, my H2O WW paddle w/bent shaft has always been a perfect fit. Just something about the Werner angles and my own.

Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who has a bent and my main concern is that it might not be a good fit for me. I really like the light weight of the Kalliste but was hoping the smaller blade of the Cyprus might make long days more comfortable. Would going to a 210 length be advisable? It seems to me that when I make the effort toward a higher cruising speed that the 220 feels a little too long.

How is your upper body rotation?

I can share a bit of personal experience, which you can use however you want:
On a trip a few weeks ago, I got tired and started being lazy with my upper body rotation. I also started feeling a slight pain in my wrists, which was new to me. I found out that when focusing on body rotation, the wrist pain went away.

This was with a greenland paddle, and it might very well have been different, if I had used one of my euro paddles. It might also be something which only applies to my wrist pain, not to everyone else’s wrist pain.

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I think my rotation is as good as it can be but may be somewhat limited due to an old lower back injury. I know when I get very tired that my stroke gets a bit “sloppy”. I really, really wanted to be able to use the Greenland that I got from a local maker but it never seemed like a good fit so I went back to the Werner. Too bad, it was a beautiful match with my wooden boat!

On longer distance paddles I’ve been thoroughly pleased with the Lendal Cadence in the MCS (modified crank shaft) design. I generally use it at 215cm. The Bend is more of a swoop (techy term there) curve rather than two angular bends to the shaft. This seems to allow my hands to find their natural position of strength better than some other bent shafts I’ve used. The LeverLock ferrule allows for 5cm adjustment to fine tune the length. Also at @21oz. but built tough, I don’t feel the swing weight at all.

I do have a 215cm one on hand at the Store.

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There is a lot of variations, but in general:

Wrist pain is usually caused by hand grip or rotation. Bent shaft might help. As could changing the feathering of your paddle.
(Edit for clarification - I should have said “hand grip position or wrist rotation”)

Should pain is sometimes caused by large blade size. Not uncommon for people to move toward a GP a they get older to be easier on their shoulders. Going to a Cyprus may be going in the wrong direction.

Because it sounds like all 3 are hurting at once, could this just be exertion and fitness? Did you go for a longer paddle than your average? How was your paddling fitness -was this your first paddle of the year? Maybe this is something that will go away as fitness comes back after a winter break?

I do think some of the discomfort could be from over exerting myself.  I've certainly paddled more miles and more often this spring than before.  Thanks to everyone for your insight.  I've been a long time reader of this site and it's where  I usually go when looking for honest info.  I'll probably ponder the paddle decision a bit more, maybe get lucky and find one used or on sale.

My journey to BS was taken with reluctance about 10 years ago when I received the 210 BS Cypress as a gift.
I had been using a straight shaft 210 Ikelos and believed that BS was an overly fussy concept that didn’t apply to me. Still, I had this brand new Cypress so I tried it a few times and didn’t like it. But it wasn’t the shaft that I didn’t like it was the size of the blade. It felt too small as I had gotten used to more support so each occasion that I used it so I ended up switching back to the Ikelos without spending much time on it. It was destined to be a deck paddle until I had kept it long enough that I could gracefully sell it.

Then, one day after a very long and vigorous session I was beat and sore and facing an hour-plus 15-20 kt upwind back to the put-in that I didn’t feel like doing. I switched to the Cypress because the Ikelos was just hurting too much. The reduced support bugged me at first but what I really noticed was how relaxed my hands were. Were my hands relaxed because of the reduced angle of my wrists or what? The smaller blade? The shape of the shaft? Probably all three. I reluctantly started using the Cypress more and found that the relaxed-hand thing was real for me. I also wasn’t having any expected issues with hand placement. In fact, I have found that moving my hands to other stations along the shaft were easy and not at all confusing or disorienting. I found that I had much better understanding of exactly where I was and how to get to where I wanted be with this tactile input.

I sold my straight shaft Ikelos and replaced it with the same in a 205 BS. That 205 BS Ikelos has been my go-to ever since and the Cypress is a most elegant deck paddle that I use when I’m beat up and really need a lower gear… The Cypress in 210 works well but feels long to me and slows my cadence just a touch. No big deal.

The Cypress and the Shuna both share the same basic dimensions of 46cm x 18cm while the Camano is 52cm x 16.5cm. I don’t know what the math is on those but maybe the Camano isn’t really larger than the Cypress. It’s a lot longer but larger? I don’t know. The Camano and Kalliste are both designed for low angle technique, period. The Shuna/Cypress form factor, when introduced, was great for both according to marketing. Now they are marketed for high angle which I feel they are better suited for. Both are exceptional paddles.

Regarding your current situation here are my thoughts:
If you wish to paddle high angle get an appropriately sized high angle paddle and work on that technique. High angle paddles will enhance your boat handling ability in terms of available strokes to employ. The combination of support/handling options is increased with high angle. If sharpening that technique doesn’t reduce discomfort and achieve your kayaking goals then, rest assured that, you already have a couple of great paddles that support low angle technique.

Some folks have made suggestions about you adopting Greenland technique. Smart suggestions and sound. Obviously, your current paddling style and equipment would require a do-over but this path might achieve your goals of pain reduction while achieving your overall excellence in the paddling experience.

If low angle will achieve your goals then you are golden. All you need to do is work with what you’ve got on what is achievable and adapt your skills to match your gear.

If you prefer to remain with a high angle technique get an appropriate paddle and don’t shy away from a bent shaft. Not a gotta-have but, based on my experience, I sincerely doubt you would be making a bad decision. Doors will open.

If GP is the path then seek mentors who will assist you in gear and technique. Doors will open.

Feel free to IM me.


Chodups, thanks for taking the time to relate your experience. It makes me feel more reassured about my decision. Werners website shows the Cyprus to be about 5 square inches less than the Kalliste, doesn’t sound like much but obviously makes a difference for a long day. That’s kinda what I was hoping for.

I experienced similar symptoms several years ago and went to an occupational hand therapist. She was able to cure my problem by teaching me to grasp the paddle principally with my pinky, ring and middle fingers, rather than my index finger and thumb. When paddling my index finger never touches the shaft And my thumb is there only to provide support for the paddle, not grip. I’ve been pain-free for years ever since.

I have paddled with a couple of bent shaft paddles that fit. I have tried more of them that were slightly off, and a couple that were just plain obtuse. In all, I still prefer a straight shaft.

Possible causes of you aches are a too long paddle and bad paddling form.

I think you are using your elbows too much. That puts more strain on your forearms and shoulders than is necessary. Attempt to paddle with your core and lighten your grip on the paddle. Padded paddling gloves might also give you some relief.You are probably pushing your paddle instead of swinging it.

If you have ever swung a hammer, you understand the principle. If you push a hammer you feel every strike and you forearms suffer. Swinging a hammer, or paddle, lets the tool do the work, not you.

. I think I’m definitely guilty of sometimes using a too tight grip, especially when I start to dig in to fight a windy situation. I have to remind myself to loosen up, relax and just keep moving. I did order the Cyprus and should have them in my hands in a couple of days, looking forward to it!