Seeking bent shaft paddle advice

Hi all,

I am considering getting a bent shaft paddle and looking at the Mitchell paddles - leader and pacer.

Do you have experience with these paddles? Would you recommend one or the other, or another brand.

Also, I’m 5’ 8.5" and have calculated that I should go with either 52" or 54" shaft depending upon who’s calculation method that I use. Any advice as to paddle length would also be helpful.

Main use will be flat water in a solo canoe, 29" wide.



what solo?
I am 5’10" and use a 51 or 52 inch bentshaft in my Merlin(29 wide at the waterline) I am thinking of cutting down one of my paddles to 50 inches since the longer paddles don’t feel quite right. I used a FoxWorx 52 This sunday and liked it. It felt almost right. So I would recommend against the 54" B/S.


Denver NC

Hemlock Peregrine

Hi Bruce
I’d be cautious on the shaft length. I have a custom wood paddle by Windwalker at 54" and it works well with my Shearwater or stern in my tandem. I have a Voyageur wood paddle at 52" that works well in both the Shearwater and Magic. My ZRE is also 52" and is great in the solo’s or stern of the tandem.

I paddled the Peregrine twice and did not find a great deal of difference in “sitting height” from either of my solo’s. As you know I’m a good deal taller at 6-3. Even kneeling in the Shearwater, a 52" was comfortable.

If you can wait a month or so I’ll meet you at Morraine and you can try both the 54 and 52.



Agree with Wes
I’m 6’2" and use a 54 inch Grey Owl bent, for soloing both my shearwater and northwind. After Piragis outfitted me with a 50 inch bent for tandem paddling in the BWCAW two summers back I realized that 52 inch would probably be a more ideal fit for my solo use. So at some point I’m investing in a new paddle.

Any time you want to review or just wax poetic about the Perigrine I’m all ears. :slight_smile:

Going from a straight shaft to a bent shaft the majority of people take one that is too long. In what you are paddling, 52" should be the long end of what is ideal. With the blade fully immersed your knob arm should be level from the shoulder to the paddle. If your knob hand is above your shoulder, the paddle is too long.

Mitchell makes a fine looking paddle and great blades, but I do not find their knobs comfortable for long paddling sessions. The Foxworx that Baldpaddler mentions has a much better shaped grip and is lighter. They make a very nice, durable, and low priced bentshaft. The Gillespie Oak Orchard Marathon is my favorite wood paddle, The grip lets you wrap your thumb comfortably and does not chafe. The blade has for years had the curved tip that ZRE recently introduced as the powersurge blade. Gillespie’s paddles have the smoothest entry and catch. Going from the Gillespie to a flat blade like a Bending Branches or the Mitchell feels like you’re plopping a board into the water.

My sessions on the water sometimes last for 7 or 8 hours of hard paddling, and the only paddles I take now are the ZRE and Gillespie. Getting beat by the Baldpaddler I can tolerate, but not blisters; gripping the cold bottle after the race is too important.


Gillespie ?
I hadn’t heard of Gillespie before, but I found Brad’s web site:

He’s got a lot of paddles listed, but I didn’t see anything like Oak Orchard Marathon. Is there another model name that is similar?

I do appreate the advice on the blade shape. Sounds like the curved blade is quite different from Mitchell or BB. But since I’m upgrading from a Sawyer Special, with square corners, will I notice the difference?


That would be great Wes
I’d like to try out the different paddle shaft lenghts.

Please send me an e-mail with possible days.


Oak Orchard Marathon
Brad created this model for Oak Orchard Canoe as a modification of his marathon racing paddle of that time, early 80’s. It is an upgrade from his standard paddle. The standard has a one piece shaft and the Oak Orchard Marathon has a laminated shaft. The blade has more color and laminations and the tip is hardwood. All paddles have the curved lip that makes the entry so good. The current models are more tulip shaped, my older ones have a more rectangular blade.

Brad can reference which of his catalog models are similar to the Oak Orchard and you can contact Oak Orchard for prices on their models. His shafts seem very thin and frail compared to the multilayer Bending Branches, but they don’t break and are much easier to use one handed when you’re fishing. Brad is a very muscular guy and he will readily lean on his paddles to show they are not fragile. He understands racing and paddle efficiency and were it not for the advent of carbon fiber technology most racers today would probably be paddling with his paddles.


Waxing Poetic
Bruce was kind enough to let me try his Peregrine on a very warm & windy afternoon at Raystown last fall.

Over all it was a very nice ride. Seemed fast, steady, turned nicely with a little lean, and pretty oblivious to the wind. It was a lot like Wes’s Magic that I paddled the day before. What really sticks in my mind was catching and surfing one of the larger swells(18" peak to trough?) that blew through. That boat just got up and started moving!

Oh Yeah Bruce, I’m 5’9, have a 30" inseam (short legs, long torso) and have been using a 54" zav.

It feels pretty good to me. Bear in mind that I always kneel and this is the only bent I’ve ever used.

Hi Tommy
You’ve got more confidence in your skills than I do in my own. I also took the Peregrine out into some waves in the main part of the lake (Raystown), paddling over to the marina, but I could only muster quartering the waves. It was fun, but I wasn’t quite ready to ride them.

Last year I did my first race and enjoyed it, hence the quest for the bent shaft. I did pretty well for a canoe, but those kayakers seemed to be passing me at their leisure while I was doing the paddling equivalent of a 10K running race. I’m hoping the bent shaft will provide a bit more speed.

One thing that I realized while racing was just how well the Peregrine balances stability and speed. There was only one time that I had to think about bracing, a near collision with a poorly steered tandem canoe at start.


Consensus seems to indicate
that the right paddle size would be 52’ and perhaps even as short as 50’.