Solo Paddle choice

Hello fellow paddlers. I am gearing up to go on a month long solo canoe trip down the Anderson river in the NWT this summer. One of my main questions has been about what type of paddle to bring. I have been using a double bent shaft paddle for most all of my paddling (not whitewater). However I have recently been told that beavertail or even ottertail paddles are better for solo canoeing. Does anyone have experience using the different types of paddles while solo canoeing long distances?

As a reference the majority of the trip will be on a fast flowing river (5-10mph) with only a few rapids. There will be some lake paddling and a couple day stretch of ocean paddling at the end. My canoe will be the Wenonah encounter 17.

my personal experience
Sounds like a great trip. Keep us posted on your journey, would like to paddle that river myself someday.

I’ve dont some long distance solo trips myself including a 2-month solo to the Arctic Ocean and a 6-month solo across the country to give you an idea of my paddling likes. I prefer a light weight paddle since I have a high stroke rate and like to paddle 10-18 hours a day.

Imagine every morning BEFORE you started to paddle, that you shoveled 20-tons of dirt THEN went paddling for 10 hours. Well…thats sort of what a lot of people do and they wonder why they are tired, or cannot paddle 10 hours etc. LEt me explain.

My 6-month trip my paddle of choice was a 7 oz ZRE bent shaft paddle. At 7 ounces this weighs 2-3 times less than a wooden or even a kayak paddle,which let say is 20 ounces.

When you consider my rate of 50 strokes a minute, I end up lifting 7.8 tons of weight in a 10 hour paddle day!!! WOW!!! Actually that is good compared to someone using a 20 oz or kayak paddle.

20 oz paddle at 50 strokes a minute ='s 60,000 times in ONE hour they will lift their paddle…which is = to 3750 lbs of weight in an hour!! Now multiply that by a 10 hour paddle day and you will lift equal to nearly 19-Tons of paddle weight!!! So if two paddles side by side paddled—one with a 7oz and the other with a 20oz paddle—the guy paddling the 20 ounce paddle will lift 11 tons more weight in a day than me with my 7 oz paddle!!! Who going to be more tired at the end of the day?

Not only tired but how effecient will they be in paddling if they are more tired?

I stayed with tandem sea kayakers for weeks paddling a single blade 7 oz canoe paddle and they wonder how I do it? In fact their paddles are about 24 oz so add another 4 tons of weight to their day in paddling.

As far as your trip. Can’t hurt to take one of each. A lightweight bent shaft for the lakes and slower current and more straight shaft when you need to use corrective strokes more. Although with a bent shaft I can still sweep, pry, draw and j-stroke too…just a little weirder angle is all.

I prefer not to be tired from all the extra lifting which allows more time to explore, hike and walk around etc or paddle long into the evening since you will have 24-hour of daylight etc. My friends with the heavy paddles are usually already in the tent too tired to do anything.

Go light!!!

I use curved blade, carbon shaft slalom
paddles for river work, and they are superior to ottertail or beavertail paddles. But are you going to be sitting most of the time, or kneeling? For sitting, bent shaft paddles are fine. For kneeling, longer slalom paddles are better. The mechanics of bent shaft paddling don’t work out as well for a kneeling position.

Proponents of ottertail or beavertail paddles often get very good with them, just as owners of Kentucky flintlock rifles sometimes develop a high degree of skill. But you won’t see anyone using a beavertail in a 90 mile marathon race, and you won’t see anyone using an ottertail on a downriver whitewater race. Paddles designed to cover distances fast have become not only very effective, but pleasanter for anyone to use.

Carbon fiber
bent and carbon fiber straight.

Forget ottertail and beavertail paddles. Light is right for long distance.

You need two paddles of course…

Thanks for the good advice
I currently have a mitchell outrigger double bend with a curved power face and I thought it was light at 20 oz. I was planning on taking it as a lake/ocean paddle along with a river paddle.

To answer your question I plan on being seated most of the time. My canoe has a bucket seat with foot pegs so I sit solidly in the boat. I also don’t plan on shooting a lot of technical rapids on this trip.

For a sleek Encounter the Zaveral Powersurge is the ticket for long distances. The midweight or lightweight version. The ultralight is great when you are close to home, but for an isolated trip like this I would opt for the slightly beefier versions. Werner has some lightweight carbon fiber bent shafts, but so far I have not used one, so can’t do a recommendation. I don’t believe this is a tight technical river, so you should be able to do all your paddling with the bent shaft without any difficulty.


Double Blade?
In deep water, a double blade is my choice. Wind is so much easier to deal with and you waste much less energy correcting. I’d say take a straight shaft paddle for shallow, narrow places and a double blade for everything else. That’s what I did in Quetico, and it worked out great. Be safe, above all else. Take a PLB too.

The downside of a double blade is
that most are very heavy. You do have to hold the thing up all day. At least canoe paddles support part of their own weight if you do an inwater recovery.

I have a lightweight carbon fiber double paddle but the price would make you faint for a first time purchase. I got it free.

I would have one ZRE bent shaft
I have paddled that same country but on different rivers and the only thing I will say is to be very careful with your paddle to be sure it does not blow away. There is a lot of wind often times, and no cover. Hate to wake up in the AM and find your ZRE is no where to be found. I use my ZRE in anything up to a class 2 or easy three. It works fine. You will save a lot of energy.

let me put my $.01 in for a medium-wgt
straight shaft, wooden beavertail, in addition to another one…bentshaft etc. Using different muscles will break up a trip and allow you to paddle longer/further without need to rest… $.01.

Same muscles used
its just a heavier paddle.

Its just about the back and the abs at any rate. Not the arms. Switching sides now and then is a good idea.

I saw some figures once about the difference in weights between medium and lightweight paddles over a day of some 20,000 strokes. Ounces do count.

the Same muscles used is what…

– Last Updated: Feb-10-14 12:29 PM EST –

never mind. Go with those in the know of the river who responded, OTHW paddletothesea's bring both = what I always do.

ZRE Bent shaft
to me is a do all paddle.

The only time I use a different paddle is when I am in shallow rocky rivers, and then I use my old black Bart which is the exact same only beefier.

Jack L

Solo Paddles
You can’t go wrong following Paddletothesea’s advise. He is one of the most experienced posters on this net.

I only go on solo trips of two weeks or less. My paddle of choice is my Wenonah Black Jack Bent Carbon Paddle which weighs 11oz. It cuts the water like a knife on lakes or Class 1-2 rivers. I always carry a back up paddle which is a 17oz Bending Branches Beavertail.

For use on Class 3 rivers I would suggest a straight shaft laminated wide blade wood paddle with fiberglass wrap and Rockguard edge.

Happy Paddling!

solo paddles
For a long trip, it is logical to use different paddles to change the geometry and its affect on your body. A light quality straight shaft and a bent shaft that you have experience with should go on the trip. If it were me I would also bring a two bladed kayak paddle for paddling a 17 foot canoe with a lot of gear in it. The kayak paddle is especially useful for windy and swirling current conditions. Try every type of paddle you can before commiting to the long trip. Good luck.

carbon shafts are improving(ie Eating My
Words.). Got out “from under the rock” and checked out a few shops that are pretty good for stocking paddles…and came upon some carbon/wood(blade/grip) paddles = what a change in ~10yrs…lol. Just an general purpose carbon straight shaft paddle from BendingBranches was so comfortable. Must have spent ~15min just holding/flexing it. I now most humbly am retracting my old-days opinions, from the 90s, with carbon shafts…

Not The Arms?

If anyone does 20,000 strokes in a day, they will have some tired arm and shoulder muscles. Especially on rivers where frequent power strokes are needed to keep one out of trouble.

Disagree about double in the wind
Just to make sure every opinion presented has a contradiction I’ll put forth that I strongly dislike double bladed paddles in the wind, especially a head wind. Not only do you have the effort of pulling the blade through the water but you also have the effort of the wind pushing the top blade. It’s a workout and no fun going hard like that for more than a couple hours (my double blade limit into strong wind is about 4 hours).

A single blade hit and switch feels more more comfortable to me and I’d much rather do correction strokes with a single blade than a double. Noting breaks the rhythm or feels much more awkward than having to take multiple strokes on the same side with a double blade.

If you’re worried about efficiency in the wind install a rudder.


Correcting misconceptions about bents

– Last Updated: Apr-27-14 8:07 PM EST –

QUOTE: For sitting, bent shaft paddles are fine. For kneeling, longer slalom paddles are better. The mechanics of bent shaft paddling don't work out as well for a kneeling position. ENDQUOTE

This is incorrect.
Size your paddles according to shaft length, not blade. Given the same length shaft, a longer paddle is more work unless you always use an in-water return. For general use, stick to the standard 8" x 20-22" blade. And choose a shaft length that will enable you to raise the elbow of your grip hand no higher than horizontal (even with the shoulder). Otherwise best bring lots of painkillers.

The mechanics of bent paddles are fine for kneeling. I say that from the perspective of a dozen BWCA trips and a bunch of river and lake canoeing. Plus being an ACA-certified canoeing instructor.

Rotated strokes
Whatever paddle(s) you get, learn to paddle using your torso. That means rotating your upper body so you minimize the use of your arm and shoulder muscles.

You can practice this by paddling straight-armed. I don’t mean with a little bend in your elbows, I mean with your elbows locked straight. You’ll have to rotate, and doing so will teach your body what I’m talking about.

The rotated forward stroke protects the weak muscles of your arms and shoulders by using the strong muscles of your back, butt and legs. It works even better when you’re kneeling.

Also, the forward stroke is short - only about 15"-18". It starts about at your knee and ends at or before your hip. If your elbow ends up behind your hip (or if your shaft arm goes behind the vertical) you aren’t rotating far enough.

Do this and you’ll be able to paddle long and far without shoulder soreness. Even better would be to use a paddle weighing less than 22 ounces. The heavier the paddle, the more your deltoid and trapezius have to work to lift it out of the water for the next stroke.