Solo paddle selection

I just bought a Swift Osprey and want to do primarily lake paddling (and want to keep up with my wife’s rec kayak). I’m thinking I’ll be mostly in a sitting position and would like to get some advice on paddles. Is there a bent shaft/straight shaft preference in solo canoes? How about length? Thanks.

more of a paddler position
question than equipment. Bent shafts optimize the attack angle to better ensure a vertical plant and vertical exit for the seated paddler. You will be less likely to push down or pull up water, either of which is counterproductive.

They are best used in conjunction with footbraces. Otherwise you spend a good deal of energy just staying on the seat.

Length of the paddle. The junction of the blade and shaft should reach the water not above or below. Because of the odd way bents are sized…there is another thread around here on this most people wind up going down four or five inches in comparison to straight paddles.

Its impossible to tell how long a paddle should be for you as seat heights vary as well as paddle torso lengths and arm lengths and even individual biomechanics.

Goes against practice, but it might be
nice if bent shafts had detachable grips so that one could start with a paddle that is a bit on the long side and shorten it until it’s right.

We do this with whitewater paddles and grips, but molded in or carved on grips seem to be the rule with bent shafts.

Check the Zaveral website for info

– Last Updated: Dec-15-10 3:57 PM EST –

on paddle length.They make great paddles.

I’ve ordered Zav paddles and specified the grips not be glued. Electrical tape holds them well enough for testing and I cut them down a little at a time before gluing them in place.

Now if only I could figure out how to add a little material for the ones I cut down too far…

Someone should make an adjustable length single blade paddle, something like the Onno/Epic(new) lever lock system.

I like different lengths depending on which of my solos/tandems I’m in (as well as bow or stern) and paddles get expensive after a while.


If you want to go fast, you need a ZRE
otherwise known as ZAV or Zaveral, bent shaft.

Length all depends on your height, arms etc.

I am 5’8" and use a 52" one.

Once you feel it’s sweetness you’ll never want to go back to a straight shaft, even for touring.

jack L

Listen to Alan-Gage
JackL is a doughty paddler, but length is peculiar with bent shafts in general and Zavs in particular.

Ed sharpe a serious paddler and multiply 70 miler finisher uses a 52 zav in his J-boat(racer. Hs is 5’8"

Neil Sanders also a serious paddler also uses a 52-51 inch paddler. Neil stands 6’3" Same boats, same paddles different paddlers.

I stand510 and use a 50 inch Zav… I like Alan’s idea of taping on the grip and trying it.

carry one of each
get a nice Zav but also get a nice beavertail trad paddle, or another spendy wood paddle, like a Mitchell. you should carry a spare, why not just another nice paddle. i’ve paddled the Osprey a bit, lovely canoe, and all with a trad straight paddle, often with off side power strokes. i’m long in the arm, and like doing it…

I cut down my zav
Use a heat gun and warm up the tube just below the grip, and you can pull the grip off, cut down the shaft, and reglue it. Getting them from Zav unglued will be a bit easier, but it is not hard to adjust the length of those paddles to make them shorter. Making them longer, not so easy.


If you don’t have a paddle
to begin with, sit in your boat and hold whichever hand you will grip the top with out in front of your chin and then measure down to the water…that will be your shaft length. As a general rule, when you are in the middle of your stroke you want your top hand to be somewhere between your nose and neck. Any longer and your top arm will be too high all day long and will tire more easliy.

This applies to flatwater paddling. For quick or white water use a straight shaft paddle a bit longer.

Solo canoe paddles
I carry two, and both are from Bending Branches, who make very nice paddles. The two-bladed solo canoe paddle is the Bending Branches glass Slice solo canoe paddle. It is 280 cm long, and disconnects into two pieces for ease of carrying and stowage, not unlike most kayak paddles. It differs from a kayak paddle in its greater length, which compensates for the greater beam of the canoe, and the greater height that you sit. The Bending Brances solo bent shaft paddle is the Espresso, and they will give you guidelines on selecting the appropriate length. Check out their site for more info at