Starting out with a bent shaft

-- Last Updated: Sep-14-09 5:52 PM EST --

Just wondering if anyone on these boards either started out themselves with a bent shaft paddle... or has at least witnessed others who have done so?

Those who initially paddled with a straight stick sometimes (perhaps commonly) seem to think doing so would involve a "steep learning curve"... but is that a view coloured by the experience of trying to adapt once competent (and once already moving on to advanced strokes with the straight paddle)?

I'm aware of at least one paddler who started with a 12 degree bent touring stick.... adding an array of straights at a later date but retaining his 12 degree bent to this day. He seems to have not only coped but to have no regrets: is he rare only because most never even tried... or was he just an exceptional learner?

Most significanlty, do any of these answers differ for solo or tandem paddlers?

As long as one starts in the right boat
and on the right water, I guess one could start with a bent shaft. It would be harder solo, and one would be better off in a really hard tracking boat. But here in north Georgia, using only bent shaft paddles might rule out some of the best rivers.

started with a bent Zav
Tougher to J-stroke. Works great for going fast in a straight line, or if someone else steers

I use a 5 degree bent shaft that I made
when paddling on flatter stretches. It j strokes pretty well, and even works for whitewater cross strokes. I know Zaveral will make paddles with reduced angle. Maybe a 7 degree blade would work for a stern paddler with control issues.

I thought you all were talking about kayaking!

I started with a bent shaft for a kayak… and thought the blade made more of a difference than the shaft…

Basiclly started out with bent
used a straight shaft in scouts ( When Johnson was President) When I took up paddling again the Canunut had us using bents. Now that is all I am comfortable with.

For exercise ReCrossRandy and I will paddle acrossLake Norman to Blythe landing. At Blythe

we Slooman (SP) the bouys at the water treatment plant. Steering is more of a team effort in an

eighteeen footer but it is doable (on flatwater at least.) Charlie

straight arms
It is neat to try keeping your arms straight out with either canoe paddle. Try some you tube canoe race videos

Poked around with straight shaft my whole life, but nothing serious. Just floats down the river in an old Alumacraft. This year I got more serious about canoeing. Bought a Bell Magic solo and an old Sawyer Cruiser. Started out with a bent shaft ZRE figuring I’d add a cheaper straight shaft later on. Haven’t bothered getting it yet, quite happy with the bent shaft.


My two cents for what it is worth
I think the majority of paddlers start with a straight shaft because most start by renting canoes at their local liveries or where ever they rented their first canoe, and 99% of the liveries just use el cheapo straight shaft ones.

Then when they buy their first canoe, they are comfortable with a straight shaft, so that is what they get.

I paddled with a straight shaft for that reason, but knowing what I know now, I would have started right away with a bent shaft.

My straight shaft paddles all have sat forlornly for quite a few years. One of these days I’ll make a coat rack out of a few of them.



I’d get one of each
Sure, you could start with a bent. And for some forms of paddling, mainly forward stroking in non-whitewater, you may always prefer a bent – especially if you end up preferring seated paddling to kneeling and/or sit-and-switch correction to single-side correction.

However, it is easier to learn and execute many turning strokes, correction strokes, braces, pries and jams with a straight shaft paddle. And whitewater paddling is more effective with a straight shaft paddle.

Hence, I almost always take one of each. This allows me to practice the different feel of the different strokes with each type of paddle, and to switch between them just for variety and fun.

Glen stole my thunder…
but building on what he is saying, many bent shaft paddles have a dedicated grip which eliminates some palm rolls and turning and maneuvering strokes. Bents are mostly for forward stroking especially if seated vs. kneeling. My preference would be to learn about paddling with a straight then go to the bent when paddling long periods if seated. This is easier but not necessarily better.


bent shaft paddle
I was set up with a bent shaft paddle and a Wenonah Prism by a local shop(never having paddled before). The intention was that I would sit and switch while touring on flat water. I never really took to sit and switch, don’t like the feel of the zig-zaggy course. I usually use a J-stroke with my bent shaft paddle on my right side to propel my Prism although I do use sit and switch when speed is my only concern. My right wrist doesn’t roll well enough to comfortably use a J-stoke on my left side.

I’ve been paddling like this for almost a year but just this weekend I bought a straight shaft paddle retired from rental use. I was surprized how much longer the correct length straight shaft paddle was compaired to my bent shaft paddle. I paddled with it for the first time on a lake for about 1.5 hours and it made my shoulders and back sore.

I guess I’ll need to spend some time with a straight shaft paddle to get comfortable with it but I think I do okay with a bent shaft paddle for J-stroking.

DIfferent strokes for different folks
I sit and switch with a bent shaft. I don’t think they had bent shafts when I started paddling 40 years ago. I use a straight paddle for poking around and float trips which I almost never do anymore. After all these years I can’t sit still in a canoe. I want to get cooking so it’d a bent shaft for me. I think the learning curve is much easier with a bent shaft. The j stroke is harder to learn and be good at. If I was to teach someone these days I wouldn’t even show them my straight paddle. Then again I don’t paddle white-water either.

With Glenn and Pagayeur, it all comes down to Blade, Body and Boat.

That said, Swede form hulls that are strongly delta shaped, tend to prefer sitting paddlers, bent shaft paddles and sit and switch technique.

Another caveat is that an instructor can teach beginners sit and switch technique in a half day. It takes most twelve hours to master the corrected J stroke. There are learning curve and commitment arcs on the same graph.

The hardest game on the water is the single straight blade solo canoe, The easiest is the solo double blade canoe/kayak. Tandem canoe and solo sit and switch fall somewhere in between.