which way to hold bent paddles?

not that I’ve ever used one-switched to kayaking several years ago-but just watched a cable access ‘canoe’ trip and the guys were all using a ‘bent’ canoe paddle-looked like a minor ‘bow’ between the grip and top of blade, with a definite ‘curve’ from to the blade. But they were all holding them so the blade curved FORWARD-instead of using the curve to accent the pull and sweep of the blade stroke.

To me, it looked like they were defeating the purpose of having a curved blade…

am I wrong or were they all drinking too much beer on the trip? It was a guided canoe trip up in Northwestern Maine…

Bent shaft
The curve in a bent shaft paddle isn’t there to catch the water earlier. It is so that the paddle releases water quicker on the backstroke, before the paddler starts lifting water instead of pulling against it. If they had the blade bent forward, they were using them right.

They were correct
if I understand your description. The bent shaft makes the last half of the power stroke more efficient. As a straight blade passes the vertical the blade starts to lift as much water as it pushes. The bent shaft delalys this during the most powerful part of the stroke. The power face of the paddle is usually perfectly flat. Lots more can be said but that is the short description.

t’anks-that answers it…
just didn’t look like would help-but your explanation does make sense. Since I was a ‘power stroker’-having the blade curved IN would have increased my stroke force tremendously-and with my longer than normal arms-I never had problems bringing the paddle back out without ‘catching a crab’ as we used to say…found that I would hold the grip further forward to get the blade to ‘bite’ into the water for power. Guess the curved blades wouldn’t work for me with my method…

us neanderthal’s sometimes do things a little different…

several times my son and I would ‘race’ our canoe against others and could go full speed ahead, creating a good wake-and spin it 180 degrees on a dime and not lose momentum-and continue the race BACKWARDS in a straight line…drove the other guys nuts…and my son was only 12 at the time-best bowman I’ve ever paddled with :slight_smile:

can’t do it anymore…bum leg won’t fold up for canoeing… :frowning:

from the pics’…
the blade of the paddles these guys were using were not flat at all-I’d say if you drew a straight line across the blade face, it had a cup of 4-6"…almost like paddling with the back of a large spoon…did not look like they had much power-constantly both people in the canoes were seen switching sides to keep the canoe going straight…against all the teaching I ever did or heard of-invitation to tip! But if they had the ‘power’ they seemed to lack they wouldn’t have needed to do that.

And, you should have seen the kayakers in the group-one of which rolled in a shallow river…the two of them had ALL their camping gear stacked UP behind them-to the height of their heads!!! No bulkhead or internal storage space…instead of giving it to the canoes to carry…full pack, sleeping bag, tent, and more gear-lashed up like it was on the back of a damn camel!!!

bent shaft
actually, the fastest canoers in the world all usually exactly the technique you are describing. it’s called “sit and switch” or sometimes “hit and switch”. it’s almost always done with a bent shaft paddle- each paddle stroke is taken at maximum power, which has been shown to diminish after 6-8 reps, and switching sides is done frequently, both to maintain direction without using ruddering strokes, and to most efficiently use muscles on both sides of the body. This technique really works best in hard tracking, fairly narrow canoes.


Bent Shaft Paddling
I paddle a 16’ Prospector canoe…a very old design wilderness tripper. I started with beavertails. Used them, loved them then discovered the merits of bent shaft.

The angle varies, but the most common is 14 degrees. The bend allows the blade to reach a little bit further forward and be at the vertical whne the shaft reaches your hips. At theis point, remove the paddle from the water and do another stroke.

The “sit & switch” method is highly efficient. For one thing, there is no need to do any “correction” strokes to keep tracking straight. The J stroke or the “rudder” stroke is a real momentum killer, so you’re back to paddling hard again. With sit & switch you are continuously offsetting the canoes tendancy to turn or spiral. The trick is to paddle quicker, not harder. Once you get the canoe moving all you want to do is keep it moving with the least amount of effort. That’s why you use short, quick strokes. It’s like pushing a stalled car…once you get it rolling you don’t have to heave into it and drive your legs to keep the thing rolling. Tiny little stutter steps keeps it rolling along nicely. Typically, a bent shaft paddle should be shorter than a straight blade for maximum comfort. While awkward at first, after a while you’ll become quite comfortable with it. You’ll make a few adjustments to prys & draws, but you lose very little in terms of manuverability, if any. Braces are still very effective.

It takes some practice for tandem paddlers to get their rhythm in synch, but once you do, it is heavenly. Usually the stern paddler says “hut” when it’s time to switch. The switch is made without missing a single beat or stroke and the canoe never loses momentum.

If you enjoy long distance/long duration paddling, such as a wilderness camping trip, the bent shaft really pays off. No aches from only working one side of the body, no blisters from continually twisting the shaft to make a correction stroke, and when you have to sprint for cover because a storm is brewing, it’s nice to have the consistant speed.

If you have the loot, get a Zaveral carbon graphite paddle. If you are more budget minded, I highly recommend a Camp paddle. They are made of wood, are extremely light and very durable.

My beavertails look lovely on the wall and my bent shafts are perfect in the boat.

Paddle smarter, not harder.

saw a bent paddle
at Galyans sports store. With the blade bent back it caught the salesman in the knee more effectively. I apologized for not seeing him and he hobbled off.Oops!

I use them
The wide, flat part of the paddle is the end that goes in the water. Seriously, as has been said, they go the opposite way you would think. EVERYONE who ever picked up one of mine began using it backwards.

I’m not sure if I was going faster, but in a long day of paddling, the difference in fatigue is easy to notice. Bent shafts mean you lift a lot less water with every stroke. Love 'em.

need to clarify paddle switching…
I know about side switching during paddling-used to do it all the time, and YES, the stern paddler needs to control when…but these morons I watched in the program were switching to THE SAME SIDE repeatedly-and because the camera man was fairly close-you could tell they did NOT communicate between each other. Was surprised they didn’t dump it many times-since they WERE running through a fairly choppy section the others were calling ‘whitewater rapids’…

most of the time the bow man was switching instead of letting the stern man correct-or he didn’t know the proper correction strokes from the bow-and the gunwales were dropping right to the water line…they were NOT in full control, and were not going smoothly with speed. It was laughable, and only because you could tell they were NOT in deep running water it wasn’t that dangerous…but in other shots you could see the amount of alcohol that went around…making us wonder how much anti-freeze they consumed BEFORE starting the run.

Have to tell you, after watching an hour of that-I wanted to know what group was the real ‘guide’ company, just so that I DIDN’T book a trip with them in the future…

Paddling videos
Yeah, it’s always interesting to see how Hollyweird wannbes portray paddling.

My favorite is when making a landing they run the bow of the boat way up on shore, so the bow paddler can hop out & drag the boat further onto dry land. The poor stern paddler is usually hanging on for dear life as the canoe wobbles wildly.

One of my favorite quotes comes from “The Complete Wilsderness Paddler.”…“Paddling a canoe straight is as easy as walking. Just remember, it took you two years to learn to walk.”