I am new to whitewater canoeing and looking for a good paddle.
I am only really going to do Cl II / II+. I do not have a whitewater specific boat and not sure I want a spooned blade whitewater specific paddle or not. I guess my preference would be for a more conventional blade that has more bite than what I have but maybe I won’t really find it without going to a spooned blade.
Thepaddle I have been using, a Bending Branches Expedition Plus, just lacks the bite I want.
I am considering maybe getting a full sized blade ZRE carbon paddle in a straight shaft (the standard blade shape and not the curved)
Or may just get a curved blade ZRE or Wener.
What do you recommend? I would like it to be good for whitewater, but also good for the flat section preferably but I guess I could just switch paddles for flat sections, etc.
I am new to whitewater canoeing and looking for a good paddle.
I use a Werner Bandit
I started out just using it on WW, but now I use it pretty much use it all the time. It does have the spooned blade.
Mitchell OC-1 Premier
Grey Owl Hammerhead
I just received my Grey Owl Hammerhead the other day and so far I really like it. It's a fiberglass reinforced flat bladed wood paddle with an awesome carved, oiled T-grip that feels great in the hand. It's a little on the heavy side compared to carbon composite wonders, but its tough as nails and it's buoyancy helps even things out a bit. The only maint. it should need is oiling the palm grip once in a while since that is bare wood for better feel. Wood might not be your thing, but I like it's feel in the hand, slight give that's a bit easier on one's joints and it's beauty. It might not have the bite of a full on curved blade paddle, but it does have *way* more grab than any of my more traditional sugar island shaped paddles. The only paddle I have that even comes close is a big 'ol beaver tail, but of course that thing is wholly unsuitable for rocky, shallow conditions.
I couldn't find anyone locally who stocks Grey Owl, so I took a chance and ordered from North Bay Adventure Co.,up in Canada (Grey Owl is a CA company), where the exchange rate helped out a little. With shipping included, it was about $105 bucks. Only took about a week to get here too.
Mitchell - Werner - Aquabound
I like the Mitchell Premier myself. A very rugged stick with good feel.
Several friends including Eric like the Werner Bandit.
Several others swear by the Aquabound Edge.
All of those have curved blades not spoons. IMO the curved blade gives a little better catch with no real downside.
Another Bandit here
If you really want to avoid the spoon blade, there is also the Werner Nantahala.
But like Tommy said, there’s no real downside to the spoon. It may have better catch, I really can’t say. But the spoon is completely neutral in the water.
spoon blade downsides
one dedicated power face. wears one edge unevenly and doesn’t allow for rolling the butt end in the palm at the end of the j stroke, into a pry/rudder, into… whatever else you want to do. i had an Echo spoon blade in my playboating days, great for that, but don’t care for it for anything else. may come down to your personal paddling style. if you aren’t drawn towards a spoon blade, don’t get one, you won’t be missing anything.
the Grey Owl Hammerhead is an awesome paddle, heavy yes, but perfectly balanced, thick stiff shaft, (so very natural and familiar…), it’s my preferred river paddle.
counter to downside
Yes, it does wear the edge unevenly. The angular wear surface presents a wider area to easily keep an epoxy edge to minimize wear.
The downside with the palm rolling indian stroke, I can see that. But, that’s not a stroke I use in WW anyway.
Palm roll with curved blade
In the past I occasionaly did a standard palm roll with my Mitchell, only realizing it when the catch felt soft. That blade seems to work OK when the spoon is backwards.
I don’t use the J too much in rapids. Offsides and prys seem to serve me better. But I do use it in the calmer water in between. Last few times out I found myself doing double palm rolls. Didn’t really think about it but it seemed to work. YMMV.
I dont either
BUT my fear is that because they sneak in all over the place and sometimes when they are not invited I better be ready for them.
The Bandit layup is pretty bad about wearing down from rock contact if you don’t protect it. I’ve seen Bandits used for steep creeking or low water attainments end up with the blade a good 2" shorter than new within a season or two.
If you buy a Bandit, spend $5 or so at an auto parts store for a pack of door edge trim (clear, flexible U-track with glue already in the center). Cut a piece long enough to cover the bottom and maybe 3" up each side of the blade. I’ve kept door edge trim on mine since it was new, and it’s still the same length as when I bought it, in spite of my not being particularly nice to it.
BTW, if you want ‘bite,’ get a curved blade. I’ve got a Werner rec as a spare (similar to the Nantahala, but cheaper materials). Its blade has much more surface area than my Bandit, but the Bandit has way more bite.
ZRE Power Curve; size; cross forward
When I first started out in WW 30 years ago, I, like a lot of others, felt I needed a BIG blade.
That changed after about two years, when I realized that a smaller (regular sized) blade was much better for accelerating quickly, a crucial river running and slalom need, and that bracing was much more a function of lower body heeling/hip snapping than blade size.
I think the best ZRE paddle for WW is the “Power Curve”. It has a rectangular WW blade with a cambered power face curve and a notched wooden T-grip.
The primary downside of a curved blade to me is that it makes the in-water return on a cross forward stroke somewhat more difficult and klutzy. But you can get used to that.
I think I’ll take it
Whats your style?
You mentioned II, II+, in a non-WW specific boat.
I find I prefer a much different blade type depending on the boat type. The boat type is dependent on the style in which I want to run the river.
For class III and above, I use WW specific boats (solo and tandems), and I much prefer a curved blade. I own and like my Werner Bandit (with the no longer available wood t-grip, which I have sanded and shaped), but I recently used a Mitchell Premier that I really liked…not enough to get rid of my Bandit, but when I need a new paddle.
When I paddle class II, I get bored in a highly rockered pedestal boat. I get my kicks paddling shorter tripping tandems, solo. In that case, I do not like the curved blade. While my go-to is a Werner Nantahala, I actually prefer a palm grip (I am not rolling the tandem, no need for a t-grip), but have yet to find a paddle that has the blade shape I like, with a palm grip. That type exists, I just can’t seem to find one to try out!
I guess what I am trying to say, is that what your goal is in paddling II’s will determine the appropriate paddle type. They will all make a boat go left or right…
"…lacks the bite I want…"
Sorry, but I am confused. Are you looking for a blade that has more area? I have and like the BB Expedition Plus. I bought it so I could retire my 30 year-old Mitchells (with SS end caps rivited on!). The area of the BBs and Mitchells is very similar.
Not that the Bandits and other spooned blades are not good - I just think you have a pretty good stick right now.
in water return more difficult?
How does the curved blade affect the in water return?
I’m pretty sure no one makes spoon blade canoe paddles for that reason but I can’t see a curved blade slicing much differently from a straight.
Am I wrong?
How does the edge trim affect the feel?
I would think that putting an edge protector would really change the in water feel of the paddle, particularly the slice.
Never tried it though.
I want something with more catch or with more stiffness…or both…in order to allow more power. I have found that my ZRE bent shaft does not have a super big blade but has a lot of bite due to the fact that it is absolutely free of flex which equates to more energy transmitted to forward motion.
I do like to rotate the paddle in the palm Indian stroke style occasionally so I would prefer a symmetrical blade in that sense.
Anoterh thing I wonder about the spooned blade is just rown it would do with sculling strokes / side slips. Seems like it may feel a bit different and may not be optimal.
From what I have found it appears that there are not a lot of paddles out there with big blades that are not spooned. So maybe if I want to stick with a symmetrical blade I will need to look for more stiffness rather than more size…???
The standard ZRE certainly delivers in that department and with its light weight it seems it would offer a high stroke rate. Hopefully in the heaviest weight it would be strong enough.
More Bite, but Traditional
I have a Bending Branches paddle with exactly the same size blade as what's on the Expedition Plus, so I know exactly how much "bite" you are already getting. It's an okay paddle, but I agree with you that it could grip the water better, only because both of my Sawyer paddles get a lot more grip on both power and sculling strokes, and also slice much more cleanly and with less effort.
One of my Sawyer paddles is a whitewater paddle called, I think, the "Canyon Guide" or some such thing. It probably isn't as classy as some of the other ones mentioned here, but it's tough, symmetrical, wood, not too expensive, and it DOES get noticeably more "bite" than the paddle you have. It also is VERY stiff, but then, it's a bit of a war club - made to take a beating (I don't use it on the flatwater stretches for that reason). I really don't want to bash Bending Branches, and they may have a whitewater paddle that suits your needs. I only know I like my Sawyer paddles a lot more than my Bending Branches paddles, for a few reasons.
A bent shaft paddle requires a different technique and should be shorter than a straight shaft for a given person and boat. Perhaps you are not getting what you should be out of the BB Expedition? What size is the ZRE? What size it the BB? Do you paddle sitting or kneeling? Personally, I couldn’t imagine paddling in anything beyond simple current while sitting.