why no bentshafts in kayak racing?

is there not a generally accepted efficiency or ergonomic benefit from using a bentshaft paddle? would not everyone benefit from using one, racers included?

i have some thoughts on the matter, but this is not a troll.

I have never tried one, but I can’t…
…picture using one with the high angle that a wing requires in racing.



It is interesting that in WW slalom,
bent shafts enjoyed a brief fashion with a few, but are not much used now. I use a circa-1990 slalom bentshaft, and I do like it, but I’m not going to oversell it.

It was developed for racing

– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 11:02 PM EST –

However, it is no longer used. The short answer, useless for paddlers (racers) with good technique, based on an article from Greg B.


PS: If there were an advantage, they would be still using them...

Just doesn’t work …
Picture your top wrist with that ergo bend, then picture the weird wind up your lower wrist runs through on the second and third thirds of the stroke.

There IS a place for these paddles but not for those racing other racers.

Marketing Hype

– Last Updated: Jul-09-06 2:58 PM EST –

>is there not a generally accepted efficiency or ergonomic benefit
>from using a bent-shaft paddle? would not everyone benefit from
>using one, racers included?

No, there is no generally accepted benefit in efficiency nor ergonomics relative to crank-shaft kayak paddles. There is a benefit relative to managing tendonitis and to managing the effects of bad technique.

Some paddler's prone to tendonitis find that crank-shaft paddles provide some measure of relief. This is a good thing. Some paddlers just like the way they work / feel. Some find that it easier to buy / use a crank-shaft than to learn to use proper technique. Others buy crank-shafts because they like the look or think they are "cool".

I own and have experimented with both types of shafts for several years. In my experience crank-shafts offer more disadvantages than advantages for the average paddler or at least for my paddling. Other paddlers will no doubt come to different conclusions about their value.

Straight-shaft looms are more economical to manufacture, cheaper to buy, tend to be lighter, tend to be stronger and are overall more capable / have a greater range of application than crank-shafts. Crank shafts do one thing well, they allow a paddler to wrap more of the fingers around the shaft for better purchase. If the crank is off-set it can help orient the paddle for a forward stroke / high brace but will make the same paddle more difficult to use for reverse strokes / low braces. Other people will need to tell you about the real advantages of crank-shafts because for me they are little more than slick marketing.

Easier on these old bones and joints…
I think the bent shaft has more inherent flex but combined with light weight low angle blades I find it a joy for a long day at touring speeds.

When switching to a high angle power stroke I find it awkward for any length of time.



Sometime history doesnt repeat
Sorry for this long post, but this is an interesting question.

Before an answer, the question needs a bit of clarification.

Racers that use wing paddles do not (and likely never will) use bent shafts.

  1. one reason is that most racers get a lot more coaching than the typical paddler. Proper alignement of not only the wrist, but the elbow relative to the paddle and shoulder are an area of coached technique. Wrists are avoided held in extension or flexion, not only to avoid overuse, but to maximise power transmission. Even with feathered paddles, wrist tendon issues are a technique, not a gear issue.
  2. wing paddles are unique. They are less versatile, surely, but good at what they do. And one very noticeable thing is that they are remarkably stable in the water. There is no alternating vortex shedding, aka “flutter”. This means that the paddler can employ a different grip, as it is not necessary to control the angle of attack of the blade. It does all the work. In fact, there was a trend awhile back towards very small diamter shafts (it was dropped), as most racers find they use a grip that is more “open”, carrying the shaft in the fingers, not the palms.
  3. sinces most tendon issues are really about overuse, racers who are trained are monitored. The most likely candidate for overuse issues are the weekend warriors who go out and double or triple their mileage in a very short time.

    4)Surprise, surprise. Before the sea kayakers, before the WW paddler, even before slalom racers (a minority of some still use bent shafts, BTW), the first category of paddlers to try bent shafts were- international level spring paddlers! Why don’t you see them using them now? Can you say, “hot potato”. They were dropped from use almost immediately. The consensus was, it makes the forward stroke lopsided. From a very technical viewpoint, when using a feathered paddle, the top hand of one hand has to either hold on with wrist held in flexion (bad idea, asking for overuse injury), or held very relaxed (proper technique anyway, but). When held very relaxed, the tremendous force applied by a racer imparts a torque to the shaft. Lopsided stroke…

    That last part is of particular interest. Because the ability to impart more torque, in strokes that require exacting blade angle control (bow rudders, rolls, sideslips/hanging draws), the paddler has not only greater indexing, but can apply more torque. If one has ever used a WW canoe paddle with a T-grip, you know that no other paddle offers as much control over blade angle. A bent shaft kayak paddle is somewhere along a continuum from a straight shaft, to a canoe T-grip. And what about resisting the torque forces caused by wind?

    Choose your paddle well, and realise it is all a compromise. I have used a bent shaft for WW kayaking for 9 years, and though I generally like it for surfing and playing, during the flatwater stretches it drives me nuts. And while I have used them for sea boating, they bother me a lot as well. But then, I started with a wing paddle…