Adapting to bent shaft paddle

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I am considering giving a bent shaft a try. I have read up on sizing, technique, and all that and think I have minimal a handle on the conventional wisdom of it all. I am wondering how steep those of you who when from straight shaft only to using a bent shaft found the learning curve. In my case it would be for both solo and tandem paddling (stern), but the majority would be solo.

Also, how much of the time did you wind up using the bent shaft?
 
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When I first tried a bent shaft paddle (an Al Camp) in 1978, it took me nearly two minutes to adapt!
I’ve used a bent shaft ever since for all of my paddling, flat water and up to class II.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I've been using bents on flat water since I first tried them in 1984. I don't recall any difficulty in adapting. You do plant them closer to your body on entry than a straight paddle and bring them back a little further on exit, but the adaptation is pretty intuitive. You don't get as strong a J correction with a bent, but you can make up for that by getting correction using some pitch stroke on the pull and Canadian stroke on a partial in-water return.

I use bents about 95% of the time when paddling flat water. I use straight paddles in whitewater, twisty rivers and for freestyle play.

Another virtue of a short bent paddle is that the correction stroke paddler can easily transition to hit & switch paddling for paddling upstream or into the wind. It's more difficult to hit & switch with a longer straight paddle.
 
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I agree that the learning curve is short. I kneel and rarely use my bent shafts because I prefer a short/light straight shaft but I recently got a 6 degree bent and use it all the time. The smaller angle is better for kneelers. I do have one canoe set up for sitting and in that boat a 12 degree bent shaft feels good.
 
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In a solo I use a bent (12 degrees) 90%+ of the time. I go to a straight shaft if I'm in following seas, or trying to be quiet/inconspicuous approaching wildlife (switching sides can spook, although less than double blading), or just not going anywhere (e.g., paddling out from camp for a better angle on the sunset). For solo or bow, the learning curve is close to zero.

In the stern I use a straight shaft unless I'm in a hurry. One can J-stroke with a bent, but I find the excess motion with the top hand annoying. I recently saw a Cliff Jacobson interview where he talked about doing a pitch stroke with a bent shaft in the stern, and I've started playing around with that.

In whitewater I stay with the bent, even though it's a shorter stick (I usually have a 50" bent and a 54" straight). The quickness of a light carbon bent means the paddle is never more than a blink from the best place.
 
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I had always used well made fine edge straight wood paddles until I started racing in 1997 and bents became the only practical paddle to use. I have 6 different lengths (plus a couple of duplicates) in carbon bents, used for different size canoes and seating arrangements. But I still prefer my straight thin edge wood for non-race recreational fun and fine maneuver control paddling, and to practice a few freestyle techniques.

Bents are light and fast, and quickly transition to the other side during race hit and switch without thought or awkwardness. When I solo and am in long distance semi-training mode with a bent, I tend to stay on one side for a long time rather than hit and switch. I mostly use a pitch stroke and minimal or no J and keep the canoe on a very straight line. The J and Canadian both work with a bent, but are less effective than with a straight wood paddle. Of course you can't really do the silent palm roll Indian or box stroke at all with a bent, as one of its severe limitations.

Usually never far from thinking of training for the next race (with the exception of this covid year), I most often use a bent in most cases when I go paddling now. There was never really any learning curve in going from a straight blade to a bent, other than the palm roll limitation and slightly less maneuverability.
 
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Pete, Years ago, maybe 2002, I went to Mitchells Paddles and bought 2 bent paddles. One was a single bend and the other was a double bent with Carbon Fiber blade. I never looked back and both are the only paddles I use now a days, actually for years. Class 1, 2, 3 and despite what people say they make great WW paddles...for me anyway. I may be wrong but I think one is the Leader and the other is the Pacer.

What I find is the stress on my shoulders is a bit less using these vs a straight blade. That is just me though. Plus both are very lightweight so for a long day of paddling makes it easier.

dougd
 
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What I find is the stress on my shoulders is a bit less using these vs a straight blade
That would be nice since I have had three shoulder surgeries in the past. Twice on the right and once on the left and anything that makes it a little easier may put off or avoid further problems.
 
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That would be nice since I have had three shoulder surgeries in the past. Twice on the right and once on the left and anything that makes it a little easier may put off or avoid further problems.

Don't go long! Bent shaft paddles work great short (I usually use a 50" GRB and I'm 6' 1"). You would never hammer 10,000 nails a foot above your forehead, you'd go find a stool, but people do the equivalent all the time in a canoe with a too long paddle. Makes for a long day, even for young people with perfect shoulders.
 

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Here is an article that explains the physics of why a bent shaft paddle is more efficient than a straight paddle in generating propulsive force, and further calculating why a 12 degree bend is generally optimal.

https://thescienceofpaddling.net/part-11-about-the-bend

The double bend paddle for most paddlers is mainly to improve hand and wrist ergonomics rather than to increase propulsive force and speed. The double bend allows the shaft wrist to be in a neutral position rather than cocked up during the pull, and it also allows the grip hand to be closer to the body. Some paddlers feel this is less stressful for the wrists and shoulders, but it adds kinky complexity to turning strokes with the paddle. There are arguments, however, that the Tahitian outrigger sprinters can go faster because of double bend physics:

https://kialoa.com/blogs/talkstory/double-bend-paddles-vs-single-bend-outrigger-paddles

http://kanuculture.com/brokenpaddle/doublebends
 
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My partner (bow) and I (stern) are recreational flatwater paddlers. With a loaded canoe we often travel 25-30 km per day. Our longest day unloaded was 49 km in 8 hours of paddling. We're not in a hurry. I have a fairly narrow beaver tail blade and she has a smaller otter tail.

One thing that sets us apart is that we always paddle in sync, at about 45-49 strokes per minute, and I do my correction stroke at that pace (at least in calm water). I do a modified flick J beside me, not behind me, and then I recover a bit quicker than her. As headwinds pickup or when we have lots of boat wake, which is typical where we often paddle, I might drop a few strokes here and there as I need deeper corrections.

We do not want to adopt sit and switch, though we do switch every few minutes or so just to keep our muscles fresh, but generally not for corrections.

if we had bent shaft paddles, would I be able to do my corrections in pace with my partner as I do now?

Would we be able to keep the same paddle pace or are bent shaft blades a bit bigger?

Here's a video of me in the stern doing my J

 
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Into my 40s, I was still a fool who thought pushing through pain and adversity, and taking the craziest, bumpiest, twistiest, most challenging road possible, was a mark of honor and valor and the only way to live. Among loads of other stupidities, I developed severe elbow tendonitis and ulnar nerve damage, which disrupted most everything in my life.

The point is that light, bent shaft, smallish-blade paddles, seem to be, for me anyway, much less stressful on my joints, nerves and tendons, especially on a long day on flat water. Something to think about, especially as one gets older. (I can still act foolish from time to time but I am much less crazy nowadays. I think.)
 
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For what it's worth, I love my bent shaft paddles. Like Stripperguy, my first paddles came directly from Al Camp in his shop down in Otego, NY. Initially I used 12 degree paddles and while I still do so, I also have 10 degree carbon fiber paddle that is an absolute delight to use. They are all lightweight and allow for an all day stroke without getting tired and I've never had any issues doing any sort of control/correction stroke using a bent shaft. Honestly, I'd say give it a try; you have nothing to lose. If you decide you don't like it, I'm pretty sure you'll find a buyer here on the forum.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time...be well.

snapper
 
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Most people with carbon bents that you see will have one from ZRE/Zaveral. However, I get mine from GRB in Canton NY. John and Gene (Newman brothers) will design and build any length, blade size and angle you like if you ask for a custom paddle. And they are less expensive than ZRE as well.
 
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Most people with carbon bents that you see will have one from ZRE/Zaveral. However, I get mine from GRB in Canton NY. John and Gene (Newman brothers) will design and build any length, blade size and angle you like if you ask for a custom paddle. And they are less expensive than ZRE as well.

What kind of turn around time have you had ordering paddles from GRB? I'd probably be looking at a pretty standard model unless I decide on an odd length.
 
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I have a BB Special that mostly just comes along for the ride. Fine for hit and switch, but not that great (for me) for j strokes, which is how I prefer to paddle. So I guess I'm with the OP on adaptability.
 
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What kind of turn around time have you had ordering paddles from GRB? I'd probably be looking at a pretty standard model unless I decide on an odd length.
Not sure, couple of weeks maybe, but short time for standard blades, shafts are cut to desired length and a grip is installed. Call them, tell Gene that I recommended them. He'll know Paul Yukon paddler.
 
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