Bent Shaft Paddle Fail?

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I treated myself a Bending Branches Black Pearl paddle just before the season started and was absolutely thrilled to add this lightweight beauty to my arsenal. As a primarily seated paddler, I thought a bent shaft blade would be just the ticket and my trusty wood BB straight shaft would move into the back up position.

After several outings, I'm finding that I have a hard time controlling my solo with the bent and the straight seems much more efficient. Am I doing something wrong? Do I just need to practice more? Does anyone have any pointers? Did I drop 200 bucks on a paddle that isn't going to work for me?
 
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I always scoffed at bent shaft paddles, but Yellow canoe convinced me to get one last year. It is the only paddle I use now, solo and tandem. Only canoe I don't use it in is my really big 20 footer, cause its too short. I don't find control any harder, and I find paddling much easier. What do you mean by control? Making it go straight?
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Hard to say what's wrong without knowing more or, better yet, observing you.

What kind of canoe are you using?

Where are you seated?

Are you using the switch paddling technique or a single-sided correction technique?

If using single sided-correction technique, what type of correction stroke are you trying to use: C stroke, pitch stroke, J stroke, goon stroke, Canadian stroke?

What kind of water are you talking about -- still water, moving water, whitewater?

What do you mean by "hard time controlling" the canoe?
 
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I paddle flat water and sit and switch. I can't figure a decent/comfortable j or goon stroke that doesn't feel like it's putting on the brakes. It feels like I'm doing twice the work to turn and maneuver my Keewaydin 15 and I'm having to make exaggerated sweeps to get similar results of a straight shaft blade. That seems counter productive to the benefits of a bent paddle.
 
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I have the Keewaydin 15 pack boat and a BB Black Pearl in a 48" length. For travel across the large lakes it is a great combo and for the tight swamp switchbacks I just do exaggerated sweeps to turn it back on itself. I will be learning to lean the canoe more and hope to perfect this on the next trip. I do need to slow down on the tight trails and not turn it into a rally race where I slide the canoe sideways on the corners.Lol I have not touched the regular paddle (Sunburst ST) since I got this Black Pearl. I am a sit and switch paddler and do like the combo. The handle is very comfy for me.
 
G

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I've talked to a lot of people who say they despise bent shaft for anything but sit and switch.

When I first tried, I wasn't sold... but my straight technique was poor... so I kept on with a straight. I continued to try different bents as I could and found a few things.

I believe most BB are 14°. That is one thing I don't like about them. I think 12° is the best compromise if you don't want to switch. Look around, they are out there.

What is your length? Is it correct for your torso and seating position? If not, you'll probably have a bear of a time with a bent. As for a straight, I can paddle a wide range but I find shorter is more efficient for me.

The rest is just feel. To J a bent you really have to drop your top hand and use a lot of twist. The blade will be a foot or so away from the side of the boat and parallel to the keel line before you start to apply your pry. A proper bent is shorter in length and this leads to a much shorter transition than a typical length straight paddle when going from forward to pry.

Your pry itself will be much different. The angle of the blade will force your lower hand to farther away from the gunwale, which takes some getting used to.

I would recommend checking the size, and then trying to do Canadian and pitch strokes first. Once you get the feel of rotating and controlling the angled blade, and J should be much easier.

If you goon with a bent is will drag like hell because you are never going to get your top hand out far enough to keep the blade parallel with the keel line. It is essentially like using a brace/brake with a straight at that point.
 
G

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I am not an expert but my experience might be of some use.

Steering with a bent is most efficient and best accomplished by switching. So, concentrate on extending out for the entry with short choppy strokes where you withdraw the blade at your hip or before. The more straight the strokes, the more strokes per side, the more efficient. I still struggle with (and avoid) the j stroke with a bent, but now I can do it when needed, and just recognize it will not work as efficiently and naturally for me as it would with a straight. Other stokes are more or less problematic. A draw works fine for me now with a bent
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I have elbow tendonitis and other ailments and the bent is so much easier on me than the straight or a kayak paddle of comparable weight, for covering distances on flat water.

If you have been using a straight paddle all your life, you probably just can’t expect to have that same comfort level when you are starting out with the bent.

I have a black pearl 50” and would love to find another. Too bad they were discontinued.
 
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I paddle with a 56" straight and the Black Pearl is 50" as recommended by the BB rep when I bought it. It feels great in my hands and I love the weight. I appreciate the words of wisdom and I'm going to continue using it and working on my form. I will have my paddling partner watch me paddle to see if I'm doing something 'off' next time we're out together.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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A very good paddler can control any boat with any paddle. In general, it sounds as if you just need more experience and practice, and perhaps some instruction. The Adirondack Canoe Symposium would be a good start, particularly if you can find an instructor who will concentrate on bent paddle usage.

Some more specific comments:

I paddle flat water and sit and switch. I can't figure a decent/comfortable j or goon stroke that doesn't feel like it's putting on the brakes.

This is confusing. If you are paddling sit & switch, you don't need to do any correction strokes at all. You just do forward strokes and get your paddle out of the water at, or slightly behind, your hip. Don't drag the paddle way behind you. Sit & switch also involves high stroke rate paddling even for cruisers. Depending on your hull shape and switching skill, you can do four to six strokes on each side before switching. Yes, this means you will yaw your way across the lake somewhat.

That said, some boats are simply designed better for sit & switch paddling -- in particular, the best hulls are very hard tracking. I don't know anything about the Keewaydin 15 other than it's heritage and what I can see in the video below. It seems to me to be a new version of a Yost kneeling canoe -- meaning it won't be an ideal tracking canoe for sit & switch paddling. (But, again, a really good paddler can do it.)

In addition, the Bending Branches Black Pearl does not appear to be an ideal switching bent. It has too big a blade and is too heavy at 14 oz. There are other videos on the paddle in which the BB owner describes the Black Pearl as a touring blade. To me, this all means the Black Pearl is better as a correction stroke blade than a switching blade.

It feels like I'm doing twice the work to turn and maneuver my Keewaydin 15 and I'm having to make exaggerated sweeps to get similar results of a straight shaft blade. That seems counter productive to the benefits of a bent paddle.

A bent shaft should be significantly shorter than a straight shaft, and hence it will not have the same leverage and reach on a sweep stroke as the longer straight. To make turns easier the Kee can easily be heeled, as the video shows. You can also use slight heels to induce on-side carves to counter-balance an uncorrected forward stroke with a canoe like the Kee. Charlie Wilson calls this the inside circle forward stroke, and he teaches a class on this technique at the Adirondack symposium.

Finally, to paddle straight with a single-sided correction stroke (i.e., no switching) using a bent, the third video below gives a good demonstration of the J-stroke. Personally, I would use a shorter bent paddle than Dave Woolridge in the video, though he is in a fairly wide boat.

I've also never cared much at all for the traditional stern push-away J. It's tiresome on the wrists and forearms. I like to start the forward stroke with a slight bow draw and use a Canadian stroke recovery. In the Canadian (or forward lifting loaded slice) recovery, you don't push outward with the paddle way behind you. Just behind your hip, you slice the paddle forward while lifting slightly upward. This pressure straightens the boat and also moves the paddle part way to the bow for the next stroke.

You can find videos of Bill Mason and Rolf Kraiker doing the Canadian recovery with a straight paddle. Surely there is one, somewhere, of a good paddler using the Canadian correction with a bent.



 
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Glenn, sorry for the confusion. I sit and switch because I can't comfortably or effectively perform the correction strokes I can with a straight shaft paddle. I tend more toward single side paddling with the straight. FTR, my BP weighs in at just over 11 oz. (yes, I weighed it!) The more I sit here and think about it, you're probably right, I really just need to practice with it.
 
G

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50" sounds about right to me if you typically use a 56" straight. You might want to try picking up a shorter straight blade, it will change how you make your corrections anyway. Short power stroke, quick twist and stern pry (although lighter than a true pry) is how I J. I prefer a Canadian mostly. I don't think it is as efficient but it is certainly less strenuous.

With a bent, or a short straight you ought to be able to keep the boat going pretty straight without correction. If you pull the paddle out of the water parallel to the keel line and keep a short power stoke, you ought to be able to get 2, 3 maybe even 4 strokes before you need to apply any real correction. This is much easier in a tandem than a solo, but it is possible.

But take a look at your paddle out of the water and how it angles past your hip. You should be able to see that you your top hand needs to go more to your offside and your lower hand more to your onside. This pushes the blade farther away from side of the boat, as I was trying to say earlier, but really it keeps the blade parallel to the keel line when you rotate it. Play around outside the boat where you can see it, make mental note, and then go by feel when in the water.

Anyway, if you have a 14° you'll need to be more exaggerated in this motion. It may feel uncomfortable at first but you'll get it. 12 and 10's feel more natural, but aren't as efficient going forward.

Keep in mind doing a Canadian with a bent you really have to drop your top hand. It's going to be nearly parallel to the gunwale on recovery. The blade does the same thing as with a straight, but your hands are going to be much different.
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Glenn, sorry for the confusion. I sit and switch because I can't comfortably or effectively perform the correction strokes I can with a straight shaft paddle. I tend more toward single side paddling with the straight. FTR, my BP weighs in at just over 11 oz. (yes, I weighed it!) The more I sit here and think about it, you're probably right, I really just need to practice with it.

I think the hardest thing in canoeing, and the most important thing, is being able to paddle straight with a single-sided correction stroke -- without even thinking about it. I also think single-sided correction stroking is much more aesthetic and fun, and less boring, than kerplunk-kerplunk-kerplunk switching.

I was a legitimate class 4 whitewater paddler before I "figured out" an effortless J stroke in Okefenokee flatwater at about age 38, which was about 31 years after I began paddling canoes solo. Actually, what I stumbled onto via proprioceptive trial and error was the C stroke that I still use. I've been using bents on my knees with correction strokes -- plus some occasional changes of position and pace into sit & switch -- in the 30 years since that Okefenokee epiphany.

JP, if you can control your canoe with a straight shaft, you will be able to do it with a bent. It's just a matter of changing your entries, exits, angles and recoveries slightly until they become automatic -- with practice, practice, practice. But the thing is, you have to practice the right thing and not the wrong thing, as I had been doing since childhood. Even a day's lesson with a competent instructor could probably have cut 30 years off my J/C correction stroke learning curve.

That all said, even after you become proficient with a bent, you may find you prefer paddling in certain canoes or in certain conditions with a straight paddles. I prefer straights for whitewater, twisty streams, and forested swamp slaloms -- any venue where I want to have maximum boat control for turns and braces.
 
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3. The experts will scoff at this, and that's OK. It's a stern correction stroke I discovered (i.e., have never read about it) and works great once you get the hang of it. When you turn your grip hand to execute a J stroke, don't turn it 90* but only about 45*. Then lift with your shaft hand instead of pushing the blade outward as in the usual J action. When you turn your wrist down you set the blade at an angle - not vertical - and when you lift your grip hand you pull that angled blade upward. It acts just like a fan blade and works as well as a moderate J.


While we all like to think we have discovered something new.. and the joy of the aha moment.. what you are describing is as old as canoeing.. Its the Canadian stroke.

Nomenclature is so confusing.. The Northwoods stroke is allied with it.. pulling that angled blade upward is the correction..there is no J at all in that one.\ vs the eeny j hint in the Canadian

All correction strokes rely on the blade being IN the water. With a shorter paddle this takes some concentration at first. I would bet money the OP blade is not in the water.. I have had almost all my students start out thinking they were J cause their thumb was pointing the correct way.. they were pushing out and nothing happened..

Their blade was not in the water. Usually its the result of a chicken wing shape top arm with a crook at the elbow.. Later when the mechanics are down you can relax your arm a bit.
 
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PS I don't think the Kee solo boats are designed as any particular type i.e. kneeling single, sit and switch or double - I believe the intent was to be able to do all proficiently with simply changing the seating position, which Swift allows you to do easily. They probably have one that they do a tad better than others, but I'm pretty sure DY paddles the plugs around with a double blade most of the time sitting on the floor.

From what I can tell from my own Kee, which is an entirely different beast is that it is pretty insensitve to sweeps when you are moving forward - I'm guessing that if that feature carries on the solo boats it might be a good thing for a double blade.

I paddled a Pack 13.6 and that thing went straight as an arrow when you got it up to speed. Turned good too though - just drag and reverse sweep and it would slow down and pivot right around. I'm guessing those are things you want with a double blade. Not really knowing what I was doing it felt real natural and easy to do.
 
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Water time is key>

With sufficient you can make a highly rockered boat track well.
With sufficient you can edge a no rockered boat to turn well.

The result is that for a given area.. really one boat will do..whatever you pick.. Multiple boats are a symptom of our wants.

There are exceptions. I think I would be unhappy with the result of putting a Jensen racer on edge.
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Kevin Callan's Canadian stroke is an entirely different animal from what I've described.

I'm talking about lifting the paddle up vertically. There is no outward movement of the blade, no ruddering or steering action, only the action of a fan blade moving in a fluid.

Two things.

First, I believe that Giant Sloth Yulee knew every canoeing stroke, movement and maneuver that we use now (excepting the whitewater freestyle aerobatics now possible with short and essentially decked "open" canoes). Giant Sloth Yulee was the grandson of the very first guy to ever make bark canoe in North America, which was probably near what is now the Suwannee River.

Second, I can believe you have developed a correction move not written about in the usual texts. I have one that I call the "auto roll" correction. If I just let my straight paddle drag behind me and release my grip to do a palm roll, the paddle, almost by itself, will flip 180 degrees. That flip will correct the off-side yaw induced the power stroke. It all happens behind me. I can't stroke fast doing this, but it's very relaxing and doesn't stress any muscles or bones.
 
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I don't want to argue, but Kevin Callan's Canadian stroke is an entirely different animal from what I've described.
http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?259

This article talks about the Indian stroke and the Canadian stroke.
http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpress...indian-stroke/
Neither is what I'm talking about.

At 2:24 of this video, Rolf Kraiker demonstrates the Canadian stroke.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyJHA_jrzaI
It is also not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about lifting the paddle up vertically. There is no outward movement of the blade, no ruddering or steering action, only the action of a fan blade moving in a fluid.


We need a video! Of you

At 3 am I thought.. Gavia is describing a stern pry sideslip.. The paddle is vertical in the water.. and next to the hip

Maybe.

Awful name. Is your thumb pointed a little waterward of straight back for a fleeting moment and then a slice forward?
 
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