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Bent vs. Straight Shaft Paddles—A Jacobson vs. Callan Debate

Ash beavertail.

When I see someone paddling a wood canvas canoe with a bent shaft, especially a plastic bent shaft I have to smile
I'd agree if I ever saw a wood and canvas canoe (though there is YouTube!). Sort of like seeing a hot Wenonah with straight shafts. What people don't know.......
 
When I see someone paddling a wood canvas canoe with a bent shaft, especially a plastic bent shaft I have to smile

Schuyler Thomson, retired wood/canvas canoe restorer extraordinaire . . . and the mentor of . . . (smile).

 
Schuyler Thomson...
Given how fast he was paddling, I'd have expected him to be going much faster than he appeared to be... was it the seemingly tiny blade that necessitated the faster stroke rate or just that bent shafts are for racers so "ya gotta really work it"? (I'm only about 1/2 kidding... I think I've only ever paddled that fast once in my life and that was a day when the wind was so bad that everyone else [being more sensible] stayed on shore)
 
I know he’s won several national whitewater championships in the 70’s and 80’s. Even done in a strip canoe… hard to imagine. Probably just his paddling style, although that paddle does look odd in that canoe!

Bob
 
... was it the seemingly tiny blade that necessitated the faster stroke rate...?
Those Zavarel blades do seem small in comparison with most straight shaft wood paddles but the bent shaft and smaller surface area have been proven over decades of making canoes go fast, or far. But if you aren't trying to go as fast as you can, the smaller blade and bent shaft are still efficient. For whatever reason, Mr. Thomson was doing quick, shallow paddle strokes, not what you'd use typically. Almost like he wasn't really trying to get anywhere, just keeping the canoe going forward.

I use Zavarel bent shaft paddles when I'm (we're) wanting to get from point X to point Y; it's just more efficient, with less chance of aggravating repetitive motion injuries. And one of my favorite paddles for solo paddling is a Bending Branches Sunburst ST (straight carbon shaft/wood handle and blade) which has a surface area similar to the Zav's. It's light, nicely balanced, and easy on the shoulders and wrists. But if I'm out exploring in a sport solo (or quick water/whitewater) and want more boat control I'll use a traditional wooden paddle with more blade area.
 
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Bent vs straight … all I know is what works for me. I am comfortable paddling the guide stroke. I get tired of sit and switch. I can, like most, use a bent with a decent J … but a bent shaft just does not do it for me. I am most comfortable with a wood straight shaft with a little flex. I like “tail shaped blades”. I think I move along fine, but because I am almost always solo I guess it really does not matter. Paddling with a straight shaft made of wood is what makes me happy.

Bob.
 
Bent vs straight … all I know is what works for me. I am comfortable paddling the guide stroke. I get tired of sit and switch. I can, like most, use a bent with a decent J … but a bent shaft just does not do it for me. I am most comfortable with a wood straight shaft with a little flex. I like “tail shaped blades”. I think I move along fine, but because I am almost always solo I guess it really does not matter. Paddling with a straight shaft made of wood is what makes me happy.

Bob.
Me too.
 
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