• HAPPY INTERNATIONAL MUD DAY!

Paddles: traditional vs. modern.

Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
55
Reaction score
9
Since paddling season is over (warm enough but no water) I've been brushing up on my paddling literature, looking for stuff I want to practice in the spring.
One of my books is a small one on solo canoeing by Cliff Jacobson.
I was surprised to see that he favors modern paddle design and construction, over traditional.
He also seemed to be pretty big on bent shafts and sit and switch, at least for solo canoeing.
I guess I thought of him as more of a traditionalist.
In any sport, I'm pretty quick to embrace new ideas and technology, not that bent shafts and laminated paddles are all that new.
On the other hand, I'm not willing to ignore what the voyageurs learned paddling heavy loads over long distances.
For long journeys, the voyageurs liked long, narrow blades and a fast stroke rate.
I own examples of both modern and traditional, but can you combine the two in one paddle?
What would that look like?
A bent shaft with a longer, narrower blade?
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2021
Messages
412
Reaction score
200
Location
Florida
A long blade on a bent shaft seems like a bad idea to me. I’ve been playing with underwater return with a bent shaft, suffice to say I’m not consistently adept at it. The bent shaft shines with fast forward strokes and a long one would foul the cadence I think.
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2015
Messages
1,540
Reaction score
770
Location
Anchorage Alaska / Pocono Mts.
I would go for a traditional shape but made from carbon fiber. If anyone knows of a maker let me know.

Someone mentioned a company that does that here once and I left messages with the closest dealer and they never got back to me.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,873
Reaction score
858
Location
Raymond, ME
I would go for a traditional shape but made from carbon fiber. If anyone knows of a maker let me know.

Someone mentioned a company that does that here once and I left messages with the closest dealer and they never got back to me.
Alchemist.. I think defunct
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2017
Messages
70
Reaction score
52
Location
Minnesota
I briefly had one of these, which I traded to another user here in a big paddle swap. I liked the paddle. It has a mega big blade. The underwater recovery slice was nice. Not perfect, but nice. The "uncut" came with the grip unglued and was spot on to the advertised weight. I didn't tune it to my length preferences before it left my possession. Incidentally, before I purchased the paddle second hand, I had also messaged the company (known to be active and reliable in the WW kayak circle), but never heard back from them. If traditional shapes were my paddle preference, I would buy another one. I still may.

https://veruskayaks.com/product/wakimika-canoe-paddle/
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 23, 2012
Messages
855
Reaction score
211
Location
Western Adirondacks
I would go for a traditional shape but made from carbon fiber. If anyone knows of a maker let me know.
GRB newman designs are well known with NY marathon paddlers as makers of very good bent shaft carbon paddles at a reasonable price. I am sure that Gene and brother John Newman could make you the carbon paddle of your choice, even straight shafts. https://www.grbnewmandesigns.com/paddles-and-accessories

Bent paddles are best meant for power and fast stroke racing. Although you can do effective J correction strokes among others, they don't do so well for fancier freestyle maneuvering strokes. Strokes requiring slice back recovery are just awkward to do
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
55
Reaction score
9
I don't know. I don't see why a bent shaft would make underwater recovery any harder. A bent shaft, with a narrow blade, might actually make underwater recovery easier. I think the only way to know for sure is to make one and try it.
My point, if I have one, is If a bent shaft makes a short, wide blade more efficient, why wouldn't it make a long narrow blade more efficient. And that was only one suggestion. Maybe there are other ways of combining modern and traditional.
I think another big question is why is it that virtually any quality double bladed paddle has a dihedral spoon blade and, except for the MAX canoe paddle, sold by Oak Orchard, you only get those features on very high end canoe paddles. A few months ago, I could buy a Werner Skagit two piece kayak paddle for $135. They've upped it to $155, but that's still pretty cheap, and it's got two blades. If dihedral spoon blades are a good idea for a kayak paddle, and they are a good idea for a $350 canoe paddle, then why isn't it a good idea for a $150 canoe paddle?
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2015
Messages
1,540
Reaction score
770
Location
Anchorage Alaska / Pocono Mts.
Thanks for posting that Yknpdlr, they are nice paddles but they don't have that traditional blade shape I'm looking for.

Good question about why there aren't more canoe paddles with a spoon shaped blade IS. I've used them in Hawaii, (I think they were made from broken SUP paddles), they had a noticeably better catch than a straight blade. They wouldn't be as good for underwater correction strokes but still why aren't they more common?
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2012
Messages
855
Reaction score
211
Location
Western Adirondacks
I.S. Did you look at the GRB curved blade paddle on the page I linked above? Be sure to view the youtube video review of it by marathon race paddler instructor Kevin Olson.

Bent shaft paddles are diffiicult to use for strokes requiring underwater recovery for a couple of reasons, I think. The bent angle is just awkward to slice, particularly if you are accustomed to using a straight blade with a vertical shaft. Muscle memory gets in the way, if for no other reasson. Plus, bents are not symmetrical from power face to back face, and strokes where you would normally rotate a straight blade 180 degrees during a palm roll, such as when doing the Indian stroke, simply does not work smoothly with a bent paddle, especially if it has a wide blade shape underwater. Although the J is easy to do with a bent, transitioning to the Canadian, while possible, is just plain awkward with the bent shaft angle.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
836
Reaction score
307
I think the spoon blades are just less versatile since they are only for power, not steering. I plan to get one soon since I've been doing more sit down paddling (vs kneeling) and picked up a go-straight boat that's happy to be steered with sit-and-switch power strokes. I'd prefer to buy a GRB but I may go for the Zaveral Power Surge since it's more of a known quantity with a solid reputation.

Most decent canoe paddles (even $100 paddles) already have blades that are thickest in the middle and taper towards the edges...to minimize flutter. So maybe not as close to a true dihedral as blades with a prominent ridge down the middle but the geometry minimizes flutter and I expect the smoother geometry would be better for steering strokes and in-water recoveries.

One comment around the idea of a bent shaft paddle with long blade (just a comment, not trying to shoot down the idea). As you add length to a paddle it has a big negative effect on recovery speed after a power stroke. The inertia of a simple beam is proportional to the 4th power of length (!), so adding 2-3 inches to a paddle has a huge impact on "swing weight" and how fast and handy a paddle feels (in my experience shortening paddles by just 1/2 to 1 inch has a big effect on how they feel). I think that one reason racers use short/light bent shafts is that they enable a high cadence so you'll give up some of the inherent efficiency with a long blade. With a long blade I think one might also
have problems with the tip of the paddle accidentally dragging on the recovery stroke.

Overall, regarding combining old and new technology I think the Werner Algonquin is a fine choice with a fairly traditional (and nice size) blade and modern carbon fiber construction.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 16, 2016
Messages
520
Reaction score
334
Location
Bangor, Maine
In addition to efficiency, a shorter paddle keeps your hands / elbows mainly at chest height or below, and thus reduces fatigue. Healthy shoulders have an impressive range of motion but anything you have to do with your forearms above your shoulders gets old fast.

GRB, Zav and Werner are all great sticks, and I know we're all utilitarian around here, but GRB has these slick new colors:

20200731_170908.webp
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
55
Reaction score
9
OK, first off, it looks like I've been using a term incorrectly.
What I've been calling a spoon blade is really a curved blade.
I just ordered my third MAX paddle from oakorchardcanoe.com.
My plan is to use my band saw to cut the blade into a more traditional shape.
This is a bit of a problem, because the MAX blade is only 17 inches long.
But, I made a template, for my blade, that is teardrop shaped. Reminiscent of a beavertail or guide paddle.
Not sure how it's going to go. The blade is a tough plastic that isn't flat and my skill with a band saw leaves a lot to be desired.
So, hopefully, I end up with what could be called a bent shaft, curved blade beavertail, if you stretch your imagination a bit.
I'll have an unmodified paddle to compare it to. Should be interesting.
Since this blade has a spine on the back, like a kayak paddle, I won't be able to test whether I'm right or wrong about a bent shaft working fine for underwater recovery. I might have to buy a different paddle and slim it down for that test.
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
55
Reaction score
9
Well, that went about as good as I'd hoped.
Didn't turn out perfect, but good enough, and I can clean it up some more over the winter.
On the left is what the blade looked like originally and on the right is the modified blade.
Obviously, I would have liked a longer, narrower blade, but I would have had to make one from scratch or custom order one.
This was the fastest easiest solution.
The original blade is less squared off than most most modern blades, and the modified blade is even less so, but you can decide for yourself if it's even remotely what I was aiming for, combining traditional and modern.
Modified MAX paddle.jpg
 
Last edited:
Top