Sawyer Glide vs Bending Branches Loon paddle

Joined
Jul 1, 2013
Messages
115
Location
Ithaca, NY
Anybody have any input? Both of these are right around my price range for a pair and I was wondering if anyone would like to throw their opinions out there. I've gotten a good look at the Loon at Gander Mountain and like the ovalized shaft and big palm handle, but have only seen the Glide on the computer screen. I mainly paddle Lake Erie and the rivers of western New York and get out to Adirondack waters 1-2x a year. I am an experienced paddler but the wife is still cutting her teeth so these paddles seem like a decent setup. Your thoughts are appreciated!

-Jish
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
838
Are there any canoe shops near you where you could maybe try out the paddle? When folks are thinking about a canoe they are often encouraged to go to a dealer where they can try it out; I wonder if such a thing is possible with a paddle?
Nothing wrong with asking here of course, but I wonder how well one person's experience will translate to another person's body?
Now, just making more noise than sense, but I'd guess that the fit of the paddle to the paddler would be more important than one particular kind of paddle. Has your wife paddled enough to have settled on how she likes to paddle? Kneeling vs. setting on the seat? Years ago, when there was still some hope of my wife going with me; I had a heck of a time finding a PFD designed for a busty woman and that would be comfortable while paddling.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
G

Guest

Guest
Both those paddles are pretty poor IMO. The sawyer is heavy. The loons is stiff without much flex, and my bet is the sawyer is the same. The blades will be thick and won't slice in and out of the water like a nicer paddle. The plus side is they will both move the boat. If you like the handle on the loon, go with that, don't second guess yourself. Personally I hate BB handles.

I much prefer Fox paddles... They are a little more expensive, but made in NY. Some people really hate the grips but that is my favorite part of them. My current Fox is an XLite with the straight palm grip:

http://www.foxworxpaddle.com/XLIte.html

If you ever get serious Marc Ornstein of Honeoye Falls makes excellent paddles, but a bit more expensive than BB:

http://www.dogpaddlecanoe.com/36022.html

The best paddle I ever touched was from this guy:

http://www.cricketdesigns.com/

I still haven't bought one yet but I will - everything from the blade to the grip was perfection.

Also if you want to try before you buy check out Oak Orchard:

http://www.oakorchardcanoe.com/
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2014
Messages
182
Location
Lower Saranac Lake, Adirondacks
OP hasn't mentioned stance in the boat or whether he and wife are solo or tandem paddlers. All that said, If sitting they need bents, if kneeling they want straight blades. And, it's worthwhile to remember that the paddle has more effect on control and enjoyment than the boat, and another $25 in each stick will yield way more benefit than another $200 in the boat.

For entry level sitters it's tough to beat FoxWorx bents, but as we go upscale, BB's Espresso and Grey Owl's Fleetwood are worth the extra. Much th same can be said for straights from the same folk. We do not want flex in a paddleshaft anymore than we need it in a 2X4 prying a piano up on a dolly. Adjust strain by selecting a smaller blade. If the shaft flexes the blade will wobble when pulled upon; not a good thing.

Better paddlers are often carbon, but they are probably out of OP's initial range, as are Crickets, Dog Paddles and Quimby's. Many semi custom paddles are wood because carbon paddle molds are pricey and impossible to alter. Just for scale, Quimby's are over $600 each and worth it, which may help put that $125 stick on a continuum.
 
Joined
Jul 1, 2013
Messages
115
Location
Ithaca, NY
Thanks for the replies, I guess I should have clarified a little more. Ive been kayaking for over a decade, but the wife feels more comfortable if we're in the same boat, literally, so last year I picked up an Old Town Discovery 158 at a block sale for a song. It came with a pair of aluminum paddles about our size, and some smaller feather brand paddles that needed filling and refinishing.
I had always intended on replacing the aluminum paddles, because the plastic blades were slightly out of true, they are cold, and are much better suited as spares. With my significant other it is mainly recreational paddling, and I would never take her in anything above a class 1, that I know I could safely maneuver myself. She will do overnights with me, and likes the idea of a multi-day trip, but that has yet to be explored. She sits fore and is a good motor(rowing classes and such) and listens to direction well. We mainly sit, but occasionally kneel to change up position on long days. I paddle it solo a lot on Friday mornings when she works, and kneel or rest on the thwart and get along fine with a c-stroke. I do go with a friend, who is an adept paddler himself, on longer, more challenging outings in the Adirondacks, but we usually take his canoe, a 17 footer, and he has some CavPro beavertails.
I know my style varies from the recreational to adventure, and I know I'm not going to find that happy medium, especially at my price range, which sits at around $125 for a pair. A responsive paddle, made of decent wood, adequate for deepwater, that doesn't double as an anchor is really all I'm looking for...
 
Joined
Nov 29, 2012
Messages
453
Location
southwest Indiana
Personally, I would go with a couple of straight shaft paddles, or perhaps one straight and one bent. If you are paddling stern, most people find that stern steering and correction strokes (stern pries, stern draws, J stroke, etc) are easier to execute with a straight shaft paddle and if you paddle that big boat alone, I think you will do better with a straight. If your wife is paddling bow, she could use a bent shaft if she likes, although a straight will do fine as well. It is true for seated paddlers doing primarily forward strokes, bent shaft paddles are a bit more efficient, but you are not going to be setting any speed records in a Disco 158 anyway so I would not sweat it.

If I were you I would check out this specials page at Foxworx Paddles: http://www.foxworxpaddle.com/specials.html

You can get a blem Arrow straight shaft for $45, a discontinued Excel straight shaft for $69, or a 52" Microlight bent-shaft for $74. With shipping and handling this might be slightly above your price range for a pair of paddles, but not much.
 
G

Guest

Guest
There is one caveat to using a straight and a bent at the same time, and that is cadence. My wife and I do this occasionally but I have to remind her to slow down her stroke rate.

I tested the flex on all my paddles yesterday. My BB Explorer (wife's actually) was actually the softest. Even my carbons had some decent flex in the blade portion though. The BB is also the heaviest of my paddles and IMO the least comfortable. It isn't bad for a paddle around a pond but for a longer excursion it usually sits as a backup.

I know my wife's main complaint for paddle comfort is the shaft diameter. Most are the same but they are more suited to a man's hand than a woman's.
 
G

Guest

Guest
I agree. My wife and I learned everything with straight blades before ever picking up a bent. IMO everything is easier to do with a straight blade except the forward stroke (that is easy too, it's just easier and faster with a bent).

It seems too many outfitters are just dying to put bent shafts in beginners hands. This happened to me when I was and I handed it back.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,389
Location
Raymond, ME
Bents are for sit and switch. By eliminating the corrective phase the stroke is now a two phase stroke. It takes practice to coordinate and time it well so that five six strokes are taken between each switch.

There is no big deal in giving bents to beginners. After all few even try to rudder or much less J. Its more about the paddlers wish to learn paddle manipulation than an absolute mantra of no bents for beginners.

Sooner or later the quiver grows. I agree with Charlie.. blade flex is such a waste and puts pressure in the wrong vector at the wrong time. If there is strain, there are a few causes. The blade is too wide or especially too long.( the blade not the shaft). Most people paddle with way too long a total paddle length and bring their top hand above the eyes...whew tiring.. Paddlers should also not use arm muscles as much as abs. Shafts should be sized in diameter too. So it is a good idea for you not to try and match your wife's paddle.


All of a sudden that $150 paddle isn't looking so bad.


We'll be using both bents and straights at Adirondack Canoe Symposium in July.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,389
Location
Raymond, ME
Yes we know all about what you do. But its not about you. Its about someone starting out to give them some hints on what might work best for them. No one wants to hear about my twenty years of teaching.

That said. Enjoy the discussion. I am going paddling.
 
G

Guest

Guest
I'm guessing there was a little skirmish by the signs leftover.

Traditionally a straight blade has worked for the average canoe paddler. I'd stress comfort for your wife. It will be hard to tell until she's spent a day with it in her hands. You will feel the real fatigue then.

Every paddle has some give, some more than others. Generally the lighter they are, the more flex they will have. Cricket designs his paddles to be ultra thin - enough so that the flex isn't detrimental but as thin as possible to minimize weight. The way they knife in and out the the water is amazing.

The BB's, to my surprise, despite being a thicker blade are more flexible. A closer look shows it is the blade shape which is not optimized for bending stiffness. Wood selection may be different as well.

A bent shaft will be more difficult to perform draws and prys. We don't use switch even using bent shafts. It is easy to make minor or even major corrections with them once you get used to them. I will say it was much easier to learn on a straight shaft. I'm sure my wife would agree. She still can draw the boat around quicker and with less effort with a straight blade.

Even with bents we still carry at least one straight with us. Usually as a backup but sometimes I prefer using a straight.

I also have different lengths. I have a 56, which is apparently the 'correct' size for my body. It is my least favorite. It's OK for kneeling, but still slow. My 54 is my go to straight and my bent is a 52. My wife, despite a slightly shorter torso, uses a 54 and 52 as well. From our testing it seems she is a little more comfortable with a slightly longer paddle in the bow... or that I am just slightly more comfortable with a shorter paddle. Either way I think the most important thing for tandem is cadence. Her setting a cadence that I can deal with and make corrections if need be. That might be why I prefer a shorter paddle, I can get a nice short, powerful stroke and make a correction at the end if I need and still keep up with the bow.
 
G

Guest

Guest
We'll be using both bents and straights at Adirondack Canoe Symposium in July.
I am going paddling.
Will you be teaching how to to post and paddle at the same time at the Symposium?Judging by the activity after this outburst yesterday I'm guessing not a lot of paddling happened. Is this like you quitting posting on the ADK forum?I hate to be a jerk but it seems there are always a couple posts that pop up after someone else has posted an opinion that seem to suggest no one's method of navigating a boat is correct except for the way taught by a couple individuals.I've never claimed to be an all star canoeist but those individuals are the exact reason I won't ever be attending any Symposiums. It seems to me more compulsory than elective.
 
Joined
Jul 1, 2013
Messages
115
Location
Ithaca, NY
Thank you for the input everyone, I will be heading out to the Albany area early next month and will make it a priority to check out the Foxworks factory. The wife and I will size out some of their 2nds and most likely walk out with a pair. No sense paying $15 shipping per paddle just to send it down the road. Your suggestions were much appreciated.
-Jish
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,000
Location
Connecticut
Anybody have any input? Both of these are right around my price range for a pair and I was wondering if anyone would like to throw their opinions out there. I've gotten a good look at the Loon at Gander Mountain and like the ovalized shaft and big palm handle, but have only seen the Glide on the computer screen. I mainly paddle Lake Erie and the rivers of western New York and get out to Adirondack waters 1-2x a year. I am an experienced paddler but the wife is still cutting her teeth so these paddles seem like a decent setup. Your thoughts are appreciated!

-Jish

I haven't personally paddled with either one of these paddles, but they are low end wood paddles. The Sawyer is listed at 29 oz. To me, that is much too heavy for a flatwater paddle. The Bending Branches Loon lists at a lighter weight.

All good wood paddles will have some flex in the shaft. It's flex in the blade that you don't really want. Paddling a canoe is not like lifting a piano with a lever. Paddling is a repetitive motion exercise, which you may do tens of thousands of times in a long day. Unless you are a racer trying to maximize the energy transmission of every stroke, your shoulders will appreciate some flex in paddle shafts especially as you age. However, too flexy a shaft is annoying as well as inefficient.

There is no need to spend more than $125 to get a good paddle. Each manufacturer has some good models and some less good models. I wouldn't write off any one brand as being wholly bad or good.

In particular, I have a Manta bent paddle from Sawyer that I think is superb. In your situation, I think you would be better off with straight paddles. The Sawyer cedar Voyager paddle is one that I like as an all-around flatwater paddle that is nicely balanced and light, with a protective edge, as well as being very aesthetic. Its rounded edges give a somewhat softer and smoother pull than a squarish Sugar Island shape of the same area. Amazon currently has the Voyager at a very good price of $106.

http://www.amazon.com/Sawyer-Voyager-Laminated-Paddle-ToughEdge/dp/B0083CU9NK

The lower end Mitchell flatwater paddles, the North Star and Seneca, are also well-made paddles that will last you a lifetime.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2013
Messages
3,459
I really don't like those flexy paddles. Not to hijack, but water is pretty flexy, it usually moves around my paddle, except for the so called water right now, which is still about three feet thick. The paddles I make don't flex at all, unless I wedge them between two rocks with a pry, in which case they usually break, in which case, I spend five bucks and make another one.

Jish, have you thought about making your own? It's pretty easy to make a basic stick.
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,000
Location
Connecticut
I'd say there should be a little flex in the blade, with the most flexy part being about one-third of the way from the throat to the tip. But it shouldn't be much.

I suppose I really have no opinion on this, as none of my many paddles has any noticeable flex in that area. That's where the shaft is blending into blade, usually with a raised foil or camber on each face, and is thus usually the most rigid part of the overall blade.

On this we agree - the cedar Voyager is an outstanding paddle, despite its flat-top grip. However, the blade has a fair amount of flex, which I happen to like. Again, though, it's likely to have an incorrectly indexed shaft. Wherever there have been several Sawyer paddles in the same place, I've checked most of them and found very few, if any, to have properly indexed shafts. They're almost always noticeably off. As I said before, NEVER buy a Sawyer paddle (other than the Kai) without checking it in your hands first.

Neither of my Sawyers has blade flex. I'm not sure what you mean by indexing. If you mean the amount of shaft oval, that can be specified in manufacturing process or altered after the fact. If you mean a shaft oval that's actually at the wrong angle, that would be an obviously defective paddle that should be returned.

As to checking a paddle's feel in the store, that's a great idea in theory but often impossible in practice. Many paddlers don't live near canoe stores, there aren't very many canoe stores anywhere anymore, and what few canoe stores there are don't have very large selections of decent canoe paddles. I haven't seen a Sawyer in Connecticut in more than 30 years.

Thus, I've ordered probably 95% of my paddles over the past 35 years from mail order or now the internet. For wooden paddles, I've almost always ordered directly from the manufacturers -- including Mitchell, Sawyer, Camp (now Foxworx) and Gillespie - and specify my own dimensions, shapes, shaft oval and grip type. Sawyer was very accommodating on offering a variety of grips, but I don't imagine one would get the Amazon price for a custom job. However, grips can be filed and sanded into more comfortable shapes even by a complete tool incompetent such as me.
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,000
Location
Connecticut
Gavia, I'm not disputing your preference for blade flex one-third the way from the throat to the tip because, as I said, I don't own any such paddle and therefore don't have any empirical opinion on the matter. I'm pretty sure, however, that I wouldn't like the feel of a flexy blade.

One third of the way from the throat to the blade tip is where the foiled camber on many symmetrical straight blades is finishing its taper. The top third of these blades is thicker and stronger than the bottom two thirds. I suppose there could be some trivial flex there; after all, we're talking about wood and not aluminum shafts in ABS blades. But I don't notice any flex in the wood if it's there.

On other straight blades, such as animal tails or quills or my carbon ZRE, the foil or ridged camber may extend gradually all the way to the tip on both blade faces. The animal tail and quill paddles may flex simply due to their long length and narrow width. I don't use those kinds of paddles. My ZRE straight and symmetrically-faced paddle has no blade flex but I ordered it with a carbon flex shaft

On bent shaft blades, the back side is most often foiled all the way to the tip, the blades are short, and there is no blade flex.

On curved-face or spoon-face straight shaft paddles, such as a whitewater paddle, the back side is usually cambered all the way to the tip and there is no blade flex because of the back face foil and power face concavity.

None of my paddles, of all these various types, has a flexy point one-third the way from the throat to the tip. Some of yours evidently do. I think the informative thing for the OP would be to explain why you like flex one third of the way down the blade . . . vs. flex at some other place . . . vs. no flex at all.

I prefer a slight shaft flex. In my experience, rigid shafts cause me too much shoulder stress and fatigue. Many paddlers, especially racers, like no shaft flex at all because they feel a perfectly rigid shaft maximizes energy transmission and efficiency.

I can't imagine how Sawyer has survived as a paddle and oar maker since 1967 with such a high percentage of its products being incompetently indexed.
 
Last edited:
Top