single paddle as a sub to double paddle

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Guys and Gals I have just purchased a new canoe solo (placid boat works) rapidfire. I have a double kayak paddle i am going to use for most of the paddling, however since my main interest in canoeing is photography and video in the canoe. I think when getting close to shore and getting in position it would be better to have a single paddle, since I am sitting only 2 inches off the floor of the canoe I was thinking of a straight paddle but most of the sites ( both canoe and paddle mfrgs) recommend a bent paddle.

I have never paddled a canoe never had a canoe only been kayaking for 2 years, lakes mostly had 3 ea 2 day lessons in kayak paddling (lake superior, out in seattle at kayak schools and eskimo roll in pool) been watching several paddling video's bill mason and one sponsored by Wenonah solo canoe paddling. etc. what are your thoughts. I see with straight paddles you can do j strokes, canada strokes, to go straight but with a bent you go from side to side. not very appealing to me anyway.

what I am asking is your thoughts regarding having a single paddle in addition to the double (kayak) and bent 14 degree standard or 6 degree or stay with straight since I am sitting on 2 inches fro the bottom of the boat?
 
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Congratulations on your selection of a Rapidfire. Joe and Andy and the gang at Placidboats are great guys.

I have the highest available rail mounted seat installed in my Rapidfire. Some might find this configuration "tippy", but it is good for me, and I wish I had an even higher seat. I use the Rapidfire in three distinct ways.

I sometimes paddle the RF in races, including the 90-miler. For the race class that includes (was created for) this boat, a double blade paddle is required. If I enter a race with the RF, I am unfortunately stuck using a double blade. To me it is an awkward way to paddle. I do it, but would rather not. End of story.

For non-race recreational paddling, my favorite mode is with a high quality straight shaft wood paddle, with a very thin edge to the blade. Ottertail, beavertail, or willow leaf blade shape, each have different characteristics that at this stage of your experience doesn't really matter. Each allows a number of strokes you can't do very effectively (or at all) with a bent shaft single blade. It is possible with the low mounted seat, but less comfortably or effective than with a higher mounted seat.

When I am training for a race to be done in a tandem or larger boat but am not with any of the others in my crew, I train solo in the RF with a carbon bent shaft racing paddle. Even though during an actual race, or when I am training in a larger boat, we use "hit and switch" mode as the fastest race stroke, I don't care to do so in the RF. I use the bent shaft with control strokes to stay on one side as long as I want, propelling me at a speed only slightly slower than hit and switch. The control stroke I use is mostly a pitch stroke, which though not performed like a true J, it keeps me going straight while paddling on one side indefinitely with proper race cadence and recovery with no hesitation in the stroke to effect control.

So long story short, I really like a straight blade wood paddle for recreational paddling with a variety of fun straight control and turning strokes, and also have no trouble going fast with modified control stroke paddling on one side with a bent shaft in my RF. It is very possible to do a true J stroke if you so choose with a bent shaft.
 
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Thank you very much for the reply. I did get 2 seats the low seat glued in and the med seat to go on top of the low seat if I choose to use it, recommended by Joe. I doubt I will ever race the boat. being 72 years old and just starting I will be very happy to be able to paddle for a few hours. So even though Joe recommends a bent paddle the straight paddle will work? good. I just think I would be happier with it from the video's I have seen. If not I will go get a bent no big deal. because i have only paddled in a kayak all I am used to is double paddles so it seems ok for me.
many threads I have read people have also mentioned they use the double paddle most of the time. Joe seem to think the double paddle is what most people use with pack boats unless I mis understood which is very possible.
 
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To be clear, you will have far more control (with fun learning and performing) a wide variety of strokes with a quality straight blade paddle. A bent shaft will work, but with fewer possible stroke options other than the less-than-elegant drippy switch stroke. There is very little learning curve with the switch stroke, but you will be richly rewarded if you take some time to learn something a little more advanced. I recommend that you go with a good quality straight shaft paddle (keep the blade edges thin), then study and play on your own, or better yet get some simple lessons to show you efficient proper technique, and you will be happy.

Joe holds the 90-mile race record in this boat class, though it is in the very similar but slightly more slender (and faster) Shadow. He uses a very rapid high angle stroke with a double blade.
 
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Its possible to do any stroke you can do with a single with a bent. The grip sometimes makes some strokes uncomfortable as bents have for the most part a grip meant to be held one way and a good straight has a symmetrical grip.

Bents have a big advantage for seated paddlers as they make a vertical entry and vertical exit and straights don't. This makes for a more powerful forward stroke. But in your case sneaking up on things to get a good pic outweighs any power concerns.

So you want a paddle that is best for an inwater recovery. Usually those are known and referred to as Animal Tails by CEW. And loved by traditionalists. An ottertail, which is a long skinny blade is good for inwater recoveries but don't worry too much about shape. What you need sitting low is a short shafted paddle. I use a 46 inch paddle in my RapidFire but that is a bent. A 52 inch straight might do for you..


You need a relatively short shaft. The best way is for me to go find my paddle and find the shaft length. But its still buried in the shed, which is buried yet in snow.
 
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Once a person learns how to do something one way, any departure from that way is regarded with skepticism. My stick-in-the-mud position is from a kneeling position with my fanny braced on a thwart. Everything seems so balanced and 'right' that way. I can understand how with a double paddle that seat probably would work for you, but if you were trying to tippy toe up on a animal for a photograph using a regular paddle......hm...not so good. At least so it seems to me. If I understand you that the seat is glued in, it doesn't seem that there would be anyway to where you could kneel and tuck your feet under the seat.

Looking at your Rapid Fire, there seems to be a thwart in front of the seat. Would it be possible to use that thwart kneeling and paddle it backwards? I see that there is half an inch difference in rocker; so it looks that it's not symmetrical, but given how a person balances out the load can vary, how much would it matter?

Given that I'm offering ideas on something I don't know anything about: at first anyway, I'd stick with a good straight paddle. Why complicate your life while your learning? I'm sure it's true that in the hands of an expert a bent paddle will do all kinds of things, I question if I want to do them.
There's a stroke, maybe it's called the indian stroke (?), where the blade never comes out of the water and on the recovery you rotate the paddle shaft to get back to the start. It's very quiet and good for not disturbing animals along your route. I'm not at all sure you could do it with a bent paddle.

That's what I think anyway,

Rob
 
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Given that I'm offering ideas on something I don't know anything about: at first anyway, I'd stick with a good straight paddle. Why complicate your life while your learning? I'm sure it's true that in the hands of an expert a bent paddle will do all kinds of things, I question if I want to do them.
There's a stroke, maybe it's called the indian stroke (?), where the blade never comes out of the water and on the recovery you rotate the paddle shaft to get back to the start. It's very quiet and good for not disturbing animals along your route. I'm not at all sure you could do it with a bent paddle.
Yup, that's usually called the Indian or Box stroke (the pattern of the paddle in the water is that of a rectangular box). There are variations you will discover in different situations. It is a completely silent means of forward (or backward) propulsion with complete directional control. I use it a lot, and these slicing types of strokes are why I like to use a knife edge blade. It is performed by rotating the paddle 180 degrees, exchanging the power face of the blade with the back face on each half of the stroke. You would want a symmetrical paddle and grip for this. Attempting this stroke and others like it with a bent shaft is completely awkward and impractical.

Unless your only goal is to race in flatwater, learn the straight shaft stroke skills first, then try them out with a bent if you wish. Some strokes will work fine, others not so much. As a general rule, the bent shaft paddle excels over the straight paddle only in transferring power to attain forward speed, which is why you will see racers only use a bent. Shoreline following recreational paddlers are better off applying the larger suite of straight shaft paddle strokes. Experiment with them - they are fun to do.
 
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OM the stroke you are referring to is called an inwater recovery with a palm roll. In some older books its referred to as an Indian Stroke. It really only works well with straight shaft paddles with a symmetrical grip. At the end of the intial J you simply rotate your palm from thumb down to thumb up without moving your paddle and then slice through the water forward to start the next stroke. There is no paddle waving in the air.

A box stroke is completely different and designed to make u turns.. Very handy.. A draw to the bow a neutral slice to the stern then a pushaway from the stern.. then a neutral slice forward to get into position for the next bow draw. You can reverse it..do the pushaway in lieu of the draw and the draw in lieu of the pushaway.

The path of the paddle describes a box. The path of the paddle in an Indian Stroke should be a straight line.

Yes you can paddle the RF backward by spinning around. I've gotten into narrow spaces in Adirondack bogs that lack room for a turnaround. But its far nicer to propel the boat backwards using a reverse J.. where the correction is at the bow. Avoids contortions in the boat.
 
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Guys;

RapidFire was a unique touring pack canoe when conceived a decade ago. It is Swede Form and features strongly differential rocker and shear. When paddled backwards, the skegged stern will resist drawing turns while the loose, and trailing, bow will skid freely with every injudicious forward stroke, whether due to less than vertical paddleshaft or the miss guided but semi religious conviction that carrying the blade aft of the body increases power. It will be a handful paddled backwards. Do not do that.

RapidFire's thwarts are just that, double socked composite over foam to keep the rails at a fixed distance apart. They are not seats: not comfortable as such nor attached to perform as alternative seating. Do not confuse a sophisticated thwart with properly designed seating; doing so can damage the boat. Joe has "adjusted" Rapids over the years for kneeling paddlers by adding an 11 oz carbon belly band in the laminate to reinforce hanging a seat from the rail system. This is not an after market option.

Single paddles in a pack canoe are problematical, due to very low seating and difficulties reaching across the rail. They work best in pack canoes with tumblehome; Placids, one Swift, and, maybe, one Mad River, depending on the outcome of a discussion between an honored posterer here and Mad River's internal conflicts. It might be worthwhile underlining that pack canoes are designed from the ground to improve stability via low seating and for double blade paddles which improve forward progress and maneuvering from that low stance.

That low seating compromises paddleblade physics and paddler bio-mechanics. Winters proved paddleblades are most effective within a +/- 10 dg window of square to the stroke two decades ago. [Yeah, the rowers claim +/1 20dg, let's average the two to 15dg.] For kneeling paddlers that range starts as far forward as the paddler can rotate/reach and ends at the knee. For sitting paddlers, the window starts just in front of the knee and ends mid thigh. Torso rotation and hence reach are limited, so paddles are bent to stay within the "15 dg window" range of motion.

Sitting low restricts torso rotation and forward reach and further needs shorter paddle shafts. This narrows the forward stroke distance for straight paddles to roughly less than a foot starting at the knee and ending lower thigh. Bents bring the sweet zone aft, alongside the body, so are more effective for forward strokes. Draws are compromised, but a good sculling draw or pry with a bent will suffice to leave and return to the dock.

Sitting so low obviates drawing and prying maneuvers; Duffeks, J strokes, etc, so the single blade pack canoe paddler needs to change sides rather often and blade length becomes a factor. Those longish animal tail sticks with 24-26" blades are a chore to raise above the rail when switching sides.

All that said, pack canoe users need a short single blade stick for situations where alder closes over a narrow channel. The footprint of a 240cm double blade is huge; both wide and high, and a little single blade is necessary. Further, the flshing of high kayak paddle blades alerts others to out arrival. I often use a 46" Zav bent in Rapid and Shadow as does DY. Bending Branches, Fox Werks, Grey Owl, Werner and others make short bents and sometimes straights when special ordered. As none of us get paid for paddling efficiency is not required, do whatever makes you feel good.
 
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CEW we are talking animal tails for a good reason. Not forward propulsion, but rather edging up to wildlife with a minimum of fuss.
 
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Any paddle with ribs equally faired into both blade faces will slice cleanly while increasing drag because the surface area of the blade is in the water.

Those animal tail things come down to us from the aboriginal paddlers and voyageurs, both of whom made their own sticks with axe and knife, sometimes stone ones. Consider the amount of wood that must be removed to make a paddle from an 8" tree, then a 6"; the larger log needs ~30% more wood removed.

Lots of folks like wood paddles. They are beautiful and readily custom fit. Lots of folks enjoy old timey sticks, including my SO. 'Nothing wrong with that either, until we start claiming functional rather than emotional inputs into the decision process. Take a look at the sticks used in ICF Sprint and Slalom and USCA Marathon. Those shapes have evolved rather rapidly in the last few decades because they work better; those using something else loose the race. Canoe blades are ~8.3 inches wide; 16-24" lengths matched to cadence adjusted for duration of activity. Kayak blades are narrower and shorter yet due mostly to higher cadence, and for flatwater, cupped/winged/shaped to optimize powerface function as slicing is seldom utilized.
 
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I have a 48" bent shaft single blade paddle as a backup, but I almost always continue to use my double blade paddle when approaching the shore and/or taking photographs. I find it quick, easy, quiet, and evenly balanced to set down the double blade paddle on the gunwales, and resting against my belly, so I can free my hands for the camera.
 
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The balance issue IS an issue..But I definitely find that single blading with an non threatening approach allows me closer. My wildlife seems to be easily spooked.

Here in Maine you cannot get remotely close to a harbor seal waving a double stick.. they dive and come up behind you. Not that harassment is OK but motorboats are much less of a bother to seals than kayakers. I've had the same experience in Florida.
 
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Yup, that's usually called the Indian or Box stroke (the pattern of the paddle in the water is that of a rectangular box). There are variations you will discover in different situations. It is a completely silent means of forward (or backward) propulsion with complete directional control. I use it a lot, and these slicing types of strokes are why I like to use a knife edge blade. It is performed by rotating the paddle 180 degrees, exchanging the power face of the blade with the back face on each half of the stroke. You would want a symmetrical paddle and grip for this. Attempting this stroke and others like it with a bent shaft is completely awkward and impractical.

It *is* possible to do a silent, in-water-return stroke using a bent. Here's what you do:

1. Do a normal forward stroke, with no J-correction.
2. Unload the paddle (stop applying pressure), and turn it gradually so the powerface faces the boat.
3. Slice it forward, moving it slightly away from boat and applying as much drawing as needed to compensate for the lack of J-correction.
4. Turn the powerface so it's facing aft and segue smoothly into the next forward stroke.

The key to this stroke is in step 2, turning your wrist so your control thumb faces backwards. That's the opposite of what you'd normally do in a J-correction.

To make it silent, be sure the paddle is lifted enough out of the water on the return slice so the shaft and reinforcements in the upper part of the blade don't make noise due to cavitation.
 
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Yep its possible. We use bents for FreeStyle tandem which is loaded with slices.. But it takes practice to avoid "thunk" when learning.
 

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what I am asking is your thoughts regarding having a single paddle in addition to the double (kayak) and bent 14 degree standard or 6 degree or stay with straight since I am sitting on 2 inches fro the bottom of the boat?

Robryan, to respond to your specific question, I recommend a short 12 degree bent shaft with a racing blade shape.

You are getting a lot of information, but let me parse it in accordance with my experience.

- Straight blades can be slightly more bio-mechanically appropriate for single-sided correction forward stroking if you are kneeling ... but you're sitting.

- Straight blades can give you somewhat better leverage on some strokes, particularly turning strokes, when kneeling high ... but you're sitting 2" off the bottom.

- Animal tail paddles can slice and pull nicely in deeper waters if sitting or kneeling high (or paddling heeled Canadian style in a tandem hull), but they will be long and somewhat clumsy when seated 2" off the bottom in a narrow solo hull, especially if you want to switch paddle.

- Bent shaft paddles have a slight bio-mechanical advantage for forward stroking when seated, as you will be.

- Bents can be used for all single-sided forward correction strokes and turning strokes with experience, though not quite efficiently as a straight. Again, this is less important when seated on the bottom of a hull.

- Short racing blade shapes with bent throats are much easier to swing over the hull for switch paddling than a straight paddle, especially animal tail paddles with their necessarily long blades. Many animal tails are also quite blade heavy. Even the best single-side correction stroke paddlers resort to switching when trucking up-current or in strong winds.

Thus my recommedation for a short bent with a squat racing blade shape. Foxworx makes light racing bents, and of course carbon ones are available from ZRE.

That all said, I have never found it to be a satisfactory or pleasurable experience (for long) to single blade while sitting on the bottom of a hull, feet out front, in a kayak or solo canoe. As much as I dislike double blades, they are the best implement for paddling from this posture
 
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I can't speak much to using a single blade while sitting so low. But I think Charlie is spot-on about the animal-tail in regards to the OP's stated use. I like using the otter-tail when soloing a 16' tandem, partly because of the extended reach for turning strokes. And I often bring it along while in my solo canoe for the same reason - however, that's because my Sojourn is pretty resistant to turning. In a more "turny" solo, I wouldn't bother with the otter-tail at all. A nicely-faired short blade will do in-water recoveries just fine (which is good for wildlife photography, as mentioned by others).

Since it seems this is to be a spare blade for "close work", I think a short-bladed straight shaft paddle would work okay. I 'll leave it to others whether a bent would be better. Is it possible to adapt a kneeling pedestal to a rapidfire?
 
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I paddle my Rapidfire with a double blade and use a 46" Foxworx bent shaft paddle as a spare or when on narrow streams with low hanging branches. The combination works well for me and I'm far from an experienced paddler using a single blade. My RF has the mid-height seat and I'm a 5'9" aging paddler.
 
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It *is* possible to do a silent, in-water-return stroke using a bent. Here's what you do:

1. Do a normal forward stroke, with no J-correction.
2. Unload the paddle (stop applying pressure), and turn it gradually so the powerface faces the boat.
3. Slice it forward, moving it slightly away from boat and applying as much drawing as needed to compensate for the lack of J-correction.
4. Turn the powerface so it's facing aft and segue smoothly into the next forward stroke.

The key to this stroke is in step 2, turning your wrist so your control thumb faces backwards. That's the opposite of what you'd normally do in a J-correction.

To make it silent, be sure the paddle is lifted enough out of the water on the return slice so the shaft and reinforcements in the upper part of the blade don't make noise due to cavitation.
Seems like what you describe is much like a forward moving bent paddle figure-8-scull with a forward slice at the end (instead of completing the "8") to move the paddle into the next power phase. A fan of in-water sculling when needed, I'm sure I on occasion do exactly that with a forward component without thinking much about it. Of course it is not at all like the Indian stroke with a straight shaft.

The thing about doing effective paddle strokes with control is you just do what is required to move the boat where you want. Like riding a bike on a pot-hole road, little thought goes into how to perform specific motions, you just have a sense about what to do when needed without giving any conscious thought. Whether bow, stern, or solo paddling, just "will it" to move the boat where it needs to go, and your hands make the appropriate motions automatic without needing a conscious choice of how to link various strokes to get the job done. And I believe that is what makes twisty Brown's Tract my favorite kind of paddling, whether I am high speed racing the 180+ degree turns, or slow speed recreating. I see a lot of very poor (let's say... inexperienced) paddling technique in there during the 90-miler race.
 
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I think the OP would just as well be served by a $30 child's straight shaft canoe paddle; for his purposes as he does not intend to use hit and switch anyway. I have an extra one.
 
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