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Straight shaft carbon paddle?

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I have searched a good bit, and find only one offering for a straight shaft carbon fiber paddle (5 or 7 degrees not desired); believe it was a Werner, and they are entirely unavailable. I'm quite fond of my Sunburn Gillis, but the lure of a featherweight carbon has been growing. What options am I missing, if any?
 

Glenn MacGrady

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There is a recent thread on this subject, which may or may not be helpful to you.

 

Glenn MacGrady

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You can buy any ZRE carbon paddle with a zero degree bend, so it is effectively a straight paddle. I have had one for many years. You should choose one the Z paddles so you get symmetrical blade faces—not the Power Surge paddles, which have asymmetrical faces.

There are two things to know about the zero bend. First, ZRE may not have a symmetrical carbon palm grip, as bent shaft paddlers use asymmetrical grips. I had ZRE put on a third party symmetrical carbon palm grip, so I could more comfortably palm roll the paddle. Harold Deal, on the other hand, paddles a ZRE "straight" with an asymmetrical ZRE palm grip. However, ZRE may now have symmetrical carbon T-grips as well as their symmetrical wood T-grip for the Deal-designed Power Curve paddle.

Second, because of the way they unbend the shaft to make a zero degree paddle, the shaft of the ZRE straight is not exactly centered between the two symmetrical paddle faces. There's about a 1/4" offset difference. This has never bothered or affected me at all.

I'll try to post a picture of my paddle tomorrow to show what it looks like.
 
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Thanks Glenn, this is quite helpful. I do recall reading the earlier post, but was hoping for more leads or info. I'll take a look at the ZRE site.
 
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FWIW, I did a quick search and there do seem to be some carbon Werner Journeys around at online retailers. I have the green glass Journey (~3oz heavier and ~$100 lighter than the carbon), and I've been happy with it. The blade has noticeably more buoyancy than a thin blade racing paddle like the Zav, which makes it feel very comfortable doing same-side paddling.
 

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They “unbend” a bent shaft to make a straight? 🤔

No, that was just a figure of speech.

I assume they have various blade molds that bend the neck of the blade from 0 to 15 degrees. When the neck has no bend (0°) the neck profile is such that the blade is not quite flush/continuous with the centerline of the shaft. In other words, if you look at the 0° paddle from a side profile, so the blade is just a line to your eye (I), the blade will be very slightly offset from the centerline of the shaft. One blade face is about 1/4" closer to the edge of the shaft than the other face. Unless they changed molds in the 15 years since I bought mine.

I'll take a profile picture when I can find the paddle in my garage cathedral of entropy. Meanwhile, here's an uninformative picture.

DSCN2073.JPG

I got the Whitewater model at 57" for my 0° ZRE, which is heavier than the medium or light models, because I use it on rocky rivers, in shallows, and for powerful sweeps in cocking winds and waves. My companion paddle is a ZRE 12° Power Surge Outrigger Light model at 48.5". These two paddles can take me on any kind of trip in any kind of waters, and together weigh less than one of many of my wood paddles.

I have the flex shaft on both of my ZRE's, which flexes like wood and is easier on the shoulder than the completely stiff standard carbon shaft. Racers like completely stiff shafts because they transmit fractionally more power to the stroke.

One could, of course, get a 0° ZRE with the asymmetrical Power Surge blade (designed by Serge Corbin, Olympic gold medalist Greg Barton and Bob Zaveral) with an asymmetrical palm grip. That would be a more powerful paddle than one with the symmetrical Z blade, but of course would have a dedicated power face like any curved, double-scooped, or lipped blade does.

An even more powerful straight ZRE is the Harold Deal designed Power Curve paddle, which does not have the racing blade shape but rather a more rectangular Sugar Island shape, plus a nicely thumb-dimpled wooden grip. However, it's significantly heavier than a Z or Power Surge paddle, and I don't like it nearly as much.
 
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Hey Glenn, the regular shafts on ZRE paddles are far from "completely stiff"...they have quite a bit of flex. I don't have much experience with the heavier recreation lay-up but I've got ZRE's in Medium, Light and Ultralight and all flex more than carbon shafts from Bending Branches or Black Bart or even my Pat Moore Cue that had a specification for flexibility.
 
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Hey Stillwater's, Wenonah and Bending Branches both offer fully symmetric straight shaft carbon paddles so I think you have some options. If you want the lightest option that's ZRE. But if you want symmetry that knocks ZRE out. The Bending Branches Black Pearl ST is a relatively new design and has a blade size and shape I love and it looks almost indestructible...but FYI I've done lots of hard hits on rocks with ZRE's and they are far stronger and tougher than you'd expect given how light they are. Ordering a ZRE can be a bit intimidating since there are so many options (4 different lay-ups, blade width anywhere from 8 to 9+ inches, any angle you want, different grip options, and any length you want in 1/8" increments). Pretty expensive to approach by trial and error at over $300 a pop (ask me how I know). If you do order a ZRE my recommendation is that you get the Medium lay-up, 8 1/4 inch blade width, standard grip, custom 0 degree angle, and order it on the long side with the grip unglued (I also ask them to leave their decal off). Then just tape the grip in place and paddle with it and if it feels long trim it down 1/2" at a time until it feels perfect (don't rush...take days or weeks not hours) and then epoxy the grip in place. The shaft is very easy to trim with a hacksaw, just apply any kind of tape to the shaft where you plan to cut it since the tape will prevent any splintering at the edges.

My wife and I used to enjoy eating at Stillwater's on State Street in Madison.
 

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Hey Glenn, the regular shafts on ZRE paddles are far from "completely stiff"...they have quite a bit of flex.

Okay, then let's just say the ZRE flex shafts flex more than the standard ZRE carbon shafts and that I prefer them, especially for my short ZRE 48.5" bent. (Shorter lengths of any shaft material will flex less than longer lengths.) As I recall, the increased flex is due to some linear S glass in the flex shafts, which may also increase their weight fractionally.

The ZRE flex shafts flex more than the shafts on my two Wenonah Black Light carbon paddles, which to me subjectively feel completely stiff when pulling water at a cruising pace—unlike test bending them on a hard surface—as do the standard ZRE shafts. Different strokes for different folks.

Wenonah does offer a Black Light straight paddle, but it is significantly heavier than a ZRE zero bend, which I consider to be 99% symmetrical if the symmetrical Z blade is chosen and a symmetrical grip is used.

Here's a video by QB Paddles on shaft stiffness:

 
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Well everyone is different. I like the ZRE straight as a cruising paddle and although I've tried a symmetric grip I went back to the standard grip. With the blade offset from the shaft it makes the two blade faces feel quite different (to me) when used as power faces and if you do a palm roll with the blade in the water it feels odd. My two highest use paddles (an older ZRE and a Black Bart) have symmetric grips and centered blades and for me they do everything well (switching sides and cruising, j-stroking, freestyle, whatever).
 
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More options out there than I thought, glad I asked! The Werner Journey or Black Pearl look appealing to me, though the Black Pearl is only 2oz. or so lighter than my Gillis. The Werner's appear to be sold out; I'll get in touch with them to check about availability.
Think I'll also talk to Sanborn (apologies for misspelling in the first post) about the possibility of a straight shafted Nessmuk. I am fond of the feel of wood, and the weight would rival the carbons...
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Here is the announcement of the Bending Branches Black Pearl ST back on March 31, 2022. Weighs 16 oz.

 
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The BB paddle is about 100 bucks cheaper than what I payed for the Werner, and about 3 ounces more in weight. I've put my Werner through lots this summer, and it has held up fine.
 
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