• Happy Ascent of Everest (1953) & Birthday of Tenzing Norgay (1914-86)! 🏔️🧗⛏

Taking another look at the Werner Bandit and how to use it.

Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
231
Reaction score
100
Last year (2023) I bought a Werner Bandit. A whitewater paddle with carbon shaft and curved fiberglass blade.
I don't do serious whitewater, but I thought it might come in handy.
I used it once, didn't like it and never used it again.
Last trip of the year, one of the other guys paddling stern in a tandem, was using one. I told him I had one but couldn't get the hang of it.
Since then I've been noticing that an awful lot of people, in my club, are using the Aqua Bound Edge, which has nearly identical specs, and moving along very well.
Mostly in solo canoes, but also the stern of some tandems.
The way they all seem to be using it is, at the end of the power stroke, they do a little rudder. Not sure, at this point, if the thumb of the top hand is pointing up or down, but I think it's mostly up. No one is doing a proper J-stroke.
I'm talking about very experienced paddlers and even an ACA instructor.
So, I'm taking another look at my Bandit. Maybe I was a little too hasty to set it aside.
 
I have "goon stroked" about 5,000km with my all carbon Bandit. Cupped blades take a little bit of time to get used to. I usually carry an ottertail as a spare but only use it on calm lakes or minimal current rivers that have a reasonable water depth. 60 years of paddling and I've never mastered a "proper" j-stroke.
 
A curved blade paddle is now common in whitewater. They can deliver fast bursts of acceleration. In whitewater paddling, the goon stroke or "river J" is also fairly common. The river J often includes hard stern pries to get the boat aligned into the direction you want to go in or across the current. Top slalom racers don't use a goony river J, however; they use a grip thumb down correction with a quick loaded slice out.

The pure J is an abominable stroke in flat water. It tires my shaft forearm and wrist. The grip thumb down is the way to go, but correction is more smoothly done by some sort of combination of a C stroke, pitch stroke or, my ultimate favorite, the Canadian (or guide) stroke. The Canadian stroke corrects on the recovery phase by using a loaded slice in-water return. It is smooth, elegant and non-tiring. There are several videos online including Bill Mason's and Rolf Kraiker's, which I'll link later when I have time.

It took me from age 8 to age 40 to really "get" an effortless grip thumb down correction on my own, but I believe it can be taught and mastered in about 20 hours of practice by anyone who takes competent instruction.

You can do a proper grip thumb down correction with a curved blade, using a C stroke, pitch stroke and/or Canadian stroke, but it's a little clumsier to slice, There's no advantage to a heavily curved blade for flat water paddling, in my opinion. Mildly cupped/lipped sit & switch flat water racing blades like the ZRE Power Surge, which is the most popular marathon racing paddle in the U.S., don't use correction because S&S paddling style is all forward propulsion stroking. Nevertheless, my 12° bent Power Surge is my favorite paddle for single-sided correction stroking in flat water—for straight ahead paddling, which is what one does 99% of the time when lake tripping. It's short, light and powerful, and it slices easily enough for short Canadian stroke corrections
 
I can do a J-stroke, but it's not a thing of beauty.
The big mistake I was making with my J is the thing I really need to watch with the other options, and that's being sure my thumb is really pointing straight up or down and not at an angle.
Seems like thumbs down would make more sense with the curved blade, but thumb up feels more natural and less stressful on my joints.
 
The J stroke was never my favorite as I found it cumbersome and tiring. Much prefer the Canadian stroke with a narrow blade wood paddle for lakes and easy rivers, and a cheap but tough Mohawk plastic paddle for rapids. Better yet, to go solo with a double blade. Stand up paddling works for me, being so short.
 
I use a Werner Bandit pretty much all the time. You can do a J stroke, or a C stroke, or a Canadian stroke or a goon stroke with it. About the only stroke you can’t do is an Indian stroke, or anything involving a palm roll due to the T grip and the spooned blade. The spooned blade also makes it tougher to do bow prys. I have a Fox Works paddle with a pear grip that is much better for that type of stuff. To me, the Bandit is more about cab-forward paddling with forward and cross forward strokes and a minimum of correction at the stern. Whitewater slalom racers perfected it. I’m OK at it in my whitewater boats, and even my flatwater solo’s are narrow enough that it is just as easy to correct with the cross forward as it is to do a J stroke or a stern pry.
 
Last edited:
I have paddle from Oak Orchard that is a bent shaft with a spoon (curved) blade. In 2022, I was bow paddler on an overnight canoe trip and used it the whole first day. It has a really good catch and moves a lot of water, but I found it tiring. I was probably still recovering from major surgery the year before and had been doing a lot more double bladed paddling than single blade, so those were probably factors. But if I were starting off on a forty mile day on a flatwater river, like the Upper Missouri, I probably wouldn't reach for the Bandit. I'd probably use a smaller, flatter, lighter paddle.
Most of the time my days are much shorter than that and, if I'm in a tandem, I like to be the motor in the bow and the Bandit would be great for that. If I hadn't converted both my solos to pack style canoes, I think I'd give it a try for that too.
 
and even my flatwater solo’s are narrow enough that it is just as easy to correct with the cross forward as it is to do a J stroke or a stern pry.

Erik, from your recent videos I can see you have a very effective cross-forward stroke—for example, in attaining upstream in your Bell Yellowstone, which is also commonly used as a flat water recreational and tripping canoe. Are you saying that you use cross-forwards as your usual correction mechanism for long distance and all day types of flat water touring? Sort of like hit & switch paddling without a hand switch? I've never seen anyone do that for long distances in flat (or white) water.

We have had technique discussions here and elsewhere about the inside circle forward stroke (aka the carve balancing forward stroke), juiced occasionally by a cross-forward as the high radius carve begins to fade. But I personally don't know anyone, even its proponents, who would use the carve balancing forward stroke as their primary flat water touring stroke, hour after hour.

Would you clarify, since I know you are also a flat water tripper.
 
Depends where I'm paddling. If it is dead flat and I'm looking to cover ground I'm more likely to do a sit-and-switch, but changing hands, not with cross forward strokes. Uncorrected forward strokes are easily done with the spooned blade like the Bandit. Or I might do the usual J Stroke.

In current, I'd paddle it more like my whitewater boat. Forward and cross forward strokes with J-strokes and stern pries as you need them. Like Tom Foster says "if the boat is turning to your off-side you need to be doing a cross forward". In my narrower solo's I'm just as likely to do that as I am trying to keep the boat going straight with a J stroke. A couple of quick hits with a cross forward, and you are back on your on-side with a forward stoke. I'm sure in the course of the day that I do lots of J strokes, but its not the only correction that I use.

It's funny, I also have a Fox Worx paddle with a pear grip. When I use that paddle I rarely do cross strokes, but it is real easy to do an Indian stroke with a palm roll and in water recovery. I guess the way you paddle depends on the paddle that you have in your hands.
 
Last edited:
Eckilson videos? Link?
I've seen people in other videos do a cross forward stroke. Looks a little awkward but something I'd like to work on.
In a long canoe with little rocker, like my Wenonah Encounter, I usually do sit and switch. In my North Wind solo I found that I had to switch sides too frequently for my taste. Canadian stroke or Northwoods stroke is something I'd like to work on with my Fishell paddles, but not really very useful for western rivers. There are a lot of times I can't fully submerge an even shorter blade. Sometimes I have to use the paddle to shove off sand/gravel bars. A Fishell isn't the best for that. On the other hand, the Bandit, with fiberglass blade, is great for shallow rivers.
 
This is the video that Glenn referred to - forward and cross forward strokes in my Yellowstone Solo at a little play spot near my house. I don't paddle that fast - it was sped up by 50%, and my technique is far from perfect. For proper technique on a cross forward go to 24:21 on Tom Fosters' solo whitewater video. You need a whitewater boat to carve circles like he does, but the mechanics of the stroke are the same. Its not something that you will do all the time on flatwater (stuck with sit-and-switch and J-strokes for that), but it looks cool if you can throw in a cross stroke every once and a while. ;)

Bandit is a tough paddle, but it wears down over time - old and new Bandits on Christmas 2013 - gone through a couple more since then.

bandit.jpg
 
All carbon wear......top one has a few years of moderate use, the bottom one (mine) 9 years / 8000+ km of excessive abuse.

1712165649841.png
 
I don't paddle that fast - it was sped up by 50%

Hmmm . . . does this mean I have to reduce my compliment by 50%.

For proper technique on a cross forward go to 24:21 on Tom Fosters' solo whitewater video. You need a whitewater boat to carve circles like he does, but the mechanics of the stroke are the same

Every competent whitewater paddler uses a cross-forward stroke or needs to learn it. It's the way you accelerate or vector your canoe in a straight line when your paddle is on the upstream side and you don't want the current to blow your bow downstream (and you don't want to switch paddle hands). One of the first and most common scenarios every whitewater paddler encounters in this regard is accelerating out of an eddy to do a peel out when your paddle is on the upstream side. You need to alternate cross-forward strokes with forward strokes to accelerate in a straight line from your stopped position in the eddy, to cross the eddyline, and then to get far enough into the current before you want to turn downstream—or to continue on in an upstream ferry.

My two biggest technique breakthroughs in my early stages of whitewater paddling were (1) learning to do a cross-forward stroke with ease and (2) learning to J-lean the hull to the rails with confidence on turns. Those two techniques, when fully practiced, allow one to do confident and elegant eddy turns, peel outs, upstream ferries, and surfing.

Cross-forward stroking and J-leaning (heeling) to the rails for turns are both very translatable skills to flat water paddling. They are, for example, intrinsic to the flat water freestyle curriculum.

The following thread embeds all three parts of Tom Foster's classic video on paddling technique (Catch Every Eddy—Surf Every Wave) with lots of discussion:


Tom was for years the ACA's top chief of paddling instruction and instructor certification. He had a paddling school on the Lower Millers River in Massachusetts called the Outdoor Centre of New England (OCNE). Tom sold me and personally outfitted my Dagger Encore in the early 90's. I've often wondered what happened to him and whether he is still alive.
 
Eckilson, great surfing, attaining and ferrying video! Most impressive in a minor rockered canoe.

Rock on!
 
This is the video that Glenn referred to - forward and cross forward strokes in my Yellowstone Solo at a little play spot near my house. I don't paddle that fast - it was sped up by 50%, and my technique is far from perfect. For proper technique on a cross forward go to 24:21 on Tom Fosters' solo whitewater video. You need a whitewater boat to carve circles like he does, but the mechanics of the stroke are the same. Its not something that you will do all the time on flatwater (stuck with sit-and-switch and J-strokes for that), but it looks cool if you can throw in a cross stroke every once and a while. ;)

Bandit is a tough paddle, but it wears down over time - old and new Bandits on Christmas 2013 - gone through a couple more since then.

View attachment 140154
Even 50% slower it would look pretty impressive. Far better than I could do.
Watching the other video, and one I found on my own, a big part of the cross side stroke is leaning forward and then thrusting your hip forward with the stroke. He doesn't take the paddle out of the water for the recovery. Kind of interesting. I might have to put a hung web seat back in one of my solos so I can practice.
Wow, takes a lot of paddling to wear down fiberglass like that. Where is that river?
 
Wow, takes a lot of paddling to wear down fiberglass like that. Where is that river?
That was years of paddling in lots of different places - don't know why I didn't replace it sooner. You can always tell the dominate paddle side by the wear on the blade. I'm a lefty. Looks like recped is a righty - always looking for a good tandem partner. ;)

I might have to put a hung web seat back in one of my solos so I can practice.
Of your two boats I'd try the North Star. For this paddle and style of paddling I think you need to be kneeling. You won't be able to carve circles like Tom Foster does in his video, at least healed into the turn (I can do it in my whitewater boat, but not really in my Wildfire or Yellowstone Solo), but with a little current and an inside edge I'll bet you would I bet you would start to feel the bow lock in and carve enough to do crisp eddy turns, peal outs and ferries. It is always interesting to experiment.
 
my wife uses a carbon fiber Bandit for all paddling now, much prefers it to the old Werner traditional shape. This is for whitewater, river tripping, and tandem front in flatwater. She doesn't paddle flatwater solo though..

my CF Bandit was an accident, bought a used canoe and they threw in the paddle.. it's a 54 where I usually paddle 56, works great for whitewater where as Eric says, it's all cab-forward. On flatwater I don't care for it as the slightly shorter shaft seems to make the J less effective. On flatwater I will start using cross-forwards instead sometimes, after getting frustrated with the J.. that's the point when I go back to my old straight wood paddle..
 
a big part of the cross side stroke is leaning forward and then thrusting your hip forward with the stroke. He doesn't take the paddle out of the water for the recovery.

The recovery for cross-forward strokes is most effectively executed as an in-water forward slice, as Tom Foster demonstrates and explains. This is implemented by cocking your grip wrist outward so the power face of the paddle faces the hull as it slices forward. Keeping the recovery in-water allows a small bracing effect when you are powering across current and also allows you easily to transition the slice into a cross-bow draw.
 
That was years of paddling in lots of different places - don't know why I didn't replace it sooner. You can always tell the dominate paddle side by the wear on the blade. I'm a lefty. Looks like recped is a righty - always looking for a good tandem partner. ;)


Of your two boats I'd try the North Star. For this paddle and style of paddling I think you need to be kneeling. You won't be able to carve circles like Tom Foster does in his video, at least healed into the turn (I can do it in my whitewater boat, but not really in my Wildfire or Yellowstone Solo), but with a little current and an inside edge I'll bet you would I bet you would start to feel the bow lock in and carve enough to do crisp eddy turns, peal outs and ferries. It is always interesting to experiment.
I don't have the Encounter anymore. My second boat is an Esquif Echo, which should be a good boat to practice with.
I don't kneel. Ever! I can see how kneeling would make the cross bow forward stroke easier. I have long arms, which should help.
 
Back
Top