another canoe question (sorry!)

Discussion in 'Paddling' started by chansta, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    What should go into consideration when buying a paddle? This would be for slow moving rivers/reservoirs/lakes. Minimal rapids.
     
  2. Pablo

    Pablo Hobbyist Hobbyist

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    Length is important... not the overall length, but the length from the top of the grip to the "throat" (where the shaft starts to flair out into the blade of the paddle). Generally speaking, that measurement should equal from your nose to the seat of a chair you're sitting in, or maybe a little longer. If you sit in a chair, and place the paddle upside down between your knees, with the grip on the chair, you should be staring at the throat area. You should be able to comfortably bury the full blade of the paddle in the water without having to lean over, or without having your grip hand up too high. As far as materials, I'm a wooden paddle guy. I don't like aluminum/plastic/composite paddles. I like a grip/shaft that's finished with tung oil for grip (I have to do this myself), and a varnished blade for underwater durability. I'll take a solid wood, well-crafted paddle, not a clunky Wal-Mart one. One that's thin and graceful and sized right. In the end it really depends on what you want/need. A 2x4 will get you there, though not efficiently or enjoyably. Try a few out in the water if you can and make your decision then.
     
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  3. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    thank you.
     
  4. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    what about length and width of the blade?
     
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  5. Scotchmon

    Scotchmon Supporter Supporter

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    It’s hard to beat something like a Bending Branches Espresso. Bigger blades are harder on your joints.
    A composite edge is good, too especially if others may be using the paddle. Even so, that doesn’t mean it good form to use a paddle as a push pole. Float the boat, enter, and a few short shallow strokes until in deeper water.
     
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  6. TomC

    TomC Supporter Supporter

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  7. leghog

    leghog Guide

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    For flat water get a bent shaft too. You'll thank me later.

    Here's a review I wrote on a Bending Branches bent shaft paddle.

    This is the only paddle I’d recommend for flat water and lake paddling. This paddle provides you more power more efficiently with each of your strokes. You can easily spend much more on a paddle, but you’ll not really gain much in performance.

    PROs:
    Ergonomics of shaft and grip
    Light weight
    Price
    “Rock Guard” tip

    CONs:
    Rock guard should extend further up edge of paddle

    [​IMG]
    (Note the grip and oval shaft)

    Finish is excellent. After more than two decades of use, my paddle looks much newer.

    Firstly, in the interest of full disclosure, openness, and honesty, I’m biased toward wood paddles. I neither want nor need any high tech space age ultra strong material in a canoe paddle. Besides, wood is just plain “warmer”. That, plus they have character.

    I’ve owned and used my BB Special for 22 years now, since before it was named the BB Special. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many days of paddling and how many hundreds of miles passed under my canoe while using this paddle.

    The specs of my paddle are nearly identical to the current BB Special. I bought it for flat water cruising in an Old Town Penobscot 15’ solo boat. That’s something all should understand --- a bent shaft paddle is designed and meant for flat water and calm water. Stick with straight shaft paddles for fast water where control is more important than stroke efficiency.

    The grip of the Bending Branches Special is comfortable and allows you to use your palm. The grip, the oval shaft, and the paddle’s light weight make for very efficient strokes and ease all day paddling. The purpose of the bent shaft is to give your stroke more power more efficiently.

    The bend assures the blade is more “square” with the water you are pushing from the very beginning of your stroke and assures more of the paddle’s blade remains vertical to the canoe’s path longer during the stroke --- this is when/where you really gain the power in your stroke. The bent shaft improves the efficiency because you get more power more easily attained from each stroke. Speed and stroke efficiency in a paddle that lessens fatigue. What more could you ask for?

    Ergonomic Grip. Grip's palm swell and laminate shaft with oval cross section.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The bend:
    [​IMG]

    All around the Bending Branches Special is an excellent paddle. As good as many costing 2 to 3 times as much. LOTS OF BANG FOR YOUR BUCK! Universally liked by those who use them, it’s just plain hard to find anyone with a negative thing to say about this paddle.

    About the only negative thing I can think of is that the “Rock Guard” protection could extend farther up the sides of the blade, but that’s really a stretch since this is a really flat water/calm water paddle and the protection is really needed when using the paddle to push off. That said, since the time I bought my paddle, Bending Branches has moved the “Rock Guard” protection partially up on the blade’s edges.

    The Rock Guard:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This is the only paddle I’d recommend for flat water and lake paddling. When you buy one, talk to an expert as a bent shaft paddle properly fitted to you (length from top of grip to throat of shaft at blade) will be shorter than a properly fitted straight paddle. For size comparison, below is a picture of my Bending Branches for flat water and my Sawyer for fast water. The Sawyer is six inches longer, not an insignificant length difference when it comes to fitting paddles.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
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  8. FreeMe

    FreeMe Guide

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    IMO, the two most important features are a properly shaped grip and properly shaped shaft. Everything else is negotiable, but where your hands contact the paddle is what will make you hate it or not. The grip should fit your hand comfortably over the long haul. The grip in Leghog's photos is a good example of a flatwater grip. That one is directional because it's a bent paddle. A straight paddle's grip will look similar, but it will be symmetrical. This is what's commonly known as a "pear shape" grip.

    The shaft should be either round in cross-section, or oval shape - with the thicker measurement being from front to back, and thinner measurement aligned with the edge of the blade. I prefer an oval shaft on most of my paddles. Obviously, this rules out paddles with aluminum shafts - but that doesn't mean there aren't good paddles made with same.

    Scotchmon suggested the Bending Branches Espresso, and that is a very good example of a good design that works for most paddling. The longer traditional paddles don't work as well in shallow water, and the bent paddles are not as easy to do some strokes with.
     
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  9. Pablo

    Pablo Hobbyist Hobbyist

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    Width isn't a huge issue. It affects the resistance you feel in the water (so does blade length), but you adapt your paddling to the tool in hand. The above-mentioned Bending Branches brand is well-regarded. I'm not at all fond of the perfectly flat blade though, and I really don't like the varnished shaft and grip. I have one, and at some point had stripped off the varnish and replaced it with pure tung oil... much better, and no more blisters on long paddles! As far as blade profile is concerned, I prefer a blade that narrows from the spine of the blade to the edge. It feels smoother in the water to me, especially when using a variety of strokes. BB paddles are flat... dead flat and I don't like using such a paddle for fancy strokes. Speaking of which, although bent-shaft paddles are more efficient on long pulls in calm water, due to their lack of symmetry they are funky or downright impossible on some strokes, such as those requiring underwater recoveries (so-called "Canadian" strokes), or others. I prefer versatility in my paddles. I finally ended up carving solid ash paddles for me and my family... paddling, carving, paddling, carving some more until each was perfect. Stability in the water, blade flex, shape of the grip and shaft all matter to one degree or another.

    I digress though... at your stage, get one that: 1. Fits properly. 2. Is well-made, 3. Feels good in the hand, and 4. Suits the intended uses. Have fun!
     
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  10. FreeMe

    FreeMe Guide

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    A dead-flat blade is fine, IME - so long as it's thin enough, strong enough, and stays perfectly flat. For that, it pretty much has to be either laminated wood, or composite, or a combination of both. With wood, it's actually easier to make a good blade that will keep its shape with a thicker spine and faired to the edges, than to make a perfectly flat blade that never takes on a cup. A cupped blade doesn't work with any degree of in-water recovery, and, of course, is essentially directional.

    Also, a really flat and thin wood blade tends to be too weak, unless reinforced with some composite skin.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
  11. Seeker

    Seeker Woods Bum Supporter Bushclass I

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    Wood just feels right. Composite/carbon fiber is lighter, and you'll appreciate that at the end of a long day. I've never used a bent paddle, so I have no advice there. I do like an ultralight carbon fiber boat for certain Adirondack trips that involve portaging every half mile, and you use those with a double paddle (synthetic, of course). And I own a kayak paddle (synthetic) that goes with me on windy days, just in case i have to come home against the wind... it's a little easier with a kayak paddle.

    For canoeing, I have two ash paddles, roughly 58" and 64" iirc, both beavertail, both by Dri-Ki Woodworking. They were $75 each several years back, and I think they shipped together for about $12-15 more. They came with the end grip un-varnished. I further un-varnished the throat areas by sanding them and finished them with BLO. No blisters. Not sure why that is, but it is. (Works on tool handles too, like picks, shovels, rakes, hammers, sledges, and axes.)

    Spruce is a lighter wood, but weaker (and therefore the paddles have to be a little fatter) and the end gets chewed up in whitewater or if misused "poling" on/off rocky shores. Ash holds up to that much better, but is heavier, and therefore the paddles can be made thinner. I have used both. I prefer Ash. An old guy, I think it was John Rowland in Cache Lake Country, mentioned that lighter Spruce was good for open/flat water as it was lighter overall, while Ash was better for rocky/fast water, where you needed the extra strength and wear resistance.

    There are rules of thumb for bow and stern paddle length, but you end up using what works most comfortably for yourself. My wife technically should be using the 58" paddle, but hates it. Too long. I bought her a cheap "boating" paddle at West Marine... much shorter. she LOVES it and now does twice as much work with it.
     
  12. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    D02F35FB-0B44-419C-951A-AAB3A53262AF.jpeg BC0F0D64-E6B2-4CDD-B486-85776E41F8D1.jpeg 7D58B01B-13AB-46EF-A8B2-F9A43A699A22.jpeg [/QUOTE]If you sit in a chair, and place the paddle upside down between your knees, with the grip on the chair, you should be staring at the throat area. [/QUOTE]

    Using this method, the paddle a friend lended me is the correct length for me. It is measured at I've been using it to paddle in the bow stern of a mad river 16 ft. It does not have webbed seats, so I can only paddle from the stern. I have noticed with this paddle that it is uncomfortable, however. Doing the J/Pitch/Canadian tends to hurt my wrist, but I have only attempted to paddle from a seated position, not kneeling. I have been able to combat this wrist fatigue by slightly modifying my grip on the teardrop handle so that my hand grips as shown:
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
  13. Paul Caruso

    Paul Caruso Being all that I am. Supporter

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    Are you canoeing solo or tandem?
     
  14. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    solo
     
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  15. Paul Caruso

    Paul Caruso Being all that I am. Supporter

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    In that case, I would go with something like an otter tail or beavertail. I found the less surface area the less J you have to do and the quicker you move the paddle through the water, which is handy when you are tacking.
     
  16. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    tacking?
     
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  17. Haggis

    Haggis Bushmaster

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    More than 50 years of paddling, nigher 60, wouldn’t estimate the days and miles, used about every sort of paddle except bent,,, won’t ever be using a bent paddle,,, I like my beaver tail paddle just fine. I’ve got a pair of sugar-island paddles for shallower water, but I like my beaver tail paddle.
     
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  18. Paul Caruso

    Paul Caruso Being all that I am. Supporter

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    Kinda like a sailboat sails into the wind. The wind hits the canoe, not head-on, but at an angle, with a quick short stroke you can make some fast progress especially if you kneel to the paddle side of the boat so that the gunwale is almost touching the water, this reduces the amount of the hull that is in the water thus reducing drag, thereby decreasing the effort needed to propel the boat forward and gives really good control, you can go faster than when the wind is calm or blowing slightly at your back. I find that an otter-tail or beavertail is great for this. The wider surface area paddles, which are great for tandem, are really clunky and slow when solo IME.
     
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  19. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    Cool, thanks! I love learning about this. I've noticed paddlers with experience doing this. I'll need some sweet knee pads to get started on this skill. I'm guessing a wider hull isn't as good for the wind?
     
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  20. Haggis

    Haggis Bushmaster

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    I’m a J-Stroke or Canadian Stroke paddler, maybe 90% of the time the latter,,, So, again, a beavertail paddle is my choice.

    Many years of paddling Herself, then the bairns, then the Granddarlings around the lakes,,, I’m usually paddling alone, even with two in the canoe.
     
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  21. Paul Caruso

    Paul Caruso Being all that I am. Supporter

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    Look up Becky Mason, and her father Bill Mason, you should be able to find Bill Mason's "Path of the Paddle" online and free. I know they are available at the NFB, along with many other of Bill Mason's Canoe movies.
     
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  22. Yknpdlr

    Yknpdlr Scout

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    Did you read my response regarding paddles in the thread of your other question? I outlined there some of what has subsequently been said here. Shaft length is the most important criterion. See my other post for how to measure. Blade length is dependent on the type of paddling you are doing and personal preference with your paddling experience and style. Of course shallow water paddling requires shorter blades. Longer blades (i.e. voyageur or otter tail styles) are good for deep water and advanced control, especially if you get into freestyle type of paddling techniques. Bent shaft paddles are great for long endurance and speed, only if used correctly. But they limit the full range of advanced strokes that are possible with straight shafts. Yes you can do the J stroke, limited Canadian, and pitch and a couple of others to a limited extent with a bent, but forget about doing the Indian or box stroke that are so naturally done with finesse with a straight thin edge blade fine wood paddle. This is because a straight shaft paddle can use either side of the blade as the power face, while a bent shaft has only one side as the power face.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  23. Yknpdlr

    Yknpdlr Scout

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    Bent paddles are typically used by racers, though not exclusively. They have a place in recreationally paddling as well, especially for long distance paddling. Overall more efficient, because (for just one reason) at the end of the stroke you are not lifting water as with a straight blade, thus wasting energy due to the exit angle of the blade. On the other hand, many of the more advanced strokes can only be done with a straight blade and are more difficult or impossible with a bent shaft.

    Though I am a racer and will always use a bent carbon paddle when racing or training, I admit that I do prefer a well crafted cherry wooden paddle (otter tail or similar derivative shape) when recreationally paddling about for fun. Usually I have one of each in the canoe.
     
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  24. chansta

    chansta keeper of the flame Supporter

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    I have noticed a big difference between a t grip paddle and a wooden paddle with a pear shaped grip in terms of comfort. I can make it work, but if I'm doing a true thumb down motion for J, the latter hurts my wrist quite quickly.
     
  25. Yknpdlr

    Yknpdlr Scout

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    Don't know why you should get any pain with a traditional style grip. You might consider what is known as a palm grip, commonly used by freestyle paddlers. I have a few of this style that I use for normal cruising. They are very comfortable for me and perform standard strokes (including the J and Canadian) very well.
    A photo of this style of paddle and palm grip can be seen here:
    http://www.longlakeartisans.com/Davis.html
     
  26. FreeMe

    FreeMe Guide

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    Yeah, I don't know why you would have discomfort with the typical pear shape grip, but you should be able to find a grip shape you like. You may have a change in preference as your technique adjusts to your body loosening up. And wood grips, of course, can be modified - especially if they are oversize to begin with. I do recall that I had some discomfort in my wrist until my J improved. Can't recall if that went away because my technique improved or my joints loosened up. Maybe both?

    There isn't a "right" grip shape, but there are some wrong ones. First thing to mind would be those on Feather Brand wood paddles - flattish and squareish edges, with shafts to match. But it appears that you have already ruled those out. ;)
     
  27. RiceOnSuede

    RiceOnSuede Scout

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    Ive been paddling rivers and creeks for many years with my cheap aluminum and plastic $14 paddle happily. Even has that little cup thing on the shaft to stop the water from running down the shaft and on to my lap.
    Tried paddling solo once with a regular paddle, will never do it again with out a kayak paddle, was an amzing difference in easy and simplicity
     

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