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Riley Smith  
#1 Posted : Saturday, March 30, 2019 3:47:36 PM(UTC)

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I know this topic has been discussed in detail elsewhere on the internet, but I didn't see it on this forum and I wanted to see if any of you had an opinion or experience.

First, as a preface, I caved. I am officially guiding BWCA again. I guided last summer and I think that well sealed my fate. I learned that I couldn't live without seeing the BWCA every once and awhile and what's "every once an awhile" if you can stay for a summer? So that happened again...

Second, and the topic of this forum, I also bought another paddle. Oops. I have always paddled straight paddles because that's how I grew up doing it, and I am somewhat stubborn about those things. For reference, I still take an aluminum canoe to the BWCA sometimes for sentimental reasons (and carry a canvas monarch for the same reasons.) Anyways, I recently found a good deal and bought a bent shaft to try to take a little strain off this summer (we'll see about that.) The paddle I ordered, however, is a prototype and has a few unique features, one of them being a shallower degree of bend: 10 degrees (as opposed to the standard 12 or the old standard 14.) Does anyone know or have experience with a 10 degree bend and know what the difference is in the couple degrees off of 12? I am primarily a lake paddler, and that's what this paddle will be used for. I assume 10 degrees is still more efficient than straight, and one can adapt to paddling with anything once you get the feel for it (even a 2x6, believe me...) Anyways, I'll be getting used to it in the upcoming weeks prepping for summer, just curious if anyone has any opinions or experience on the difference between bent shafts. Thanks in advance.

Ben Strege  
#2 Posted : Saturday, March 30, 2019 4:14:15 PM(UTC)

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I have never used a 10-degree bent shaft, just a 12. To quickly answer the question, I think it would come down to the mechanics of your stroke. A 12-degree bend is for the average paddler, but not everyone is average.

I seriously looked into marathon canoe racing at one time, so I did a lot of research on paddles. Bent shaft paddles were created and are designed for marathon canoe racing. Any little bit of efficiency helps in a race. However, I don't think the typical paddler will notice a big difference between straight and bent-shaft paddles. I don't think you would notice much difference between 10 and 12-degree.

I like my bent-shaft paddle, though, and I don't want to go back to straight. I've had one since I was 14, and now it is my personal preference.

#3 Posted : Monday, April 8, 2019 8:48:17 PM(UTC)

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If you had been using 14-degree bents for years you'd notice the difference. I don't think 10 degrees will bother you at all. However, you'll have to make some adjustments when doing control strokes with the bent.

I also prefer a straight paddle, but I have a Mitchell (Bell) Viper 11-degree bent with a dished blade that I use exclusively for open water.  I've used a 14-degree bent and didn't like it at all because to keep the blade vertical I had to keep my grip hand well forward of the shaft hand.  The shallower bend allows me to maintain more of a "stacked hands" approach.

And I always have a straight blade on hand for when I prefer it.

#4 Posted : Saturday, May 18, 2019 5:53:42 PM(UTC)

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I use a 12 degree bent shaft for all of my flatwater paddling. I don't know whether a 10 or 14 degree bend would be much different from 12 degrees, but to me there seems to be about a ten percent improvement in efficiency between straight shaft and 12 degrees. (No rigorous testing, just a subjective guess). I could never go back to straight shaft.

As Ben and Gavia have implied, that efficiency gain is really only true for the standard "marathon stroke" (aka "hit 'n' switch", "sit and switch" etc.) Bent shafts are not so good for control strokes, which means they are not so good for strokes like J-stroke, C-stroke, or others that have a control component built in. But J et al are all much less efficient than the standard marathon stroke anyway, so you probably need to decide upfront what your priorities are. So I use a flat blade for whitewater, and stick with my bent shaft for slow-speed trolling, which is pretty well the only time I use a J-stroke.
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