How We Design our Kayak Paddle Shafts

Bending Branches’ Operations Manager, Jason Eccles, gives us the scoop on how we design and develop our kayak paddle shafts…

Bending Branches' kayak paddle shaft design

Jason has been the Operations Manager at Bending Branches since 2003. Here he takes us behind the scenes to explain how we design and manufacture our kayak paddle shafts…

Shaft Material Used in Our Paddles

Bending Branches kayak paddles come with three different types of materials for the shaft:

Aluminum: Our most economical kayak paddles have shafts made of aluminum. They’re powder coated for a durable and appealing surface finish.

Fiberglass: Lighter than aluminum and warmer on your hands, fiberglass is a mid-range and very durable material for its weight and price.

Carbon: Provides the best strength-to-weight ratio available for paddles. All our carbon shafted paddles are made with 100% T-700 carbon. T-700 is a high quality, strong carbon fiber which is often used in aerospace application. Our high-end performance paddles for both angling and touring have carbon shafts.

Paddle Strength and Durability by Material

All Bending Branches’ paddles are designed and crafted to be used…and used…and used—without being babied. While carbon fiber undoubtedly has the best strength-to-weight ratio, our fiberglass and aluminum paddles also hold up very well with everyday use for many years.

Our engineers design both fiberglass and carbon fiber shafts to have very similar structural properties. Because carbon is stronger per unit volume than fiberglass, carbon shafts are ultimately lighter than fiberglass shafts, but no less strong or durable.

Bending Branches has a long history of making paddles and a talented team of engineers designing our product. That experience, along with sophisticated equipment to test and validate shaft designs, means we can optimize shaft weight without sacrificing durability.  

Our breakage rates are of the lowest in the paddle industry. Bending Branches’ fiberglass and carbon shafts have less than a 0.15% breakage rate.

Flex vs. Stiffness

Our Research and Development team did some significant field testing with the flex and stiffness of our paddles 8-10 years ago.

After hundreds of hours on the water, we discovered that stiff shafts are better for power over very short distances, but become uncomfortable after 15 minutes or more of continuous paddling when compared to a shaft that has a greater amount of flex.

Bending Branches kayak fishing paddle shaft design
(photo courtesy of Matt Ball)


So we’ve intentionally designed more flex in both our touring and angling shafts. Here’s what that does for you from an engineering point of view: the shaft flexes and stores energy during the first half of the stroke, then releases that energy during the second half of the stroke.

That gives you a smoother stroke with much less stress on your joints over the hours you’re on the water.

But don’t think greater flex means less structural integrity. Our engineers have designed the right amount of flex into ours shafts’ structure very carefully, and are still able to keep a high “break strength.”

Swing Weight

You can test the swing weight of a paddle by gripping the paddle with one hand in the center of the shaft, holding it away from you and rotating your wrist. If the paddle feels heavier on the ends, its swing weight is higher.

Lighter blades help achieve a lower swing weight. A paddle with carbon blades and a carbon shaft has the lightest swing weight of all.

Swing weight especially matters when you’re on the water all day, or for days in a row. Lighter swing weight means less effort paddling, which means less fatigue and soreness overall.

happy kayakers
(photo courtesy of Adventure Paddle Tours)


No matter what kind of kayaker you are or which type of paddle you choose, you can be confident your Bending Branches kayak paddle has been designed, tested and crafted to give you the best possible paddling experience.

Do you have questions about choosing a kayak of SUP paddle? Call or email our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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