Should You Use a Straight or Bent Shaft Canoe Paddle? [Video]

woman using a straight shaft bending branches canoe paddle

Straight shaft canoe paddle (photo courtesy of @gabesimages)

Should you use a straight or a bent shaft canoe paddle? Paddle Tale’s Ken Whiting takes on this question in this video:

What’s the Advantage of a Bent Shaft Canoe Paddle?

The design idea behind a bent shaft paddle is for your forward strokes to be more efficient over a long day of paddling. It specializes in the forward stroke, creating less drag in the water than a straight shaft paddle.

This can be a big deal for people with shoulder, arm or wrist issues. More efficiency equals easier on your body, especially over many hours and/or days on the water.

What’s the Advantage of a Straight Shaft Canoe Paddle?

The straight shaft paddle is a great all-around paddle. While it’s not as efficient in the forward stroke as the bent shaft version, it handles all the other steering strokes more intuitively.

For rougher conditions and whitewater paddling, a straight shaft paddle will be easier to use. You won’t have to worry which way your paddle is facing.

The Result of Ken’s Paddle Test on a Wilderness Canoe Trip

Ken decided, after using the bent shaft Catalyst for two days and the straight shaft Java for two days on his canoe trip, that he prefers the straight shaft.

He admits that’s probably because of his background as a whitewater canoeist and kayaker. He simply feels more comfortable with the straight shaft, even after using a bent shaft for a couple of days.

man canoeing with a bent shaft paddle

Bent shaft canoe paddle (photo courtesy of @silveydustin)

How to Size Each Type of Canoe Paddle

Straight and bent shaft paddles are sized differently. If you’re used to using a straight shaft paddle, you’ll want a bent shaft that’s four inches shorter. For example, if you use a 54-inch straight shaft, you’ll want a 50-inch bent shaft.

Likewise, if you’ve used a bent shaft and want to also buy a straight shaft, buy one four inches longer than your bent shaft.

Some canoeists like to have both types in their canoe so they always have the ideal paddle for the conditions they’re in. Maybe that’s you, too!

Check out our collection of bent shaft canoe paddles here.
Check out our collection of straight shaft canoe paddles here.

We even have one paddle with a double bend, the Viper—that’s as ergonomic as you can get! See it here.

What paddle questions can we help you with? Contact our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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