-- Last Updated: Sep-28-12 9:55 AM EST --
It's kind of like that question. Each has its own characteristics, plusses and minuses depending on the situation. For racing, there is no question that carbon in bent shaft format is a necessity to be competitive today. But for recreational cruising, enjoyable maneuvering, and the sheer pleasure of performing and learning advanced paddle strokes, it is wood for me. A feather edge straight blade ottertail is my preference.
I don't get the whole flexible paddle thing. I paddle marathon canoe races, fully up to 18 hours a day for 6+ straight days in the case of the Y1K, with a stiff carbon blade. Proper technique and training doesn't require the losses from a flexible blade. For recreational paddling my wood paddle is minimally flexible, not because it has to be, but is a characteristic of preferring a thin feather edged blade. Even then i seek out those that have absolute minimal flex.