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  Solo Paddle choice
  Posted by: GreatTurtle on Nov-13-13 11:30 AM (EST)

Hello fellow paddlers. I am gearing up to go on a month long solo canoe trip down the Anderson river in the NWT this summer. One of my main questions has been about what type of paddle to bring. I have been using a double bent shaft paddle for most all of my paddling (not whitewater). However I have recently been told that beavertail or even ottertail paddles are better for solo canoeing. Does anyone have experience using the different types of paddles while solo canoeing long distances?

As a reference the majority of the trip will be on a fast flowing river (5-10mph) with only a few rapids. There will be some lake paddling and a couple day stretch of ocean paddling at the end. My canoe will be the Wenonah encounter 17.

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Messages in this Topic


  my personal experience
  Posted by: paddletothesea on Nov-13-13 12:41 PM (EST)
Sounds like a great trip. Keep us posted on your journey, would like to paddle that river myself someday.

I've dont some long distance solo trips myself including a 2-month solo to the Arctic Ocean and a 6-month solo across the country to give you an idea of my paddling likes. I prefer a light weight paddle since I have a high stroke rate and like to paddle 10-18 hours a day.
Imagine every morning BEFORE you started to paddle, that you shoveled 20-tons of dirt THEN went paddling for 10 hours. Well.....thats sort of what a lot of people do and they wonder why they are tired, or cannot paddle 10 hours etc. LEt me explain.
My 6-month trip my paddle of choice was a 7 oz ZRE bent shaft paddle. At 7 ounces this weighs 2-3 times less than a wooden or even a kayak paddle,,,which let say is 20 ounces.
When you consider my rate of 50 strokes a minute, I end up lifting 7.8 tons of weight in a 10 hour paddle day!!!! WOW!!! Actually that is good compared to someone using a 20 oz or kayak paddle.
20 oz paddle at 50 strokes a minute ='s 60,000 times in ONE hour they will lift their paddle.....which is = to 3750 lbs of weight in an hour!! Now multiply that by a 10 hour paddle day and you will lift equal to nearly 19-Tons of paddle weight!!!!! So if two paddles side by side paddled---one with a 7oz and the other with a 20oz paddle---the guy paddling the 20 ounce paddle will lift 11 tons more weight in a day than me with my 7 oz paddle!!!!! Who going to be more tired at the end of the day?
Not only tired but how effecient will they be in paddling if they are more tired?
I stayed with tandem sea kayakers for weeks paddling a single blade 7 oz canoe paddle and they wonder how I do it? In fact their paddles are about 24 oz so add another 4 tons of weight to their day in paddling.

As far as your trip. Can't hurt to take one of each. A lightweight bent shaft for the lakes and slower current and more straight shaft when you need to use corrective strokes more. Although with a bent shaft I can still sweep, pry, draw and j-stroke too...just a little weirder angle is all.
I prefer not to be tired from all the extra lifting which allows more time to explore, hike and walk around etc or paddle long into the evening since you will have 24-hour of daylight etc. My friends with the heavy paddles are usually already in the tent too tired to do anything.
Go light!!!
  I use curved blade, carbon shaft slalom
  Posted by: ezwater on Nov-13-13 1:13 PM (EST)
paddles for river work, and they are superior to ottertail or beavertail paddles. But are you going to be sitting most of the time, or kneeling? For sitting, bent shaft paddles are fine. For kneeling, longer slalom paddles are better. The mechanics of bent shaft paddling don't work out as well for a kneeling position.

Proponents of ottertail or beavertail paddles often get very good with them, just as owners of Kentucky flintlock rifles sometimes develop a high degree of skill. But you won't see anyone using a beavertail in a 90 mile marathon race, and you won't see anyone using an ottertail on a downriver whitewater race. Paddles designed to cover distances fast have become not only very effective, but pleasanter for anyone to use.
  Correcting misconceptions about bents
  Posted by: birren on Apr-20-14 11:54 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Apr-27-14 8:07 PM EST --

QUOTE: For sitting, bent shaft paddles are fine. For kneeling, longer slalom paddles are better. The mechanics of bent shaft paddling don't work out as well for a kneeling position. ENDQUOTE

This is incorrect.
Size your paddles according to shaft length, not blade. Given the same length shaft, a longer paddle is more work unless you always use an in-water return. For general use, stick to the standard 8" x 20-22" blade. And choose a shaft length that will enable you to raise the elbow of your grip hand no higher than horizontal (even with the shoulder). Otherwise best bring lots of painkillers.

The mechanics of bent paddles are fine for kneeling. I say that from the perspective of a dozen BWCA trips and a bunch of river and lake canoeing. Plus being an ACA-certified canoeing instructor.

  Yes, I've heard those arguments before,
  Posted by: ezwater on Apr-27-14 9:59 PM (EST)
but on this forum and others, CE Wilson has offered an analysis of kneeling versus sitting, showing clearly that the sitting position benefits from a larger bent shaft angle, like the 10 to 12 seen in marathon racing. A straight shaft, used sitting, legs out and braced, means having to stop the stroke very early, or be pulling water upward to an excessive degree while completing the stroke.

CE Wilson argues, on the same geometrical analysis, that a kneeling paddler is best off with a straight shaft. I may note here that ww downriver racers, who paddle kneeling, could use as much of a bent shaft as they want to , but they don't. Their paddles are straight or nearly straight.

I don't fully agree with CE Wilson about the kneeling position and bent shafts. I made and often use a 5 degree bent shaft when cruising, kneeling, and it has a wonderful feel. Of course, I'm often cruising in a whitewater boat, and when I start using complex strokes, that 5 degree bent shaft begins to be a liability. Silver Creek of NC offered a 3 degree bent shaft at one time, for kneeling ww paddlers. A friend bought one and really liked it.

On shaft length, if one specifies hip to shoulder height, kneeling/sitting height, and blade dimensions (8 X 21 would do), then shaft length will pop out of the equation. But change blade from my 7.75 X 21 Mitchell to my old longer Clement, to someone's longer, narrower ottertail, and trying to keep shaft length constant will not work. It sure does not work for me at all, but I will not offer examples now.

Are you sure you disagreed with what I said, or was I unclear?
  Not sure if I agree or not ...
  Posted by: birren on Apr-28-14 12:51 AM (EST)
... or that it matters.

It doesn't matter whether you sit or kneel - if you use a proper forward stroke using torso rotation you can execute a vertical-paddle stroke without lifting water. I'm a kneeler and I use a bent for open-water paddling. I'll pass on discussions with Mr. Wilson because he gets technical and dogmatic, and I don't have room for that.

A straight shaft paddle is best for maneuvering, and I'll leave it at that.

There is no mathematical formula to determine proper shaft length unless you take into account ALL of these factors: your size, the boat you're paddling, the height of the seat, the amount of the load, whether you paddle flat or leaned, and how high you like to lift your grip hand. After you come up with a number, you'll still find that paddles with different shaft lengths can be correct for the same paddler under different conditions.
  And I mentioned most of those
  Posted by: ezwater on Apr-28-14 5:08 PM (EST)
factors. I'm not sure that a final answer to paddle length has been found. It may have partly to do with what one gets used to. I came to like 61.5" slalom paddles, and they feel right whether I am on a 10" pedestal in my OC-1, or on a 5.75" pedestal in my slalom c-1. The same paddles feel just right. If you were to see me in my slalom boat with my supposedly long paddle, it would not strike you visually as long, because I'm longer.

There's still a lot of "I would suggest" and "it's just what I'm used to" in this area. I have no personal opinion about paddle length for those who are in a hurry, who sit with legs braced out, and who use a bent shaft, but I note that most use a shortish paddle and I leave it at that. They go long distances, they know what they are doing.

For whitewater paddling, it has seemed to me that many OC-1 paddlers use a shorter paddle than might work best for them, but they're mostly runty little guys, and I'm a big dufus, so what do I know?

Those who mostly kneel and who use a "typical" bent shaft angle of 10 degrees or more, are a very small minority. Zaveral might offer a 7 degree paddle. Based on my own experience, I have suggested 5 degrees max.

You mentioned taking the catch near your knee? Without trying, my catch is near a foot beyond that. But I think a long, straight shaft paddle kind of makes one tend toward that. A markedly bent shaft paddle would just kind of be landing flat-blade on the water surface if reached as far forward as is the case with me. It isn't that I strain forward at all. That's just where the paddle wants to plunk in the water.
  Carbon fiber
  Posted by: kayamedic on Nov-14-13 10:46 AM (EST)
bent and carbon fiber straight.

Forget ottertail and beavertail paddles. Light is right for long distance.

You need two paddles of course..
  carbon shafts are improving(ie Eating My
  Posted by: bigspencer on Apr-06-14 11:55 AM (EST)
Words.). Got out "from under the rock" and checked out a few shops that are pretty good for stocking paddles..and came upon some carbon/wood(blade/grip) paddles = what a change in Just an general purpose carbon straight shaft paddle from BendingBranches was so comfortable. Must have spent ~15min just holding/flexing it. I now most humbly am retracting my old-days opinions, from the 90s, with carbon shafts....
  Thanks for the good advice
  Posted by: GreatTurtle on Nov-14-13 9:15 PM (EST)
I currently have a mitchell outrigger double bend with a curved power face and I thought it was light at 20 oz. I was planning on taking it as a lake/ocean paddle along with a river paddle.

To answer your question I plan on being seated most of the time. My canoe has a bucket seat with foot pegs so I sit solidly in the boat. I also don't plan on shooting a lot of technical rapids on this trip.
  Posted by: plaidpaddler on Nov-15-13 6:16 PM (EST)
For a sleek Encounter the Zaveral Powersurge is the ticket for long distances. The midweight or lightweight version. The ultralight is great when you are close to home, but for an isolated trip like this I would opt for the slightly beefier versions. Werner has some lightweight carbon fiber bent shafts, but so far I have not used one, so can't do a recommendation. I don't believe this is a tight technical river, so you should be able to do all your paddling with the bent shaft without any difficulty.
  Double Blade?
  Posted by: beaverjack on Nov-30-13 8:46 AM (EST)
In deep water, a double blade is my choice. Wind is so much easier to deal with and you waste much less energy correcting. I'd say take a straight shaft paddle for shallow, narrow places and a double blade for everything else. That's what I did in Quetico, and it worked out great. Be safe, above all else. Take a PLB too.
  The downside of a double blade is
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-01-13 4:43 PM (EST)
that most are very heavy. You do have to hold the thing up all day. At least canoe paddles support part of their own weight if you do an inwater recovery.

I have a lightweight carbon fiber double paddle but the price would make you faint for a first time purchase. I got it free.
  I would have one ZRE bent shaft
  Posted by: rpg51 on Dec-01-13 5:11 PM (EST)
I have paddled that same country but on different rivers and the only thing I will say is to be very careful with your paddle to be sure it does not blow away. There is a lot of wind often times, and no cover. Hate to wake up in the AM and find your ZRE is no where to be found. I use my ZRE in anything up to a class 2 or easy three. It works fine. You will save a lot of energy.
  I second Bill's comments
  Posted by: JackL on Apr-29-14 6:34 AM (EST)
Jack L
  let me put my $.01 in for a medium-wgt
  Posted by: bigspencer on Dec-02-13 1:00 PM (EST)
straight shaft, wooden beavertail, in addition to another one....bentshaft etc. Using different muscles will break up a trip and allow you to paddle longer/further without need to rest... $.01.
  Same muscles used
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-02-13 9:46 PM (EST)
its just a heavier paddle.
Its just about the back and the abs at any rate. Not the arms. Switching sides now and then is a good idea.

I saw some figures once about the difference in weights between medium and lightweight paddles over a day of some 20,000 strokes. Ounces do count.
  the Same muscles used is what...
  Posted by: bigspencer on Dec-05-13 8:15 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Feb-10-14 12:29 PM EST --

never mind. Go with those in the know of the river who responded, OTHW paddletothesea's bring both = what I always do.

  Not The Arms?
  Posted by: portager on Apr-07-14 3:02 PM (EST)

If anyone does 20,000 strokes in a day, they will have some tired arm and shoulder muscles. Especially on rivers where frequent power strokes are needed to keep one out of trouble.
  Power strokes?
  Posted by: birren on Apr-28-14 12:53 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Apr-28-14 12:55 AM EST --

If you're doing a proper forward stroke with torso rotation, your deltoid and trapezius muscles will get tired after a long day, but your rotator cuffs will not.

If you're using a lot of power strokes to stay out of trouble, you need to learn proper whitewater technique. Go slow, learn to backferry, and most of all, learn to pace yourself.

  ZRE Bent shaft
  Posted by: JackL on Dec-07-13 6:35 AM (EST)
to me is a do all paddle.
The only time I use a different paddle is when I am in shallow rocky rivers, and then I use my old black Bart which is the exact same only beefier.

Jack L
  Solo Paddles
  Posted by: Murph1 on Jan-19-14 11:07 PM (EST)
You can't go wrong following Paddletothesea's advise. He is one of the most experienced posters on this net.
I only go on solo trips of two weeks or less. My paddle of choice is my Wenonah Black Jack Bent Carbon Paddle which weighs 11oz. It cuts the water like a knife on lakes or Class 1-2 rivers. I always carry a back up paddle which is a 17oz Bending Branches Beavertail.
For use on Class 3 rivers I would suggest a straight shaft laminated wide blade wood paddle with fiberglass wrap and Rockguard edge.
Happy Paddling!
  solo paddles
  Posted by: ppine on Jan-21-14 11:17 AM (EST)
For a long trip, it is logical to use different paddles to change the geometry and its affect on your body. A light quality straight shaft and a bent shaft that you have experience with should go on the trip. If it were me I would also bring a two bladed kayak paddle for paddling a 17 foot canoe with a lot of gear in it. The kayak paddle is especially useful for windy and swirling current conditions. Try every type of paddle you can before commiting to the long trip. Good luck.
  Disagree about double in the wind
  Posted by: alan_gage on Apr-14-14 4:21 PM (EST)
Just to make sure every opinion presented has a contradiction I'll put forth that I strongly dislike double bladed paddles in the wind, especially a head wind. Not only do you have the effort of pulling the blade through the water but you also have the effort of the wind pushing the top blade. It's a workout and no fun going hard like that for more than a couple hours (my double blade limit into strong wind is about 4 hours).

A single blade hit and switch feels more more comfortable to me and I'd much rather do correction strokes with a single blade than a double. Noting breaks the rhythm or feels much more awkward than having to take multiple strokes on the same side with a double blade.

If you're worried about efficiency in the wind install a rudder.

  Rotated strokes
  Posted by: birren on Apr-27-14 8:13 PM (EST)
Whatever paddle(s) you get, learn to paddle using your torso. That means rotating your upper body so you minimize the use of your arm and shoulder muscles.

You can practice this by paddling straight-armed. I don't mean with a little bend in your elbows, I mean with your elbows locked straight. You'll have to rotate, and doing so will teach your body what I'm talking about.

The rotated forward stroke protects the weak muscles of your arms and shoulders by using the strong muscles of your back, butt and legs. It works even better when you're kneeling.

Also, the forward stroke is short - only about 15"-18". It starts about at your knee and ends at or before your hip. If your elbow ends up behind your hip (or if your shaft arm goes behind the vertical) you aren't rotating far enough.

Do this and you'll be able to paddle long and far without shoulder soreness. Even better would be to use a paddle weighing less than 22 ounces. The heavier the paddle, the more your deltoid and trapezius have to work to lift it out of the water for the next stroke.
  Where would my legs come in when
  Posted by: ezwater on Apr-27-14 10:13 PM (EST)
I'm kneeling?

I recently pointed out that with the short stroke you recommend, and which I use, rotation of the torso from shoulder girdle on down to hip joints is going to be rather limited. Powerful, but limited in range.

One sees the Bob Foote videos where he twists to an extreme to get great forward reach. But Bob also says to end the stroke early, to cut down the pull as the paddle passes the knee. And when I watch him, Kent Ford, and Wayne Dickert on Drill Time, I don't see them showing such exaggerated torso rotation.

My torso is almost certainly longer from shoulder to hip than anyone else's on this board. If I were to twist my torso visibly so that you, the ACA instructor, could see it from the shore, I would completely destroy my stroke.

What I see on the river is not arm paddling, not untwisted torsos, but maybe not enough reach, too much pull-through, and energy-sapping trailing J strokes. Not a pretty sight.

I believe in moderation in use of all parts of my paddling body. Modest lean forward (Davey Hearn), neat blade entry, firm catch, prompt torso engagement, early stroke end, and out to the side with no J. Seems many of us c-1 and OC-1 paddlers use the J stroke only when needed. Otherwise, magically, the bow of the boat comes back on its own, even before my torso twists forward for the next stroke.

Make sure your ACA lore is reconciled with what the slalom paddlers are doing. They can do it all day, just by softening the effort at and after the catch.

Cab forward.
  Rotation is noticeable
  Posted by: birren on Apr-28-14 12:57 AM (EST)
My torso rotation covers about 90 degrees, sometimes more. I'll leave it at that.
  We can be a team. After Mark Twain
  Posted by: ezwater on Apr-28-14 1:54 PM (EST)
spent a day with Rudyard Kipling, Twain effused,

"Between us, we encompass all knowledge!

He knows all there is to know, and I know all the rest!"

So you can know all the rules, and I'll keep track of the exceptions.

The shoulder, the elbow can move actively or passively through their ranges with little resistance. But twist the torso 45 degrees left or right, and there will be resistance, some of which will not be recovered. In a 1000 meter sprint kayak race, "frictional" losses are of no consequence because, for a short distance, torso twist along with pelvis and legs, is needed for maximizing output.

But for the everyday kneeling ww paddler, extreme torso twist is too costly to keep up. A more modest amount of torso twist can deliver all the "oomph" that is needed in the course of a cab forward stroke. There isn't a way to take the arms out of the linkage, but in a proper stroke, some torso and shoulder girdle action means that the arms are used in the most favorable way.

I have such a long torso that it reduces the amount of torso twist I need for my cab forward stroke. If I were to try to crank in more, the blade would go back past my hip, lift water, and force me to add J correction.
  Solo rivers
  Posted by: ppine on May-06-14 1:49 PM (EST)
It may sound like blasphemy to some, but I like a straight shaft with a flat blade for fast water, and a double bladed kayak paddle a lot of the rest of the time. I made the straight one from walnut, ash, and mahogany. The kayak paddle is ppine from the Sawyer factory in Oregon.
  Think a straight shaft short blade is
  Posted by: bigspencer on May-30-14 11:08 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-25-14 6:54 AM EST --

your moving water paddle and an ottertail(straight shaft) or carbon/wood bentshaft is your flatwater paddle. 8/25 EDIT: ...but what I find the biggest improvement is a paddle with the Tenney & Shaw "Guide Paddle" grip....a J-stroke is so much easier when a more relaxed diagonal grip on the grip is possible...fwiw.

  Posted by: markk on Jun-07-14 9:46 PM (EST)
Not a big deal. Choose a paddle and go with it.
  Posted by: markk on Jun-12-14 1:46 AM (EST)
get a regular paddle, not a bent shaft. Bent shaft helps move faster, but a generic straight paddle gives you more oomp.


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