I just came across this older thread randomly tonight and decided to register and throw up something I over wrote 14 years ago when I was a little more opinionated just for fun.
Please note the below is from a Touring Kayak and Racing perspective.
My. 'Attitude' has mellowed a bit now though : )
Below some cut and paste info from old website ...
Thoughts on Ergo or Bent Shafts ( bs )
O.k., I paddle a lot and consider myself fairly sensitive to changes in equipment. I do not paddle multi day tours where the cumulative effects both positive and negative have more of a chance to build up. Many of my knowledgeable customers and I have put lots of miles on my prototypes and I know what I am going to build. The people who want the bent shaft who already have one of my other paddles want this new one strictly for long distance touring. They do not want to use the b.s.paddle for fast /long day paddles.
I talk to a lot of industry people and always ask for their opinion on the bent shaft, these are people who have been paddling a long time and can use any paddle they want. "What for?" is usually the answer. I think the, paddling for a long time, part has a lot to do with that answer, but many think Bent Shaft paddles only live up to their initials ( b.s.)....... THEM.... Not me.
I feel the bent shaft paddle shines on a long, point a to b type trip or crossings where a joint problem may even be threatening. This is mere speculation on my part, I am buying into the hype that this paddle will minimize flare-ups. One thing I do know is I have been working with my hands my entire life with no problems other than elbows that rattle more than the spray can I might be shaking while my total keyboard time (as of today) is less than 48 hours in 38 years. I can honestly say that I truly sympathize for carpal tunnel sufferers...I really can feel some stiffness, right now! If this can come on so fast, I cannot imagine being forced to debilitate oneself just to pay rent. Or cross a blown out channel.
If the bent shaft paddle will prevent or lessen the chance of your being off the water, I'm all for it. If you like skillful finesse type paddling and you do not have any problems now or pending I would not fix what is not broken. The bent shaft paddle may take the 'crispness' off some of your best skills (for a while?) but you will be happy with it going straight. Like many things in life you may not love what you once did.
I do have plans to come out with a bent shaft paddle (bs) , but have been talking about it for almost 3 years now. Over 3 years ago I set out to sort of reinvent the wheel so to speak. I made up six different prototypes shafts some of them with two different configurations on them ranging from just under 3 degrees to 15, some with blade forward of shaft center axis , etc. and lent them out to the paddling community here in S.D. with comments and feedback welcome. A seventh paddle was also handed out as a sort of placebo and although folks also thought that one was different, it was identical to another one in the group which I thought was going to "win".
After a almost a month, surprisingly, I got them all back. During this time I some how developed what I guess was some kind of tendonitis in both of my elbows...... probably due to overwork and paddling. Paradoxically, those were the two things I could still do while without much pain while I was actually unable to lift a can of soda to drink from. Perfect time to really see how the ergo shafts work I thought. On to say, while I really liked the ergo shafts, I was not totally sold on them for everyday paddling nor as the magic silver bullet they have long been touted to be in terms of instant relief for folks.. I do feel they have a perfect spot for some people but most "mixed styles" paddlers would be better off with a standard straight shaft. I am not really down on them either. IMO for some paddling styles or at least certain parts of some paddling styles I think the ergo shaft is counter productive and may even make things worse for some people.
I - M - O On the catch phase they feel great for everyone as they do let a couple more fingers ( ring and pinky) get into the act. As the paddle comes aft my personal opinion is the shaft really makes things worse as ones (lower) wrist is now expected to go through a sort of contortion/HIGHER range of motion when the blade is ready to exit = not good. The higher the paddling style you use, the worse it gets. Same goes for the push hand as one gets less contact up here.
Again I - M - O I do feel that if a person has tried all other options (see below) and is still having trouble. By trouble I mean wrist and or lower arm pain, swelling, weird twinges, reoccurring type stuff or just not feeling right. I feel then that one might find relief by trying the following (within the paddle realm) not exactly in order.
1. Switch to unfeathered or just off it. Especially if you paddle with a super low paddling style.
2. At least try a super light, smooth (ONNO
3. Try paddling strokes with more torso, less arm.
4. Try above at a lower angle too.
5. Try a smaller blade as the higher loads of your current ( bigger?) paddle might be causing something...... or......
6. Try a really big paddle which you can just set in water and pull on smoothly with a slower cadence because your current ( smaller?) paddle is having you turn a faster cadence than your joints are happy doing a 1,000,000 times.
7. Try a properly sized bent shaft paddle
One thing that really gets me is how the majors sell the one size fits all shafts. If you have to have one of these paddles make sure you measure your hand spacing on a paddle you like and then MAKE SURE your hands fall in the middle of the ergo section on the off the shelf bs paddle you buy..... If not order a custom one. Tell them you want "X" hand spacing first and foremost then let them size the paddle from the middle out for your personal specs. THEN trim the outboard ends to size for overall length.
On to say, i really tried to keep the "flat" or ergo area as large as possible in order to be able to slide ones hands around as much as possible while still keeping on the flat or intended grip area. Found lots of reasons why I could not go as big as I wanted...... The need for subtle curves for strength instead of overbuilding the shaft ( heavy) with sharper radii( sp?) for one, being able to accommodate a 31" C-C grip area but still having a 210 length being another........Our 'flat' area is still larger than any other manufacturer and this is real handy for sliding the paddle over for bracing, wind shifts etc.
I have a bent shaft plug 90% done sitting here staring at me everyday ready to finish and build molds from. When I get to it is another story. Since I do not have a ton of people asking for it ( which would not matter because if I really liked it I would finish it right away if only to build one ever for myself) and I am super swamped more and more deeper into the winter season ( where I hope for a break to finish projects) with regular paddles and boats, I am not really sure when I will complete it. I hope to get it done this winter though as I do think it will come around in the publics eye though.
O.K. back to tonight ... These are notes from almost 15 years ago ... I took that same plug out tonight that I never molded and messed around with it ...
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hope all is well with you and yours.
(owner of ONNO paddles : )