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Old 03-21-2010   #1
Cleves's Avatar
Pipersville, Pennsylvania
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 9
Straight or Bent Shaft for beginner?

Hi, I am a new paddler and need to purchase a paddle. Do you recommend I purchase a straight or bent shaft paddle?

I plan on doing river running and possibly some surf kayaking.


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Old 03-21-2010   #2
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 504
I'd say try 'em both for comfort...many people swear by bent shaft but many people (myself included) just can't get used to them. Could be easier for you since you're just starting; bent shaft is more ergonomic.

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Old 03-21-2010   #3
kclowe's Avatar
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 453
I still have a straight shaft paddle. I have a lot of wrist problems and my friends all swear it is because of the paddle, but I'm pretty sure it's because I type all day every day. I tried one, but never really gave it a chance. A lot of people are switching to bent shaft, so you might be able to find a really good deal on a straight shaft. Also, if you have small hands, you might want to look into a smaller shaft. That might be a bigger issue. It was for me.
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Old 03-21-2010   #4
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 80
I started out on a bent shaft and then went to a straight shaft. I honestly don't think there is a huge difference between the two, but I like the straight shaft. Straights are cheaper too, which can be helpful when ponying up for the initial purchase of all of your gear when you are just starting out.
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Old 03-21-2010   #5
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 831
i'd start with a bent shaft. They feel totally different and once you get used to one then it is hard to switch.

I had occasional wrist pain with my straight shaft. It was a rough few weeks to get used to rolling with my bent shaft but I never had wrist pain again.

With a straight shaft I think it is easier to lose your key when you are upside down and your paddle and head are bouncing off stuff. Losing you key is what happens when you loosen the grip on your key hand (probably right hand) and the paddle spins a little bit and you have no idea what the blade angle is and you have to reset your key by feeling the blade with your hand while you continue down the creek with your head bouncing on the bottom and sieves approaching.

A bent shaft naturally fits in your hand in the keyed position so there is not so much guessing about if you have the key right when you temporarily lose your grip and then grip it again.

Not only does a bent shaft take it easier on your joints, I think it is easier to generate power with one. It makes sense to me.

Think of it this way:
straight shaft = bent wrists
bent shaft = straight wrists

If you punch someone in the jaw with your wrist bent who knows what is going to happen, probably a hurt wrist and a counter punch to your jaw (straight shaft).

If you punch someone in the jaw with a nice straight wrist the lights are going out (bent shaft)
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Old 03-21-2010   #6
KSC's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
I'm a strong proponent of the bent shaft. It's more ergonomic and therefore easier on your joints. If you never have a problem with sore joints in your lifetime, then I guess you wasted the extra $50 on your paddle.

I see 2 other disadvantages (other than cost) of the bent shaft:
1) If you are hucking 50+ foot waterfalls, you may be at risk of breaking the shaft of your blade. A straight shaft will be slightly less likely to break in that case.
2) A bent shaft dictates more where you grip the shaft than a on a straight shaft. I think you can still get your preferred grip but you may have to be a bit more careful about sizing your paddle.
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Old 03-22-2010   #7
CO_Patrick's Avatar
Silverdale, Washington
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 299
I'm another fan of the bent shaft. When I started out kayaking, I tried a straight shaft and then someone offered to let me try a bent shaft to compare. I noticed the difference right away and was instantly hooked on the bent shaft. KSC makes a good point about sizing though being more important for bent shafts due to where the natural grip is positioned. And while they may be more expensive up front, I'm glad I didn't get a straight shaft then have to spend the money later to get a bent shaft.
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Old 03-22-2010   #8
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 09
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3
Im a new paddler. I started by borrowing a strait shaft from a friend and saw that there were a lot of people talking about how a bent shaft was better for your wrist. I decided to go with a bent shaft and after about an hour in the pool, I love it. I was advised to go with a less expensive paddle because there is a good possibility that I might lose it. Attached is a link to AT's site. I got the AT4 Play E Glass Shaft. At $180 I think its a good deal. If I had a little more to spend I would have gotten the carbon shaft but I'd still stick with the fiberglass blades to start with because I know they will take a beating while Im learning. Plus as you get into this sport, you spend a lot of money to start out with. If I happen to lose a paddle because I do something (stupid/inexperienced), I'd rather only be out 180 bucks that 500. Just my 2 cents. Good luck
AT4 Paddle :: Whitewater Kayak Paddles :: AT Paddles
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Old 03-22-2010   #9
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 122
Another vote for the bent shaft here. If cost is an issue defintely go with the AT4. I have an AT4 and I really like it. IT is durable and very functional for Colorado where there are lots of rocks in and around the rivers. If money is no object step up for the carbon models of any paddle. Either way I would recomend trying several out to see what you like.
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Old 03-22-2010   #10
lmaciag's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 670
If you decide to go with a bent shaft (my preference), try the different brands/models. AT and Werner have completely different feels to them. For me, the AT2 was it. I've tried Werner paddles and they just feel wrong. Others paddlers are the exact opposite, so try them and see what is right for you.

Also, feather changes how they feel. There is a 5 degree difference between my old and new paddles and I can tell.

Like boats, demo.


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
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