Double bend or Single bend?

Aloha and Howzit

Ok so a good friend of mine wanted my opinon on paddles. His wife bought him a new paddle (he is getting into the sport, he has experience) He asked me if he should have her get him a Double bend instead of the Single bend she had bought. I told him that I use a single bend, that is all I have ever used. I know some taller paddlers that use a double bend, they state it give them better reach.

I also told him that it is what you feel comfortable with. He should really consult a coach. I'm just a paddler with a couple of years of experience.

So what do you all think? Double or Single bend.

Submitted by nalu on Wed, 02/02/2005 - 9:18am

I don't think it makes any difference at all whether a shaft has a (double) bend in it. As in, you probably start your stroke with your top hand near your forehead and your bottom hand above the blade with the blade as far "out front" as you can comfortably plant it.

So, whether the shaft bends once, twice, ten times, or not at all between your top and bottom hands wouldn't seem to matter, y'know?

I used to use a double bend until a coach I respect (from the flatwater/olympic community) a whole lot asked me about that "mystery bend." That was four years ago and I've been using "single bends" (as in, no bends in the shaft) ever since. I think he's right: the extra bend(s) don't make any difference.

So - if a paddler has a mental affinity for his or her "double bends," I'd never try to convert him or her. But neither would I recommend a novice start out with this bias, either.

#1 Wed, 02/02/2005 - 10:08am

Some history on bent shaft paddles: Angled blades were developed in mainland marathon and/or Canadian pro racing. Angles up to 90 deg have been tried. The typical angle for single bend has settled around 10 degrees plus or minus 3 or four degrees (6 man canoes genererally use a bit less than solo or tandem boats). The idea of a double bend came from an ergonomic misconception regarding how the lower hand grips the paddle shaft. The idea of a clenched fist grasping the paddle shaft in the "death grip" is the key. When this the case, the typical single bend angle of about 10 degrees will result in a need to angle the wrist slightly when reaching forward (poor ergonomics). By increasing the lower angle to 18 degrees and kicking the grip back 8 degrees, you end up with a net 10 degree bend but the wrist is now straight (ergonomically correct) The misconception is the amount of time we spend using the "death grip" when paddling. This occurs for a half dozen strokes at the start of a race before we switch to the more relaxed grip that allows the paddle shaft to "float" on the fingers rather than be grasped with the clenched fist. The "float allows the wrist to assume its natural angle and everything is now ergonomically correct. In other words, the extra bend does nothing functionally. It can look neat but it adds weight to the paddle shaft since it actually makes it longer for a given paddle length. Lighter equipment is better for racing so single bend paddles are better than double bend paddles.

#2 Sun, 02/06/2005 - 10:42pm

I have used many different single bends over the past 20 years, and got a double bend when I got my first outrigger last year.

Racers in all sports are on top of the state of the art. If you are a racer, or want to be, I would get the kind of paddle that the top racers use. I have no idea whether canoe racers use double bends.

I don't race, but I do cruise long distances ... 15 to 20 miles a day. I slightly prefer my double bend. However, I don't prefer it because of the double bend per se, but because it has other features that I like a little better than my single bends. Namely, the blade shape and curvature and lighter weight.

Lightness is the most important single characteristic to me. BUT, I do not like all-carbon paddles. Too stiff. I like light wooden (or hybrid) paddles.

I agree with almost everything that dweir said, with some slight exceptions.

First, even though one uses a "loose" grip on the shaft and not a "deathgrip" through much of a stroke, once you "catch" the water and start to pull with all your fingers, the double bend does keep your shaft wrist at a lesser (and more ergonomic) angle. I'm not convinced, however, that this makes any significant difference to me. Maybe it would for someone with wrist pain.

Second, if a single and double bend paddle have the same effective total bend, the double bend paddle blade ... because of the second shaft bend up by the grip ... will enter the water a few inches closer to your body (ie, more aft) and hence more vertically. This will shorten your stroke, unless you dally the blade in the water after it passes your hip. Again, I'm not sure this is good or bad. Probably depends on what the rest of your stroke mechanics are and whether you are racing or cruising.

Finally, other-than-forward-strokes ... such as reverse strokes, sculls, cross-draws, cross-forwards and in-water returns ... are very slightly more difficult with the double bend. But these kinds of strokes aren't used much in outrigger canoeing.

#3 Fri, 04/08/2005 - 3:58pm

Used straight shaft in the 80's, then went to double bend around 1991 then went back to the single from '99 on. I would say the single is the way to go as far as durability and comfort. Never had any wrist fatigue problems that people speak of. Maybe it was the person I was buying double bend paddles from but they always seemed to have more problems with the shaft delaminating and breaking. Could be a fault of my technique too.

#4 Sat, 04/23/2005 - 9:52am

Actually, my solution to the issue is to take both a single and double bend when I paddle. Again, a racer probably wouldn't want to do this in a race.

I have always liked to take more than one paddle type when I go out for a multi-hour cruise ... just for variety and a change in pace (both figuratively and literally). In a North American canoe it's easy to take as many paddles as you want to fool around with. In my sea kayaks I also usually take two paddles of a different type.

On my Huki I carry a second paddle clipped onto the rear iako, which allows me to swap paddles in about five seconds.

My current favorite single bend is a customized Sawyer Cedar Manta, which has the unusual characteristic of a "double scooped" dihedral powerface.

My current favorite double bend is the hybrid Mitchell Leader with a flat (non-dihedral) and curved carbon blade. I have had many Mitchells over the last 25 years ... both single and double blade ... for white water, flat water and ocean ... and I have never had a problem with any of them.

#5 Mon, 04/25/2005 - 8:13pm

I paddle a Huki VI-A OC-1. I have two paddles, one for training, and one for racing. The training paddle is simply the best shaped paddle I have ever used.. a double bend cedar Sawyer Manta...absolutely perfect catch and grip. I like the double bend because as an older paddler (57), I have some thumb-base arthritis and this paddle puts my wrist at a perfect angle with no pressure on the thumb base. However, this paddle is too heavy to race (22 ounces), so I use my stiff single-bend carbon Zav, even though its catch isn't as clean, strains my wrist/thumb base, and flutters through the stroke a bit.

I'm looking for a wood/carbon-fiber double bend shaped like the Manta, maybe 15 ounces or less. I've emailed Mitchell and Sawyer. If anyone finds such a paddle, please let me know!

#6 Fri, 05/06/2005 - 2:12pm

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