August 01, 2019

Will a Double Bend Make You Faster

”No”, is the simple answer to this, especially if not used correctly. It will certainly give you added control in a V1 and this applies to male and female paddlers, regardless - and added control by default, will get you from A to B faster. That Tahitian crews are fast using this paddle, it’s not a guaranteed indicator that it is a superior stick, simply different.

More Technical to Use than a Single Bend?
The added bend, kink or crank within the upper part of the shaft towards the top hand, makes this shaft type more technical in respect of getting the most from the angles within the shaft. Using the crank and its mechanical advantage for steering a V1, becomes very clear and obvious in respect of the steering component, but when simply executing the forward stroke, it’s less obvious.

From Aggressive Double-Bends to Passive S-Bends
The earliest forms of this paddle, featured a definitive ‘crank’ which was created by simply making a single bend paddle with bend at the neck to blade, the upper shaft was then ‘scarfed’ reversed and simply laminated back to the shaft, so as to make the conversion. The angle was such that an ‘aggressive’ amount of leverage could be generated from this fulcrum point.

Over time, this manufacturing technique, was replaced with the use of ‘jigs’ so as the upper bend now formed part of a continual curve.

This was not done for any improvement of mechanical advantage of advancement of design - it was simply a solution to mass production and more’s the pity as the old school way of making the double-bend created a far superior stick which gave you a more powerful fixed fulcrum point.  *KIALOA continues to make their double bend shafts in the traditional manner by reversing and laminating the shafts as Steve describes above.

The arrival of the S-Bend in the mid 90s onwards, has slowly pervaded the market, not because paddlers wanted this form of bend, but largely because makers found it easier to simply use a ‘jig’ to bend the laminates to shape during the lay up and glueing stages - sometimes using steam.

S-Bend Paddles
Mechanically speaking, S-bend paddles, have no singular fixed fulcrum point, but rather one that is progressive so as the fulcrum point ‘shifts’ dramatically in use, which makes the S-bend demonstrably less effective in real terms and not as positive or accurate a tool for adding in the ‘push’ element.

Some designs feel somewhat ‘wayward’ in use. Nevertheless, the better ones, still offer a degree of mechanical advantage and remain central for use in paddling V1 craft and V6 crews.

Double Bend / S-Bend Technique
With the introduction of the double-bend shaft, to further improve comfort, unintentional benefits were inherent in the design. The Tahitian stroke, which uses the double-bend paddle, is the most definitive example to use as our yardstick, to which they have moulded their technique and perfected its use as a tool in the application of their technique.

  1. The top hand can be kept further back being as the handle / grip, is angled back toward the paddlers so as to be angled upward and backward, while the bend that exists three quarters of the way up or so, is referred to as the ‘crank’ and with good reason.

  2. Additionally a shorter overall paddle length can be used on account of the upper shaft being angled and with less emphasis on drive down. In real terms, this paddle type provides a ‘mechanical advantage’.

  3. A well designed double bend or S-bend, permits the crank or fulcrum point to act as an additional lever, in providing drive and power to the blade, whereby the paddler mid-way through the stroke can momentarily push forward with the top arm in order to use the crank as a ‘momentary’ lever.

Exit Phase and Recovery
When using double or s-bends, the blade is carried out marginally sideways away from the va`a, lifted upward to avoid ‘push’ and drag at the end of the stroke and carried forward to the point of entry, so as the recovery incorporates less feathering and a squarer recovery motion. The outrigger stroke, from California to Australia, retains greater feathering and a lower arched recovery.

Added Flex and Larger Blade Areas
Tahitian paddles are made with a degree of natural ‘spring’ or ‘flex’ due to the timbers used. The ‘recoil’ provides and assists quick recovery rates and provides an encouraging ‘feel’ during the power phase enhancing a feeling of rhythm and timing.  KIALOA offers paddles with varying flex characteristics and blade surface areas.  Paddles with more flex include the Hoku Hybrid Double Bend, the Nehu Hybrid Double Bend, and the Mekana Hybrid Double Bend.  The Paea Hybrid Double Bend is a larger, stiffer blade.  And the Ekahi Carbon Double Bend paddle has  a stiff blade but has flex in the shaft due to its 3 piece construction.  

Crews Mixing Single and Double Bend Paddles 
Mixing shaft angles and types within a team canoe, compromises uniformity of paddling technique and power bands. Worse still, many paddlers use single bend paddling technique, using double bend paddles. At the very least, crews need to be using ‘the same sticks’ the only variant possibly being blade width and paddle length, but the angle of the dangle matters and how you use it . . .

The article above is actually a snippet from a longer article written by Steve West and can be found here.  Steve West has been involved in Outrigger Paddling for years, as a paddler, photographer, writer and publisher and he won the World Paddle Award Media Category in 2014.  He has published countless books on and magazines that hold a weath of knowledge in regards to paddling.  You can learn more about Steve and his publications on his website.

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