Bending Branches BB Special

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Paddling a fully loaded canoe, two people, gear for…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $80


Paddling a fully loaded canoe, two people, gear for camping, two can be a tough slog. Traditional paddles we had moved the boat just fine, but not as efficiently, or as comfortably as the BB specials!


  • Absolutely beautiful to look at!
  • Comfortable grip
  • Smooth paddling.


  • Pricey (but worth it).
  • Have to get used to using the paddle with your strokes.

The paddle is beautiful to look at, and beautiful to use. It is more efficient than our old, straight paddles; as we get older, and our shoulders show more wear and tear, we appreciate the bent shaft paddles. They are strong, well made, and easy to use.

There is an adjustment period to using them with your stroking motion, but you quickly adapt. We find them very efficient, even with a fully loaded canoe for camping.

We use them at least three times per week, and have found them to be very durable. The sizes available make them excellent for both me, at 5'7",and my 6'5" husband. The paddling is so smooth, the dogs fall asleep in the canoe!


Very nice review!

2 years ago

Great bang for the buck in this paddle. While it isn't…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $85


Great bang for the buck in this paddle. While it isn't the lightest or fanciest paddle on the market, it's a great workhorse that is easy to use for hours and hours. Think of this as the old diesel work horse that doesn't run at high RPM, but produces massive torque!


  • Fairly light
  • Produces big power
  • Fairly comfortable over all
  • Solid ergonomic design
  • Good balance
  • Good quality at a fair price


  • The grip is clunky
  • Not aimed at women's hands

I wanted a better paddle to take on my Missouri Breaks than the paddles that came with the used canoe I bought, since they really were not comfortable (as I learned on a 50-mile Ross Lake trip I had taken two years earlier). 

So, I started the process of finding a reasonably priced, solid paddle that would fit the bill that worked the way I wanted.  Thus, I discovered the bent paddle designs.


The back paddle is the Bending Branches

To be honest, I lusted over the Whiskey Jill bent paddle, but the price tag was more than I was willing to spend for how much I really wind up using the canoe.  (The Whiskey Jill is the front paddle)


My friend and I swapped paddles for a time to fairly assess each other's paddles. 

My research led me to REI. I really took time to feel the Bending Branches paddle. I really liked how balanced and solid the paddle felt in my hands.  The lamination was solid, and I could tell how the good design translated right into the feel.

After I made the commitment, I took the paddle out to a local lake. After I figured out how the bent shaft acts and feels different from the straight paddle, I was VERY pleased at the horse power the paddle produced.

The 20x8 inch blade size concerned me at first because the blade has a lot of real estate, and I was worried moving that much water per pull would tire me. In fact, I discovered just the opposite happened, because I didn't have to work as hard to go a distance if I just kept a steady, easy paddle because each stroke is so efficient.


In fact, I got my bent paddle before my canoe buddy did, and I was constantly overwhelming her with her straight paddle effort. 

Even after she got her bent paddle, because the Bending Branches blade is so big, she had to learn to keep up since her blade was smaller.

The asymmetrical design of the handle (which is just a bit big for my hands, but I learned to deal with it) leads down to the ovoid handle, which is very strong, and handles the vibration a hard stroke can create.  The handle tapers down to the big blade, all weighing in at 22 ounces. 


I struggle with Frozen Shoulder issues.  (BTW, canoeing is great exercise for that). I was worried about how my shoulders would feel paddling all day with a big bladed paddle.  I didn't feel over-worked at all.


I work really hard to take care of my gear, and especially my paddles. Since they are my engine, and on big trips I am miles from civilization, I am not keen to make trouble. However, this paddle really tolerated the inadvertent slips and bumps that are going to happen on any trip. I didn't see any significant wear from the bangs on the gunwale, or grinding the blade into the river bottom, or getting hung up on hidden rocks, or having to lean the paddles on stuff.  

The paddle in motion

The Missouri Breaks is not a kind and gentle trip on gear. The mud, rocks, and sand gets into EVERYTHING. I was nervous about that kind of wear on the paddle. I needn't have worried.  The wrap-around rock guard really did its job. I didn't see a nick, or really even a scratch after the 10 day trip. 

While the water level was lower this trip than a more typical year, the paddle handled the class one and two rapids without a blink. With the steady 3-4 knot river flow, we had to learn to navigate early to get our desired destination, but I could really pull with this great paddle.

As an fyi, my friend (who did all the navigating) said it was a learning curve the first couple of days to figure out how to steer smoothly with a bent paddle. It really does handle differently from a straight handled paddle.


Even used as a "hiking pole" and rattle snake guard, nary a scratch was visible.

As an example of this paddle's power, we came across two dads and their late teenaged sons paddling the river.  We assumed that the boys would bury us with their youth, vigor, and vitality against our two-ladied, middle aged engine. Welllll....these paddles and our experience outstripped those whipper-snappers, and we weren't even trying.

After several day trips, and one big trip, I would not go back to a straight paddle in flat water. For the price, this paddle has good features, solid construction, and overall durability.

Bending Branches has a solid reputation, and by my account, they have earned it!

(BTW, go DO the Missouri Breaks!  It's a wonderful adventure!!)


Nice review, second gear. If I ever decide to replace my canoe paddle, I'll take a look at this.

2 years ago

Second Gear, the bent shaft was developed by down river racers and is a very efficient paddle for flat or easy moving water. As your friend found, steering using something like a traditional "J" stroke is tricky. Most efficient is the technique used by racers, often called the Sit and Switch or Minnesota Switch. Every dozen strokes or so, or when the canoe starts to yaw, the bow paddler calls "switch" and the paddlers change sides. Bent shafts work well when the boat tracks well, but are less suitable for white water or canoes with a lot of rocker, or in situations when a brace is needed.

1 year ago

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