Recently, I had the opportunity to try the Bending Branches prototype of their new Viper double bend canoe paddle. I paddled a Bell Wildfire canoe during the trial and had the following observations.
The paddle, even though a prototype, was beautifully built. The double bend in the handle had a very organic feel, which was accomplished by laminating several thin strips of wood into the final shape of the handle. A black rock guard surrounded the fiber-glassed blade, which not only provided extra protection beyond the blade’s fiberglass cover, but it also ascetically contrasted with the wood of the paddle. This made this paddle one of the prettiest out there. It will catch your eye.
Solid Performance with a Few Quirks
Besides being a beautifully constructed paddle, it performed well in several aspects. The double bend of the handle put the blade into a position that worked well on draws. Much better than a normal bent shaft, paddle. When you found the exact right spot on the outside of the curve of the handle, it also pried well. If you were slightly off, then the pry was much more difficult than other paddles I’ve used. The paddle worked nicely with posts and axles. It would be a nice substitute for a straight shaft paddle for some freestyle play if the pry worked better.
The weight of the paddle balanced perfectly about an inch above the neck. This is exactly what you would expect and want, but even with this said, it felt slightly head heavy, which made it harder to swing over the deck during sit and switch paddling. The flex of the shaft was good, but I wouldn’t have complained if Bending Branches stiffened it. Most canoeists will like the flex though, because after a full day of paddling you won’t feel as worn out as you would with a stiffer paddle.
The downsides are subtle but warrant a warning before you buy. It seemed like the handle was slightly bent too far forward. I actually added a thin layer of foam on the back of the handle, and this made it much more comfortable. The shape of the shaft seemed to put a little too much strain on the shaft arm forearm, which after a full day of paddling caused slight discomfort.
Overall, the Bending Branches Viper is a nice paddle. It is good for sit and switch tripping, even though the swing over deck felt awkward at first. Eventually, you will get the hang of it. If grip had a slightly different angle and blade was less heavy this would be a must have in my quiver of paddles. It is definitely worth a try. You may like it, and this paddle with its bomber construction would last your lifetime.
Date Reviewed: 8/29/2003
Cost: Retail $149.99