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Bending Branches "Navigator" Paddle

Bending Branches "Navigator" Paddle Hot

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bending branches navigator paddle

Paddle Make & Model

Bending Branches
MSRP ($):

The Bending Branches “Navigator” is a lightweight composite paddle, with a T-700 carbon fiber shaft and rich-looking black willow wood blades. The blade tip and leading edge are protected with Bending Branches’ proprietary “Rockguard”, which resists nicks and chips. The wood blades are fiberglass reinforced for strength and durability. The Navigator is available in 210-240 cm lengths.


  • Drip Rings: Black - Heavy Duty
  • Ferrule Options: Snap-Button or Telescoping
  • Ferrule Angles: 0º & 60º - Left or Right (Snap) Unlimited angles with 15 cm length adjustibility (Tele)
  • Shaft Size: Standard


  • Blade Size: 6.2" x 20.1" (96 sq in)
  • Shaft Type: Satin T-700 Carbon
  • Lengths Available: 210 cm 220 cm 230 cm 240 cm
  • Weight: 28 oz


Closeup of my Navigator
Standing and paddling with my Bending Branches Navigator kayak paddle
Bending Branches Naviator gets the job done
Navigator Paddle Blade
Navigator Paddle in use photo by Bill Howard

Editor review

(Updated: May 29, 2013)

Bending Branches “Navigator” kayak paddle

Your boat floats, your seat makes you comfortable, but there is no more “personal” piece of kayaking gear than your paddle. It’s the direct interface (unless you pedal) between you and the water that translates what you do into where you go. My first five minutes with Bending Branches’ “Navigator” changed my paddling experience – for the better!

I paddle a Current Designs “Altura” – a 15’6” Kevlar/fiberglass composite kayak that’s pretty light and fairly quick on the water. At 31” it’s not as wide as some, but it’s still a good amount of “beam”. When I bought the kayak, I already had a very nice 230 cm carbon/fiberglass paddle, but I was having some issues. I have a digging (very steep) paddling style, because most of the time that’s what is comfortable for my torn-up rotator cuffs. I found that I was frequently catching a pinky finger on fittings on the side of the kayak during the power stroke – not fun. Also, if I paddled over a third of a mile or so without a break, or sprinted even a shorter distance, I found the carpal tunnel in both wrists was making my hands numb unless my paddling form was perfect. After talking to a few folks, I decided a slightly longer paddle might help resolve the issues.

When the Navigator arrived, my first thought was, “Wow – this thing is beautiful!” At 240 cm, it is just a bit longer than my other paddle, but where the “old one” looked functional, the Navigator looks like a work of art. The T700 carbon fiber shaft ends in two fiberglass-reinforced black willow wood blades. Yes, wood. I’m not easy on gear – I use my tools like, well, tools – and was a little concerned about how well a wood blade would stand up to shells, oysters, and other hard stuff on the flats. Bending Branches addresses that with their proprietary “Rockguard” that wraps the blade leading edge and tip. The ferrule on my paddle is a snap button with +/- 60° feather or neutral (straight) settings. The Navigator is also available with a telescoping ferrule that features 15 cm of length adjustment and unlimited feather angle settings.

As good as the Navigator looked in the living room, it felt better as soon as I hit the water. I could feel the difference in the first few paddle strokes. At 28 oz, the paddle felt perfectly balanced and the swing weight felt just right. The longer paddle immediately solved the banged-up pinky issue, and I was able to “shallow up” my stroke a bit without sacrificing any power or causing the bow to walk.

One thing I noticed right away was that the Navigator likes good, smooth stroke form. If I overstroked, was sloppy on the entry or exit, or tried to force the paddle through the stroke, I could feel feedback. It felt like the paddle was shedding the excess energy – almost a flutter. That is a big change from the stiffer fiberglass paddle, which would take whatever I pushed into it, but also pushed it back into my wrists and arms. As long as I did my part, the Navigator moved the kayak through the water almost effortlessly. Noise? What noise? A decent stroke entered, pulled through and exited in virtual silence, something that took conscious attention to achieve before.

The acid test for this paddle for me was a week away: I was a support paddler for the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim, a 5k (3.1 mi) open-water fundraising event benefitting the Navy SEAL Foundation. I was teamed up with Becca Mann, a 15-year-old Olympic hopeful I knew would tear up the course. There would be no stops, or even pauses; it would be paddle from start to finish, and we’d hit some in-the-face wind and 3’ crosswind seas in the middle of the course. Becca finished first – in under 57 minutes – and the Navigator performed flawlessly. My arms and shoulders weren’t tired, and best of all I had no issues with my wrists whatsoever! I had a couple of dozen comments at each end of the course about the look of the paddle. Everyone wanted to heft it, and there were more than a few surprised looks at the light weight.

If you’re looking for a paddle that will give you an effortless all-day paddle, and do so in style, you owe it to yourself to check out the Bending Branches “Navigator”. Street price runs about $280. For more information and to find a dealer near you, check out bendingbranches.com/navigator.

Navigator Paddle in use photo by Bill Howard
Navigator Paddle Blade
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Pros & Cons
(Updated: May 04, 2013)

You Get What You Pay For

After receiving it from the shipper, the first impression I had of the Bending Branches “Navigator” paddle was that I would probably hang it up on wall rather than use it. It has beautiful black willow blades and a checkered carbon shaft, and is absolutely beautiful. It spent a few days in my living room while I fawned over it, until my wife told me to do something with it. After my feeble attempts to convince her that this was a work of art and not a paddle, I finally decided to put it to its intended use.

I wasn’t at all sure if I would get much use out of it since I use a Hobie “MirageDrive”. However, I usually stick to very skinny water, and that creates plenty of opportunity to put the paddle through its paces. I tend to be a little rough on paddles and I was a little worried I may scratch it up, or worse, break it. Weighing in at a scant 28 oz., this is easily the lightest paddle I have used. Bending Branches uses T-700 carbon for the shaft material, and although I don’t have any idea what that means, I know it is light and very strong. The fiberglass-reinforced blades have a “Rockguard” protective edge, and are quite durable.

The first time I used the paddle, I was very pleased that such a light paddle could be so smooth in the water. There was no flimsy feel to it and it had a very clean entry into the water. For several outings I only paddled short distances and washed it off thoroughly when I was done. I brought it on a weekend trip to Chokoloskee, and found out just how durable it is. The area is noted for tangles of mangrove islands, oyster beds, and shallow water. I spent the day using the paddle for propulsion as well as pushing across rocky bottoms and oysters. I didn’t hold back on rough use, and I really expected the finish on the blades to be shredded. At the end of the day I was very pleased to see the blades looked almost as good as new. There was a little surface scratching on the leading edge where I was literally using the paddle as a push pole across oyster beds. The Rockguard protective strip and fiberglass reinforcing really did an outstanding job at keeping the beautiful wood blades looking good.

We all know that you get what you pay for. At over $200, the Navigator is at the high end of what I would pay for a paddle, but I can’t stress how much it’s worth the money. The incredibly light weight and durability is far better that any paddle I have used. The only drawback is its beauty will make your wife jealous!

Bending Branches Naviator gets the job done
Closeup of my Navigator
Standing and paddling with my Bending Branches Navigator kayak paddle
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