Bending Branches – Best Paddles That You Can Use In Your Next Kayak Trip

If you're a water sports enthusiast, then you know how important quality products are. Buying something from a big box store just because of a low price may result in severe consequences. Going out on the water, whether you do it by kayak, canoe or paddleboard requires a good set of paddles to ensure a safe trip. Bending Branches is a company that makes a unique brand of product that enables paddlers of all experience and skill set to enjoy a worry-free excursion. Who is this company and what makes their product special? Continue reading to find a full review of the company and the products they produce.

Every Company Has a Story

Bending Branches founders, Dale Kicker and Ron Hultman were experienced paddlers in both whitewater canoeing and flat-water racing. They had used their fair share of paddles and knew they could do better. In 1982, they created the first canoe paddle with a composite tip, which meant the paddle was stronger and could take more of a beating. Kicker and Hultman understood what it was like to have a paddle break while pushing off rocks or because there was too much give and it snapped. Either way, they had taken a product they used and knew that others used and made it better.

Today, Bending Branches is still privately held and based in Wisconsin. It is the world's largest manufacturer of quality paddles for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding. They are continually looking to improve their products, and once they believe they have perfected something, they go back to make it better. Their workforce is staffed with paddling enthusiasts. Those with knowledge of the product and the needs of those who utilize it (the workers themselves) give the company an advantage. Bending Branches continues its quest to produce the perfect paddle to fit any and all needs. Their inventory is packed with products that are designed to be better and built to last. They don't want to leave you stranded in the river or leave you in a bind out on the lake.

What Type of Products Does Bending Branches Offer?

bending branches

When visiting the website, the company offers an easy-to-use interface that allows the customer to navigate to the type of paddles desired. The four main categories are kayak, canoe, fishing kayak and stand-up. Once within those menus, there are further options that allow you to choose more details about what the paddles will be used for and what type of body of water they will be used in. The water type is a crucial element as it determines the tip edge strength and how much of an angle the paddle will have. For example, you want the most robust tip edge in a river where there are rocks to navigate, and the bottom may be craggy and hard.

Once you've chosen the type of paddling you're doing, some different options are generated. There is an average of five choices within this area. There is a quick-glance guide to the right of each paddle that gives its shaft, protection and grip information. Scrolling down will provide you with a detailed product fact sheet including the weight, materials in the paddle and so on. Some paddles you may find are good for multi-use and appear under more than one subcategory, such as the Black Pearl II.

How Easy Is It To Find the Perfect Paddle?

When on the hunt for the perfect paddle, it's essential to know the following:

  • Water Vessel: Canoe, kayak, paddleboard
  • Activity: Recreational, competition, fishing, etc.
  • Length of Trip: Short-term, long-term
  • Water Type: Lake, stream, ocean, deep river, shallow river
  • Size: Length of the paddle determined by the user (there is a sizing chart available on the Bending Branches website)

Once you have this basic information, you will be able to find the paddle that suits your needs.

bending branches

Is There a Warranty?

When purchasing a paddle, you want the peace of mind that if the product is faulty or malfunctions, you aren't just out the money. Quality paddles should withstand some wear and tear and not break. Bending Branches prides itself on having an average breakage rate of less than 1 percent. In fact, they have a breakage rate of 0.03 percent. There is a high chance you will own your paddles for a long while, and that other than normal wear and tear, they won't let you down.

However, if there is an issue with your paddle, they make themselves available for evaluation and then repair or replacement. The process is done directly through the website and involves sending in a photo and then a description of what the defect or malfunction is. If the company determines there is a defect in the product, or it did not hold up to their standards, they will replace the paddle. If something occurs that can be repaired, whether it was through a manufacturing error or just normal wear and tear, they offer that as well. Payment for the repair is not discussed in the general article, probably because it is based on individual cases and not a blanket policy.

Bending Branches stands behind its products and wants its customers to know that should something happen to the merchandise and it not perform as specified, the company will do all it can to make it right. This warranty does not seem to have an endpoint, meaning it doesn't appear to have a specific time frame such as a 6-month or 18-month window.

Warranty

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Where Can You Purchase Bending Branches Products?

There are quite a few ways you can get your hands-on paddles from Bending Branches. You can visit your local outdoor store that specializes in watersports and hiking/camping. REI is probably the largest store that carries the Bending Branches line of products. It is a good idea to check out the Bending Branches website to find the product that suits your needs, and then use their convenient drop-down menu to find the retailer closest to you. If you don't have a local option, you can order the products through a few online retailers such as:

  • Duluth Pack
  • Paddle Sports Rutabaga
  • Austin Canoe & Kayak
  • Piragis Northwoods Company
  • Get Outdoors Paddle Sports
  • Appomattox River Company

You can order directly from the manufacturer as well. When placing an order, the factory in Wisconsin makes the product specifically for you. They don't have a warehouse somewhere stocked with the product. Instead, they build to order. Their website claims the product will be finished in about one to two business days after which it's shipped directly to your home.

Paddle General Construction Quality

What Are Customers Saying About Bending Branches?

Customer comments and compliments were nothing but overwhelmingly positive for all Bending Branches products. Anyone who took the time to write about their experience gushed about the quality of the paddles and the visually-appealing factors as well. Most customers who wrote reviews were experienced paddlers in one variation or the other. Customer service also received high marks when it came to handling customer issues and repairs.

Ease of Use of Products

Customer Reviews

Bending Branches Basic Information at a Glance

Bending Branches

Basic Information

Founded

October 1982

Located

Wisconsin, U.S.A

Durability of Paddles

0.003 percent breakage rate

Kayak Paddles

Yes

Kayak Fishing Paddles

Yes

Canoe Paddles

Yes

Stand-Up Paddles

Yes

Warranty

Yes

Retail Stores

REI, local watersports stores (check locations), company website

Pricing

Pricing, as with everything, varies greatly depending on a variety of factors. The type of paddle you are purchasing will control the price point which is determined, in part, by the materials used. Canoe paddles were generally priced less than kayak fishing paddles. In kayak fishing, paddles are mostly crafted from carbon and may feature adjustable blades.

In contrast, canoe paddles are fashioned from wood and contain rock guards in a composite material. We were able to find recreational canoe paddles priced at $75 each. The most expensive paddle we saw was $425, and it was made for kayak fishing.

Pricing

How Bending Branches Products Compare

When shopping for any product, it's a good idea to take a look at other similar companies that manufacture and sell comparable items. The three companies below are all comparable in some ways to Bending Branches but fall short in other ways. The main area where the companies seem to differ is warranty. While we were unable to find a stated time limitation for Bending Branches products, all of the other companies below were all limited to the first year.

Werner Skagit Hooked Fiberglass-Reinforced Kayak Fishing...
  • Adjustable Ferrule System allows elegant adjustment of 15 degree increments
  • Fiberglass reinforced nylon blades have lightest swing weight at this price with smooth, stable stroke
  • Light swing weight reduces overall fatigue on long paddling excursions

Basic Information

Founded

October 1971

Located

Washington, U.S.A.

Durability of Paddles

Unknown

Kayak Paddles

Yes

Kayak Fishing Paddles

Yes

Canoe Paddles

Yes

Stand-Up Paddles

Yes

Warranty

Yes; one-year

Retail Stores

REI, local watersports stores, company website

PROS

  • High-quality materials and construction;
  • large variety of styles, sizes and variations within each paddle (length, angle, etc.); customizable;
  • long-lasting; lengthy company history

CONS

  • The basic canoe paddle starts at $125;
  • no breakage rate data offered; the warranty is limited to the first year;
  • repair may still be provided after this period

Construction Quality

Ease of Use

Warranty

Customer Reviews

KIALOA: SUP Paddle - Makai Adjustable Stand Up Paddle Board Paddle
  • Durable Utility Palm Grip that orients the paddle in your hand
  • 16" of "on the fly" LeverLock adjustment (70" - 86")
  • Durable injection molded blades

Basic Information

Founded

1990

Located

Oregon, U.S.A.

Durability of Paddles

Unknown

Kayak Paddles

Yes

Kayak Fishing Paddles

No

Canoe Paddles

Yes

Stand-Up Paddles

Yes

Warranty

Yes; limited one-year

Retail Stores

REI, local watersports stores, company website

PROS

  • Offers additional paddle types such outrigger and dragon boat;
  • fiberglass, carbon, and hybrid materials are durable under most conditions

CONS

  • Paddles made of fiberglass, carbon or hybrid materials which make them all pricier;
  • a limited variety of products;
  • products don't look as nice as the wooden paddles;
  • no data on breakage rate

Construction Quality

Ease of Use

Warranty

Customer Reviews

Boardworks Plastic FGR 2-Piece Adjustable Paddle | Black
  • Blade: 8″ Wide, 77 Square In.
  • Range: From 70” To 86″
  • Leverlock Adjustment System For Quick And Effortless Paddle Length Changes

Basic Information

Founded

1990's; now part of the Confluence brand

Located

California, U.S.A.

Durability of Paddles

Unknown

Kayak Paddles

No

Kayak Fishing Paddles

No

Canoe Paddles

No

Stand-Up Paddles

Yes

Warranty

Yes; limited one-year

Retail Stores

REI, local watersports stores, company website

PROS

  • Less expensive option for paddleboard paddles;
  • constructed of plastic and aluminum composite

CONS

  • Only one type of paddle offered with limited variety;
  • cheaper construction material equals less durability;
  • no data on breakage rate

Construction Quality

Ease of Use

Warranty

Customer Reviews

Pros and Cons

When looking at the data from the three companies reviewed above and comparing them to Bending Branches, we were able to form a clear picture of the pros and cons of the products offered by Bending Branches as well as the company itself. What follows are some bullet points about what makes Bending Branches and their products stand out when compared to the competition and where the company or its products may fall short.

PROS

  • Paddles have the lowest breakage rate of all those reviewed
  • Handcrafted to-order products if purchased from the company directly;
  • no mass production
  • Varying degrees of materials for different paddling needs
  • Wide variety of products available both online and in some stores
  • Lifetime warranty as opposed to limited offerings from the competition

CONS

  • Products can be pricey when compared to other offerings
  • Not available in many local watersports stores

Conclusion

When it comes to purchasing paddles, Bending Branches has a variety of products. Whether you are a novice to the sport and looking for something basic or an expert paddler looking to take your game to the next level, the folks at Bending Branches have a design to meet your needs. With a variety of price points in every category and high attention to detail and quality, the chances of needing to replace your paddle for breakage are slim to none.

Final Rating

Janice Friedman
 

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