Canoe Paddle Bending Branches Viper Review

Product:Bending Branches Viper Review (prototype)
Construction:fiberglass blade, Black Willow, Basswood
Manufacturer:Bending Branches
Reviewer Data:5’10” tall, 200 lbs., 32 years old, 15 years paddling experience
Reviewer Canoe:Bell Wildfire solo canoe
Testing Conditions:flatwater paddling in moderate conditions
Familiarity:two weeks
Best Suited For:the wilderness canoe tripper with money to spend on one of the prettiest paddles on the market and is willing to ignore some minor quirks

Bending Branches Viper Review: Quality Build

The Bending Branches Viper, even though a prototype, is beautifully built. The double bend in the handle has a very organic feel, which is accomplished by laminating several thin strips of wood into the final shape of the handle. A black rock guard surrounds the fiber-glassed blade, which not only provides extra protection beyond the blade’s fiberglass cover but also aesthetically contrasts with the wood of the paddle. This makes the paddle one of the prettiest I’ve seen. It will catch your eye.

Canoe Paddle Bending Branches Viper Review

Bending Branches Viper Review: Solid Performance with a Few Quirks

Besides being a beautifully constructed paddle, it performs well in several aspects. The double bend of the handle puts the blade into a position that works well on draws—much better than a normal bent-shaft paddle. When you find the perfect pry spot on the outside of the curve of the handle, it also pries well. If you are slightly off, however, the pry is much more difficult than other paddles I’ve used. The paddle works 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 balances perfectly about an inch above the neck. This is exactly what you would expect and want, but even with this said, it feels slightly “head heavy,” which makes it harder to swing over the deck during sit-and-switch paddling. The flex of the shaft is good, but I wouldn’t complain if Bending Branches were to stiffen it more. Most canoeists will like the flex because after a full day of paddling they won’t feel as worn out as they would with a stiffer paddle.


Bending Branches Viper Review: The Downsides

As with most things, this paddle has a few downsides to distract from its good features. The downsides are subtle but warrant a warning before you buy. It seems like the handle is bentslightly too far forward. I added a thin layer of foam on the back of the handle, and this made it much more comfortable. The shape of the shaft also seems to put a little too much strain on whichever forearm is gripping the shaft, so a full day of paddling yields some slight discomfort.

Bending Branches Viper Review: Final Verdict

Overall, the Bending Branches Viper is a nice paddle. It is good for sit-and-switch tripping, even though the swing over deck feels awkward at first. Eventually, you will get the hang of it. If the grip had a slightly different angle and blade was less heavy this would be a “must have” in my quiver of paddles. Regardless, it is definitely worth a try. You may like it, and with its bomber construction, this paddle will probably last you a lifetime.

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