Re: Paddle choice

  • robuser
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17 years 4 months ago #89 by robuser
Re: Paddle choice was created by robuser
Howzit Martin - can you send us that paper on paddle sizes, I'll put it up on the site.

I was using a SET Endorphin (rumoured to be a copy of an Epic "mid-wing" which is no longer in production). I really enjoyed the paddle, had it for five years by which time it was getting ragged at the edges (literally). I looked for something new, Nikki Mocke lent me her Fenn 4 to try. As a result I bought one, blades mounted on a carbon shaft, shaft supplied by Knysna Kayaks.

Pitch angle is the usual default (67 degrees i think) and set at 212cm.

It took a little getting used to, for a couple of weeks it was digging holes in my palms but my hands have got used to it and now I really like it - blades don't "skid" in the water and feel that they have a really good grip. I believe the blades are slightly bigger than my SET, and consequently I feel that I have more power. Difficult to tell for sure of course.

I've noticed that going upwind in big weather, my paddling buddies tend to do better than me - I have a work in progress article in which Oscar Chalupsky says that it's important to be able to change the length of the paddle shaft - he says he shortens the shaft going upwind or when he's tired and that this is like "changing gears on a bicycle".

I'll try to do a poll on what the top guys are using. My suspicion is that most are using Epics but it would be interesting to know.

Epic have an "interactive paddle wizard" size thingy at:


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17 years 4 months ago #90 by AlanC
Replied by AlanC on topic Re: Paddle choice
Hi All,

Here is an article on kayak paddle fitting based on an accumulation of flatwater and surfski coaching, listening to others and my own experience.

Here are some quick guidelines to consider in setting your paddle up;

1. Twist: left or right? There is little you can do with his parameter
as you will be either one of the other. It is rare to find an ambidextrous kayaker re twist. In an ideal world you can choose which one is best for you, in the real world those who don't have access to a two piece paddle are stuck with what is available where and when you learn.

Some coaches say twist is often associated with handedness (i.e. right handed people are often right twist), but not always. It is however a good starting point.

A quick and easy way to tell is do some "air paddling" while standing and have someone watch if the paddle orients itself correctly on "entry". If you end up slicing (where the paddle would enter parallel to the side of the kayak) you need the opposite twist.

An empirical way to know which twist is right for you is see if you always fall in over and over again at the entry/catch on the same side. If the blade slices in every time on a given side it is probably a twist issue. Always falling in at the exit on the same side is probably more of an exit mechanics / twist angle problem, but in some cases it may be a left-right twist issue.

Twist is very tricky for many paddlers as they "twist" by flexing the wrists.

For those with ovalized paddle shafts (either designed oval like Epics or with finger key on grip side) try to change the paddle angle by rolling the paddle shaft along your grip side fingers as they flex/extend and NOT by flexing the wrist. It is important to have finger guides (see point #6 below) on the paddle when keeping a looser grip to ensure you are gripping in the correct orientation. This technique also relaxes your grip.

It takes practice but can greatly minimize the risk of wrist overuse injuries.

Practice using a light weight wooden dowel or broom handle, and a light paddle helps greatly in using this in real life. Your fingers will get sore for a while as they strengthen, but they will adapt quickly.

2. Length: this is often determined as a function of sitting height over the water in the kayak.

A good starting point (that assumes a relationship between limb length and torso length) is to sit holding a paddle or a broom handle, etc. with your upper arms parallel to the ground and your elbows bent at 90? with your hands up (i.e. perpendicular to the ground). Grip the shaft so that your thumbs are on the inside of the grip. Have someone measure the distance between your thumbs. For flatwater kayaking this distance equals ~1/3 of your overall paddle length, the middle third. The other two thirds are located from each thumb to the tip of the paddle.

For beginner flatwater paddlers shorten this distance slightly (up to 5 cm).
New paddlers tend to paddle with a flatter stroke (left-right angle) and have poorer posture (i.e. they are shorter in the kayak).

For beginner surfski paddlers shorten this distance (up to 15 cm). New paddlers tend to paddle with a flatter stroke (left-right angle) re flatwater paddlers and slouch more in the ski.

For more advanced surfski paddlers shorten this distance (0-15 cm). Non-flatwater trained surfski paddlers tend to paddle with a slightly flatter stroke (left-right angle) re flatwater paddlers and very skilled ski paddlers will sit up taller in the ski if conditions allow.

In rough and sloppy water shorten the paddle slightly (0.5-2 cm). This allows a slightly faster stroke rate for the same hull speed (i.e. less force per stroke) which improves balance in most paddlers.

In very long events where cadence may drop from fatigue you can shorten the paddle slightly (0.5-2 cm). This allows you to maintain a slightly faster stroke rate for the same hull speed (i.e. less force per stroke) which holds off fatigue a little longer in most paddlers.

In flat glassy calm water lengthen the paddle slightly (0.5-1+ cm). This allows the paddler to slow the stroke rate slightly by stabilize the paddle relative to the kayak more and increasing the force per stroke without compromising balance too much.

If you grip too narrow on your paddle shaft you use a lot of bicep and chest strength (smaller muscles). A wider grip will allow you to use more torso and back strength (bigger muscles). For each person there will be a happy medium based on your biomechanics.

Too short and paddlers slouch, pull with the arms and have poorer technique.

Too long and paddlers have trouble with balance at the entry and exit.

3. Twist angle: Determining the twist angle on a wing blade will have a drastic effect on your stroke.

Newer paddlers are best with a fairly flat angle, say 60? a this allows easy entries with minimal need for a steep angle on entry (which may compromise balance) and an easy exit that will lift/catch minimal water. With a wing blade, a steeper angle will require better exit mechanics. If the angle is too steep for your exit skill, the blade will often pull under the hull, or grab on the exit leading to a swim or very poor balance as you will pull your exit side shoulder down towards the exit every time you lift it out, which will affect the entry on the opposite side, and so on in a nasty catch-22 scenario.

As paddlers become more skilled the angle can be changes to accommodate progressing skill and water conditions. If you have a very good exit and the water is flat (re your perception) you may select a steeper angle (toward 75-80?). However, exit mechanics need to be very good or you will pull yourself off balance when you try to extract the blade or you pull back too far.

For very rough water when you know you?ll be paddling flatter (left-right angle) to keep you center of gravity low, flatten out the angle on the blade back toward 60?.

4. Blade shape: There are many blade designs on the market. Some have
a faster entry, some cleaner exit, some feel like they pull more, etc. Try a few out, often the nicer feeling ones cost more and are worth the difference. Many blades are made to suit a specific paddling style.

5. Blade size: Hull speed is a function of force per stroke (the portion thereof that is transmitted to the hull) and stroke rate. Big blade often = slower rate, small blade often = higher rate. The trick is matching blade size to event distance, paddling skill level and torso strength.

For very skilled, strong and experienced adult men or genetically gifted and skilled women doing events of under 10-30 minutes a full size men's sprint blade is ideal.

For less experienced or less strong adult males doing events under 10-20 minutes or all adult men/women doing distance events (20 minutes or longer) a mid-size blade may yield better results.

For younger or new paddlers, a junior or small blade is often adequate and may yield better results.

6. Grip guides: I advocate the use up tape guides on the paddle shaft to facilitate proper hand position.

On the grip/twist side build up a slight ridge on the outside of the thumb (2-3 wraps of electrician's tape as a base then either fold or twist the tape to build the slight ridge, then tape over it again to smooth off the edges). Newer paddlers are best to use a small built up section (<1-2 mm) and more experienced (i.e. calloused) paddlers may choose a larger built up section. From there extend the electrician's tape down the grip zone in continuous overlapping wraps to provide a non-slip surface. Some paddlers also put a second ridge just outside of the little finger.

On the non-twist side, I would recommend only a thumb side grip guide and if you want one a little finger guide.

I've seen some molded grips but have not tried them.

7. Shaft shape: some paddles are ovalized; on round shafts it is best
to ovalize the gripping side (twist hand) to allow you to control the paddle by rolling it through your fingers rather than flexion/extension of your wrist.

Cheers, Alan

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17 years 4 months ago #91 by Martin
Replied by Martin on topic Re: Paddle choice
Howzit Rob

The article net address for paddle sizing is located below along with the Bracsa site. The reason being that the sizing article refers to both Bracsa and Lettman paddles making it relevent since the paddles in SA resemble these in one form or other.


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17 years 4 months ago #92 by Stan K
Replied by Stan K on topic Re: Paddle choice
Ok i am looking for a bigger paddle, currently have a stealth Lett, i think its based on a Lettman Small.
I looked on the braca website and they mention blade pitch???
Alan you seem to know whats going on, what is the story with pitch.

"If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you" -Nietsche

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  • robuser
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17 years 4 months ago #93 by robuser
Replied by robuser on topic Re: Paddle choice
"Pitch" is the angle at which the blades are set to one another. Most fixed paddles are set at 65degrees.

It seems that the trend is to use a smaller pitch angle - some of the young SA paddlers are trained to use 45degrees.

As Martin says, most paddles in SA are copies of Bracsa or Lettmann paddles. The genuine imported Bracsa goes for about R2700.

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17 years 4 months ago #94 by AlanC
Replied by AlanC on topic Re: Paddle choice
Hi All,

This is a very interesting and informative discussion. One thing I've often found in dealing with different sporting communities is the local terminology. I thought I'll make sure I define what I mean by twist, offset and pitch.

Twist: this is the angle between the two blades of the paddle running down the long axis of the paddle shaft. Normally a twist of zero (0?) mean there is no difference while 90? indicates the blades are perpendicular to each other.

As discussed by a number of contributors, twist angles range from 45-80? and top paddlers will adjust their twist angle to optimize their efficiency for the expected water conditions. Similarly, paddling style will affect your choice of twist angle.

Offset: Offset is less common today than it was years ago. The offset angle refers to a deviation from the long axis of the paddle shaft, usually in the forward direction.

I believe the theory was to allow greater forward propulsion in the middle and back of the stroke. I can't say this fits with my current understanding of how a wing blade generates propulsion, unless the paddling style was very low and acted in a very wide sweeping stroke.

Pitch: this is a parameter used to describe any additional changes in effective twist angle within the length of the blade. Some blades will pull into the water (and toward the hull) using a rotation along the long axis of the paddle, while others will enter along the line of action exerted by the paddler.

Depending on your paddling style (especially set up and entry mechanics) you might prefer one over the other.

I have observed that paddlers who experience difficult burying the blade quickly (i.e. fast entry) or who initiate a pull back during the entry thus preventing full paddle immersion tend to like more pitch on their blades. This tends to be newer paddlers and those who do not get a lot of technical feedback on their stroke mechanics.

As an aside if you feel discomfort in your wrist with greater twist angles, it is usually related to a lack of paddle mobility at the fingers. To minimize the risk of long term injuries to the tendons in your wrists you need to learn how to control the twist of the paddle using your fingers so as to minimize the flexion and extension at the wrist.

In so doing, you'll also learn how to ease off pressure on the pull very quickly should there be no resistance there and initiate a quicker exit.


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17 years 4 months ago #95 by bluesea
Replied by bluesea on topic Re: Paddle choice
Great discussion--thanks for your input Alan.

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17 years 2 months ago #96 by HI Paddler
Replied by HI Paddler on topic Re: Paddle choice
In Hawaii, the epic blades are selling for US$430. I can order the Fenn blades for significantly cheaper (approx $250 plus shipping). Hard to understand the price differential.

I use a Fenn blade.

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