Do you change your paddle length for upwind and for downwind?

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3 weeks 3 days ago #40916 by srullik
Hi guys,
Do you normally change your paddle length for downwind or for upwind, and if so, how much?

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3 weeks 3 days ago #40917 by mrcharly
No.
If anything, I'd use a longer length on the upwind (depending on wind strength).

Paddling upwind is a case of taking it steady, maintaining an even cadence.

Downwind - 3s sprint to get on a wave, ease off. Miss next pyramid, steady strokes, another 3s sprint, steady, then a few strong strokes to get on next train, etc.

So, a shorter paddle is more suited to the sprint - rest - sprint nature of downwind.
The following user(s) said Thank You: srullik

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3 weeks 3 days ago #40918 by srullik

No.
If anything, I'd use a longer length on the upwind (depending on wind strength).
Paddling upwind is a case of taking it steady, maintaining an even cadence.
Downwind - 3s sprint to get on a wave, ease off. Miss next pyramid, steady strokes, another 3s sprint, steady, then a few strong strokes to get on next train, etc.
So, a shorter paddle is more suited to the sprint - rest - sprint nature of downwind.

Thank you mrcharly. It does make sense. I will try it on my next run.

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3 weeks 3 days ago - 3 weeks 3 days ago #40920 by LaPerouseBay

No.If anything, I'd use a longer length on the upwind (depending on wind strength).Paddling upwind is a case of taking it steady, maintaining an even cadence.

If you Google "surfski upwind paddle length tips?" it will link to several, much older threads on this forum.

There are many threads that cover upwind paddling technique.
The consensus is: shorter length for upwind, longer for downwind.

Every piece of water is different, so there are no rules, only general suggestions. Reading many various opinions is usually a good idea. Many, many great ideas from paddlers that don't post anymore.

As for changing shaft length, I label my feather with easy to read marks. I forget what my feather is, I think it's somewhere between 45 and 60. Those numbers are tiny on my Gara, so I did this with a label maker. Easy to see out on the water - one less thing to worry about.


downwind dilettante
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Last edit: 3 weeks 3 days ago by LaPerouseBay.

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3 weeks 2 days ago #40924 by mrcharly
Consensus? I tried your suggested google search and found one topic, with only one person saying they used shorter on upwind.
Maybe google is shortchanging my search.

Anyway, as I said originally, I don't alter my paddle length when changing between upwind and downwind.

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3 weeks 2 days ago #40927 by LaPerouseBay
^ Yes, a definite consensus. There are many, many threads that have info on paddle length upwind vs downwind. Google results will vary with the same keywords. Happens all the time to me.

Some describe it as changing gears as on a bike. Lower gear going uphill = shorter paddle etc.

TC surfski's website has info on paddle length downwind, with a few bits on upwind length.

Going upwind is common among ski paddlers. Strategy varies so much that most people don't even try to describe it. Don't bow slap is about all anyone can say for certain. That and try to smooth things out by weaving between moguls.

Avoiding the moguls as they zoom at you is similar to avoiding them as you paddle downwind. Don't climb straight over if you can steer around or angle across.

That's why shorter paddles are common upwind. Upwind is full of random surprises if there is reverb, a following swell, reef etc.. Going downwind looks like slow motion compared to upwind. Quicker reactive paddling, shorter shaft.

Hi guys,
Do you normally change your paddle length for downwind or for upwind, and if so, how much?

The stronger the wind, the more I shorten it, 2cm at the most. If light wind, I don't change it.

downwind dilettante

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2 weeks 5 days ago - 2 weeks 5 days ago #40934 by Watto
Years ago I posted here 'longer up, shorter down' and I was corrected or adjusted. Yes I agree, I stand corrected, as above shorter up, longer down (but do you really need to?). But another variable - depends on the kind of upwind! In Perth shorter swells (really more wind-chop) into a sou-wester means lots of shorter ups and downs compared to paddling out into longer/larger period ocean swells. Wind is a variable as well.

Seriously gusty day in the Swan River pics here, each at approximately same point. Can't really see but waves were around 3ft, blowing to thirty knots and yes river not ocean, short chop. Regardless of age and to a point strength, my up wind was a serious cadence struggle against strong wind and the small waves compared to ease and power I could transfer downwind. With wind and waves behind me of course I can lengthen my paddle to accommodate this and exert proportional power. See pics below.

Re my brackets above 'do you really need to? Well doing ins-and-outs/out-and-backs - whatever you want to call them - who changes paddle length? Bloody no-one of course. But if you have a long haul out to wherever before a long or longer downwind, then adjusting paddle length (for me as LaPerouseBay) 2cm max.
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Last edit: 2 weeks 5 days ago by Watto.

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2 weeks 5 days ago #40935 by srullik

Years ago I posted here 'longer up, shorter down' and I was corrected or adjusted. Yes I agree, I stand corrected, as above shorter up, longer down (but do you really need to?). But another variable - depends on the kind of upwind! In Perth shorter swells (really more wind-chop) into a sou-wester means lots of shorter ups and downs compared to paddling out into longer/larger period ocean swells. Wind is a variable as well.
Seriously gusty day in the Swan River pics here, each at approximately same point. Blowing to thirty knots and yes river not ocean - short chop - however regardless of age and to a point strength, my up wind was a serious cadence struggle against strong wind and small waves compared to ease and power I could transfer downwind. With wind and waves behind me of course I can lengthen my paddle to accommodate this and exert proportional power. See pics below.
Re my brackets above 'do you really need to? Well doing ins-and-outs/out-and-backs - whatever you want to call them - who changes paddle length? Bloody no-one of course. But if you have a long haul out to wherever before a long or longer downwind, then adjusting paddle length (for me as LaPerouseBay) 2cm max.

Watto, you got a point there. I should perhaps not mess with the length of the paddle so much (:

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2 weeks 5 days ago #40936 by mrcharly

Years ago I posted here 'longer up, shorter down' and I was corrected or adjusted. Yes I agree, I stand corrected, as above shorter up, longer down (but do you really need to?). But another variable - depends on the kind of upwind! In Perth shorter swells (really more wind-chop) into a sou-wester means lots of shorter ups and downs compared to paddling out into longer/larger period ocean swells. Wind is a variable as well.
Seriously gusty day in the Swan River pics here, each at approximately same point. Blowing to thirty knots and yes river not ocean - short chop - however regardless of age and to a point strength, my up wind was a serious cadence struggle against strong wind and small waves compared to ease and power I could transfer downwind. With wind and waves behind me of course I can lengthen my paddle to accommodate this and exert proportional power. See pics below.
Re my brackets above 'do you really need to? Well doing ins-and-outs/out-and-backs - whatever you want to call them - who changes paddle length? Bloody no-one of course. But if you have a long haul out to wherever before a long or longer downwind, then adjusting paddle length (for me as LaPerouseBay) 2cm max.
Ah, you are paddling on that bit of the Swan.

Can't believe I used to paddle my K1 there. Had a long swim to shore a few times when caught out by the Rotto ferry.

Yes, that river can get choppy, not dissimilar to the in-loch conditions here (although we get much higher windspeeds here, as a rule).

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2 weeks 5 days ago #40937 by Watto
Wow, when mrcharly? Follow your posts - where are you? Pics of yours - relevant to this thread of course!

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2 weeks 5 days ago #40938 by mrcharly

Wow, when mrcharly? Follow your posts - where are you? Pics of yours - relevant to this thread of course!

38 years ago, when I was a student at UWA. Member of Swan Canoe Club. Would paddle into the centre, or down to Freo and back (often at night!). There were some amazing paddlers in that club, literally world-class. Crewed for some of them in the Avon Descent. No surfski to speak of paddling back then, 'real' racers paddled K1/2.

Sorry, no pics from back then.

I'm at the opposite end of the world now, on the Outer Hebrides off the Scottish west coast.

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2 weeks 5 days ago - 2 weeks 5 days ago #40939 by LaPerouseBay
Personally, I try to use the longest length I can manage.
I only paddle in wind, my max is 212.
If it's a light upwind/downwind, 212 both ways.
If it's very strong wind, 210 up, and maybe 211 down.
Sometimes I'll start a downwind at 212, then decrease if I have trouble turning the blade over quickly enough.
That's what the marks on the clamp are for - changing on the fly. I do it at the beginning of this video. 212 to 211.

downwind dilettante
Last edit: 2 weeks 5 days ago by LaPerouseBay.

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2 weeks 5 days ago #40940 by LaPerouseBay

Years ago I posted here 'longer up, shorter down' and I was corrected or adjusted. Yes I agree, I stand corrected, as above shorter up, longer down (but do you really need to?). But another variable - depends on the kind of upwind! In Perth shorter swells (really more wind-chop) into a sou-wester means lots of shorter ups and downs compared to paddling out into longer/larger period ocean swells. Wind is a variable as well.
Seriously gusty day in the Swan River pics here, each at approximately same point. Can't really see but waves were around 3ft, blowing to thirty knots and yes river not ocean, short chop. Regardless of age and to a point strength, my up wind was a serious cadence struggle against strong wind and the small waves compared to ease and power I could transfer downwind. With wind and waves behind me of course I can lengthen my paddle to accommodate this and exert proportional power. See pics below.
Re my brackets above 'do you really need to? Well doing ins-and-outs/out-and-backs - whatever you want to call them - who changes paddle length? Bloody no-one of course. But if you have a long haul out to wherever before a long or longer downwind, then adjusting paddle length (for me as LaPerouseBay) 2cm max.

Yes, agree with everything here. Those speeds and heart rates are very close to my averages on out and backs.

Typically, on my south shore upwind, I can feel larger swells from a longer fetch, coming from behind me as I go into the wind. That's the energy I focus on, because it will stack up standing waves ahead as the wind chop comes at me. I can see them zooming thru on the videos, but only feel them on the water.

That video posted above required shortening the paddle, because of strong tidal counter forces. It was stacking up the wave faces. Wind push was excellent, but the runs just didn't carry like usual. I was hoping to make quicker shorter sprint accelerations to move into a good slot.

Later in that run the wind died, the wave faces got bigger, steeper and really jammed up. I shortened it to 210, but still didn't have enough dead stop sprint acceleration to get going down the wave faces.
Still super fun. I wish we had a Nelo dealer here, I'd love to have a short, light boat for south shore runs. I love turning on wave faces, not so much zooming thru them. More fun to zig and zag in tight, steep wave faces. Short boats are more fun upwind too.

downwind dilettante

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2 weeks 4 days ago - 2 weeks 4 days ago #40941 by mrcharly

Later in that run the wind died, the wave faces got bigger, steeper and really jammed up. I shortened it to 210, but still didn't have enough dead stop sprint acceleration to get going down the wave faces.
So, when the waves are short and steep, you find you need a shorter paddle to get the quick acceleration?
That tallies with my experience, so I wonder if it is the conditions that dictate the best paddle length, rather than whether you are paddling up or downwind?
Last edit: 2 weeks 4 days ago by mrcharly.

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2 weeks 4 days ago #40942 by LaPerouseBay

Later in that run the wind died, the wave faces got bigger, steeper and really jammed up. I shortened it to 210, but still didn't have enough dead stop sprint acceleration to get going down the wave faces.
So, when the waves are short and steep, you find you need a shorter paddle to get the quick acceleration?
That tallies with my experience, so I wonder if it is the conditions that dictate the best paddle length, rather than whether you are paddling up or downwind?

I always prefer shorter upwind, longer downwind.

That example above is a worst case scenario of downwinding gone wrong. It's not even downwinding - there is no wind. Every situation is different, so yes, conditions are going to change everything. But I wouldn't go so far to recommend anyone going longer upwind, shorter downwind. I've done it too but it's very rare and comes with a long list of caveats.

On yesterdays run, we had that same counter current standing up the wave faces. We had a bit of wind at the end, so it was a downwind section, not a no wind section.

I didn't try to get my speed up by sprinting down the face. I left it at 211 - angled across patiently and was able to build enough speed to get on a few.

Sprinting down the face of a standing wave is usually the last gasp of desperation to get something started. It almost always ends in frustration - at least where I paddle. South shore has zero fetch, so it starts tiny, then builds. Like a lake.

Boyan breaks it down to 3 steps. 1. get on a wave. 2. Sideways surfing. 3. Link the wave in the intersection.

Racing down the face is one thing, but it's not downwinding if you cannot turn on the face and extend the glide.

www.facebook.com/100063841902229/videos/...72/?__so__=permalink

downwind dilettante

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2 weeks 3 days ago - 2 weeks 3 days ago #40943 by Watto
Wow squared mrcharly! UWA my Alma mater early 70s, paddled a dozen Avons late seventies on, member also Swan Canoe Club somewhere in there! And yes many long river paddles at night - still - haha but not K1’s. My email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., drop me a line and will share some pics from way back. Also Scotland but not Outer Hebrides - is a goal!
Last edit: 2 weeks 3 days ago by Watto.

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