An all around better paddle

Hi all.

Been experimenting with putting an elastic fabric panel in a paddle blade. Benefits: lighter material, deforms to provide increased efficiency under load, stores and releases energy at end of stroke. In short it has all the advantages of a curved blade and more while retaining the ability to scull, brace and steer like a flat one. Prototype canoe paddle with 4 inch neoprene rubber circle insert seems to validate the concept.

Idea was patented in 1887 for oars so it’s been in the public domain for over 100 years. Still it doesn’t seem to have been used; I’m not sure why. Are there potential drawbacks? Anyone else played around with this idea or know of a commercially available product? Any thoughts on best panel material and dimensions?

Jeremy Eisler

Keep experimenting, and comparing
your prototypes with examples of the best existing paddles. Your idea might work… but there is some reason it has been languishing in neglect for so long. Maybe modern fabrics will be an answer. Rowing shells were still being built from a kind of paper mache’ in the 1880s, but such composite construction did not become dominant again until carbon and Kevlar were available.

Never head of such a thing but…
I happen to have a “test” paddle with an experimental grip design. Boring a 4" hole or two in it’s blade sounds like fun. How did you you attach the rubber diaphram?

better all around paddle
We used a standard 4" diameter screw in hatch cover flange. Neoprene came from one of those yoga strech bands you can get at Walmart, used the heaviest gauge.

I’m thinking next go round to narrow standard canoe paddle an inch or so, split canoe paddle blade in half, cut larger ovoid hole, maybe 8 by 4 inches or so, insert neoprene, and glue and screw blade back together. You can feel the “pop” with the prototype at the end of the stroke, but more would be better, as would less weight.

experimental paddles
Very interesting ! I have an experimental grip on the drawing board. Glad to see the American empirical approach is still alive and kicking. I’d love to test some of the new blades out. That is if we’re talking single blade.


"Soft" paddles never work as well as stiff ones. It’s kinda like turning a 2X4 flat to lever a piano up on a dolly.

We loose finite feather control because the panel can bulge instead of redirect water.

The release of residual information at strokes end will almost universally be unhappy because we all carry the blade too far aft, so the “kick” always pulls the stern down, inducing pitch, and towards the paddle, inducing yaw. The hull looses forward speed and directionality - both results usually bad.

The blades cross sectional shaping will increase drag during in-water recoveries.

That said, the loaded shape should increase purchase on the water, so it’s a worthy concept to play around with.

John Winters came up with a gravel paddle in the early 90s. Bonding small foam packing stars on the powerface significantly decreased waterflow off the blade.

Blade section?

Thanks for the comments. I do not have a visual of this blade shape although I agree that a softer rather than stiffer blade is less desirable. Can you describe this blade. Also I’ve always been curious about Winters concept of gravel. If I can remember correctly it was supposed to increase lift, right? Was it just simply those stars glued to both blade surfaces? Thanks

Certain ww paddlers from the
Youghiogheny school used to bore holes in wooden kayak paddle faces. I believe this is the origin of the “Regan’s Brain” cartoon sequence in William Nealy’s “Whitewater Tales of Terror.” I do not know who “Regan” was, or why his brain had holes in it, but the pictured paddle does have a number of holes placed systematically in both blades.

three blades
Meanderline’s paddle must have thicker edges than center section to be able to “clamp” the edges of the flex section.

The "gravel Paddles I saw ~ 1990 had stars glued to a ~flat powerface with a diherdal rib on the backface.

John also experimented with “High Lift” paddles having cambered, or dihedralled power and backfaces to improve loaded slices and stationary placements.

His “Shape of the Canoe”, now available in CD format, is the best hydrodynamic information available to paddlers. He covers both hulls and paddles.

John has retired to a gated community in Nova Scotia.

Regan’s brain
I believe Regan was John Regan, a pioneering squirt boater of the Jimi Snyder school. Great boater and crazy guy.

As to how the holes got in his brain…


Your design makes sense to me…
I’ll give it a try. Do you want to send one out to me in 210 CM?

An all around better paddle
Interesting string. With regard to the “kick” if you’re going single paddle and tilt the paddle on the recovery slightly so the outside edge moves to the vertical the kick from the elastic going to push the stern to the opposite side, doing something very similar to a j stroke without the drag.

Optimally and ideally I see the panel sandwiched between a carbon graphite rim with very slim edges, kind of like tennis racket construction but without the thick rim used there.

I don’t see it as an ideal for all uses, but a better compromise giving you the best of a curved paddle while retaining the virtues of a flat paddle and reducing weight as well. It should also work for kayaks although if you’re into Greenland paddles theres not as much blade width to play with.

one side
Jeremy :

This post seems to be one side of a private conversation. I see no comment from String yet you address a remark made by him (her?). The first paragraph makes little sense without some prior context.

Thanks Charlie. I read John"s Shape of the Canoe about 10 or so years back. I find that it presupposes a background in science, naval archecture, and canoe design and so a bit difficult to follow, for the average bear. Is the CD a reproduction of the book or more graphic than that?

I think “string” means “thread”…
…or “conversation” in this case, not the name of a well-known P-netter.

How does it do in rocks?

clarify please
Jeremy wrote : With regard to the “kick” if you’re going single paddle and tilt the paddle on the recovery slightly so the outside edge moves to the vertical the kick from the elastic going to push the stern to the opposite side, doing something very similar to a j stroke without the drag.

I also think this an interesting thread, but do not follow any of the above. What is “kick” and does “single paddle” refer to single blade? Also I cannot figure out how the described recovery looks. Would you explain again? Thanks

all around better paddle
Sorry for confusion. We’re discussing a canoe paddle with an elastic fabric insert which deforms under load to provide a curved surface for greater efficincy and releases the elastically stored energy at the end of the stroke reverting to a flat panel.

A friend and I made a prototype but idea’s been patented since 1887 for oars.

If you look under the entry caption you’ll see the various comments.

I was discussing how the elastic’s release of energy or “kick” affects the need to complete a J stroke, phrased better, it allows you to truncate the stroke as the “kick” pushes the stern to the side opposite the paddle as you rotate the blade upward to commence the “J”. The effect is subtle on our 4" diameter panel prototype but noticeable, and would presumably increase with a larger panel.

As for rocks, there aren’t any where I paddle. I would expect any impact would be on the rim, not panel, so would not expect any tears although

durability is - of course - an issue.

Paddle with elastic insert
Thanks. I think I see what you’re getting at.