Analogy/puzzle, also a serious question

Hills are to bicycling as wind is to paddling?

Whaddya think?

A cyclist who is fairly fit and skilled but packing too much fat on the body can lose that fat for a free, guaranteed-to-help-performance boost while climbing. (This is a common transition from winter to spring.)

Is there anything similar in paddling a kayak against strong wind?

Please, this is not about getting an ultra-low volume kayak, anymore than it is about the cyclist getting ultralight wheels. I am asking about basic physical body changes that a person could effect.

Strength/power training would help either the cyclist or the paddler, but beyond that, what other straightforward, non-device-dependent changes are possible?

I have found that in a strong, steady headwind, it helps to bend forward and down low while paddling. But I don’t know if this is a good idea for long periods. Might be rough on the lower back.

Cycling, you are either going uphill or downhill. Wind can come from any direction, and poses challenges from any direction.

To duplicate riding uphill, how about towing? I once towed a rental rowboat for a couple of miles on a state park lake after the woman and boy who rented it had run down the battery on the electric motor and couldn’t get rowing together. It was a great workout.

That would be strength training
I once towed a “swimmer”. What a shock it was to find how much of a drag a body in the water is. This body, though alive, was not helping any, either.

If working out is the goal, I prefer
paddling into a modest headwind. In my rowing and sculling days, going into a headwind was easier in terms of technique than trying to paddle efficiently with a tailwind. Though it made the race longer…

Apples and oranges.
I don’t think the analogy holds. Wind is to paddling as wind is to cycling.

Climbing hills involves weight vs gravity. Paddling into wind involves aerodynamic drag and is not affected by weight. In fact more weight is an advantage on a level surface.

Losing fat would only increase efficiency into the wind if the loss of mass inertia was offset by a more streamlined wind profile. As bending forward into the wind demonstrates it would be impossible to significantly reduce wind drag by losing fat.


A cyclist will typically shift into a lower gear when going uphill to maintain cadence.

A kayaker will shift into a lower gear by switching to a shorter and narrow paddle.

When heading into a strong headwind bring out the full upperbody rotating paddling style. Remember that while the arms may be screaming from fatigue it’s the big torso muscles that provides the power.


Good Analogy
You ever try leaning back and paddling at a really low angle? Uses some different muscles.

I agree…
Into a strong head wind is equal to both.

I would probbly equate that Up stream in a kayak/canoe would equate to up hill on a bike.

The stonger the current would equal to the steeper the hill.

Done both for many moons, but now will take the up stream any do over the up mountain.



Bicycle surfing
Sliding down a muddy hill with the brakes locked.

one does not

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have to switch paddles, only cadence. It IS possible to achieve a huge variety of paddling postures and cadences to better suit paddling 'in conditions', be they wind, current, or swell, or commonly a combo of all three.

I would agree with the notion that wind and hills have little in common unless we are talking head wind. A head wind is similar to riding up hill. direct linear pressure/ resistance on the paddler/peddler. But any obscure angle of wind and all bets are off. Then the challenge becomes more complex than just fighting resistance.

I very much like paddling in wind. mucho challenge and variable surface textures. from quartering to tailwind are my favorites (swell riding potential) and headwind my least. (uphill!)

Proper technique, tons of rotation, blade and shaft articulation and leverage are all aspects that can make wind paddlin' fun. oh...and conditioning. :-) oh...and a great boat...oh and a retractable skeg.....

remember it's all about getting to Point B. And B stands for BALANCE.



similar challenge,technique
How to get the most out of what you got and apply it effectively. Finding the zone.

With hill climbing you have to develop good technique because the hill won’t change slope according to your effort,with paddling the wind won’t change intensity just because you have to paddle harder so you paddle smarter.

When there’s less wind or on the flats you can cruise along at a higher speed and still work somewhat inefficiently and cover the distance. With a higher load/hill/wind working inefficiently takes you closer to anaerobic thresholds or at the very least wear out the motor and empty the gas tank sooner.

I used to be pretty good hill climber by disposition because I like the zone and the pain was negotiable for my threshold.

my basic plan for dealing with a
strong headwind is to turn around and paddle the other way (maybe with a slight quarter) or stop and set up camp or at least take a rest and read a book.

the only thing that I can think of that would help in a wind situation (and it would apply to any wind direction) is to not strap *%@# all over your boat so you do not increase the height above the waterline.

Current, not wind
I think what you are saying is, that all other things being equal, a light cyclist will have an advantage climbing over a heavy cyclist. This is true, but only half the picture. The heavy cyclist gets the advantage back on the decent. (This is why soap-box racers cheat by adding weight to their cars).

The closest analogy to hills on a bike would be paddling up-current on a river. Whatever extra work you do going against the current you get back when you turn around an go with the current. This is not a perfect analogy to hills however, because extra weight is much less of a factor.

This could all be explained, but it requires physics.

any angle at all ‘off’ the head-on course produces a much different effect in current.

and when you stop in current, you go backwards!



if you stop paddling in a current, you go backwards.

if you stop peddling on a hill, you go backwards (or fall down).

Anyway, like I said, a better analogy than wind, but not perfect.

And Current

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In the sounds of NC the tide can make it 'uphill' or 'downhill'.

I intentionally carry a spare paddle with less surface area than my regular paddle. This gives me an upwind paddle and a downwind paddle. Think gears on a bike.

You know how you mix it up on a bike? Scooting back on the saddle? Getting out of the saddle? Different hand placement? You can do similar stuff in the kayak. Lean forward a while with a high angle stroke. Lean back a while with a lower angle. It helps a lot, especially on long trips.

Come to think of it, you can simulate 'hills' or wind on a calm day with a paddle with a very large surface area. Mash that big gear.

Current v. Wind
I would argue that wind is the same to a paddler or a cyclist.

A hill is to Cyclist what current is to a paddler.

The current can either be “fer ya or agin ya” as can much as you can be on the uphill or downhill run of a slope.

Yes, wind is the same for bike or boat. It is more significant for bike, because bikes go faster and aerodynamic drag is proportioal to velocity squared.

Rear coaming height
I’ve never tried that. The Squall I used to have had too high a coaming to allow that. Same for my S&G.

The T165…hmmmm…the seat is placed a bit more forward than on other kayaks I’ve paddled, and the rear coaming edge is slanted. I already know I can lean back more than I have on other boats.

Gotta give it a try. Thanks for the idea.

Up, flat, down hills/current/wind
I was wondering when somebody would bring up current as more analogous to hills. Hills don’t change and current does, but aside from that the effect on pedaler/paddler is similar: more effort required than on the flats. (That’s uphill and upstream, to spell it out.)

So now I’m getting this weird picture of the Ideal Paddler Body for fighting (head)winds: very dense (lots of bone and muscle, little fat) but skinny and short, with long arms.

A chimpanzee!

Maybe that is the subject of another thread.