Bad shoulders and buying kayak

My tax refund is coming! Now is the time to buy a 2nd kayak for husband but he has had surgery on one shoulder and the other one is also weak from old injury and some arthritis. My OK Prowler works for him (I used to have an Emotion Charger) so we would be out for 1/2 days along mangroves or up small rivers in Florida. I ended up tossing a rope out and pulling him about 1/2 the time so he could rest. I decided to get a second Prowler or something similar so we looked a bit more evenly matched (9’ boat pulling a 15’ is an odd site). Now I’m thinking perhaps the Eddyline Sandpiper might be easier for him? He is also about 5’ 7" and 230lb and with weak arms he CAN get back in the Prowler, but with dificulty. Any suggestions? He really is tired of staying home alone and need to get him out with me. (Thanks for the earlier advise, I’m getting the Yakima racks this weekend in anticipation of tossing a second yak on top). PS no way am I going tandem with this guy–one of us needs to stay dry.

why not consider
getting your husband to join a gym. A regimen of exercises designed to strengthen the shoulders and body tone should mitigate against further injury and improve his overall conditioning, including his paddling.

Of course, since he has had surgery, it would be best to approach this through a physical therapist who could design specific exercises and/or work with your husband.

Good luck.


Just a thought
I know you are asking about kayaks, but I’ve had some rotator cuff problems and have found that canoeing is easier on my shoulders.

I would second the idea of getting him on a shoulder strengthening regimen. There is information on line, or, as was mentioned, a decent gym would be able to help him out.

c2g beat me to it. It is true that a
light single blade paddle is much easier on the shoulder and other joints than a double blade. This is both because of the different weights and the difference in position and motion of the arms. On a normal paddling day at cruising speed each ounce of extra weight equals ONE TON by the end of the day. The lower angles of the arms when single blading are much less destructive. I know that you are not paddling the whole day and maybe not as hard, but the same principles are in play.

I would suggest a decked canoe for your area and paddling along with kayaks, something like the Bell Rob Roy, If you are doing longer trips and faster paddling look at the Sea Wind, , or other larger decked canoes. If you all are handy and would like to build something look at the Zephyrus on There are others as well: Sea-1, Loon, and others that may work.

Happy Paddl’n!



A great exercise for the shoulders

– Last Updated: Feb-06-05 3:57 PM EST –

would be a (one arm) side press. It's very good for the rotator cuff muscles & for overall shoulder strength. He could start with a light naked barbell or dumbell, then a long SLOW workup to a 35 or 45 lb empty bar, with one arm. The lat muscles help to stabilize the shoulder & make it far safer, much easier to learn than a two arm press overhead or bench press. Because your lifting a long bar with only one arm, it builds real world stabilizer & core strength. There is far less chance of injury than with machines which can, in time, result in micro trauma. It would be best to limit reps to only 5 & sets to only 2.

I have used the side press for several years for general shoulder strength & have found it a perfect fit for kayaking. I paddle lots of racing/training miles (will soon be 55) & have strong/painfree shoulders. It might not get him on "Worlds Strongest Man", but I have seen this exercise work miracles, in only a short time. Be sure & have him cleared with a pro first & good luck to both of you on the water.


Just as important
a consideration should be a light paddle. I’ve had rotator cuff problems, too. After I sprang for a light paddle (Werner Camano) my shoulders were MUCH less tired after a long day. And I discovered that paddling itself, if done with an eye towards good technique, is a great exercise for strengthening shoulders.

I liked that photo of the decked canoe (Rob Roy). It looked remarkably like a Pungo 140 - very similar dimensions. The Pungo is a great rec boat - fairly fast and very stable, and much cheaper than a composite boat.

go hiking
Hiking to the top of a big hill or small mt is great fun. I prefer a hiking stick so can go down a steep area without going too fast and hitting a tree. He is your husband and love is great protein to build him up and what goes around comes around. My wife is chubby and loves cheese and chocolate so I buy her cheese and chocolate. She is so good hearted and God looks mainly at our heart. Are we a nice person? Do we love people? Sad to see people spend megabucks on overpriced makeup and clothes and jewelery and an overpriced vehicle such as a hemi. “Let love be your guide, you are on the same side, you love one another. Where you meet is not the thing as long as you have each other. If you live the joy that could be, then it never will be. Enjoy the joy that is, have fond memories of that which was.”

Light Paddle
I have a bad shoulder. A Wind Swift paddle helps a lot. Not just light, but also thin.

Heres a few options that might help him and you.

Do this simple experiment first:

Grab 2- 1 0r two pound books off the book self.

In one hand hold one book with you hand about shoulder or chest high with the elbow bent so the book is above the elbow which is near your belly or waist area. (This book will represent the weight and position of a canoe paddle)

Now with the other hand and book, this time hold it above your head anywhere from you nose to a foot over your head with you arm extended as if you are waving “goodbye” etc. This will represent the position and weight of a forward stroke and/or brace with a kayak paddle.

NOW HOLD THESE BOOKS IN there positions as long as you can…Observations…My guess is that the one representing the kayak paddle (over your head postiion) you maybe will last 5 minutes…20 minutes at most. BUT YOU will begin imeadiatly to notice within seconds the tension. The book representing the canoe paddle…well my guess is you could hold it at most 4 hours mainly because you will become bored NOT necessarily tired etc.

Results of Test: The forward motion of the shoulder whatever you are doing…from holding a kayak paddle, throwing a baseball, washing windows or reaching for something on a shelf…this motion doest not match the mechanics of the shoulder joint or muscles. Thus you see people with injurys due to this motion. Its bad on the shoulder for the most part( this doest mean you cant still do this, its that is will wear out quicker due to stress etc.)

Solutions to problem. I personally swithced years ago from a double bladed paddle to a single blade 7 oz bent shaft paddle. Results? Many! No more tired shoulders, no more being exhausted after a 10 hour paddle day, not tired or achey in the morning, NO MORE BACK, HIP or KNEE pain due to joint and muscles COMPENSATING for the injuryed and or stressed shoulder!(The shoulder bones connected to back bone, the back bones connected to the thigh bone…la la la just like the ole song).

I now only paddle a 7 oz paddle compared to a double bladed paddle which weighed 23 oz or 2 pounds more than my single blade.

Hmmmm…two pounds? Now imagine a 50 stroke rate a minute with both paddles…results being that you will lift 350 0z a minute with the canoe paddle and 1150 oz with the double bladed paddle. NOW ASSUME you paddle a 10 hour day… At that rate the double bladed paddler will lift a TOTAL OF 30,000 pounds MORE than the single blade (thats 15 tons!) Now whos going to be more tired, more stressed joints & muscles? Probably the guy who lifted the 30,000 lbs more weight. It would be like me (who now uses a single blade) going out and shouveling 15 tons of dirt before every 10 hour paddle day to feel like i use to when i paddled a double bladed paddle.

have you hubby purchase a ZRE 7 oz paddle at you can get “seconds” for about 30% cheaper to help with cost etc. If he doest like it then he can at least use it as a spare paddle and get rid of his double bladed spare…

Good luck


I can’t speak with any authority about what might be good for your husband’s shoulder. However, the Sandpiper should be very easy to get in and to exit. I found it very stable on flatwater. I’ve paddled with others who had the Sandpiper in light chop with no problems. It wasa nice and light also.

If memory serves, I don’t think it has any floatation in the front.


Paddle from hips, not shoulders

– Last Updated: Feb-07-05 1:35 PM EST –

This would be a good time to review forward stroke technique carefully so your husband can learn to paddle from the hips, thus significantly reducing strain on the shoulders. The basics are...

* wind up for a stroke by twisting the torso and hips strongly in one direction until the shoulders are as parallel with the boat as you can make them, or even beyond parallel.

* generate forward power by unwinding at the hips to drive the paddle through the water, without significant shoulder flex, except up/down as necessary to dip and exit the blade.

* exit the blade from the water and keep twisting the hips into a windup on the other side.

* etc.

This is generally good forward paddling technique even if you have no injuries. There are numerous videos that demonstrate this basic technique (along with other essential points). The videos, however, don't always isolate and identify the components exactly this way.

Forward paddling this way will significantly reduce stress on your husband's shoulders since they will not flex very much, if any. There will still be some pressure as the rigid shoulder joint helps transmit the power from the hips to the blade/water, but a whole lot less stress than if the power actually came from flexing the shoulder.

With this technique I've been able to paddle well for decent distances (20+ miles) despite a signficant case of osteoarthritis in my right shoulder. Before I paddled this way, a 20-miler would make my shoulder sore for days or weeks.

Of course, maybe your husband already paddles this way, but I doubt it. ;-))

Why not consult with the surgen and find
out from him what can be done. If you just go to a gym and start lifting or what ever you might just be missing what needs to be done, or worse.

shoulder issues
djlewis has very good points about technique. A lot of paddlers are tearing their elbows and shoulders apart with bad technique…I oughta know since I was one of them! PLEASE get him out for a lesson with a good instructor. Also, when I had real shoulder issues it hurt to lift anything to chin level so I paddled a sit on top so I could keep a real low angle stroke and it really helped and kept me paddling. But SOT’s are so heavy I got rid of mine as soon as I rehabbed. But now I see Hurricane has two VERY LIGHT sit ons called the Phoenix and the price is affordable. I foresee the 14 footer in my future for fishing. Under 40 lbs!!

bad shoulder
I paddle both seakayaks and canoes. I find that good technique helps, however the solo canoe is becoming less stressfull on my shoulders, joints and back. Lightweight of the boat does help in terms of on and off the car. I recently had a kidney removed so the solo canoe is the boat of choice resulting in less pain. Also slows me down which is a good thing.

Thanks for the ideas
Bob has already had some surgery and rehab and was put out on permanent disability. I found a web site addressing people kayaking with much more severe problems so we are going to go ahead with a second boat. His surgeon and therapist advised "do what you can but don’t work “for the burn” or over stress the joints/ligaments. Part of the bone was carved out to release a nerve so I get to do all the lifting. He just plops down in the boat and does what he can. I tried several sinks Sat and really liked the Nigel Dennis Explorer, but butt too big to get out, finally had to deliberately dump out. The Impex Assetg… was a great ride, not as swift or nimble as the Explorer, but I got in and out a little more lady like. I plan to try the Eddyline Merlin XT next and unless I fall madly in love will probably get another Prowler and a good tow line for Bob. We would look a little more “matched” that way. I’ll dream another year (for next tax return) any maybe then get the sink of my dreams. Thanks for all the input, and I’ve printed your replies–may end up with a canoe too. A great group, keep on 'yakin.

shoulder issues when paddling

Every shoulder problem and how it reacts to paddling is different. Mine was becoming worse for years and finally I had to give up canoeing with a single blade. The shoulder started aching when the hand of the bad shoulder was on the top of the paddle. When paddling on other side I was fine. For me double blade paddles were the solution. Last March I fell on ice and did considerable damage to same shoulder. Tried to work it through all summer and fall, finally gave in to surgery in Oct and the jury is still out as to digree of improvement.

Lessons I learned for paddling with bad shoulders counters much taught by healthy instructors with good shoulders. They are mostly correct for healthy paddlers, just not for those with bad shoulders.

Lessons I learned at the school of aching shoulders — use a light weight efficient craft (a Black Gold Rob Roy is one of my fleet) and stay well below hull speed- learn to use a low stroke, keeping arms very low throughout stroke- with low stroke you will need a slightly longer paddle)- get most of the power through trunk rotation, not arm push and pull- paddle should be light weight with small blades- slightly flexable shafts are helpful in reducing stress on joints- I like the small narrow blade swift and werner paddles except for their stiff shafts- went to wood shaft paddles- have used wood Aleutian paddle I made at the Skin Boat School for the last two years- am trying a Greenland paddle I made last fall as many kayakers with shoulder issues find them easiest on shoulders- its easiest to learn rolling with although that’s not on your plate at this time.

Filter my advice through the first statement I made: shoulder issues react differently for different people as the nature of injury and severity of injury is never the same.

Advice as to improving strength/fitness in posts is necessary, just go slow as muscles in shoulder are small. Might I add, since I’m working on doing it myself, loosing weight. The less you weigh the easier it is to get in and out of craft and the less stressful on shoulders.


Well I am a bad shoulder person…
I consider myself lucky! I am still lifting weights, and just started using my Bowflex machine to strengthen my shoulders even more! I firmly believe in keeping it going to continue paddling. I shocked myself by paddling further than normal against the current the other day and I have a feeling it has been because I am working my muscles with my Bowflex- don’t overdo it though-don’t work out on it every day. Stretching is sooo important! I do make sure that someone else helps me lift my kayak off/on my car at all times to prevent further damage. My sports doc told me NOT to stop working out or my shoulder would freeze up and so far it has not done that-he even had me work out with simple movements while my collarbone was broken-seems crazy but I am still paddling.I have almost 100% range of motion in that shoulder-I also drive city buses for a living now and the passive exercises that I get from the job are a great bonus! I hope he keeps moving to keep his shoulder up-good luck!

Space mountain

– Last Updated: Feb-08-05 7:02 AM EST –

I don't think they'll let you hike to the top of space mountain, the highest peak (though manmade) in Florida. Its a mousey thing.


Egads... I had dental surgery yesterday. Those drugs must have affected my brain (or lack thereof) to respond like this....oh well.

5’7" & 230lbs. w/weak arms
I suspect weak arms aren’t the only thing that he suffers from. In a kind & loving way, tell the fat ba$tard to give up the Twinkies & lose about 60-70 lbs. Or be tough if you have to. That would be a good start.

shorter single blade
you have had a wealth of info already posted and looks like you are headed for a kayak. That having been said, one additional thing to help shoulders is to go to a shorter single blade paddle. I approach this both from having an M.D. behind my name and previous shoulder surgery. A lot of shoulder problems come when the arm is raised and the tendons, bursas, and ligaments of the shoulder gets pinched between part of the shoulder socket and the upper arm bone- called impingement. A frequent operation is to scope the shoulder and shave a little of the bone off the underside of the part of the shoulder socket that kind of hangs over the joint so there is more room. If you don’t raise your arm as high, you don’t pinch things. A shorter paddle reduces how high your arm goes- simple. I down sized 2" and found it helped, and could not tell a difference in my paddling. Because bent shaft paddles tend to be sized 4" shorter for a given paddler, they might be even better, when flat water paddling. Closing you hands up a little on a double bladed paddle will reduce how high your arms go but will reduce power some- a trade off. A narrower paddle will reduce some strain also, but not the impingement. It was a little over a year after my shoulder operation I took my first boundary water trip and found afterwards that I could move my shoulder through a greater range of motion. It was a relaxed trip, we were with young boy scouts, so not pushing it- the best thing I could have done for my shoulder that stage of recovery. Major joint operations that involve an open procedure (meaning a big scar, not just a scope) can take well over a year to get totally back- look at football players who have to work hard to come back the next season. I know your husband was declared disabled, but IF the operation was not over a year ago, there may yet be some significant improvement. Keep paddling!