Can a graphite paddle be too light?

I was plenty happy with my mid-Swift paddle until I started trying other paddler’s all graphite paddles (Epic, private labels, etc.) Other than the obvious-issues with wind, is there any downside (perhaps wrist problems)to having a near weightless paddle? Just one issue I thought of these all black paddles certainly can’t be counted on to help with visibility on the water.

none that I can see
I use a Werner Camano grpahite paddle and I haven’t had any problem with it. I’ve never had to use the paddle as a warning or signal device so I can’t really speak as to it’s suitability for that role. But I think the lightweight helps. I certainly have not had any wrist problems and I’d iagine that the lighter the paddle the easier it is to twist it back and forth many times over the course of a paddle. One thing about Werner paddles is the nice blade shape that allows water to efficiently flow off the ends to reduce flutter, so that helps the wrist too. And they’re plenty strong enough. I dig mine into the ground to use as a brace every time I get in and out of the boat without worrying about it breaking (like I saw someone’s wood paddle do once).

only if lighter than air
I just moved from a Mid-Swift (c.30oz) to an Epic Full Carbon Active Tour (c.25oz) and I do feel the difference.

Being foam filled (like some Werners)the swing weight is amazing and the paddle is very boyant.

Though I must admit the 30oz Swift paddle was light enough that I didn’t mind the weight. My main reason for moving to the Swift was the balde shape (more power without more strain)and the shaft. Being I was going for Epic, I decided to go for the Full Carbon.

to light for surfing: possibly
too light not to carry a spare: yes if you want to live and you sea kayak, too light to last ten years: I’ll let you know in eight years, too light for someone with unrefined technique to do a paddle float rescue with one: absolutely! (ir you have a $400 paddle perhaps you should be able to reenter an roll at least with a float). Too light for me to use for every day sea kayaking use including some surfing when needed: no, not unless you go for something in the super super-ultra light range.

You’re right that black blades do not aid visibility. I wrapped marine reflective tape around the shaft between the ferruls and drip rings. I did this with my previous paddles and have been told (and seen in photos) that it is very visible.

It also helps distinquish my paddles among the increasing number of black blades.

A friend lost a black paddle at night and even with a full moon we wouldn’t have found it if it hadn’t been feathered…

Hey, that’s one for the next “feather vs nonfeathered” topic… GH

Light paddles are great.
If you want a light paddle get an Onno. Mine weights 19 oz’s with no flutter. Is strong enough for paddle float re-entry etc. Patrick will custom make one for you. Epic and werners weigh more and are twice the price. Mine cost $170. On a black paddle put reflective tape on back of blades.

yes it can be too light
There are a few people who develop arm problems with very light paddles. I am one of them. It has nothing to do with technique. The paddle companies know of the problem but don’t like to talk about it. As I said it is only a few people.

On totally theoretical grounds,
a paddle or boat could be too light, I think. Newton’s law has F=ma, so a=F/m. As m, the mass, goes to zero, the acceleration created by a given force becomes infinite. In other words, a weightless paddle or boat would experience larger accelerations from little perturbations like a current, a breeze while carrying the boat, or a moving wave. I’ve felt this, I think, when car-topping an ultralight racing boat compared with my old 60 pound Nigel Foster boat–a breath of air can unbalance the lighter boat. There’s less “swing,” or inertia to it as you carry the boat around. I feel it too when I compare a 4 pound wooden Greenland paddle to a 2 pound carbon one–the stroke requires more attention at times with the lighter blade, since it has less momentum as you move it through the water (p=mv, so if m is less, so is p, the momentum). That might explain Wood’s experience. It would be the same for a baseball player whose bat was weightless–it might be harder to aim well and hit the ball, and there would be no inertia to carry the bat through the ball.


My thoughts
The less weight the paddle is, the less energy you will expand, which converts to being less worn out at the end of a all day paddle.

As I converted from one paddle to another with each being lighter than the previous, this becake obvious to me.

In last years Bogey, (13 miler) I had my old Wearner, and before I was half way through the race, I was wearing down. the following day, I paddled with a much lighter Epic touring padle and when the race was over, I felt as fresh as when I started.

I do notice something that might relate to Sanjay’s post above. As I am starting to get up to speed, I get a flutter. Once I am at a cruising speed I don’t get it. that never happened with the heavier paddles.



Third (or fourth?)
I had a similar issue as Wood. My arms hurts with SOME carbon paddles.

Not all the carbon paddles, just one or two of the superlight ones. Lighter is still better, up to that vague point when the paddle feels “un-balanced” mid-swing.

Guess I don’t have to worry quite as much about the durability of the superlight carbon sticks. :o)

Too light?
Do you think it may have something to do with the extreme stiffness of the blade and shaft? I have friends with carbon greenland paddles that complain about sorness in joints because of the stiffness of the material. Seems wood and and fiberglass shafts have a bit more flex, therfore easier on the joints over time.


the expensive 4" square reflective tape is great. I was camping once,kayak and paddle were 200’ away,shined a weak LED light on it and it lit up.

near weightless??
it breaks if it’s too light,other than that if you need dead weight to control the blade there’s something amiss with your technique or the blade.

Flutter and rapid acceleration
Flutter in that example may have had more to do with dihedral or other blade design elements than it does weight.

Werner’s for an example have rather strong dihedral - considerably more than your Epic is I recall (owned a Werner - only test paddled EPICs).

When accelerating hard - as at a race start - the dihedral allows more even shedding which reduces flutter (without as much attention to technique). It is not faster, it just feels smoother if/when you over power the paddle. Dihedral make for easy comfortable strokes, but can hide the fact that you’re wasting energy by pouring on more power than the paddle can effectively convert to forward speed at that moment.

That flutter is giving you valuable about your power application. Very useful for racers - and it is probably no accident you feel it with an fine tool like an EPIC paddle!

An analogy of this flutter during acceleration is squealing tires when doing rapid acceleration in a car. The tires are overpowered and slipping - and costing you speed. Same with a fluttering paddle. Flutter = chirp/squeal = wasted energy.

If you experience flutter at race start or in hard sprints, try backing off a hair so you’re not just wasting that extra energy. Add power a little more gradually/smoothly as speed picks up over those first several strokes (staying just below the flutter threshold) and I bet your speed will actually increase sooner. The paddle can only efficiently transfer so much power. Using more power than the paddle can handle just churns up the water.

Use your GPS to verify where the actually sweet spot of your power band is (how many practice their fast starts to find this?) and I suspect you’ll find a little less power early on may actually give you a little more speed. Don’t look at it as going 100% from the start signal, but getting to top speed as efficiently as possible.

Find the optimum balance between hull drag and paddle drag over that zero to whatever speed range. Visualize increasing your power much the way the force increases with speed on the drag curves. Applying 6 kt power when the hull is only up to 3 kts is not efficient (as evidenced by the flutter). You do need to be ahead of the curve, but just barely, ramping it up a notch with each subsequent stroke.

This incremental power increase is something my GP made very clear (same for all paddles - but I think GP is a better teacher of smoothness and such than my Werner was). The GP accelerates very fast if you add the power on a curve - but somewhat poorly if you try to go all out from zero.

This curve or power band can be adjusted through power and cadence variation to match your personal power/style/paddle/hull. Each combo needing a slightly different mix for optimum take off.

This may already intuitively make sense (or even be really obvious), or may sound like complete BS - but again - GPS/Speedmate tests of your quick starts (and noticing paddle feedback) will show how much difference little tweaks can make. (check top speed at a marked short distance [x yards/meters] or a set time [x seconds]).

See what happens going all out vs. a more incremental approach to power, and beginning with quick strokes vs. a bit more gradual cadence increase, etc. Not to drag out the start at all - as all these variations take place during your strokes in maybe the first 10 seconds - after which you level out into a more consistent cruise (probably still faster than average for a while - then settling down for the long haul from there).

Many probably naturally feel this and do it already, but I tend to see a lot of churning water at starts (of races or mid paddle sprints) and most of it is not coming from the out front types.

I’ve heard that too…
…about the stiffness of the carbon GP, but I look at it differently: I flex - so the paddle doesn’t need to. If we both flex, energy is being wasted bending the paddle.

You’re talking a REALLY minor difference in something that’s already as smooth as a GP! I do understand the feel difference between carbon vs. wood GPs, but if you need your paddle to absorb shock (in water!) you may be jerking/slamming things a bit. The carbon is just better at pointing it out.

Others may see that as a flaw - but I think that’s useful feedback! If the carbon GP bothers them - maybe they just need to loosen up a tiny bit?

Preferences are preferences, so go with your own (but do think about what something different may be telling you before dismissing it as unsuitable). It’s much the same with opinions about shaft’s on Euro’s & Wings too (but racers seem to prefer stiff - and I doubt that’s because they want to tear themselves up more with them).

I for one would love to call you at any

– Last Updated: Sep-22-04 3:43 AM EST –

time of your choosing and discuss at length any and all details concerning this. I want to to know everything ..... if you get a chance and are interested enough to chat about things please email me and I will ring you up on the exact minute you specify. Day or night. Very interested in this subject.

Woops......this was sp'osed to be in reply to wood.

As Greyhawk explained
I’ve both a Swift Mid-Tour and an Epic Full Carbon Active Tour.

The Swift is more forgiving of sloppy technique. The Epic is lighter and moves more water, but insists on good technique.

If my Epic flutters I know I need to be more alert to my stroke. It helps me be a better paddler.