Control hand?

-- Last Updated: May-09-13 1:10 PM EST --

Is there a consensus about which hand is the "control" hand during what phases of the stroke? Not left vs. right, of course, but pulling vs. pushing?

I've seen both cases but I can think of a few reasons why I would want to control (i.e., hold tighter) the shaft with one hand vs. the other:
- during the catch stroke phase, the pulling hand takes control (meaning, it holds the shaft firmly and determines how the paddle is oriented in the water), keeps control through the power phase and the release and preparation phases, then the other hand becomes the control hand during the catch phase of the next stroke...

An alternative is to have the pull hand be just a hook and holds the shaft without clutching it, while the top/pushing hand holds the shaft tight to determine the paddle angle. The problem I see with this is that both hands effectively exert power all the time (where in the approach above, the pushing hand can be completely relaxed during the power and release and part of the preparation phases, thus getting a significant break from having to clutch the fingers).

Edit: I suppose I should mention I'm thinking with a 0 offset paddle and no dominant hands and *not* the asymetrical case of dominant right or left control hand (for those with offset and one-sided control hand, what I see is that that hand seldom releases while the other is often half-opened and relaxed).

Considerations for WW vs. flat water?

hand closer to water
Seems to me to be the hand closer to the water. For example, when doing sculls, the hand closer to the water is controlling the scull. And in the forward stroke, it is sometimes taught to open the upper hand (hand away from water) and just push with that hand so as to get people to learn to relax a tiring death grip.

I’m right handed but my control hand is my left. This means I hold my beer with my left hand, and use my left pinky and my right hand for paddling.

Over thinking things
Try paddling with only one hand. Not very effective is it?

Therefore both hands are required to “control” the paddle.

Personally, my top hand grip is very loose. In fact I’ll frequently wiggle my fingers in the air.


– Last Updated: May-11-13 10:30 AM EST –

...when dealing with unfeathered paddles.

Outside of this discussion, I've really have only seen/heard it discussed when paddling in terms of which blade is offset and at what angle, and which hand loosens and which hand turns the feather to the catch...

And I can't really ever recall anything akin to a 'control hand'-at least to me -mattering when with an UNfeathered paddle I


-Frank in Miami

Definitely involves a push
I wouldn’t be too concerned with pulling since

that kills the torso rotation mechanism.

I liked the beach ball analogy in this video

to break the bad habit of pulling the paddle.

This article made me a better paddler

Pushing across the center line of the boat

with your top hand is key to transferring

your rotational power to the blade.

"Pushing across the center line of the boat

with your top hand is key to transferring

your rotational power to the blade."

This is what worked for me, which is essentially the beach-ball thingy. I like wiggling the upper fingers once in a while, as mentioned above, as I have a predilection for death-gripping…

I have never heard of a “control hand” with a paddling stroke. Maybe for canoeists? In kayaking it usually refers to the sculling motion since the hand closest to the water is controlling the paddle movement and the other hand is used as a guide.

stable blade
For a normal forward stroke, very little control input is needed. The blade should track through the water with very little need for correction. I try to have both hands relaxed so that both wrists are straight.

Folks who don’t keep their top-hand elbow up tend to drop their wrist, which can lead to real problems.

that guy is good
Check out his “stupid paddling tricks” in his youtube collection.

Brent Reitz explains it very well

– Last Updated: May-09-13 6:02 PM EST –

Check out his forward stroke video. It is great. In summary, just as you insert the blade the top hand does any correction necessary and then the botom hand becomes control and the top hand relaxes. You can even open the top hand and still push across the deck with lit (with torso rotation of course). edit: no difference between WW and flatwater

pulling and rotation
If you define pulling as involving bending the arm much then I agree it kills rotation. But you can still very correctly call it pulling even with a fairly stiff arm because of torso rotation. With a fairly stiff arm and good rotation the hand near the water still moves toward the stern and that hand still needs to be tight enough to manage that energy transfer. The upper hand pushing certainly adds to the overall paddle movement but isn’t the sole cause of it.

Thanks, that’s what my thinking is too…
And yes, the paddle will orient itself so no need to “control” it too much, except when there is a need for a bracing or drawing/sculling component in the stroke (and then it is the hand closer to the water that does it).

No control hand with unfeathered paddles

– Last Updated: May-10-13 6:58 AM EST –

You DO NOT want a control hand if you're using an unfeathered paddle. Not only is it unnecessary, it's counterproductive. For normal paddle strokes, all you need to do is hook the shaft with your pulling hand and push it with a loose upper hand. The blade will find it's own path through the water. It's only necessary to grip the paddle firmly when using specialty bracing/sculling/steering strokes that require precise blade angle control.

No control hand with feathered paddles
You DO NOT want a control hand if you’re using a feathered paddle. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s counterproductive. For normal paddle strokes, all you need to do is hook the shaft with your pulling hand and push it with a loose upper hand. The blade will find it’s own path through the water. It’s only necessary to grip the paddle firmly when using specialty bracing/sculling/steering strokes that require precise blade angle control.

I was recently on vacation, and spent one day paddling with an unfeathered paddle, and the next with a feathered. For some reason I thought a bit about the whole control hand thing when I started using the feathered the next day, or really more about paying attention to my own mechanics. What I noticed was that the shaft was twisting in my left hand noticeably more than my right. (My hand or wrist wasn’t twisting - the shaft was twisting within my hand.) I was doing as noted above with both hands - control hand didn’t mean grip. When I analyzed why, I realized my stroke was not balanced. I was raising my right arm and elbow more, and leaving my left elbow in closer. No good reason other than poor habit. Sometimes a little self-analysis pays dividends.

The way the forward stroke is taught
to beginners, the right hand is the “control hand”. The right hand stays fixed on the shaft, with the knuckles aligned with the top edge of the right blade. The shaft swivels through the left hand, with the feather angle adjusted so that the left blade will be perpendicular to the side of the boat as that blade is planted. For an unfeathered paddle, such as GP, the control hand switches with each paddle stroke.

Yes, but that’s not the topic discussion
At least not my original question…

pulling hand all the way to the plant
I would say in my case the hand with the blade in the water is always the control hand. It’s the hand that slips the stroke into a needed brace, that feels and controls the blade angle in maneuvering strokes, skulling, that controls how far off to the side the blade slips while pulling the kayak past the paddle blade, etc. Of course the other hand has to cooperate - much like you often find the cause of a failed roll the result of the off-side hand. But overall, I would say from the moment the blade is planted, that pulling hand is the control hand until it is finished lifting its blade and planting the opposite blade. So from initial pull until planting the opposite blade.

That is traditional
but is now out of date. With an offset paddle “control” shifts back and forth. I had a discussion with people at the ACA about this and they were surprised that anyone was still teaching single hand control.

On the other hand, looking at …
Looking at sprint races in slow motion on YouTube, pretty much all of them seem to use a single control hand that does not let go off the shaft, while the shaft rotates somewhat freely in the other hand…