efficiency though experiments

Case 1: Paddle a particular boat at a particular speed over a fixed distance. Repeat with a different paddle. The paddle that leaves you less tired is the most efficient.

Case 2: Paddle a particular boat at a particular speed over a fixed distance. Repeat with the same paddle, but modify the stroke technique. The technique that leaves you less tired is the most efficient.

Comment : In these tests, technique will be more important than the paddle (based on my GPS experiments).

Case 3: Paddle a slow boat, with rudder, at 3.5 kts over 4 nm with a wing, used correctly. Repeat with a wing used incorrectly. Repeat with a conventional Euro, used correctly.

Comment: You will be least tired with the wing used correctly. Next least tired with a conventional Euro, most tired with a wing used incorrectly.

Case 4: Paddle a fast boat, with rudder, at 4.5 kts over 4 nm with a wing, used correctly. Repeat with a wing used incorrectly. Repeat with a conventional Euro, used correctly.

Comment: Same result as previous comment. In other words, a wing is more efficient in a slow boat as well as in a fast boat.

Question: Is a fast boat more efficient than a slow boat? Ans: Depends on the speed. If you paddle both at 3.0 kts, the slow boat will be slightly more efficient (lower drag). If you paddle both at 5.0 kts, the fast boat will be MUCH more efficient (lower drag).

Further comment: A fast boat might be slower than a slow boat in rough or windy conditions if it is not designed for those conditions. Or it might not.

Interesting ideas. To do experiments
right, sometimes it takes more than two trials, and sometimes it’s best that the paddler have no preconceptions whatsoever about the outcome.

But I think you’re right about the outcomes.

On wing paddles, though, would one want a wing if playing Tsunami Ranger?

How many data sets were collected
One person, one set of experiments ?

Can they be duplicated, triplicated, repeatedly

and predictably locking down all other factors ?

Each person will have to do their own experiments

and find out what they like or don’t like to use.

Paddlesports are highly user-centric and peculiar.

You need a robot.
Today I was really tired from a walk I have often taken in the same clothes and the same shoes. So I thin k to notice a difference I’d have to compare results over time from 10 different walks.

I really think you need a robot or a machine to compare efficiency and show a real advantage to one method or piece of equipment.

In the case of the slow boat being more efficient than a fast boat that depends entirely on the speed for which each boat was designed. A slow wave ski will almost never be more efficient than a longer boat not designed so the that stern drags when it is off plane. However, a 14 foot touring kayak might be more efficient than a 21 foot racing kayak at some speed around 3 mph.

I meant to write “thought experiments” not “though experiments”.

Agree and disagree…
Conditions, conditions, conditions and practice, practice, practice.

Every piece of gear, including a boat, is designed with particular conditions in mind. One can say that in calm conditions at 3.5 knots over 4 nautical mile course the wing will be more efficient than Euro with both used correctly. However, on the same course (say open crossing) in high winds and strong waves wing will become less efficient if you include need for occasional roll. And if you make the course 8 miles in the same conditions, the GP might even beat both - not because it is a more efficient paddle overall, but because of the conditions. Same with the boats - a racing kayak is useless in high seas, just as surely as the fact that you can not race in Cetus against K1.

“in high winds and strong waves wing will become less efficient if you include need for occasional roll.”

Curious if this is just your opinion or if you have tried and found a wing less efficient for rolling?

My experience is just the opposite. A wing is one of the best paddles to use for rolling. The scoop/spoon provides much more support than a traditional euro blade and will actually assist those with a weak roll. So, for a quick, compact roll I would choose a wing and for overall ease (and a slower roll) I would choose a GP.

Efficient vs. Effective
I want to start by pointing out that I agree with most of the conclusions reached in the OP. I just want to put in a comment about terminology.

When using the term efficiency in a technical context, there is no established standard for what it means. In every case, efficiency as a measurable quantity needs to be defined ahead of time. There are all sorts of efficiency metrics that can be measured, or you can define a new one, depending on what you want to investigate.

Traditionally, the definition of efficiency is in the the form “efficiency = useful quantity output / required quantity input”. The range of efficiency will then lie in the range 0-1 (0 to 100%). To be properly non-dimensional, both input and output quantities must have the same units, e.g. energy (calorie, ft-lbf, joule), power (hp or W), etc. In mechanics, it is usually energy.

In terms of the experiments being described, one should really talk about ‘effective’, rather than ‘efficient’ methods. I say that, as the main result being compared at the end of the trials is the fatigue level of the paddler, which is a subjective measure (what’s the proper unit for fatigue?).

As I said, I generally agree with gjf12’s conclusions, and it is definitely a valid exercise to compare the effectiveness of various equipment and techniques. I just want to make a case for accurate technical language.

Would not…

– Last Updated: Apr-07-12 12:10 PM EST –

...say it has been "tried and tested 100%" as I'm not a very good roller, but three observations on the subject:

a) while I can roll with Euro or stick - not bomb-proof though, I find it nay impossible to roll with a wing.
b) same conclusion seems to have been reached by about 8 out of 10 of paddlers I've been around of - but my sample is quite small.
c) wing is a very popular paddle around here among sea kayak folk, but very few people who like to play and roll use it.

Again might be a sample size issue. Or related to boat design, since a number of people here use peculiar Swedish design of touring boat that is quite unrollable - a combo consisting of a wide sea kayak hull, K1 cockpit/seating position with little in a way of thigh grips or cockpit contact and a rudder. They are fast and very sea-worthy, but designed for re-rentry and pontoons rather than roll.

So my distrust to wing paddles might be due to a combination of reasons and insufficient practice with them... but I'll stick to my guns and say that in a difficult sea "long and narrow" - that is Greenland or Aleut would be my choice.

As to wind and windage, I prefer as narrow a blade as possible when paddling in strong wind. I don't paddle in strong currents though, so my opinion of wider blades is biased (since I think they are much more efficient at control in a current?)

I do love the wing in narrow boat
The bad news is I am the only guy in town who cruises at 6mph or 7mph. My mohican ski has waterline width of about 16 in. It is like a bike that needs to move to be stable.I have tipped while trying to sit and talk. A moderate speed boat can be more social. To really learn the wing I spend time in olympic icf club. It is good to be a kid who has fun. Almost like trying to win at golf or racing might be less fun than being solid in wide boat.

efficiency vs effectivity
I take your point about the difference between these terms. If the distance and speed and boat are held constant, then the output work is also constant. If, then, the input work is less for a different paddle or stroke technique, the efficiency is greater. Even though I have no actual measure of the ratio, only the feeling of less fatigue. I tried to set up the cases such that efficiency could be determined, qualitatively/subjectively. But I think that efficiency in the technical sense you mentioned is still the correct term.

I thought about a HR monitor but do not think it is useful as a measure of effort over a roughly one hour paddle.

I was gratified to find out that an nm
was not a nanometer.

Power Meters

– Last Updated: Apr-08-12 10:30 AM EST –

In the bike world folks who are serious about competing and have the cash install a power meter:


I swear I saw a paddle advertised once that measured power / watts but it's not coming up when I search.

No matter how hard I try to wrap my brain around this one I can’t see a paddle measuring applied power…

Me Neither

– Last Updated: Apr-08-12 10:41 AM EST –

Seems to me you would have to affix load cells in a pair of gloves, including the fingers, to measure the push/pull of a paddle stroke. That way you could swap paddles around.

Maybe with a euro there could be a hinge/load cell where the blade meets the shaft and you could measure there.

Even so…
Paddler-to-paddle and paddle-to-water, are they the same or different? I’ve seen my friends work the paddle like a windmill and get dead tired to the point of towing, but never really getting any speed out of that whirling - so I figure it’s not the same. Granted, they never listen on “how” the first time they get into a kayak - only after they cramp up and get towed they start listening!

Let’s say I invented some load cell gloves that accurately measured paddler to paddle work done. Then regardless of whether your friend had skills or not you could measure the work done. Much better than him saying “I feel X amount of tiredness”.

first eliminate the boat
using the load cell gloves, at the edge of a pool apply the same amount of force to two different paddles. Whichever paddle offers the most resistance is going to be the most efficient at transferring energy into the water. Pretty sure the wing would win that one hands down. Next the boats. By using the waterline speed, and displacement of the boat, along with the paddle data, one should be able to calculate how much energy would be required to pump the displaced amount of water at a specific speed. From this, you should be able to calculate the efficiency of a given hull design with a given paddle in a pool.

Once you throw in wind and waves and fatigue and human error and what you had for breakfast, the results would be pretty meaningless. I just go with what I like.

Different Strokes
Some folks; racers mostly, go to great lengths to get the slightest edge on the competition. In the bike world it’s shaved legs, aero helmets, aero bars, skin suits. The list goes on. Apparently some folks in the kayak community are of a similar mindset.

rolling with a wing

a) while I can roll with Euro or stick - not bomb-proof though, I find it nay impossible to roll with a wing.

b) same conclusion seems to have been reached by about 8 out of 10 of paddlers I’ve been around of - but my sample is quite small.


I’m surprised at your pool of samples! I know quite a few people who roll with a wing paddle. And when I tried (not my own paddle so don’t know the brand/model), I found it quite easy to adapt to. The wing I tried stay high on the water better than normal euro paddle, making a roll easy.

Could it be the type of rolls your group favors? I’m mostly a WW paddler so I use C2C or blend with sweep.