Feather Paddle - how much?

When I first started paddling, the blades were fixed in a feather position. Now paddles can be feathered or not. How do you decide how much to feather a paddle or not? Have seen paddles not feathered and some 90 degrees. I have mine at 45 degrees and trying to decide if I want to change. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated. Thanks.

Focus on a good forward stroke
And set the feather to whatever angle seems to most easily get you there. Really not much in the way of hard and fast rules at this point, just a lot of strongly held opinions. All of the opinions work well for the holder of said opinion.

with Celia. I originally feathered at 60 because that’s what my paddle at that time did. I’ve since dropped to 45 and happy there.

Get Yourself a Greenland Paddle
and you won’t have to think about feathers.

Words of wisdom. Really.

Also agree
I also agree with what Celia said. Only thing to add would be to watch wrist cocking and whether that causes you any pain or issues. Some angles make you twist wrists more than others, which could become an issue.

Historically, people said feathered paddles are better as there is less drag in the out of the water blade against a head wind. Most agree that this really is bunk.

In white water and surf kayaking you see more fathered to prevent facial damage. For example, if one was punching through a wave (so a wall of water is about to come over deck) and one blade is making the last push, a feathered out of water (until that wall of water hits it) blade will be less likely to catch the wall of water (and be smashed back into your face).

This all said, I paddle (and I do kayak surf) unfeathered. It is what I have found works for me.

Depends on what you want
I use an unfeathered paddle because of the symmetry of strokes on each side. I don’t have to learn to roll in one way on the right and another on the left. It is also easy to switch between greenland paddle and conventional paddle. Most of the arguments for having a paddle feathered for ordinary paddling have been discredited. None-the-less you can have a good stroke with either without strain. And if you really prefer a feathered paddle, go for it. Do note though that switching from one to the other takes time. What feels right is going to be what you are familiar with and what does not feel right is what you have not yet familiar with.

It is nice to have it completely…

I have an adjustable one and keep it at 60 degrees.

What ever is comfortable is where you want to keep it, and I can only assume for different people it is at different degrees.

Many years ago, I started with a straight shaft, and now every time I pick up a straight one, it is not comfortable.

jack L


– Last Updated: Oct-16-13 7:58 PM EST –

For recreational paddling I would stick with unfeathered because of the simple symmetry and no need to have a dominant hand. Also, some rolls work better with unfeathered paddles (such as back deck rodeo rolls)

There is a noticeable difference (less effort) to paddle a highly feathered paddle against strong wind - I would say 60 degree feather at least. So, if you see yourself doing that often, you might want to get used to a feathered paddle.

I'm not sure that 45 is a good angle though - I feel it is just enough to start causing trouble in diving blades due to strong wind (60 and more dive/lift less in head winds, 0 of course is not diving/lifting), without providing the full benefit of more feather in upwind conditions.

Feather 30 and less - what's the point? (other than to ease a transition from high feather to lower feather or to more easily find a cheap used non-adjustable paddle for less money as most ww paddles are 30 degree these days)

There are also some other more specialized situations (slalom and going through surf on a regular basis) where feather is beneficial, but they don't apply to paddlers who don't do competitive slalom or go through really tough surf or big white water more than just occasionally.

I started with about 60, then, once I discovered Greenland paddles (that are 0 feather) I switched to 0. Took me a while to adjust. Now I can switch between 0 and 60 or so with a wing paddle, and do it occasionally in strong headwinds where I'm not in too much hurry but want to paddle efficiently at less than full power (switching the feather on the fly tends to mess with my technique and I don't like it). The wing paddle and other paddles that tend to self-orient in the water well tend to make it easier to adjust my stroke with feather change, and it takes me only a few minutes to adjust. But I'm pretty sure my roll will not be automatic as I would need to think where my blade is. And, it takes me a few minutes to adjust back to 0 from 60...

Some instruction might help
I recommend Scott at Sea Kayak Carolina near you. He gives a very good talk on this.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown uses a crank shaft feathered paddle. It took him three years to learn to roll. I learned in 20 minutes with a Greenland paddle (no feather, symmetrical). What do you think?

If you don’t know who Gordan Brown is, he is reputed to be one of the best sea kayak coaches in Great Britan.

I use a 30 degree
It’s not to minimize wind resistance though, it’s so I can keep my wrists from moving. It has done wonders for my endurance.

there is no one answer
Personal preference.

Some people suggest feathering to minimize wind resistance. But I’d repeat the advice Celia and Peter gave - get a good forward stroke, use the feather angle to minimize wrist-cocking so that your wrists hardly rotate, if at all.

THEN, you can play with feathering as it pertains to wind.

I think Gordie was a bit slow

– Last Updated: Oct-17-13 9:59 AM EST –

...or that this was an exceptional example. When I used a crank shaft paddle the roll translated pretty quickly. I know too many others who can knock out bombproof rolls using crank shafts with feathered paddles.

If you don't learn to roll with a feathered paddle - then what happens when you want to feather your paddle?

Some people get rolling more slowly

– Last Updated: Oct-17-13 12:07 PM EST –

I was one of them. It took me about as long as Gordon Brown because of high anxiety, just something that only time and repetition will get by. Those who do not have this issue have absolutely no idea what it is like to overcome it. And it has nothing to do with swimming ability either - it is claustrophobia due to staying in the boat.

There was a point where the Euro paddle was likely adding to my problem, but in hindsight I would have had the same issue with any paddle. I am one of those oddballs who would have been best off starting with a hand roll, or at most the short wood piece that Inuit kids start with. My kinesthetic awareness under water has always been better than the average bear and my hip flexibility and rotation was quite good early on. But due to the anxiety, every item I added to the process made it more problematical.

That said, the length of the journey is often less important than the destination. Whether he took longer than some others to roll, assuming that is correct, Gordon Brown can out-paddle most on this board and probably could before he got his roll reliable. And he needs to roll in the North Sea, with conditions that are significantly nastier than the often more benign seas off of the US coast.

But why not go all the way to 0?

– Last Updated: Oct-17-13 11:19 AM EST –

30 is still not symmetrical, and still requires you to have a "control hand", thus stressing that hand's wrist a bit more compared to the other hand that is just there for the ride... With 0 feather you can alternate left/right at each stroke, so each hand plays the control function only half the time.

Also, I've seen your videos with a Greenland stick - doesn't the transition for 0 feather on it to 30 pun Euro paddle mess with your stroke and roll? Even 15 degree did for me and I did not like it... If there is a secret, let me know as I am interested in ising feather with wing and no feather otherwise...

Edit: as for "wrist cocking", even with 60 degree there is no cocking, when I do proper body rotation - the "twist" comes naturally as I take the paddle out of the water and comes from my forearms and elbow position, not the wrists. See if that idea helps you too. Unfortunately, good rotation is hard to impossible to achieve in my sea kayak (works well in the surf ski though).

I use zero because I really prefer the equal symmetry in WW paddling. My bracing is exactly the same on both sides. For flatwater I sometimes change to 45 if there is an endless strong headwind but I doubt it helps all that much. Some people say zero is impossible but then bumblebees can fly too.

It wouldn’t matter for your on-side roll because surely you can feel where the blade angle is. A feather might screw up your offside roll though.

This ground has been plowed before
But here goes again: If you paddle into a strong enough wind, you will soon understand what the feather is all about. If you use a strong feather all the time and paddle in a strong beam wind, you will soon discover why that doesn’t work so well.

Some ferrules allow small increments of feather adjustment, while others only provide for maybe zero, or 60 degrees. Depending on which paddle I’m using, I’ll either be at zero, or a very minor feather in minor conditions. Paddling into even a moderate breeze gets a 60 degree feather. Once in awhile a real strong wind will get more than 60 degrees if the ferrule allows it. Beam winds get zero, or maybe up to 15 degrees and the same for off the wind.

it’s nice to have choices
I don’t think I’ll ever again own a paddle that isn’t infinitely adjustable.

even if true, seems like an outlier
I teach rolling to beginner WW paddlers with 30-45 degree offset paddles all the time. Many are rolling during the first lesson. Others take somewhat longer, but usually not much longer unless there are physical limitation/anxiety issues, and in that case, the paddle (much less the angle of feather) really isn’t the culprit.