feathering a paddle

I expect to take a little abuse from this post, but the greenland paddle people may be amused. Anyway think of this:

The main reason given for feathering is wind resistance against the raised end of the paddle. In a light wind, the effect especially with very small amounts of feather is not great. Can you really notice? With larger amounts (less than 90 degrees) and stronger winds, you can probably notice.

The other factor to consider is that the wind produces forces in other directions on a feathered paddle. Going into the wind, the force is upward on one side on the boat, and downward on the other in going into the wind or down wind. With a side wind, the force is forward on one side of the boat, and aft on the other.

Those who feather, tend to look down on those with euro paddles that do not feather as Newbies. Strange, they do not apply that to GP paddlers.

My conclusion is those who feather do it for other reasons. One reason being their wrists are more comfortable at different angles when pushing or pulling, or because they think it makes them look cool.

Harry :slight_smile:

Did it ever occur to you…
that there might be a few of us that paddle with it feathered because it is more comfortable that way, and could care less what everyone else is doing?

jack L

that’s me
previously used about 60 degree. A while back I changed to a higher angle paddle and style and thought while I’m at it I would reconsider the whole feather thing partly to maybe make off side rolls easier. Whether because I just got used to feather or whether a high angle stroke prefers a small bit of feather it turned out that 30 degrees just felt right.

But still for GP the narrower profile changes the whole wind issue a bit making some of the arguments less important.

look down upon?
You might be looked upon as a newbie if you have poor forward stroke, steering strokes or not have a good roll but no one cares what feather angle you use. Many guys I paddle with use with lots of BCU *'s use no feather, others use 30 or 45 deg. Some switch between 45deg ww blade and a greenland or aleutian blade.

The only debate I ever heard was in surfski paddling and then it’s just what can your wrist take vs. advantage.

Well Jack,
That was the first reason I gave for feathering in my conclusion.


any looking down
Will have to be done from behind my nonfeathered paddle.

Ryan L.

I don’t agree

– Last Updated: Apr-05-13 1:28 PM EST –

I hear endless reasons and rationalization from both sides. I hear people who went back to unfeathered ridiculing those who paddle feathered.

to me it's all about the application and options. I have an adjustable so I usually paddle unfeathered, when I go to a strict high-angle stroke I change to feathered. It minimizes wrist rotation for me and my wrists are my vulnerable point.

The one time I tried a wing, it just didn't feel right unfeathered, again because of wrist rotation.

I will never tell anyone else they are compensating for flaws when they use a feathered paddle or a bent-shaft paddle; in practice we're all different.

What I don't get are ww paddles that only have a righthand feather. WW guys must be like golfers.

The main reason for feathering
is wind resistance?

That’s the first time I’ve heard that. The main reason I have heard is ergonomics.

wrist strain / tendonitis
I am currently paddling unfeathered due to pain in wrist that resolved after I switched to an unfeathered paddle (I use an Aquabound Stingray CF).

I disregard the wind resistance arguments for feathering as on my return trip, the wind is from the opposite direction. I just bought a sea kayak and high angle paddle (Aquabound Mantaray CF). I will have to play around with feather options again as I get used to this new combination.

Perfect Answer Jack
That was great Jack.

For me, I started that way 40 years ago for some unknown reason. It grew to be habit. Now doing it any other way seems awkward. I paddle whitewater and flat and it’s the same both ways. The only time I change now is when I am in very strong downwind situations in open water. One time we were making over 4mph going down wind with nothing but our paddles out on the Homossasa River. For this we took the feather out.

Which way is better? The way that works best for you.

Another popular explanation comes from white water slalom - paddle feathered at 90deg allows to clear gates better.

with my wing
I actually do put just a tiny amount of feather, but leave my wrists mostly fixed. I find it lines up my left side better.

Ryan L.

Not exactly
I don’t feather, maybe I’ll throw in a slight feather up to 15 degrees once in a while. Nor do I care about anyone’s opinion of what I should do here, so I don’t have a dog in this fight.

But to be fair to all sides, wind resistence is not the only argument for feathering. I have heard extremely good paddlers - people who most on this board will never match in a lifetime - argue for feathering because it creates more efficiency. Basically, you get to the power phase more readily. I have seen them paddle and I certainly can’t argue they are wrong - or keep up with them.

People will do what they need to in order to keep their joints safe and get the speed they need. Feather, no feather, bent shaft, straight shaft… as long as the stroke is safe for the person’s joints they’ll be back to paddle another day. That’s really all that matters.

another reason for unfeathered
No on-side or off-side for rolls or braces.

Also, never have understood the rotation issue. With a feathered paddle the stroke on one side is exactly the same as with an unfeathered. One only has to rotate on the other side. So half the stroke is the same whether feathered or unfeathered and only the other half is different (rotated). I think.

80 - 85 Degree Feather Works Best
For me when using my Onno Lever Lock Wing to obtain the best angle of attack for propelling my surfski effortlessly and efficiently. This setting allows me to plant the blade with maximum force at the catch and keep it at a straight up and down vertical position until the boat pivots past it.

The real reasons
Feathered paddles and beliefs that feathered paddles are better have been around a long time. No one really knows why they became the norm. What has also been around a long time are justifications that don’t make any sense, like the wind argument. One argument for feathered paddles that does make sense is wind resistance based on boat movement (what sailors call apparent wind). If you are racing it makes a difference, especially if you adopt 90 degree feather. If you aren’t it is trivial. The main advantage of unfeathered paddles is symmetry. But whatever the case if you are used to a feathered paddle it will take you some time to adjust to an unfeathered paddle. I know since i did that. The reverse is also true. You cannot judge either by going out and paddling around a bit.

Try paddling into the wind.
If you really want to know why you feather your paddle, try paddling straight into, or very close to a very strong wind. It won’t take you long to figure it out. I’ve paddled into winds that would stop you dead if you present a flat blade to the wind. For most mortal beings–myself included–this is only likely to happen on a day when the wind is gusting to high velocity. I don’t think I have to explain why.

That doesn’t mean it’s the only reason to feather. If you paddle with some feather all the time–fine, but when you’re really going to windward in a breeze, you’re going to want to present the edge to the wind.

'they do not apply that to GP paddlers’
I feel like such a fish taking this bait but here goes:

The GP is canted and just isn’t affected by wind the way a euro blade is. Where the GP really shines is in rolling. I’m convinced a great number of paddlers have problems learning to roll on both sides because their euro blades are asymmetrical; feathered.

Try paddling with the wind
at your back or from the side. That is why the wind argument makes no sense. The wind does not always come at you from the front. I have been in side winds that would rip the paddle out of your hand if it was not unfeathered.

Ergonomics of feather???
I see several people here say that the ergonomics of feathered paddles are better.

Let’s for a moment ignore the real positive effects of strong feather in upwind wind or for slalom, or for through the surf use, let’s just focus on ergonomics.

Can anyone tell me why they say any amount of feather is more ergonomic for them compared to non feather? Be specific. And please, don’t include reasons such as I’m used to it or others who have stars in their title do it :wink: