Finally got out in my sea kayak - Potter Cove

After a pretty good spring of whitewater paddling, I was looking for something a little different this weekend. When my local club posted a level 2 (easy) sea kayak trip on Narragansett Bay, I was in.

We put-in at Potter Cove for an up-and-back around the northern end of Conanicut Island (Jamestown, RI) – about 12-miles. Conditions were easy with seas less than a foot, but on the return leg we were paddling against both an incoming tide and a strong headwind – bit of a slog.

Coming from a canoeing background, I tend toward a high-angle stroke, which is not the most efficient for long-distance cruising. I got some great coaching from one of the other paddlers on a low-angle cruising stroke. Books and videos are great, but the best way to learn is to get out with other knowledgeable paddlers and take whatever advice they will offer.

Few pictures here:


Re: "books and videos are great, but
… "
No truer words.

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So many great places to paddle around Jamestown/Newport/any of the Ocean State…wish I had known about sea kayaking when the USN had me living up there.

Your comments about coaching are spot on…just make sure the the coach knows what they are talking about.

take advice, but if what you’re used to works better for you - maybe stick with it

my experience:
I like the high angle paddling also.
For my ‘short’ paddles (daily 10), I use a Lendal Storm paddle (large-ish) blade at a high angle.

For my ‘long’ paddles (over 20 mile), I use a Werner Cyprus (less area than Storm) - still at a high angle, but a non aggressive pace.

I don’t really like low angle paddling (maybe that’s why I’ve never gotten on to the greenland paddle - just not for me).


I also tend towards high angle. Learning that lower angle can work better for me over longer distances was a process that did not involve reading about it!

On trips as on this board, you can usually tell pretty quickly the folks that know what they are talking about, and the folks that just like to hear themselves talk :wink:

We were right across the bay from the old Navy base in Newport.

I was surprised how easily I was able to move the boat with a lower, shorter stroke, quicker cadence and a focus on torso rotation. I am always trying to man-handle the boat forward - don’t need to. Don’t think I will ever go for a Greenland paddle though. One guy had one yesterday, and he was having a hard time getting enough power paddling into the wind and tide.

What do I know - only my second trip. Lots to learn. :wink:


And, from your extensive canoeing background, you can sort through those folks. Well done!

BTW, I’ve recently grown in my appreciation of canoeing as I have been in solos and tandems several times in 2023. Wish there were more than lazy rivers locally, but meandering sloughs & bayous are fun to curve around too.

Newer paddlers may wonder the advantages and disadvantages of high vs. low angle stroke. Of course there’s the argument about how one technique helps the kayak travel straighter or has more power. Many white water paddlers prefer high angle because its familiar, but there’s a way to decide if you look at the arc of the paddle cycle for both styles and adapt it to your physical attributes. For example:

Paddling high angle with a 213cm (84 in) long paddle, the paddle plunges 18 inches below the water, and the other blade is somewhere in the air through the stroke. At the end of the stroke, the off side arm travels high across your body, lifting the weight of your arm and the paddle, while the blade flings a little water at the end (one pint only weighs about one pound). As the power blade clears the water, the upper blade crosses from a high position (with the power blade being 18" below water until reemerges from below the water surface, where it reaches nearly 84 inches overhead. It then drops from overhead to power on the other side of the boat and plunges 18 inches. The long swinging arc means the paddle is lifted around 102 inches (depending on how verticle the paddle is angled with each alternating stroke). A shorter paddle reduces the arc the blades have to swing so that increases the cadence (probably starting around 50 strokes per minute and up). The higher you cadence, the more your arms cross your chest, the more constricted your rib cage, the more aneorobic your energy conversion, and the more you develop your biceps. It’s a powerful stroke and helps tracking, but there’s a lot of articulation in the shoulders joint. A surgeon explained that I had a lot of micro tears in the muscles of my shoulder due to repetative stress. Unsure of the cause, just that it was evident and contributed to permanent damage, detached tendons and advanced porosity of the bone in the joint when sepsis settled in the injury.

The low angle technique has drawbacks, but it allows a higher cadence starting around 60 strokes per minute and as high as 80 spm. The reason is the non-power blade doesn’t have to go as high in the air as it’s swinging through the paddle cycle. The higher cadence theoritically makes up for the lower square inch surface area of the low angle/touring blade, making it easier on the joints. A further benefit to your joints is less shoulder articulation, especially if you adopt a rigid paddler box and focus on keeping that box fixed through isometric tension. The result is far less stress on shoulder joints and the wrists, because the wrists remain fixed on the shaft.

Both high and low angle have advantages and disadvantages; it’s up to each paddler to decide which style to use. One tracks straighter and delivers more power but tends to be more anerobic. The other is easier on joints and works better over longer distances because it’s more aerobic. A higher cadence makes up a little of the difference for paddle blades thst have less surface area. A flatter paddling arc is not only faster between alternating strokes, but it opens the chest area for easier breathing.

From exchanging information with one forum member, I found he’s able to generate incredible speeds; however, I can no longer use high angle due to limited range of motion and arthritis in my left shoulder.

Low angle presents no problem for me, so I teamed with two other forum members to enhance my understanding of technical aspects of low angle. They’ve helped me advance far more than I could have anticipated. Much of the key to improvement is in analyzing blisters, muscle pain, ways to eliminate flutter in the paddle, swapping paddles (on partnered trips, we simply swapped a 240 cm and 250 cm paddle to assess which felt stiffer, offered more control, impacted cadence, facilitated breathing, placed greater demands on joints, or just felt more comfortable), and simply watching each other cycle through the paddling arc. I enjoy solo paddling, but found that regardless of kayaking experience, other paddling companions bring a unique perspective to expose inefficiency and poor form. Whether you’re an advanced paddler or a novice, everone is capable of contributing valuable insight.

If you’re new and undecided, partner with another paddler using different style paddles, and don’t be afraid to share your opinion.

With high angle short shaft rules for me. Less energy wasted faster cadence with same effort. I want to go 195-210 adjustable on my Celtic 750. Can always do low with it also. Just need to choke up 300+ for it. :cry:

I just paddle using whichever stroke fits the occasion and the boat. For speed I am usually high angle; for cruising somewhere in between.


very recognizable. As a kayaker with a canoeing background too, I also had to learn that a really high angle stroke as used with a single blade paddle, is in fact impractical and unnecessary for touring kayaking also because you then may need a feather angle of 60-90 degrees then if you use wide blades. Nevertheless all is relative, and some kayak paddlers call my low angle paddle stroke a high one, possibly because I use a paddle length that facilitates a paddle stroke starting close to the hull? Luckily many paddles these days are adjustable in length and angle, so one can experiment with that until you find what works best for yourself. When I tried kayaking about 38 years ago I gave up on it immediately because I was forced to use a too long paddle with too much feather and only right hand control that just didn’t work for me.

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My kayak paddles are adjustable for length and offset. I seldom change the angle but vary the length to the boat.

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Uh-Oh, Eck…Now you’ve officially gone over to the "dark side of the Force!":stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

(But no worries–A number of us are

One advantage of learning an effectively low angle technique is that it not only reduces the height the off side blade travels, it also reduces the plunging depth. The best reason is that it uses different muscle groups, while preserving the muscles mostly used in high angle. So after you’ve worn out your primary low angle muscles, your high angle muscles are ready to be exploited. Before my shoulder damage, the last 30 minutes of a trip was devoted to a high angle sprint to the finish. I can no longer execute high angle, but I can nearly match what I did before.

Blade length is a personal choice, but low angle is more forgiving regarding the length, because it doesn’t swing as high or plunge as deep. Length choice is a matter of paddle rigidity and control. If you can manage an 80 cadence, increasing the shaft length by 10 or 15cm might only reduce your cadence by 5 strokes a minute. Air time is the same; all you do is increase the length/duration/effort of the paddle stroke. Effort makes you stronger.

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My daughter and her husband are physical threapists. They described the shoukder joint as the most complex to rehabilitate. Compared to other joints, it is the hardest to return to normal functioning.

If you love high angle paddling, I suggest you watch how the joint functions as you put a load on it. If you have joint pain now, massaging it with high angle paddle therapy isn’t going to rehabilitate it, because of how the muscles, tendons, and ligaments stretch, abraid and scape against passages.

The surgeon couldn’t figure out how my shoulder damage and sepsis infection resulted from lifting a large rock. After learning what latin part were destroyed, I began to realize the role high angle paddling contributed to repetative stress. Even if the shoulder joint gets replaced, I’ll never regain range of motion.

I damaged my shoulder in 1986 overexercising it. A surgeon told me he couldn’t fix it . When I paddle it is cranky for awhile and settles down. I know how not to abuse it further. No hard ,fast paddling and use the shortest length that fits the boat.
I gladly live with the pain that results. Tylenol is my friend.


Not to the tylenol stage yet. I think the burrs on the joint are wearing against each other and smoothing the high spots over. I feel younger every day if not for the inconvenience of being busted up.

Paddles are paddles & use what works for you. In this case though it is likely that the issue was with the technique rather than the tool.


While you see a lot of folks use a lower angle stroke with the GP while out on an easy paddle, you can do just as well with a high angle stroke with a GP to get up to speed fast, granted you may want a slightly shorter stick with a fuller blade at the tip. The higher angle GP stroke calls for a slightly faster cadence to make up for the narrower width blade. While I am more used to and prefer a Euro for rought water play, I spent many years with and still use a GP just for a change up.

If someone wants to learn/get a roll faster for rough water play, you may do better to start of by learning with a GP.


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