Hand position on my wing

Does anyone know of a good way to keep my hands in the proper position on a wing paddle? I find that I am constantly moving my hands to close together. I also seem to have trouble keeping the blade at the proper angle at entry.

I have been looking for large heat shrink tubing to put around the shaft. I was going to put a rubber band under the tubing and then shrink it to lock it in place. I also considered putting a small strip of wood under the tubing to keep it aligned with my knuckles. I just can’t find tubing large enough.

Anyone have any ideas? I know technique is everything but I need some crutches at this point. I don’t really want to use tape because it always seems to get gummy.


Gloves or not?
If not, just put one wrap of electrical tape around the shaft just to the outside of where your pinkie rests when your hands are where you want them. You can easily feel with the pinkie to check for the edge of the tape without impacting anything else.

Heat Shrink
Both Bracsa and Lendal offer kits that include the heat shrink and a plastic indexing piece for the control (or both) side/s. The heat shrink allows just the right degree of friction, and if you’re careful with the placement of the index, you’ll have a paddle shaft that’s weighted/aligned just right for your stroke. Tape will usually cut the hell out of your hands. Not good to find this out halfway in to a long paddle.

I have stripes of white tape on one of my paddles that give me a quick indicator, and I’ve also seen people take a tight fitting rubber ‘o’ ring, stretch it over the shaft, and run a layer of tape over it to provide a ‘stop.’ Usually takes some experimentation to get it right, but a knowledgeable paddle guy will just slap it all together perfectly the first time.

aftermarket indexing
Bracsa has some way to apply indexing (ovaling of the shaft so that it’s not perfectly circular) to their paddles, after the owner has decided if they want the indexing. It gets attached only where the hands go, so it provides both a longitudinal and a rotational guide to the position of the paddle in your hands.

There are also do-it-yourself indexing kits. To my skeptical eye, they look like a carefully cut piece of thin sponge, plus some electrical tape, but maybe there’s more to it than that.

New York Kayak Company (nykayak.com) will apply either kind to paddles they sell. I don’t know what they could do for your paddle.

– Mark

Have wing with and w/o index
My four year old ONNO wing has a built in indexing grove in the shaft, very subtle but there. My new ONNO wing has a perfectly round shaft. I have three or four thousand miles on the old wing and about twelve total on the new one. To be honest, I don’t miss the index ridge (and I upped the offset from 60 to 70+ degrees).

The beauty of the wing is the feedback, you know when it is connected with the water. I’m not sure that you could even have it “canted” and it not self correct. This connection makes a wing a bit more high impact on the joints but somewhat foolproof. Sweep and swim!

Hand width is an entire issue in itself. Based upon well qualified advice I increased my hand spacing last year by a few inches. A small wrap of tape on the inside is all that is required as a mark to remain symmetric. I visually check every few dozen strokes to make sure that my non-control left hand hasn’t wandered down the shaft towards the blade. Find a brand that doesn’t leave a sticky residue, stays located where you put it and doesn’t bite back, that’s the easy part.

Getting good advice on where to stick the tape is the real challenge. I could tell you how tall I am, what I weigh, length of paddle, beam of boat, but this really doesn’t describe my shoulder width or arm dimensions and where my hands should be gripping the paddle shaft.

Advice is, pay for a class with any one of the competent forward stroke race gurus and you’ll get some great answers to your question.

Have fast fun on the water.


I find the index most useful at the exit, where you can lay your hand wide open for the return, cradling the shaft between the thumb and forefinger, like an oarlock. If the indexing is right, the blade will slowly rotate to its balance point so it’s perfectly aligned for the catch. Subtle, but it’s all about feel.

I use electrical tape for indexing, at grip widths of 21", 26", and 31" between the hands. The 31" measurement came from the classic “paddle on top of your head, arms bent at 90 degrees” method. I found that a closer grip works better for me, so I added the others. I use the close grip the most, and in a headwind I move the hands apart for more torque. To make the index, wrap the tape around the paddle once or twice, make another revolution while twisting it into a small string, then fasten it down with a couple of more flat revolutions. That’s all I need to keep my hands from wandering. This might also work for the twist grip. My wing is oval so I don’t have one on it, but on other paddles I have used string, rope, pencils, whatever, wrapped with duct tape. These aren’t as durable or permanent as heat shrink, but they last for many months and they’re easy to move. Once you find the positions that work best you can always cover them with heat shrink.

Hand width
That’s quite a range of hand spacing and IMO would lead to very different blade path depending upon technique (and consequently efficiency).

A common forward stroke rule of thumb would be to have the pushing upper hand traveling horizontally at eye level. For a narrower hand spacing that would leave less length to reach to the water and submerge the blade leading to a very vertical stroke, or as a compensation it would be tempting to drop the height of the upper hand.

I’m just thinking out loud but also wonder about the impact on rotation. A narrow spacing would make it easier for the arms to move the paddle through a wider distance, basic geometry, possibly undermining the perceived need to rotate the torso and hips.

For myself I am using a 30" internal spacing on a 210 wing, partly based upon the paddle held above the head with a 90 degree elbow bend. I have a slight build. It was interesting that at the last clinic with a former Olympic K1 sprint paddler as the coach, to a tee he had everyone move to a wider spacing if a change was indicated, no one was recommended to decrease the spacing.

To keep the blade submerged and engaged for the entire power phase of the stroke with a wider spacing then rotation is essential. Watch some youtube videos of K1 sprint races to see how the paddlers “swing” the paddle.

I’ve read of surfski paddlers reducing paddle length for upwind runs but not about changing hand spacing.




for your entertainment
If I was a sprinter I might change my ways, but I go out 4-5 days a week for at least an hour, and races range from 3 miles to 45 miles. If you think the grip positions are weird, you’ll really have fun with my paddle length. My GPS training partner tells me I’m faster with a 250 cm Lendal Powermaster than the 230 cm equivalent. It also tells me I’m faster with my 235cm large wing than my 225cm large wing, which is faster than my 220 cm mid-wing. The long large wing is my current favorite, and the next one might be longer. I do have to be careful if I take some time off, it’s kinda painful coming back to the big guns. Let the laughing begin :slight_smile:

O Rings
I bought some O Rings from the hardware store. They were perfect. They gave me just enough feel to know I was where I need to be. They don’t move around either. It really helped.