Hand position on the paddle shaft

Here’s a question for those who’ve already put some thought and experimented with this.

What is the best place to keep you hand on the paddle and in what conditions? E.g., how far from the blade end?

I’ve seen many references to how wide/spread-out the hands should be (85-90 degree at the elbow per Oscar Chalupski/Greg Barton for instance). I feel comfortable with that spread. But I have not seen a reference of how far from the blade your hand should be.

I’ve been experimenting with my Epic wing paddle and I tend to hold it at may be a fist and a half or at most two fists from the blade end. Longer than that - and I lose power due to the lever action and also exit from the water is more difficult unless I keep my hads unnaturally high thru the stroke.

Looking at some popular bent shaft paddles, I see that white water shafts have the hand position much closer to the blade end compared to touring paddles. For instance, a Werner or AT WW paddle has almost 1/2 shorter distance b/w the shaft bend and the blade compared to a touring paddle from the same manufacturer (high angle-design, like the Werner Ikelos or Cyprus for instance).

So what would you consider a middle of the road position for fast touring for say 10-15 miles in one stretch? Not all out racing nor very rough water play but active touring in flat or moderate conditions? Boat idth is say about the same as my shoulder width.

sounds like mostly a paddle length

– Last Updated: Oct-06-08 3:56 PM EST –

question. Given the hold with squared elbows width notion, how far from the actual paddle then amounts mostly to how long a paddle you use. A rough rule on paddle length has been such that you can curl your fingers over the end of the paddle while the other end is on the ground. Shorter for power, vertical strokes and _maybe_ a bit longer for a more casual, low angle stroke style. Very wide boats may need more paddle length. So there is no absolute on paddle length since paddling style has an impact. To complicate your question a bit, some suggest shifting (i.e. not centered) the paddle in cross winds to have the longer end toward the wind to counter weather cocking.

Length, yes, but there’s more to it …
Overall length depends also on blade length. Sure. But I’m only asking here about distance from hand grip to water/blade end at the shaft, assuming the whole blade is burried just under the surface and not deeper. EP or Wing paddle, not GP. Vertical stroke. Low sitting position. And narrow boat of say 20-22" so it is not restricting.

Ben Lawry teaches this method…

– Last Updated: Oct-09-08 1:48 AM EST –

Measure one personal "cubit", that is, the length from your elbow to the tip of your fingers. Then add two hand widths, measured as you grip the paddle. That total gives the inside spacing of your hands on the paddle shaft, that is, the distance from the inside of your left hand to the inside of your right.


Fancy way to say 85-90 degree elbow -:wink:
May be not for everyone’s “cubits”, but this method came-up to exactly my preferred position of 85-90 degree at the elbow with hands holding the shaft right above my head as most basic kayak instruction says.

Luckily, I have a class with Ben this weekend so I will have advice first-hand on this -:wink:

Is 7 cm it?
I was recently coached to widen my hand position, and to keep my hands closer to the blades (wing). I’ve had a tender wrist ever since.

What is the perfect distance to keep your hands from the blades. It seams like that would detemine paddle length, and not the other way around.


That’s it pretty much what I was asking!

– Last Updated: Oct-09-08 12:31 PM EST –

The blade length and paddling conditions also factor-in the equation, but for a given blade length and conditions, there seems to be a position on the pddle shaft that is the most comfortable. I was looking for a validation if being relatively close to the blade is where I should be for touring at a good pace in rougher conditions or for similar "high-energy/low stability" applications...

May be I should not worry about it that much... With my wing paddle I move my hands wherever I need to as it is not bent shaft. And that is my primary paddle currently, so no worries there. But on the Werner I'm contemplating I would be more restricted in this regards due to the bends and if they do not fit where I want them most of the time I should not buy it. Since my use of a bent shaft paddle (Werner?) would be primarily for rough water maneuvers/control strokes practice or occasional surfing it probably makes sense to look for something that would allow me to position my hands closer to the blades than the touring bent shaft paddles allow - the WW spacing makes more sense to me but as I said before, first I'm not 100% sure about it, and second - the WW paddles have their disadvantages (the main one being weight)...

I would imagine…
…a lot depends on the boat one might be paddling at the time. I really doubt I could come up with a “standard” distance to put my hands from the paddle for all boats and paddles…each combo might be different! I go from a 18" wide rocket to a 30" wide utility barge! I can imagine I might even have to adjust my wing maybe a smidge between my 18 and 20 foot boats that are very similar in width and construction…so I keep everything graduated and adjustable…so I don’t think it will take long to “dial in”…

When I started ww kayaking in ‘90,
I must have found it “comfortable” to space my hands relatively close together. However, when I ordered a crank shaft usually marketed for slalom paddlers, the hand spacing was significantly wider, and I soon realized my previous error. Narrow hand spacing had been inhibiting torso rotation. I’m 6’ 5" and I use a 206 cm whitewater paddle. Very few whitewater paddlers use paddles around or over 200 cm, but there it is… it feels right for my torso height.

I did get some answers at class…
… and I think that spacing the hands a little farther away from the blades compared to where I had them seems to be the “optimal” position for my boat. I also learned that I needed to lenghten my paddle a bit as well. No “pre-cooked” recepie as some of you said said, but at least I got some good answeres from the coach about why things should be where they ended-up being for me at the end of the class.

A plug for Ben Lawry - take his forward stroke class if you get a chance and then repeat in a year or two -:wink:

I think…
…in general for low angle touring you would probably use a longer shaft, and then space your hands accordingly, which would probably be further away from the blades…High angle/shorter shaft/closer to blades…and maybe the low angle is encouraged for rougher conditions with a longer blade to facilite bracing and such??

So it would depend on the style you want to use the most…

Probably common knowledge; bear w/me if I’m repeating what has already been stated…

You haven’t switched to a GP yet?

Almost there!
Just did the rough cut of something resembling an Aleut paddle. Need to round the edges and form the ridge on the front - hopefully on the water this weekend.

This is a total throw-away project so I won’t put too much effort in it, just to get the basic shape right so that I can see how it feels on the water. One of the blades already warped slightly on one side while cutting it, so it is now strapped to a ladder to hopefully straighten.

Out of pine it is surprisingly lightweight even now before taking off the last few ounces to make it round. I think I may have made it too thin and too narrow at just under 3cm wide on the wide end and 230 cm long end to end. So it will be good for only careful use but hopefully will last me long enough to learn the basics with it and give me an idea if I want to make a “real” one some day…