Hi Angle vs. Low Angle, Feathered vs. Un


Not trying to cause a stir, but I have some questions.

I am still trying to learn what stroke I prefer. I have a 220 low angle style paddle. When I first started kayaking a few months ago, I found that I liked a high angle style. After several hundred miles of paddling, I have found that I am now adapting a low angle stroke—hands coming about shoulder level.

I am not sure if it is because I prefer this stroke or if it is just because of the fact that my paddle lends itself to this stroke best (which it does). Will most touring kayakers eventually “evolve” to a low angle stroke? Is this a better stroke to try to get myself accustomed to rather than a high anlge stroke? I am debating over trying a shorter paddle to see if I might prefer a higher anlge stroke.

It seems like most touring kayakers use a low angle stroke. Is this a better way to go if I can learn to like this type of stroke. I have read that it is better for endurance paddling. How much of a difference does it make for increaseing endurance and why?

Another question…feathering. I have learned on an un-feathered paddle. I just don’t like paddling feathered,and I personally find no real advantage to it. I have paddled in high winds and find it really does not make much of difference—hurts you as much as it helps you. I am inclined to stay with the un-feathered design. Is there a mistake in doing this???

thanks for your help


If your pushing hand is at shoulder
level all the way through your stroke you are most likely paddling high angle. Especially with a paddle with ong blades (usual design for low angle stroke) and thus a relatively short shaft (paddle length only 220). YOur pushing hand should stay at the same level all the way not drop through the stroke. The feathered non-feathered thing is still not settled. I paddle at 45 degrees feathered. I hear Tom Berg is doing something like that these days. Do what works for you, take classes and videos to work on your stroke if you like, and paddle.

Not sure that I know the difference…
… between a high angle style paddle and a low angle style paddle. Anyone care to explain?



From my experience…
…the only thing a high angle stroke will gain you is speed.

If you are touring at a nature watching pace a low angle stroke will be easier on you.

If you ever try a wing paddle, it will force you to a high angle.

What ever works best for you is what you should stay with.

As far as “feathered” goes, the same holds true.

I started unfeathered and after a year or so tried the paddle feathered, like it much better and have used it that way ever since.

I personally think that if a paddler is having a wrist problem, then it is time for him/her to experiment between both. Otherwise stay with the most comfortable.

None of this is book or class learning, just my own learning.



Paddling style
I use both high and low angle depending on the situation. I’m predominantly a low angle paddler. That is the center of the paddle shaft stays around belly height. It requires the least amount of energy expenditure for just cruising around. I use the high angle, shaft around chest high, when I need to add some power to get going or overcome waves.

Feathered vs. unfeathered. I too don’t find a whole lot of difference. I use skinny touring blades. I’ll feather them about 60 degrees if I’m paddling into a hard wind. Other than that I’m paddling unfeathered. It just feels better to me.

Bottom line is there is no exclusively correct method for angle or feathering. I used to fret over high vs. low angle, feather vs. unfeathered, how’s my technique, etc. ad infinitem. I found that all my time spent trying to kayak in the perfect mode detracted from my enjoyment of time on the water. Just do what feels good for you and enjoy your paddling.

agree with Peter-k
do what works for you.

My take on it …
When I want to go fast and straight I switch to a higher angle because it lets me put more power to the paddle and keeps it closer to the kayak which in turn keeps me going straighter during a high power stroke.

When I am just touring I want the stroke that is the most relaxing and comfortable.

It sounds to me like you are getting very comfortable paddling and your stroke is adjusting naturally without you thinking about it. That is exactly where you want to be … enjoying your self and not thinking about technique all the time. Bob

Maybe I am paddling high angle
I am trying to do what feels the most natural, but I am not sure if what I am doing is a function of what feels best for me, or what my paddle tends to make me do based on the blade shape and the shaft length.

I would say that a particular paddle design and lenght will be better optimized for one type of paddling or another and your body will be able to determine the optimal angle by feel and you will probably tend to gravitate toward this.

I guess maybe I am paddling more of a hign angle stroke…my upper hand is about shoulder level, or maybe a little below. I had thought that at or below shoulder height was more of a low angle stroke. Perhaps not.

The reason I am asking this question is largely because I am trying to decide what paddle style and length is best for me. To do this I figure that I must first determine which style of stroke I prefer.

If I am using a high angle stroke, then perhaps my 220 is too long for me???


Angle and Length Depend

– Last Updated: Oct-11-04 10:10 AM EST –

I find it is more helpful to think of angle in terms of relationship of paddle shaft to the water than where the top hand is, completely horizontal being the lowest and completely vertical as the highest. Generally speaking the highest stroke angle will be the most efficient for moving the boat forward and the lowest provides the most turning (and saves effort in windy conditions).

As paddling an extremely high angle requires the most effort, most touring kayakers will compromise somewhere at about 45 degrees to the water.

Paddle length is body and boat dependent. For touring kayak, a 220 paddle is a very good length unless you are extremely tall or have a very wide boat. 220 it is about the longest paddle you should use. The reason is that a longer paddle tends to induce a long stroke, which is inefficient.

I am not tall and have a number of 220 paddles and find they work well for touring and one can certainly do a high angle stroke with one for short periods of time. But as I have moved toward a higher angle stroke generally, I have purchased a shorter 205 Werner Shuna Carbon paddle. I love it. Budget permitting, there is nothing wrong with having paddles of different lengths and blade styles to use depending upon your mood and the type of paddling you are doing.

You mention low-angle
as being hands shoulder-high. You can actually paddle much lower than that if you like, with your hands practically in your lap (though it requires a low deck). This is a common practice with Greenland paddles, but works for others too.

My take on feathering is this that there are 4 basic elements that affect the angle of the non-control hand blade:

-cocking the wrist

-bending the biceps during recovery vs. raising the arm

(try it on dry land–you’ll see how using biceps rotates the paddle up to 90 degrees while raising the arm leaves it unrotated)

-feathering the paddle

-changing the stroke height

You can play with your forward stroke, altering it in all these dimensions, until you find something comfortable that works for you. I use Greenland paddles and therefore prefer to paddle unfeathered and with no wrist movement, but that means that when I switch to a wing with a high stroke, I have to use a strong chicken-wing arm-raising recovery rather than the more usual wing stroke which includes a good amount of biceps. This probably makes me a worse wing paddler than I’d be if I used a feathered wing.


Feather, etc.
Feather isn’t always helpful in wind – with a beam wind, a feathered blade exposes more surface area and is more likely to be “grabbed” by the wind. everything’s a tradeoff.

My paddling angle seems to vary a lot with output level. Normally in the touring boat I use a fairly high angle, probably influenced by my whitewater paddling. But the other day I was just poking along enjoying the dawn, and realized that my hands had dropped without my thinking about it. I did some experimenting, and decided that the high angle felt awkward without some pressure on the blade.

Personal Preference
I started kayaking with a high angle because I thought it would keep the boat in a straighter line. Then I switched to a lower angle because I could get more torso in the stroke. GPS said I was faster with a low angle. I’ll switch to a high angle occasionally just to get some different muscles involved and maybe change the stress on my hands.

Feathered hurts my wrist.

I was instructed in my “101” kayaking class to feather. Well, I don’t. All I have ever heard is maintaining consistency with paddling and although I am still a novice paddler, I don’t feather. I tried it. I felt more comfortable without feathering. My husband uses his paddle in the feather position, uses a low stroke and insists on his rudder. I use a high stroke, no rudder. Does that make a difference? Not one whit! Whatever fits your style then imbrace it. I do not mean to “demean” the messages on this board but if you pay careful attention it all comes down to personal style! A paddle is a paddle. Length? Depends on your own arms and style. Hope this helps. Liz

Why is feathering almost standard for whitewater kayaking?

Wind is obviously not an issue here. What is the purpose?


Read a book learn some hstory (NM)

If you keep your arms in
as you recover, which whitewater paddlers are careful to do, to avoid shoulder injury, then you naturally rotate the shaft, for which feather compensates + the history that Peter mentions.


High angle, feather, wing.

As with most paddlers
I think we all mix up our strokes as the need arises, low angle just above the deck or mid torso area for casual cruising, I read back in the early days if you can see your hands your stroke is to high, to high can equal shoulder injury.

I don’t like a high angle in surf or rough conditions as the paddle blade is more easily washed underneath the hull creating a bad situation in certain conditions. Feathered or unfeathered a personal preference, sometimes an advantage other times not at all.

Changing the stroke a little from time to time or moving your hands in and out on the shaft can relieve some muscle strain in one area and relocate it for a while elsewhere.


Why is this a “vs.” situation?
Does anyone really only paddle one angle?

With a wing I can see it - as there is a definite wing stroke (and proper form is rewarded almost as much as incorrect form is punished) - but with other paddles, why limit yourself so?

I mostly paddle a Greenland stick. To me the best thing about a GP is it works so well at ALL angles, offering incredible variability/versatility. Anthing from nearly vertical (standard or wing stroke) to super low and in your lap. I do have a sort of average high-mid angle cruising stroke on flat water, but switch things up alot to match condidtions and to change the stresses on the body to spread thing out on longer paddles.

Even though GP is “un-featehred”, I still prefer euros feathered (60-70 right) and definitely feathered with wing (@ 75). I prefer feathered because I have to move my wrists LESS. Paddle rotates into position more naturally for me feathered - whereas I have to manipulate a non-feathered a but more.

While the GP is “unfeathered” - I don’t really think of it like that. It is just "right - as it’s always neutral.

I am somewhat of a novice, but I started off with feathering because of what I read in Derek Hutchinson’s Complete Book of Sea Kayaking. He points out, among other things, that with feathering the blade out of the water is always in position for a brace. I figured that was a good habit to get into as I learn the sport.