High angle paddling and shoulder health

For about 5 years I’ve had off and on shoulder issues when doing crossover body adduction with the shoulder higher up, which I think was from a bad bench press a long time ago. Went to PT, had ultrasound guided PRP by an MD, built up strength in the shoulder, and still have issues with high angle paddling. Not crazy high pain, but enough to only use a wing paddle/euro blade a few times a year. My go to is a GP in a seakayak. Not very confident on safety in Lake Michigan when there are high winds, especially compared to the relative ease with a surfski

Funny thing is that my “bad” shoulder is in fact the stronger one when it comes to pressing exercises. Has anyone else just not been able to get comfortable with the wing/euro blades? When the wind is blowing and there are 3-4 footers, I guess it wouldn’t be terrible to pick up on the wind powered water sports and just forget about surfskis altogether.

I wonder if I would have similar problems with SUP or canoes.

Yes, I raced for nine years and taped my shoulder with kinesio tape for every race. Didn’t have to use it otherwise and didn’t train with it, but always used it during a race.

Could have been a psychological thing for me, to allow me to put more into it.

Kugel, keep on paddling!
The things that struck me is when you mentioned cross body adduction, I’m thinking of the upper arm bending across your chest. (Is this correct?) The less your entire chest/torso is rotating, the more cross body adduction - shoulder movement. It could be possible to attempt to isolate and immobilize that shoulder movement, making up for that loss of movement with a little more movement through the hips and torso.
The other thing that struck me is that you only use a wing paddle/euro blade a few times a year. Any new muscles called upon for this stroke done a few times a year do not ever get conditioned for this particular activity given they are used this infrequently. So if those few times aren’t easy, abbreviated, out-of-shape for this particular stroke kind of days, you could be over-stressing these muscles each intermediate time you over-engage them.
Something I have done when I’ve noticed shoulder soreness coming on is to reduce the length of the lever between my shoulder and the paddle I’m cranking upon - allow my elbows a little more bend at the plant. You can still use your torso just as much - your arms simply have a little bend start-to-finish instead of a little straighter start-to-finish. If you are still, as a matter of fact, using your torso to move the craft past the planted blade, then you still have power.
I think the main thing that works for me though is eliminating shoulder flex. I tend to fall into it more on extended following quartering seas days when I’m using an occasional stern draw at the end of my stroke for directional control. Shoulder flex is not torso rotation anyway. Eliminating it is not a bad thing.
It’s always hard to know what might be helpful for a particular person. I’m just sharing my thoughts.

I’ll keep experimenting with the paddles, but the more I think about the wing paddle with a sour grapes attitude, the more I want to get to an expert level with the GP, and just stick to seakayaks when it comes to speed. I suppose I could just use my seldom paddled V7 with a GP for the core workout. How are the races like on the East Coast in respect to high performance kayaks with a GP and average V8 category surfskis? There was a post here on paddling.com that compared the 3 paddles, and the difference wasn’t that big.

My guess is that some people’s shoulder anatomy just doesn’t allow for certain repetitive movements. One could do deadhangs at 4 min a day, use a shoulderhorn with 25 lbs dumbells for high reps, etc., and it still won’t matter lol.

You can go high angle safely as long as your elbows are below your shoulders.
Also, make 100% sure you’re using your core rather than your shoulders and arms.
This is a big one and is much more difficult to acclimate to.


I’m feeling you all on this. I injured my shoulder last year from lifting and paddling wrongly. I started working with a trainer at the gym who has helped me to strengthen the muscles in my back and basically all around my shoulder first, before working on the shoulder itself. Core rotation hasn’t come easy for me, but I was taught to focus on the core and back muscles that should be working in my paddle strokes such that it feels like my arms and shoulders are just following along. When I do that, my stroke feels more powerful and I don’t have shoulder soreness at the end of a trip. @Mountainpaddler makes a good point about keeping your elbows below your shoulder…much safer that way.
Last point: often the shoulder pain comes from not using a foam roller on one’s lats. I started doing that after every workout and my shoulder mobility went up and the pain down dramatically.

1 Like