High vs. Low Angle Paddles - Advice

-- Last Updated: Jun-03-09 10:05 AM EST --

To clarify, Ive seen manufacturers that make paddles specifically for low or high angle paddling. Im sure you could use them either way depending on conditions and desired speed, but the blades are shaped very differently. They are built for one style over the other. Ive only ever used a low angle paddle, when I wanted a burst of speed I went high. Which do you all use and why?

Dimmer switch not On and Off

– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 8:58 AM EST –

There is also Mid angle, and everything in between.

Rough water, lower the angle for stability and less wind resistance

Flat and long distance in a hurry mid to high, most efficient and powerful stroke

Catching a wave, getting out of trouble high

Lazy long hours, lower angle.

All angles utilize torso, large muscles. If one only "arm paddles" any angle will be inefficient. If one never uses all ones muscles, one never gets stronger. This can be a reason for never feeling comfortable nor able to use mid to high angle paddling for any reason.

Mid to high angle paddle along with a vertical catch and a shortened stroke with the paddle exiting as is stops being vertical results in a paddle stroke that produces more of the power you generate towards moving the boat forward.

The lower the angle and the longer the stroke the LESS your energy moves you forward. The lower angle produces a "sweep stroke effect" That is the paddle is not vertical as it is pushed first away from the boat at the beginning and towards the boat at the end. This energy is twice wasted as you are first turning the boat and then turning it back. This also creates drag as the smooth transition of water on the hull is disturbed.

The longer non vertical stroke of a low angle paddle has a tendency to require starting the catch at a shallow angle and to keep the blade in past vertical on the exit due to the longer length required for a low angle stroke. This results in first trying to lift the boat out of the water at the catch and to pull the boat down into the water at the exit. Obviously this is another double waste of energy.

I think allot more of us, even those not interested in any speed or tempo would change to mid angle paddling if they saw the actual % of how much their efforts were wasted, i.e., did not result in any forward motion!

It really does depend
on the boat and what you’re trying to do. For short bursts of speed or extra power, it’s high angle. For relaxing and tooling along, low angle. Generally, I’m somewhere in between most of the time.


High angle for speed
and lower angle for touring for me.



completely agree
It all just varies. My last group paddle I poked along with everyone going with the current, had to switch gears to go against the current, and played around in the surf. I don’t really think about changing the angle, I just do.

I think it’s a great point that if you never train yourself and your muscles to do high angle fast paddling, it will never be something that you go to without thinking about it. In one of the forward stroke videos it suggests learning and practicing a good racing stroke, and then you will adjust to what is most efficient depending upon what you’re doing. That seems to me to be pretty good advice.

The type of paddle question? It seems a matter of preference more than better or worse to me. If the paddle plants in the water with little movement, and I’m planting it solidly in the water before pulling myself past it, the difference in that paddle shape during the forward stroke probably isn’t that significant. I’m sure there could be lots of back and forth on something like this. Low angle labeled blades seem to be more elongated and narrow. High angle labeled a bit wider and more compact. Is this because planting at a high angle you want to lessen the distance from touching the water to being fully planted from blade tip to shaft, and with low angle from blade edge to blade edge? Of course the overall length would be longer with elongated blades, and a few high angle paddlers seem to enjoy almost whitewater paddle short, although the differences between an efficient forward stroke in a whitewater vs sea kayak are plenty significant enough for even me to appreciate, so I’m sure it’s a different style stroke between the two even with the same length. But what about bow wag? Doesn’t a lower angle stroke introduce a bit more sweeping motion, so assuming the same length shaft, wouldn’t elongated blades exacerbate that problem, and the less elongated blade offer an advantage pertaining to this particular problem? Etc.

Most days I decide that the folks who designed these blades know better than I. But there are times when I wonder if it’s more marketing than reality. I’m almost certain my paddling angle varies pretty much the same with either style blade. I know the most ergonomically efficient angle for me at 5.5 knots is different from the angle at 4 knots is different than the angle at 2.5 knots. Just the energy necessary to strongly engage the legs to help move along at 5.5 knots is more energy than it takes to dip along at 2.5. At low speeds, it’s no longer ergonomically efficient for me to tap into those muscles. Perhaps it can be compared to lifting something. You can lift more using your legs, but it’s not efficient to squat down and use your legs to lift a loaf of bread from the countertop.

The one thing I can’t seem to buy into at all is dihedral. It’s quite possible that it never introduces a significant inefficiency, although to work as described at least some inefficiency must exist (water off the edges to prevent flutter). But flutter is something that I personally want to feel, because it indicates an inefficient sloppiness, so I need to make an adjustment. That’s my take, but there’s a lot of them out there, so there is probably more to it than that?

high angle
I prefer a high angle type of paddle.

The form I use with that paddle varies from high to mid depending on how aggressive I’m being. I find low-angle paddles clumsy and less energy efficient in my hands. Not doubting that they work well for some, but not me.

I also tend to do a bit more fast-cruising, and tooling around in waves and rocks, so the high angle blade just gives me a little more power.


– Last Updated: Jun-03-09 11:14 AM EST –

Depends on the boat, High for the relatively skinny QCCs, low for the fat tarpon and plastic Kruger. Or low if I am in the swamps (To much over hang) high when using the wing

And if you are using a wing
it is always high.