Is my paddle too short?

I think I need a longer paddle, but I’m not sure; Tell me what you guys think:

I’m a touring kayaker; I paddle mostly flat water trails and calm rivers for long distances. I’m using a 230cm Bending Branches, Whisper Light paddle at 37 oz. I’m 5’ 10" and I paddle a SOT that’s 30" wide. By all of the charts and other recommendations, my paddle length checks out as appropriate and I like the paddle well enough, but here’s my problem.

I take deep, long strokes. I like to let the paddle do the work and not have to move it back and forth as much. When I pace myself and find a comfortable paddling rhythm, I find my knees wet from start to finish. I’ve played around with the drip ring ad-nauseum, but I can’t find a spot that’s right for the ring. It’s either dipping down into the water, or it’s dripping over my knee on the off-side of the stroke.

Is this a common problem for anyone else? Is my paddle too short? Am I making the wrong stroke somehow? A good paddle’s not cheap, so I’d like to hear your opinion of my issue before I run out and buy a new one. If I do need a longer paddle, I’d like to take the opportunity to upgrade to a carbon fiber shaft and a blade better suited to my paddling style.

What blade shape should I be looking for and is my length appropriate, too short, or too long now? Do you guys have a favorite paddle that you’d like to recommend for my paddling style?

Thanks in advance for your input …

deep, long strokes
"deep, long strokes. I like to let the paddle do the work and not have to move it back and forth as much."

I’m guessing this part will draw some attention. It’s good that you’re thinking efficiency, but for the most part, the kayaking world has drawn the conclusion that more switching and a shorter stroke ends up more efficient than less switching and a longer one. A lot has to do with the paddle blade angle in the water throughout the length of a stroke, and whether your energy is going directly towards moving your kayak forward, or it’s doing different, less desirable things.

The paddle drips? I think you have to keep a pretty low paddle angle to avoid that. It’s not something I notice much, as I’m almost always using a spray skirt. I think if you stop thinking “deep”, and just think about submerging the blade at the lowest possible angle to the water, your drip rings will be more effective. I think paddles on the order of the Nimbus Squamish or Chinook probably lend themselves well to some extended low-angle paddling.

to avoid yaw especially
in shorter boats, do not carry your stroke behind your hip.

Strokes should be forward of your body.

Long strokes actually make much more work for you…

try shortening stroke before running out to spend more dough.

Even with high angle, with a shorter
and perhaps slightly snappier stroke, you may notice that more water flips off the blade and to one side, rather than onto you. Seek the most efficient and effective paddling style, and when you think you have it, then re-evaluate the drippy blade situation.

A couple thoughts
Let me preface this by saying I’m not a kayaker. But I started solo canoeing with a double-blade paddle, when I really needed the double-blade to keep up with a group of speedy, experienced paddlers when my single-blade skills weren’t sufficient. Kneeling in a solo canoe (a much higher seating position than yours), I found a 230mm paddle to be just about ideal. Of course, I used fairly short and very vertical stroke, not a sweeping stroke.

I didn’t find drip rings to accomplish much. I installed “drip cups” of my own design, and that stopped about 98 percent of the drippage. These drip cups were shaped like half of a funnel, with the narrow end tightly fitting the shaft and the flared end being about two inches across. I used material from an automotive inner tube to make the half-funnel, and used a bit of thin wire to reinforce the shape a bit. I also left the stock drip ring in place and positioned the drip cup right over it, to coax the drip cup into a proper half-funnel shape.

^think about these last two posts

– Last Updated: Apr-06-15 2:07 PM EST –

Good stuff.

Kayamedic suggests shorter strokes and pulling out the trailing blade earlier. This will also minimize the leading blade crossing in front of you and the resultant drips. Same can be said for a more upright stroke as ezwater suggests.

Shorter strokes should also relieve your arms somewhat. Your torso can generate a lot of oomph (engineering term) with just a little twist.

working on a shorter more efficient stroke may reduce the drips. OTOH the only time my knees stay dry is when I have the spray cover on. Derek Hutchinson was wrong.

paddles drip
It’s a fact of nature that ALL double ended paddles drip on you. Can’t get around it. Drip rings are only intended to keep larger streams off the paddle blade from dousing you but there is nothing that will keep you completely dry. The Inuit (who use Greenland and Aleut type paddles, which drip even more than standard blade paddles) traditionally wrapped cotton rags around the paddle shaft (about where we place drip rings) to absorb the immediate flood of water on each stroke, but some will eventually drip off as the cloth becomes saturated (after only a few dips.) I always use a spray skirt or half skirt with my SINK kayaks because of the dousing, even when the weather is warm and I am in placid shallow waters. And with a sit on top there is no choice but to cover your legs and lap with water resistant or at least tolerable for absorption clothing and just accept that you are going to be damp. Short of a drysuit, that is going to be the case on every outing. Maybe that is why people drop thousands on those odd Hobie footpedal kayaks.

The simplest way to look at it is that if you don’t want to get wet, you shouldn’t paddle.

Bulk reply to everyone.
That’s an interesting point, CapeFear; I haven’t thought about the angle of the blade at the beginning and end of the stroke. I’m basing my stroke on the handsaw technique. It’s far more efficient to make long strokes with a handsaw because you get more cut per changeover. I wonder what the trade-off in energy is for a more frequent changeover on a paddle stroke as compared to a less favorable blade angle, but fewer changeovers? It’s certainly easy enough to do the trigonometry on the blade angle throughout the stroke. Without knowing the factual energy numbers, I’d still think a longer stroke is more efficient than more changeovers, but I’m just speculating, I’m certainly not trying to argue or start a debate.

Efficiency has never been an issue for me; when I get into a rhythm, I can go long distances. I just paddled 51 miles on the Altamaha River this past Friday. It was a long trip (12-1/2 hours with two stops) but certainly manageable. Perhaps I’m not pulling through the entire stroke and not suffering as much loss on the blade angle. I’m an engineer, but when I paddle, I try to leave engineering behind and just enjoy the scenery and the sunshine.

kayamedic, I’m paddling a 12’ boat; is that considered short?

You guys have some good advice; I like the idea of changing my stroke as opposed to buying a new paddle; it’s certainly cheaper. :slight_smile: Thanks so much!

Based on my setup and paddling style, should I be using a long narrow blade or a wide, stumpy blade? I haven’t understood the various blade shapes yet, so I just dance with the one I have.

12 foot long
and 2.5 feet wide… you can imagine the shape! Its not as short as some rec kayaks but still on the short side…

you are not getting wet enough …
If you notice the paddle drips, you are not having enough fun.

reasons a short stroke is more efficient
Your boat has less time to slow between strokes.

Your trunk muscles are stronger than your arm muscles.

To Keep Dry …

– Last Updated: Apr-06-15 3:45 PM EST –

To keep drips away from you, you either need a very long-angle slow and lazy stroke with a long paddle (so it drips in the water on the side of the kayak), or, a more vertical stroke at high-enough cadence so that water does not have a chance to drip on you and instead flies forward of your feet.

In my surfski sit on top (19" wide) I paddle with a 208-218 cm paddle or so (I vary it on occasion, adjustable length). If I paddle with reasonably fast cadence, the drip don't fall on me, they fall right ahead of my feet. And I have no drip rings, yet my hands stay dry (unless I hit some water with them directly). That type of paddling is for short exercise type outings, not for an all-day leisurely paddling trips.

If you go at a slow cadence and high angle, or if you make correction strokes such as vertical draws, water will drip on you a lot, drip rings or not. Just no way around that...

EDIT: and on the efficiency side, I think you have it nailed down, at least conceptually:

"Efficiency has never been an issue for me; when I get into a rhythm, I can go long distances. I just paddled 51 miles on the Altamaha River this past Friday. It was a long trip (12-1/2 hours with two stops) but certainly manageable. Perhaps I'm not pulling through the entire stroke and not suffering as much loss on the blade angle. I'm an engineer, but when I paddle, I try to leave engineering behind and just enjoy the scenery and the sunshine."

I think that's right - especially with some paddles, such as Greenland paddles, you can drag the paddle way behind your hip and as long as you don't actually pull at it actively past your "sweet spot" for power, going beyond it is not an issue - the paddle just exits later, but does not pull you down or sideways.. This type of long stroke allows you to get more rotation (or perhaps more forward reach without as much rotation) with less lifting and lets your pulling arm rest a bit by getting closer to you towards the end of the stroke. Some will say that's poor form, but I see a lot of people who can paddle long distances do it, so it seems to work as a long-distance efficient paddling technique.

Sounds good, though with some blades,
the water may fly off the corner of the blade onto me, rather than going down the shaft and into the cup.

Torso and length of stroke

– Last Updated: Apr-06-15 4:07 PM EST –

In all cases the ideal would be to rotate your torso and be sitting upright, if anything a little tilted forward. As someone said above, the only place the water can hit you is closer to your feet. Unless it is a windy day - then you will be wet however you manage the paddle. And I agree with one above, a higher angle stroke tends to be wetter than a low angle stroke.

If the water is dripping from the end of the paddle that is in the air in front of you as the other end is finishing a stroke, you need to shorten your stroke. Probably start it more forward as well. The active blade is not doing anything helpful once it passes behind your hip anyway unless you want to turn.

If the water is dripping from the blade before it starts into the water in front, you need to add enough torso rotation so that it is hanging further out than the middle of the boat as the stroke starts.

That said, all of this is easier in a 22-24 inch sea kayak than in a 30 inch wide SOT. Try the stroke ideas here first, and it it really bugs you maybe get waterproof pants.

This was something like that
As I recall, the stream of water wasn’t entirely along the shaft. Some water ended up running to the shaft, but one large stream ran off the near corner of the blade, on a trajectory that ended up near the shaft. The drip cup was able to catch that stream too, but that might not be possible on some paddles.

how about
a paddle shaft with perforations upstream from the drip rings? The perforations could be lined with an absorbent material, which would soak up the drips and channel them into the inside of the shaft, through a check valve at the end of each shaft.

The paddle would only cost about $750 or so.

based on what you are really using
a wide SOT, keep using a “longish” paddle, but use a blade that is narrower and longer, too. Keep your paddling angle low if your primary desire is to move the kayak sans drips, not writing a thesis on how little energy you expended using the latest research moving a skinnier, faster, lower in the water, spray-skirted cockpit craft from point “a” to point “b.” Bringing the blade up higher, aka closer to your body, just gives the water better aim when it falls off the paddle onto you.

Don’t think “pull,” with the hand on the side in the water, think “push” with the hand on the shaft on the side out of the water. Agree with the ‘don’t dip the blade into the water really deep’ for this drier experience. My guess is that you are also bringing the blade out of the water in such a way it’s catching a bit more water than some other styles of paddle blades would.

Try this- hold your arms and hands out to the side, shoulder height. Point your thumbs forward. Now rotate them in big circles. Imagine your hands were in the water, then coming out, you’d be flinging water every where. Now point your thumbs down and rotate your arms again. (feel how much stiffer you are, btw, with this elbow lock ?) Watch your hands. If your hand is not coming out of the imaginary water line completely vertically, it would be catching and flinging water up and around again. You want your paddle blade to come up out of the water nearly vertically, for less splash. And the best way to do that is to watch yourself in the kayak and concentrate on what THAT feels like, so you can make a little adjustment. Of course if you let the blade sit in the water too long and it goes back too far past the hips, it’s easier to twist the blade sideways, scoop more water, then more water gets flung about.

Great for those really hot days !

What style paddle you have now, drips a lot anyway. Try an aqua bounty, less drippy. Best thing, if you’re not in a hurry, is to either go to a rental place and try a different paddle, go with others, swap for a few minutes, and try a different paddle, or go to a “demo days” and try a different paddle.

That figures
I’ve never seen you make fun of the usual method that double-blade canoers use to stay dry, which is to use a paddle that’s eight or nine feet long. Such a paddle certainly keeps you dry but is cumbersome and far from efficient. I saw a way to stay dry when using a vertical stroke with a short, efficient double-blade paddle, and decided to make it happen. I could have figured you’d find the idea of such a simple modification worthy of ridicule.

Nowadays I use a single-blade paddle for all canoeing. That keeps me dry too!

I have a paddle
That doesn’t drip. I have to ‘refresh’ it every four or five times out, however. I treated it with Rustoleum “Never Wet”, a two part spray that absolutely stops the paddle from picking up water. You stick it in, and when you lift the blade, the blade is dry and brings no drips.

It costs about $20 for the two aerosol kit, but have enough stuff to do the paddle at least 10 times.

That’s an AWESOME idea! I know the product that you’re talking about, but never thought of it and a paddle at the same time. How KEWL!