Kayak with Canoe Paddle?

A couple random comments on this. Yes a rudder is part of the system. With a rudder and a bent no need to correct w/paddle. You can “work” one side for extended times\intervals or switch at will. I still have to remind myself fast cadence short stroke but the GPS proves it as faster than the more natural feeling long power pull.

Went out for a paddle in the Thunderbolt this morning and brought along the Epic small-mid wing and my 46" Zav. Took each on a 3 mile run in deep water, protected from and the wind, and with limited boat wakes. The first half of the run I stuck close to shore to avoid the very small head wind. On the return trip I paddled a little farther from shore to catch the slight tail wind. It made about a .2mph speed difference on the portions where I actually got the tail wind.

The 1st run was with the Zav. Overall average was 5.9mph with a max speed of 7.2 mph. Average heart rate was 157 with a max of 171. Total time was 30’ 35". Stroke rate was 63-68 when cruising along (not sprinting)

About 11 minutes into the run, in an area with no wind, I sprinted to see what I could get the boat up to. Max speed in the sprint was 6.7 mph with a heart rate of 171. I couldn’t hold this long at all and it was hard to get it over 6.5 mph. The maximum speed of the run (7.2 mph) came at the very end when I got a nice tail wind and little waves turning back to the put in.

I relaxed for about 20 minutes and drank some water before doing the exact same run with the wing paddle.

For the wing paddle my average speed went up to 6.4 mph with an average heart rate of 159 bpm. Max speed was 8.3 mph and max heart rate was 176 bpm. Total time of 28’ 22". Stroke rate was around 78 when cruising (not sprinting).

Sprinted during the same portion of the run with no wind resulting in a max speed of 7.1 mph with a heart rate of 176 bpm. This felt easier to attain than the 6.7 mph sprint with the single blade and was a little easier to maintain (though still very short).

The return trip with the wing was much more enjoyable than with the single blade. With the light tail wind I was able to bring it up to 7mph a few times without much extra effort and at the end of the run, when turning back to the put in, I was able to catch a couple small boat wakes and get it up over 8 mph. With the single blade I wasn’t really able to catch any wakes and I felt much less stable when the wakes hit me (almost went over once).

General impressions were more favorable with the wing. More stable, more speed, and felt less tiring. Neither of these runs was full out race pace, but more of a (semi) comfortable training pace that I felt I could keep up for a long time. With the wing there is more speed to be had with just a little more effort. With the single blade it feels like it takes more effort for a smaller speed gain.

This gap would probably have been less if I’d been in a touring rather than racing kayak and the stability difference wouldn’t have been noticeable with the extra stability of something like my QCC.

Maybe if I get real ambitious I’ll take out the QCC with both paddles this afternoon to see how much closer the results are with a slower boat.


Went back out this afternoon to the same place and did the same runs with the QCC 600. The boat wakes had the lake pretty choppy when I was out with the single blade. I don’t think I’d have been able to keep the T-bolt right side up with a single blade in those conditions, probably would have been doable with the wing though. Was no big deal at all in the QCC.

Zav single blade:

Average speed - 5.6 mph

Max speed - 6.7 mph

Average heart rate - 154 bmp

Max heart rate - 170 bmp

Time - 32’ 25"

Epic Small-mid wing:

Average speed - 5.9 mph

Max speed - 6.9 mph

Average heart rate - 156 bpm

Max heart rate - 171 bpm

Time - 30’ 40"

By the time I got out on my last run of the day (with the wing) the wind had died and I didn’t get as much speed boost on the return leg.

Just like with the Thunderbolt the max speeds didn’t come during the sprint with no wind and wakes but came when I caught a little tail wind or a boat wake.

Max sprint speeds were 6.2 mph with the single blade and 6.6 mph with the wing.

It was fun running the tests today and it got me out to enjoy the beautiful day. I’ll still be using the single blade with my kayak (QCC) but not when I’m looking for max speed.


canoe paddle
when i bought a qcc the wing and double bends hurt my shoulders. being a marathon paddler i went with my canoe paddle without any soreness.

but i was told @ a couple of races that a kayak must be paddled w/a kayak paddle. if not for this i would still have the qcc. i was faster w/the canoe paddle

Interesting test.
I had imagined there might be a greater difference between the two paddles with different hulls. Big difference in speed in the very efficient Thunderbolt hull, while the QCC had a pretty small difference. Evidently the efficiency of the hull would make a bigger impact on the type of paddle used.

Sizing the paddle
I just went thru this with Karen Knight a couple of weeks ago - still have the orange tape on the paddle and the boat. If her sizing works for your purposes:

Paddle blade should be fully in the water to the top of the throat but not up onto the shaft at the point you are rotated for the stroke. Paddle shaft should be long enough that your top hand is at the same level as your nose when it is fully vertical. If you have to come off vertical to get the blade in, either something is the wrong length or you need to roatate better.

The typical canoe measure is to sit in a chair and measure from there, but that works on the assumption that it is reasonably close to where your butt may be from the water in a canoe. Not going to work for kayak sizing. My guess is that you’ll be looking for a shorter shaft length.

For fast paced paddling over shorter distances under 5 miles I have no doubt that with the wing I’ll beat myself easily compared to when using single blade -:wink:

Wondering however how it will feel over something like 15 miles. At the end of a brisk paddle of 15 miles so far I feel quite tired and my average speed drops significantly compared to something in the 5-8 miles range. Since obviously I can’t maintain high speed for long time, I was hoping that with a single blade I might be able to maintain similar average speed with less effort on my part. We’ll see about that once I get a chance to use a “real” single bladed paddle…

Yesterday I rigged half of my SUP paddle with a tennis ball as a handle and took it to the local swim support event to try for a couple of hours.

I was with a slow kayak and I could tell that with the single blade I could not maintain the same speeds that I can with a double blade (a large GP in this case). And catching some boat wakes was more difficult than I’m used to - can’t put nearly as much power continuously for short intervals.

My SUP paddle is very low end, heavy, and with a poor exit (lifts more water than it should) but is decent size area and powerful enough to compare to a single blade on my other paddles. It is a wide blade though (9 or 9.5", forgot what it measured) and IMO too wide for comfortable use in a kayak. Something like 8" would be better. A wide SUP paddle on a SUP is not a problem as it goes under the board - can’t do that with the kayak too well I thought so a narrower blade should be better.

The overall length of my contraption came to about 46-48" and that seemed about right.

With the short ruderless and rather maneuverable kayak I had to edge quite aggressively to maintain direction if I did not do corrective/steering strokes. Especially at low speeds - the kayak firms-up considerably in terms of tracking when at speed. The single blade worked much better with the long ruddered kayak -:wink:

But the experience is encouraging. I’ll paddle it a bit more to get used to it. Also the angle of the paddle is something I need to get used to - managed to flip over once since I could not effectively brace when I lost my balance edging -;( Shame on me!

Strange stroke mechanics?
I’m trying to understand the mechanics of using a single blade while siting in a kayak, body jack-knifed in an L, feet out front, low to the water. It seems like that position would severely limit an efficient single blade stroke, no matter how short the blade.

I’d be interested to see single blade speed trials with a QCC or the like outfitted with a saddle, C1 style.


Freestyle paddlers such as Karen
as well as whitewater paddlers, tend to use longer shafts in order to get effective control strokes out to the bow and stern of the boat, or too get sweeps out away from the boat, and for the enhanced bracing effect available from a longer paddle.

Someone who is primarily interested in paddling straight for speed will probably prefer something a bit shorter.

over the long run
Alan - I agree a wing is faster over the short run but run the test over a 60 mile course next and check the numbers. Also put the wing away for a few weeks concentrate on the single and run the numbers.

I found the same results you did when timing a zav versus a lendal wing over a 9 mile flatwater course. The Wing was fully .5 to .7 mph faster. I basically ran a race pace with the wing one day then did the zav the next.

Based upon that info I assumed the wing was faster and operated it as my primary paddle in a couple long runs (45-65 miles)with my buddies. However I found I cant turn the wing very nearly as effectively after about 30 miles and that speed nose dived into the drink.

I then dropped the wing and use the zav as my primary on long stuff. Meanwhile after I committed to the zav as my primary stick I quickly gained about .3 a mile on my average. Thus my single is now only about .2 mph slower than a double and when this is coupled with the distance and efficiency factor I am now convinced the single is the faster of the two over longer runs. **(I am paddling a unlimited canoe as opposed to a kayak)

C1 vs. K1
Looking at the results from the Blackburn Challenge (20 miles race in open water) I can tell that the double-bladers seem to have an advantage.

Harrd to compare numbers since the boats are different, but it seems that the FSK group (18 foot fast kayaks like the Epic 18X) seem to be as good as 20’ Ourigger single canoes. That tells me something. Surf ski and unlimited kayaks beat similarly long outriggers by a considerable margin.

I do not know how they will fare over a longer than 20 mile range.

Also, in open water, it is importante to catch swells and boat wakes to surf in the fast boats - that’s a lot easier to do with a double blade where you can dig for a few strokes while you get on the wave, then enjoy the free ride.

I would guess that if one is going at slower than race pace the difference will be minimal though.

Just finished-up a simple plywood canoe paddle prototype yesterday and will have a chance to try it on the water hopefully soon to compare with my small-mid wing in my fast kayak. The paddle turned out pretty lightweight and seems strong enough for paddling but I have yet to see how it paddles -:wink:

K-1 vs C-1
I was told that in whitewater decked slalom competition prior to Jon Lugbill, K-1s typically turned in times that were 10% faster than C-1s consistently.

Jon narrowed that gap by exploiting the incredible agility of the C-1 and introducing innovations such as the stern pivot turn. I think K-1s had the advantage due to their higher potential stroke rate.

Plus you can’t “wing” with a canoe
Utilizing a wing double bladed paddle gives a significant advantage over distances one can sustain the higher speed that the added power of the wing allows.

Unfortunately, due to the need to switch sides with a single blade, I don’t think one can have nearly the same level of lift that a wing double-bladed paddle offers…

“Unfortunately, due to the need to switch sides with a single blade, I don’t think one can have nearly the same level of lift that a wing double-bladed paddle offers…”

Correct me if I’m completely out of touch, but I’ve never heard of a wing canoe paddle. Most canoe racing paddles have short, broad, often scooped blades, sometimes with a bent shaft. And yes, racers almost invariably use a hit 'n switch style because there’s no wasted energy in correction strokes and their boats are usually hard tracking anyway.

However, if you drop the notion of paddling for flat out, 99th percentile speed, there are quite a few practitioners of the single bladed art who can happily keep a brisk pace all day long without ever switching sides.

I don’t think anyone will argue for flat out speed, a double blade has the advantage. Of course, to those who prefer C1/C2/OC1/OC2, that isn’t the point, is it?

So why use a single blade with a kayak? Novelty, experimentation, fun? Heck, go for it! Ultimate maximum speed or efficiency? In a kayak? Forget it. Generally speaking, the kayak is designed for the double blade and canoe for the single. Each craft draws upon different body mechanics; I still can’t see how in the long run, using a single blade in a kayak can be much more than a novelty.


Try it sometime
Don’t know what to say other than it feels perfectly natural to me. I also paddle a Vagabond, Magic, and some old C1 racing canoes, switching between them with a single blade doesn’t feel unnatural at all. It actually feels better in the kayak than in the Magic since the Bell doesn’t have a foot brace installed yet.


but the canoe paddle
weighs less and is easier on the shoulders, giving it a significant advantage over the wing over a extended distance…

single blade short video–
Heres a short video of verlen kruger the king of the single blade and world paddling distance record holder.

nice clip of him paddling UP the colorado thru the grand canyon…


I’ve seen that. Interesting to compare his technique with what I see on some other videos. His top hand goes up/down, where others keep the top hand up for the most part…

I’ll have to put some miles on my canoe paddle to figure out what works for what circumstances. Will hopefully do some paddling tonight to experiment with my new home-made contraption of a paddle -:wink: