Kneeling vs. sitting

I haven’t been paddling a canoe long, but I seem to enjoy kneeling more than sitting,( due to bulging disc in my lower back.) Does this affect the length of the paddle I use? I am getting ready to order a ZRE Power Surge bent shaft; they didn’t have an answer to the question so I’m turning to the pros :wink: I used the formula they suggest (sit on flat chair measure to bridge of nose/eye level.) Should I just go with that?


Kneel verse sit paddle length and bend
To paddle efficiently, we need to address the blade, our body and the boat, in that order.

When kneeling, the paddler rotates from the knees and has relatively long reach. Straight shafts are preferred, because the sweet part of the stroke, where the blade is +/- 10 degrees from square to the stroke, and hence effective at force transmittal, occurs before the knee.

Kneeling also allows us to use cross strokes, the cross forward being the key to an uncorrected forward stroke.

The further forward that “sweet spot” happens, the less it torques the hull into an off course yaw.

When sitting, we rotate from our fannies. That, and lower stance reduce reach. Bent paddles move the +/- 10 degree portion of the stroke aft from the knee to mid thigh. As we don’t need to reach as far forward, the paddle can be shorter.

Here’s a rough rule of thumb to fit shaft length to torso height. Take a good grasp on the top grip and drop it in front of your body with the blade above your head. A straight paddle should have the neck, where blade transitions to shaft, at one’s hairline or an inch above. Those sitting in Mad Rivers and Bells want the neck at the bridge of their nose. Those sitting lower yet, in a Wenonah, want the neck at the tip of their nose.

This is pretty approximate, individual bio mechanics and burden in the hull may suggest some adjustment up or down, but you’ll seldom go far wrong with that little rule.

though while I was in the paddle shed trying to figure out how to explain, CE did it better

You dont want a bent most likely… It will be $15 more but the straight seems for you if you are not sitting.

I’m not understanding??!!
“Take a good grasp on the top grip and drop it in front of your body with the blade above your head. A straight paddle should have the neck, where blade transitions to shaft, at one’s hairline or an inch above. Those sitting in Mad Rivers and Bells want the neck at the bridge of their nose. Those sitting lower yet, in a Wenonah, want the neck at the tip of their nose.”

How am I supposed to be holding the paddle? I’m holding the top of the paddle with the very top in my right hand palm (how I normally hold it), is that right? Now, do I hold my right arm up in the air over my head with my elbow straight?? … with the paddle’s blade over my face/neck???

Blade up, grip down
Let your arm hang naturally with the paddle leaning against the front of your shoulder. What Charlie calls the ‘neck’, I always called the ‘throat’ but, no matter, he’s right on as far as the rest. Took me about ten years to figure all this out on my own. Should’ve taken lessons early on, I guess.

The wording made absolutely no…

– Last Updated: Mar-25-08 11:20 PM EST –

... sense to me either, UNTIL I finally figured out that he was talking about a way to measure shaft length relative to your body size while standing, not sitting. Boy, it confused the heck out of me too.

The only possible drawback of that method is that not everyone has the same length arms in proportion to their body, so the sitting-on-a-chair method will be a more consistent way of relating shaft length to torso length. But even more important is accounting for differences in, um, "seat padding". Ever notice how amazingly TALL a short fat person becomes in comparison to a tall skinny person once they both sit down? What really matters is how high your shoulders are above the water, whether that height is the result of torso length or one's personal amount and distribution of "padding".

So, sit on a chair, place the grip end on the seat of that chair with the blade end up and the shaft in front of your face. If you plan to paddle while kneeling, the junction of the shaft and blade should be a little higher than the top of your head, plus or minus to suit personal taste. ***Nope, that's wrong. Thanks Kayamedic. See her post and my additional post below****

I dont know about those statements asociating seat heights with brand names or that Wenonah seats are the lowest of all (the factory seat height on my Bell Merlin II was lower than that of any canoe I've ever seen excpet a couple with seats lowered after purchase), but it does illustrate how sitting requires a shorter paddle shaft than kneeling, and the lower you sit, the shorter the shaft should be.

Shaft this long
from guideboat guy:If you plan to paddle while kneeling, the junction of the shaft and blade should be a little higher than the top of your head, plus or minus to suit personal taste

is tiring… Most of my students find that somewhere above the bridge of the nose and below the hairline works best.

What you want to avoid is bringing your grip hand up too high. But it should be high enough so you can look under your grip arm as an excercise to maximize torso rotation.

There is personal preference here and folks can adapt to about two inches difference.

bent or straight
you can use either paddle for either position, but it is pretty universally agreed that straight is preferred for kneeling for the very good and technical reasons described by the first poster. i’m biased towards straights anyhow, as i like the symmetry and stroke diversity for maneuvering.

ultimately, the stroke efficiency from a bent shaft isn’t that great (few percent i think) and the versatility and many strokes you can perform in a rockered canoe with a straight is enormously fun and rewarding, but again, this is my bias!

if you said you want to go fast, hit and switch i would say otherwise.

Second appraisal - I think you are right

– Last Updated: Mar-25-08 11:31 PM EST –

I haven't tried this in a while, and I just did, and as long as I don't slouch at all, my favorite paddles have shaft lengths extending from the chair seat to where I "used to have a hairline". I modified my post to correct this mistake, but left the original wording there so your response would still make sense.

CE Wilson, what do you mean that,
when kneeling, you rotate from your knees? When I’m locked into a c-1, I rotate in a fore/aft plane at my hip sockets and above.

Thanks everyone
It’s interesting that some suggest a straight paddle, as I actually seem to prefer paddling on one side with my straight better than hit and switch with a bent,anyway. Just thought the bent was more efficient.

OC-1 verse C-1

– Last Updated: Mar-28-08 6:40 PM EST –

Open solo canoes, OC-1s, are a very small, ~5% part of the entire canoe market. Decked solo canoes, C-1s are a very very small part of the solo canoe market.

Generally, when we are discussing solo technique, we're going to refer to the larger portion of the market, open solos.

That said, I built myself a BatMax when at Bell and have a Cascade that gets used hanging in my garage.

C-1er5s, brothers and sisters of the T grip, are kneeling, but uncomfortably low. On the other hand, the boat is cut away and decked over, so forward reach is improved. Further, the cross forward stroke is necessary to initiating an inside circle, so a straight shaft paddle is virtually required.

I fit my C-1 paddles so the neck is an inch above the bridge of my nose.

Problem also is that what may
be called kneeling, is in fact sitting with your knees on the floor of your canoe. Real kneeling – that is without any support from ‘behind’ – is not what most people can and will do for a long time. I sometimes do paddle that way just behind the stern thwart in a tandem canoe, to make the canoe dryer in waves or when backferrying. Perhaps then a straight paddle would be better, I just don’t know. But since I don’t paddle that way all day long, I don’t care much about it. For normal forward paddling, which is what I do most of the time when touring paddling, I cannot detect a disadvantage when using a bent-shaft paddle and kneeling.

yes for the average paddler
the average paddler sits. If you sit and paddle with a straight blade you lift water at the end of the propulsion part of the stroke. The paddle is not vertical at the beginning of recovery. This makes your boat bob and dip…It is small but significant over time.

kneel’g, sitt’g, bent, straight
First, as to shaft length kneeling with a straight, I prefer to look at the paddler grip arm position (height) at the catch and would select a shaft length that puts the throat at or below the waterline depending on how much under hull component his forward/reverse includes.

As for a straight vs bent when kneeling, I think one needs to include the recovery phase as well as other strokes that the paddler might do. My style of forward including recovery, for instance

just cannot tolerate a bent. Other strokes do not lend themselves to a bent, such as several types of reverse strokes and turning maneuvers (for me personally).

In short, I say shaft length, straight vs bent depend on one’s overall paddling style and especially all components of the forward and reverse strokes.

ZRE paddles
ZAV will ship you a paddle with the handle not permanently attached. I have done this and just used tape to temporaily hold the handle in place (it slides fairly snugly into the shaft) and do the try it out and cut some more off if not happy approach. Once you reach a length you like, a small amount of epoxy will permanently affix your handle.

I have no explanation why, but for some weird reason I like ZAVs about two inches shorter than my comparable wood paddles.

yep - agree with larryn
I have same experience as larryn, that my Zavs want to be a bit shorter than other paddles, I THINK it’s because the Zav blades are so short so the shaft length remains relatively long even with a shorter paddle, and the buoyancy of the Zav also makes it feel odd if the paddle is too long, like you are working a bit just to submerge the blade and the paddle is pushing back on you.

I’d strongly recommend that you buy a Zav with handle not glued in and buy it extra long and shorten shaft about 1/2 inch at a time until it’s perfect, then glue…or just leave it taped forever…works fine. Maybe shorten it only 1/4 or 1/8 inch as you approach ideal length since it’s surprising how much one can feel even 1/8 inch difference (maybe just physics since inertia of paddle goes with 4th power of length?!).

You can still hit and switch with a nice light straight paddle…that’s my personal strange but enjoyable normal style. I like the control that a straight paddle offers.

Of course it’s easier to scoop up slow turtles in the Spring with a bent…they slide right off of straight paddles.