Non-wind reasons for feathered blades

The thread on feathering for wind reasons was interesting, but it sort got blown around by confusing microbursts of alleged non-wind mechanical advantages for various feather angles.

I’d like to separate out the issues and limit this topic to non-wind reasons for feather angles.

Feather fans, your job is to explain the non-wind advantages of a feather angle, AND what that angle is. AND, AND, AND you must explain why your proposed feather angle is superior for these advantages over other angles.

Feather foes, your job is to debunk the arguments of the feather fans based on logic, theory or practical experience.

I use a 30 degree feather
For myself and my body build I have found that a 30 degree feather lets me keep a straight wrist, or straighter than non-feathered, when paddling.

I go non-feathered
It just feels more comfortable to me. When my wife began paddling, she looked a little awkward paddling non-feathered. So, I suggested she try it feathered and she was more comfortable with that. I’ve had this happen with several new paddlers and it’s hard to predict which way they’re gonna go.

I use either a
bent shaft unfeathered Lendal Kinetic, a bent shaft unfeathered Werner Camano, or a 28 oz. GP that I made myself.- I use these in calm or rough water, as they seem to put less stress on my wrists than any feathered paddles I’ve used. My students find less strain using unfeathered paddles as well, but they are rotating their torso and using their feet on the pegs, as opposed to just using their arms to pull their kayaks. Three friends of mine who surf-ski prefer unfeathered wings as well. We don’t see many people in SW Florida who DO use feathered paddles much anymore.

I can tell that this is going to be an interesting thread!

straighter wrist
I have a Lendal archipelago F1 crank shaft with a right hand control set at 60 degrees. I started out paddling with a 0 degree set on my straight shaft paddles. I found that when I bought this used paddle that if I kept my elbows low when I lifted my forearm and hand on the release my opposite blade angle is automatically set for the other hand’s catch and both my wrists stay straight.

I find I can paddle either way, but more and more seem to like the 60 degree feather. I intend to build a Greenland paddle soon, but that is different as you have part of the hand on the blade and part on the loom, and for some strokes slide your hand out onto the blade. You also lead with the top edge of the blade on the forward stroke.

There is more than one way to “get a grip”.

Not enough initial information
1. Do you paddle with good form? There is probably no consensus on what that is but it makes a big difference.

2. Do you do full torso rotation? Many people think they do but actually don’t.

3. Do you have a fixed control hand or switch back and forth? Probably the most important piece of information.

4. Do you use a high or low angle stroke?

I could add more but it does seem to me that the discussion will be confused and useless if people do not provide at least the above information.

onside = offside
1) Rolls and braces are exactly the same on both sides. With my unfeathered paddles rolls are equal on each side.

2) Switching between a GP and any other unfeathered paddle is completely natural.

1. I think so, but hey I may be bias ;o}

2. much of the time, but I do vary things depending

3. fixed with feathered and switch with straight (alternately loosen grip) and do neither with GP

4. High angle most of the time but again vary depending

have done most of my roll practice
with an unfeathered paddle. However, I haven’t been using the 60 degree right hand control for very long. Still I am finding I like it for paddling so far.

feathered paddles

– Last Updated: Jul-22-12 6:27 PM EST –

We basically inherited feathered kayak paddles from European slalom racers. A large feather is a definite advantage in slalom racing as it makes gate touches from the high paddle blade less likely.

There are situations in which a feathered paddle is advantageous in wind, but there are just as many situations is which it is a detriment.

I still use kayak paddles with a lot of feather (up to 80 degrees) largely because I have some nice "old school" paddles and I am used to them. I use a dedicated control hand (right hand). The one situation in whitewater kayaking in which I find a feathered paddle with an offset of 60 degrees or more a definite advantage is when blasting through big waves. The offset, feathered blade slices through the water more easily.

I have paddled with a Greenland style paddle and spoon-bladed paddles with no offset, as well as feathered paddles with anywhere from 15 to 90 degrees of offset. I do find that for myself, a modest degree of offset (15-30 degrees) is easier on my wrists than a paddle with no offset whatsoever.

If I was starting out kayaking now, I suspect I would go with a blade with no more than 30 degrees of offset and not use a dedicated control hand.

I started paddling unfeathered and got along fine. Then I read that anyone who’s anyone paddles with a feathered paddle, some at 90 degrees. So I set mine to 60 degrees and thought I was really someone now. Then my right wrist started to hurt and I realized that if I backed down the feather to about 30 degrees it was much more comfortable. So that’s how I paddled for a couple years. As I got more serious into racing and improving my form I heard learned people say that if you have proper torso rotation it perfectly sets up a highly feathered blade for the catch. So I started working more on my rotation and set my paddle to 75 degrees. Low and behold they seem to be correct! If I rotate properly (or at least what I think is properly) the blade is perfectly set up for entry. If it’s not then I need to concentrate more on my form.


Absolutely Spot On
And that’s why Olympic paddlers do so too, for they are paddling at the highest level of competence one can ever achieve. For me, 75 to 80 degrees feather sets up the perfect angle of attack to generate and receive forces that propel my kayak as fast as my aging body allows me.

save your teeth
In white water and surfing, feathered paddles are common. Basically, it makes it so if you take a wave hard from the front, only one blade will catch on the wave, the other will slice through. This helps protect your teeth and nose from being bashed by a paddle being slapped back by the wave.

Peter, your photo
I’m just playing interlocutor in this thread, but I have to ask. What is the feather angle in your big wave profile photo?

90 degree feature is perfect
For getting the most clearance of the slalom gates with a given paddle length. I cannot figure out any other angle that works for that. And it appears that that is where feathering came from. After that it was just the cool thing to do.

For going into the wind 90 degree feather is still the best, but only straight into the wind.

I’d like to eliminate wind and WW slalom

– Last Updated: Jul-22-12 9:09 PM EST –

Wind advantages are specifically off topic.

I'd also like to forget about (but concede) WW slalom gate advantages because that paddling universe is so tiny.

The general smashing-into-waves advantage alleged for WW and ocean paddling is much more broadly applicable and so far is unrebutted.

General paddling involves wind

– Last Updated: Jul-23-12 12:16 AM EST –

Unless you paddle at 5 to 6 am on an inland lake
during the summer there is going to be wind.

Anyone thinking there isn't wind and waves
hasn't paddled quite enough on a regular basis.

Lots of people go greenland "to reduce effect of wind"
and have less flutter from a big blade in the water.

Off set feathering angle is a highly personal preference
as is double crank shaft or thin shaft or thick shaft.
If it feels better one way or another, go with it.

Humans are not propeller driver machines
like a gasoline engine on an aircraft or boat.
We don't operate at high speed or high forces and
the analogies of "wing lift" really don't apply.
Paddling over 6mph-7mph for extended long periods
is fairly tough for the general public,
most are cruising somewhere around 3mph - 4mph.

OK - message taken
I posted an early morning (for me) question about the purpose of this post because it sounded stronger than the personal preference which drives so much of peoples’ practice when it comes to feathering - or not. That said, I probably should not have responded at that hour of the morning (for me). The reply basically asking my point was correct.

To each his own in this area. Do what is right for you and your conditions. I do not think there is one right feather angle.

For many years I used a Werner Corryvrecken and experimented with every angle I could access in the left hand configuration. I did find that I do not like 0 degree feather even with its advantages.

I’ve found I just prefer 60 degrees. It just feels natural to me. I have no wrist pain or any pain even on extended 7 hour trips.

Well, my faithful beloved Werner is getting kind of old so now I run with a 60 degree lefty Saltwood which is a permanent configuration. The indexing on this paddle makes feathering much less of liability as it is easy to know where the power face is oriented.

still have my teeth… :slight_smile:
I disagree with this. I remember debating this over 10 years ago with Matt Broze on Paddlewise. We expelled a lot of hot air, but opinions remained the same.

I usually use an unfeathered Werner with a Mega Jester Storm in surf, but also play with a GP and other blades. In the past I also used an Island waveski with an unfeathered WW paddle. My favorite local place to surf is near Cape Canaveral, the beach break there includes strong dumping waves.

I think this particular belief started among (skilled feathered) kayak-surfers after seeing the inevitable carnage among newbies who went forth into the surf zone with unfeathered paddles (the trademark of beginners about 15 years ago), and got slammed. The issue wasn’t the paddle feather, it was the lack of skill in the surf zone. It’s also possible that the paddlers weren’t using a kayak that allowed them to lean fully aft (a recipe for injury).

The only way I see that this can be an issue is if you hold your paddle horizontal and sit still, mimicing a deer in headlights, as a powerful breaker slams into your chest. Even in this case the danger is more of having your head impact the afterdeck since your entire body will be thrown backward, not just your arms.

Taking a breaker in the chest means that you are completely out of position in the surf zone and are unwise enough to try to stop a breaking wave with your torso. The wave will win. You will be punished no matter what feather paddle you are holding.

Anyone with even a modicum of skill will either be powering up the wave before it breaks, or become a needle (shed the wave by holding the paddle alongside the hull and tucking forward).

The surf zone is a swift teacher and will quickly punish mistakes and reward skill. We all make plenty of mistakes while learning to surf which is why you need to find a small gentle break well away from swimmers and other surfers when you are learning since you will frequently be out-of-control.

I haven’t seen paddle feather, by itself, cause injuries in the surf zone. By far the most injuries I have seen are caused by paddlers who allow the kayak to get between them and the surf (often chatting and unaware) and get mowed down like a bowling pin, and also shoulder injuries caused by poor technique in using a high brace.

Greg Stamer