Offset paddles

What is the advantage of offsetting your blades on your kayak paddle? I saw someone yesterday moving along pretty smoothly, so I turned mine to try it. At first my paddle was going all over the place until I established the right hand position, but even then, I had to think about every stroke, and my wrists wore out quick from constantly rotating them. I obviously don’t have the technique down, because no one in their right mind would work as hard as I was at it.

So, what’s the proper technique to use your paddle blades offset, and why do it in the first place?

Feathered blades had at least two
sources. One was to reduce wind resistance to the upper blade as it passes forward, which is pretty much necessary in flatwater kayak racing and desirable in some touring kayak conditions. The other is in whitewater slalom, where the upper blade is feathered to reduce the risk of clipping a pole when negotiating a gate.

Those of us who started with 90 degree feather have not all joined the rush to low or zero feather. I am still quite comfortable with 75 degrees and have not had any wrist problems.

So when you say 90 deg or zero . . .
90 degree would mean the blades are perpendicular to each other and zero would mean they’re parallel, right? For flat water paddling, then, less wind resistance is the only advantage?

And what is the technique in using a 75 or 90 degree feather effectively?

First, the advantage for flatwater
kayak racing is that the boat is going at a pretty high rate, and the upper blade coming forward is going much faster, so it needs not to create air resistance to movement.

For touring and sea kayaking, most seem to have settled on 60 degrees as a good compromise. Doesn’t catch too much head or crosswind, does not require much control wrist bending.

Nearly everyone uses the right wrist for control. The left hand loosens when the right hand rotates the shaft so the appropriate blade power facing is achieved. The right, control wrist must be bent upward while pushing, as the left hand pulls the blade back during the left or port stroke. Some problems with wrist feathering are caused by excess gripping pressure rather than my flexion and extension of the wrist by itself.

Dont rotate the wrist at all
Blade orientation is controled much more from the elbow/shoulder than the wrist. The control hand is the one nearest the water not the dominant hand.

one other reason people do it
Most people I know feather their paddle because it’s more ergonomically neutral.

If you have just finished a stroke on your right side, rotate to the right, exit the blade on your right side, turn and look forward to the left, with a 60° offset, your left blade should already be pointed at the water in the “catch” position.

Choose one hand as the control hand and relax your other to let the paddle shaft rotate freely. That you experienced pain makes me think that you weren’t relaxing your offside hand. (Or that maybe you feathered your paddle the wrong direction!)

actually it’s ergonomically biased…
towards a particular control hand. The reason why the left blade is in the catch position when you lift your right elbow is because you have still retained control with your right hand. If you had let go of control with the right hand as soon as you completed the stroke, lifting the elbow would not give you that particular angle with the left blade. It may be a chicken or the egg thing but the proper forward stroke that many of us use now seems to be developed as an ergonomic response to the offsetted paddle design.

I now use zero degree offsets with the greenland paddle and my whitewater blades and the ergonomics are definitely more neutral since you have alternating control hands. For racing or long distance touring, wind is still a consideration when using a wing or Euro blade with a larger wind profile so a feather probably does help some.

On an interesting note, many racers used to use left-hand control feathers on their paddles since there was some speculation that it would give them a minute advantage in terms of sprinting off the line.

Speaking only for the whitewater world
in which I have paddled for over 30 years, you are absolutely and hilariously wrong.

That’s an interesting point, bohemia.
I have wondered why having some feather seems better than no feather in terms of feel, even on flat water with no wind issues at all. Perhaps the amount of feather that “feels” right will also depend on whether one is doing high angle or low angle paddling.

One often associates high angle paddling with whitewater slalom, but actually Scott Shipley notes in “Every Crushing Stroke” that stability needs on super-turbulent courses (now done with no practice runs) mean that a 45 degree paddle shaft angle is about as high-angle as one can get while maintaining a dynamic brace. I recall that an earlier champion, Richard Fox, also used a relatively low angle.

no wrist rotation

– Last Updated: May-21-07 11:57 AM EST –

Paddling with a 60-degree right-hand-control paddle and a high-angle stroke, my right wrist stays neutral when I'm taking a stroke with the left blade. No wrist angulation is required if you raise your elbow, and there's no need for a tight grip.

New age thinking
Your control hand is the hand nearest the blade that will enter the water. This style comes from coaches all over the world in different paddle disciplines (including ww). Just because someone may have done something one way for 20, 25, 30 or more years doesn’t necessarily mean it cannot be improved upon. It is like teaching rolling. It used to be your onside roll first and your offside roll second. Proper teaching now would be talking about left side and right side not (on and off). My 2 cents.

Control Hand

– Last Updated: May-21-07 12:18 PM EST –

I have been hearing more from various quarters, seems to me anyway, about rethinking the idea of a one-sided control hand for sea kayaking. Don't know about the WW side. We were originally taught to paddle with a fairly big feather, but over time and as I went to doing more off-balance wet work my feather has come back to being around 15 degrees.

I found the control hand thing most odd when we started doing a lot of sculling on both sides. By the time I had body part or parts in the water, what I felt the most awareness of was the hand that was being active. So the left hand on a left scull or roll, the right on the right, and particularly in the scull I leave the other one pretty passive.

I get that I can regard it as a controlling factor, and in more uprigth work it can feel that way. But my hand just doesn't feel very controlling when it is open with the shaft just moving freely in the crook of my thumb and first finger in a scull, or when I am trying to tuck it up near a shoulder to limit the excess movement in that end of the paddle on a left side roll.

I may be a problem of language - dunno.
(P.S. It's not a plot. I really didn't know the next post about new Age Thinking was there until I put this up.)

Check to be sure you don’t have it feathered for left hand dominant if you are right handed, or vice-versa. I did that once for half a day of paddling one of my first days out. Finally figured out why my wrists hurt so much.

Interesting. Why raise the elbow?
As that has to come from the shoulder, it seems inefficient. Maybe it works better in low angle technique.

What do you mean by control hand?
Just that the hand nearest the water tightens while pulling?

I haven’t heard any WW sources advocating what you describe. It is true that for offside rolling, some of us switch to control with the hand on the roll side, though it’s not as if the other hand relaxes or goes along for the ride. It’s just that the hand on the roll side has a better sense of how the blade angle should be.

For me, raising my elbow lines up my forearm and wrist with the paddle shaft in the directin that I’m pushing with the top hand. I can open my top hand with my wrist flat when I’m doing a normal forward stroke. Most people I’ve seen paddling with low elbows are putting more of a side load on their wrists. I often see people doing a low-angle stroke pushing the paddle forward with their elbows down and their wrists cocked back, which I find very uncomfortable.

I’ll have to recheck what I’m doing.
I certainly do not keep the elbows down, and as near as I can tell just sitting at my desk, my forearms do stay at a most-favorable angle with my wrists. This is actually necessary because I >do< use right wrist flexion/extension as the primary means of controlling paddle shaft rotation and feather. If my elbow and forearm were not lined up properly with my wrist, right-hand control could not work properly.

Yes, or spend the day with asymmetrical
paddle blades, holding the paddle upside down! That’ll confuse your wrists a lot, too.

Hand control means just what it says.
If I am doing a stern pry, or bow rudder, or any draw stroke etc. etc. the hand that is in control to move that blade through the water is the hand nearest the blade that is nearest the water. For example. when I am taking a forward stroke on my left side I am controlling the left blade that is in the water with my left hand not my right hand. Both my right hand and left hand are my control hands.

Sounds like
we may be saying the same thing with different words.

By raising my elbow, I mean raising it to a position where you could draw a stright line through my forearm and wrist that would intersect the paddle shaft, and that would be roughly aligned with the direction that the top hand is pushing. I adjust as needed to maintain that neutral relationship as I change my stroke angle

If I grip a right-hand offset paddle with my right hand and raise my elbow, it makes the shaft more vertical AND rotates the shaft in my left hand without having to change the angle between my right wrist and forearm.

I’ve seen people paddling with their wrists cocked back so far that the heel of the hand was forward of the paddle shaft, and the load was up on the top of the palm instead of down at the base of the thumb & forefinger. That can’t be comfortable over a long haul.