One arm paddler

I recently had a “shoulder replacement”. Is there any “paddling system” where I could paddle with just one arm? Either canoe or kayak?

I’m sure you’ve seen the pedal-powered Hobies. They work quite well.

At an adaptive paddling class we worked on a system for someone with one good arm. It involved a pivot for the paddle so you would pull with the good arm on the near blade, like a regular stroke. Lifting the good arm would plant the far blade, and then you’d push with the good arm to stroke on the far side. It wasn’t very efficient – we had less than a day to build a prototype – but it would let somone do very easy flatwater paddling.

I’d check adaptive paddling sites.

I knew a guy with one arm
he paddled a canoe. Basically he modified a grip to be L-shaped and then had a ‘cradle’ that allowed him to strap his forearm to the shaft of the paddle. He used a hell of a lot of torso rotation in the paddling stroke. Basically he redefined paddling for himself.

If I were you I would give physical therapy a shot and then work with an Occupational Therapist on modifying your stroke or gear to accommodate you shoulder. Greenland paddles put very little strain on the shoulder while paddling.

one arm paddling
Check adaptive sport sites and contact Bob Hicks, publisher of “Messing About in Boats” He paddles and bikes frequently with a friend who has substantial physical issues. They have modified equipment for his friend’s use. Bob’s # is 978 774 0906.

If you are near a major rehab facility that deals with traumatic injury or where rehabilitation of injured soldiers is taking place, inquire there .

After you have gone through the full PT program and have arrived at your point of maximum recovery, see what your strength, shoulder stability, and range of motion are. Guessing, not speaking from experience or authority, I think it may be possible to paddle with that replaced shoulder. If you are able to get to that point, try using a long Greenland paddle, a very low angle stroke and mostly trunk rotation for power. Should you try paddling with that shoulder, do everything with caution and after discussion with your PT and MD. I was able to resume paddling after 3 hours of shoulder reconstruction and resumed rolling practice while in the final stages of 18 weeks of PT. I had a long discussion with my PT over how I was going to practice rolling and I was very cautious. Of course what you went through is much more extensive surgery and I point out my experience only to say keep the door open- I realize my surgery was not analogous to your shoulder surgery.

Good luck and best wishes,


Great Info, Great Folks at…

– Last Updated: Feb-04-09 1:04 PM EST –

Some great design ideas, lots of plans and advice, all free. I did a prototype of the boom arm system - pretty straightforward. Didn't actually mount it on a kayak, but the idea is proven and not at all hard to construct. Drop me an 'e' if there's any questions I might answer for you.

That site is really neat!

I like the jigs they have for holding the paddle shaft.

That would be nice to see at outdoor shows to let people know that they can join us on the water.

Maybe even a few will become as un-normal as we are.

I’m tempted to see if I can build one for the scouts.

Thanks for the post!


Canoecopia, Madison WI
Don’t know where you are from but Canoecopia had a booth concerning adaptive paddling last year. They will be there again this year. Pretty sure they will have a seminar as well. They should have a link from the show’s website.



Team River Runner
In the DC area there is a group that calls themselves Team River Runner. They are very active in teaching kayaking to soldiers who are recovering from loss of limbs. I seem to recall they have an adaptive device allowing one-armed individuals to kayak. I’m sure you can find info on the net about this group and some of the devices in use.

Good luck.


one armed
There was a guy who raced the famed Ausable Canoe Marathon with one arm and a half.

Use the Yahoo Marathon Canoe racing web forum and hunt him down to describe the technique.

It was great and very impressive to watch him whip off 50-60 strokes a minute.