paddle choice for race

I am a 54 year old female - new to paddling but born to paddle. I am going to participate in a 10K race in a few weeks and would appreciate some input on what paddle, from our collection, might be best. I don’t really want to go purchase something new at this point. (I have easily paddled the Sunrise 7.5 miles at 3.75 miles per hour). Here are my choices:

Bending Branches Tail Wind (wood),

Bending Branches Sunrise (recreational)

Bending Branches Whisper,

Werner Camano Bent Shaft

Thanks Mary

If you’re truly new…
…I’d recommend focusing on your form moreso than on your paddle choice. 10k is a decent distance to race and if your form isn’t solid no paddle will enable you to keep pace.

paddle choice for race
Thanks. That makes sense. I will work on form.

2 cents
You’ve gotten a lot of good advice here, but I want to jump in with my two cents.

two of your paddle choices seem to have plastic blades…I am assuming that the blades flex a bit during paddling so they would not be my first choice as you would loss paddle effiecency. (they may be stiffer than I think…can you hold the blades in your hand and flex them?)

Which leaves the wood or the carbon. Both appear to be stiff, but at 40oz the wood is on the heavy side. So technically the carbon appears to be your best equipment choice. But if you are not comfortable with it, or can’t get comfortable with it, then it is not the paddle for you to use.

Like the others I think focusing on your stroke mechanics rather than equipment choice will best prepare you for a satisfactory race finish.

From your post it appears that you will be paddling about 1:40 hours to complete your 6.2 mile race. I would focus on building endurance and speed in the time that is available. (there are plenty of folks on here who can answer your questions about training)

go out and have fun. I still have happy memories of the 6 mile Bacall race I did in Florida (part of the Bogey & bacall) in 2006

speed /enduance
Thanks for the advice. I know I can shave some time off, because on Thursday when I did the 7.5 miles in 2 hours I purposely used the heaviest boat we own (Necky Kyook) and spent some time taking off, and stowing, my fleece which meant also taking off my pfd. That was the only time I really came to a stop. Right or wrong, my training program has been to paddle the slowest boat farther than I will need to paddle in the race so that it will feel like a breeze when I do the race.

On Thursday, I also pulled my rudder up the last mile and fought with the boat wanting to go to the left. Spent alot of time doing sweep strokes rather than plowing ahead. Dressing approriately to start with will help and I am going to see if I can borrow a fiberglass boat and if not will have to use my Prijon Seayak which is still heavy but faster than the rest of our fleet. I am inclined to put the rudder down if I have to use one of our boat because they all are prone to wander. After the advice, I think I owe it to myself to try to get comfortable with the Werner. Thanks again everyone.

Glass boats are often faster not only due to the weight advantage, but also because composite boats can be fashioned into more efficient hull shapes than rotomolded plastic.

You will definitely be faster if you can keep that rudder out of the water and figure out how to make the boat go straight without it.

I like simple
If it were me, I would try each paddle for a week and see which one makes me go the fastest using whatever paddling muscles I was born with. To determine “fastest,” I use a stop watch and paddle a consistent course, or use a gps that shows speed, time, and distance. I find it best to do an out and back course or loop, that way the effects of the wind are neutralized. I also try to go at least six miles, since most of my races are about that long. The fastest paddle wins.

In your first race…
I would choose your smallest blade as long as it not the heaviest. Tendency is to start too fast and wear yourself out early. The smaller paddle might leave a little energy toward the end of the race.

Good luck…

Paddles, rudder, technique
First, I am curious…what/where is the race? Is it one of the Sound Rowers events?


one of my favorite quotes about athletes and boat choices is from a rowing coach- “no such thing as fast carriages, only fast horses”.

A bit of an exaggeration, but a lotta truth as well.

The hands down best way to select a paddle and/or self coach is with a GPS and a heart rate monitor. The GPS alone is not, IMO, enough info. For instance, using a GPS alone, when not referenced over the racing distance, may give invalid info. You might go faster over a short distance, but wind up inefficient over the racing distance. When I was racing sprint kayaks years ago, my paddle length for a 500m race was 218-220cm. For a 5k or longer, I would use 214-216. It made a huge difference.

That implies one thing to consider among your paddle choices. Which one is the shortest? Over that distance, a shorter paddle may be more efficient since you can have a higher stroke rate.

You mentioned that your kayaks can wander w/o the rudder. Train a bit without using the rudder to check your technique. If the boat yaws a lot, it means your stroke is inefficient. When I used to train junior sprint kayakers, they spent their first year in rudderless boats. Learning with a rudder can allow a person to rely on the rudder and wind up with garbage for a forward stroke.

As an overgeneralisaton, keeping the paddle shaft at a higher angle will reduce yaw. The problem is, in order to accomplish this, a too long paddle can place the upper arm into a weak position. Anything above your eyebrows, and you are unlikely to be able to connect well.

Back to rudders. Learn efficiency without it, but race with it. Here is another problem. It is often said that rudders are more efficient, “since racers always use them”. A bit…not true. The problem with most sea kayak rudders is that they can defeat good forward stroke, because of the sliding footpegs. Learn to keep your knees together, and push firmly. If you cannot push firmly, you will be losing a lot of available power. Not necessarily important at touring speeds, but critical at racing speeds. Also, the boat will have more of a tendency to yaw at higher speeds, so again, a rudder- a proper rudder- is a significant advantage.

One thing I have done with boats like your Necky (sliding foot pegs) is to cut a block of firm foam that can fit against the bulkhead, and fit just underneath the footpegs. You can put your feet on it to push hard, and use your toes to tap the rudder pegs. Very effective.

Another thing that helps good technique is a higher seat. With your butt above your heels, your hips can tilt forward instead of back (BTW, take out the dang backband!) and be in a more efficient position for leg drive. One thing I do is to take 3/8" neoprene foam and cut it into a seat pad (I like using three of these, and adjust height accordingly). Then I take one of those thin poly kitchen cutting sheets,and cut out a top layer to duct tape onto one of the pads. If you develop good leg drive, you will come to appreciate slippery seats.

If you think going fast is fun, you will do well no matter.


race getting closer
I tested the Werner against the BB Sunrise on the Lake the other day against a pretty good headwind that made 1-2 foot swells (It’s just been windy here for some time so I haven’t been able to check it under calm conditions). I used the GPS and the Werner (220 cm) did not perform nearly as well as the BB (230 cm). It could have been that I am just so use to the BB but it felt like I put it in overdrive when I started paddling the BB. It was reflected on the GPS I will be using my Prijon Seayak for the race and it has stationary gas pedal type rudder pedals so I will have a fixed pedal to press against. I’ll be waxing the bottom with MaxiGlide. I am also giving much thought to hydration and nutrition. I have been training at 4,100 ft elevation and will be racing at 300 ft elevation, hope that helps at least a little.

I have been paddling for right at a year now (paddled my very first kayak last May). I am not normally a competative person - never competed in anything other than what they made us do in PE in High School (35+ years ago) so this is all new for me. I am a bit nervous, but focused. Sometimes I look at this gray haired grandma in the mirror and think “What were you thinking, are you crazy - a kayak race??? And a 10K no less” I can’t run, and can swim well, but no long distance. This is the only sport I have ever been able to do farily well. I can paddle!!! And I have paddled enough to know that I can finish this race. The race is next weekend in Red Bluff, CA.

Thank you all for taking your time to coach me and advise me. I really do appreciate it and have taken it all to heart - thinking much about what you have told me.

Keep the rudder down

– Last Updated: May-11-09 8:48 AM EST –

Any experienced kayak racer will tell you in open water on the ocean or lake, you don't want to waste correction strokes.

If it is a down river WW race then keep the rudder up.

Also use a high angle stroke. You'll get much more power.
I don't know much about the paddles you mentioned, but I think the 230 is way to long for you unless you are six feet tall.

Max-glide is good but it won't help a novice much.

Use a drinking tube, and then you won't waste strokes reaching for a water bottle, etc.


race over
Because of several circumstances I didn’t do the long race but did the sprint instead. For the sprint race everyone paddled at once - men and women of all ages (teen to 60+). I took first in my class (female age 40-59) and fourth overall. There was a possiblity that I might have come in third if the man who took second had not come up alongside my boat which cost me momentum and valuable strokes on the right side while I extricated myself from him, and he from me. The person who took third overall only beat me by a few feet. I am happy with what I was able to do. Putting the rudder down was a good thing as I heard comments from others who came in after me that they should have had it down. Thanks again everyone for all of the input.

Congratulations! Well done.

Now that you are hooked, when is your next race ?



racing bug cured
I think I may have gotten the race bug out of my system. I’m going to settle for the thrill of doing the local Class I-III rivers with my group “The Paddlin’ Chix”. I still have “fast” in my system but these rivers will be enough of a fix to take care of that. Thanx again