Paddle Length II

-- Last Updated: Jul-22-16 6:57 AM EST --

Last night was paddling up The Thames with my regular paddle' - 2.3m tip to tip

With arms at 'shoulder width' it was fairly easy going, but when I moved my hands out to the last foot of the paddle shaft (maybe 2 shoulder widths) my speed increased for no extra effort

Is this because my hands were wider apart or because the paddle was taking shorter strokes thru the water?
Normally I paddle with quite a high angle, paddle goes in by my toes and out by the seat, but with arms-wide it's more like knees to seat.

Be handy to know as, if it's a shorter paddle, then I can get a second for when the river's running a bit faster

It would help…
… to know how wide your boat is and look at your technique. A wider grip on your paddle will encourage you to keep your arms straight (good) and rotate your torso more, using more of your core muscles (also good). And yes, your stroke will shorten (also good), which will probably make your cadence increase. All of the above contributes to higher speed.

Thank you!

– Last Updated: Jul-22-16 11:22 AM EST –

Thank you!
My regular kayak's a Feelfree Moken 10 Lite, so 31"/79cm wide - I'm 5'10"

The wider grip did result in a lot more torso twist, with my current paddle at regular grip width I tend to lean slightly forward and 'dragon boat' paddle, so the paddle's used more like a double-ended canoe paddle and my arms do most of the work.

I don't generally twist much, does that come more with a shorter paddle (I just tour up and down a local stretch of the Thames for a bit of a distraction of an evening and at weekends)

That was my guess too.
As above, torso rotation doesn’t come with a shorter or longer paddle. It comes with using your arms less. The less you use your arms, the more the paddle movement must come from elsewhere. For a strong stroke, legs and hips should provide as much movement as possible. Then lower torso. If that doesn’t get your full range paddle stroke, you move up to weaker muscles.

That is a pretty wide boat
So you need a fairly long paddle, like a 240 cm for low angle, at least 230 cm for a high angle stroke, but that depends again on your grip and form. Of course, with such a wide boat, another consideration is banging your knuckles on the sides if you have a wide grip. I really can’t tell you much else about length and grip, except to experiment and see what works best.

Regarding the torso rotation, arms, feet, legs, butt… everything is supposed to work together to achieve a smooth and efficient stroke. I can give you a whole explanation here or you can Google paddling technique videos and watch all day without repeating a single one. There are tons out there. Many are kind of crappy and many are very good. But watching just makes you understand how it all works. You need to get out and practice until it becomes second nature.

Thanks again
I’ve been kayaking for 4 or 5 years now, all sit-ons, it’s just this new method had me a little perplexed.

Up until now, my paddling has been mainly arms, with opposing leg extensions - for a three hour bimble on the Thames it’s always worked ok for me - not sure it’s efficient but it works for me.

I’ve never twisted much as my arms were doing all the work and I could sustain pace for the duration

It was just the science behind the wide grip that got me curious as I’ve usually avoided going out if the river’s got too much of a current

grip width
Your grip should be at wider than shoulder width. If you have it at shoulder width, you may not have enough leverage.

Here is the width that normally is recommended:

You’ve discovered the mechanical advantage of using your paddle as a second class lever.