Paddle question


– Last Updated: Sep-13-07 12:01 PM EST –

Place a blade at your feet with the power face towards you and the paddle shaft vertical.

If the power face of the upper blade faces, right, the paddle is feathered with a right hand control. (If it faces left, it is left hand control). If the upper blade faces towards you, it's unfeathered.

"Feathering" is a term that means that the object is oriented with air flow (not against it). For paddles, the feathered blade is the one not in the water.

We now understand the angle aspect,
but what we don’t yet understand is the control

aspect. What is that technique, and how you put

that into effect?


Break out the micrometer!!

You are correct to say that most people usually have slight differences from one side to the other. My Left foot is 1/2 size larger than my right and much flatter. However, we are talking about kayaking here, not small postural deviations or small differences in muscle tone. For the purpose of paddling, these small differences are insignificant. It would take a grossly deformed upper extremity in order to paddle with a feathered paddle and plant both blades correctly without indexing the shaft. Of course some people state that they can plant both blades (feathered) without twisting their wrist, but then they are risking rotator cuff problems by using their shoulder.


the control aspect?
as in how to set the angle? or how to paddle with a feathered blade?

Maybe I just don’t get it !?!?
“Feathering is an attempt to address (for a high angle stroke) these things: paddle shaft rotation, minimizing wrist movement (flexion/extention), and maintaining a constant blade position (ie, knowing where the blade is).”

Minimizing wrist movement??? How do you get the blade on your non-control side oriented just before the catch? What better way to know where both blades are than having them both perpendicular to your grip/forearms. With a feathered paddle, when you have one blade oriented correctly, the other one is way off!

“Anyway, the -only- asymmetry in feathering is the control hand/non-control (slipping) hand stuff.”

I somewhat agree, except that our bodies don’t like to isolate movements to only one joint. Please re-read the third paragraph of my first post on this thread.

“If you use a high-angle stroke and use a control hand, the feathering allows the offside blade to be planted with no significant wrist flexing. Note that the shaft has to slip in the non-control hand.”

But you’re flexing/extending the wrist on the control side with every stroke! Good for the non-control hand, :slight_smile: not so good for the control side. :frowning:

“The “wind resistance” justification is weak (in my opinion).”

I totally agree.

“It does take some time to get used to the “control hand” thing.”

That’s because using a feathered paddle is a much more awkward movement for the body.



Kayak paddles have two blades.
“At the catch, the unfeathered shaft has to be rotated to have the correct placement of the blade. Or you could feather the blade by that amount and not use your wrist.”

But what about the other blade??!! Now you have to index the shaft by flexing/extending one wrist with every single stroke!!

Anyway, I just don’t get it. I use an unfeathered paddle and I never feel the need to rotate the shaft with either hand in order to achieve “correct placement of the blade” at the catch. If I was planting the blade incorrectly twisted in or out, it would tend to move one way or the other away from the direction of pull. Especially with my paddle; my paddle has large blades with no dihedral.


How much do you feather? Unless it’s just a couple of degrees, you have to be indexing the shaft for one blade or the other to be oriented correctly. I might be right or wrong about this, but maybe you’re “splitting the difference” and using both hands to control the feather angle. You don’t see a huge difference in your video, because you aren’t controlling the feather angle with only one hand. The work is spread out between both hands; twist one up a little and the other one down a little. I still think it would be quite impossibe for the body to paddle with any of the common feather angles without indexing the shaft one way or the other.

I’m wondering if there’s a better solution. For me it feels totally natural to paddle unfeathered, but from what you and several others are saying, it sounds like you’d benefit from a different type of feathering. I’m wondering if feathering the blades in reference to the oval grip area of the shaft would be better than feathering one blade in reference to the other. Do you know what I mean? Let’s say you take a paddle shaft (unfeathered and without blades) in your hands and grip it in such a way that you keep both wrists in a comfortable plane when paddling. This plane should be the same on both sides unless the person’s body is significantly asymmetrical. Then, add the blades so that they are perpendicular to the boat, not necessarily perpendicular to the grip area of the shaft. Like this, you can paddle with your wrists and blades in good alignment without having to index the shaft. Am I making sense, or should I go get some sleep now?


Higher angle
I think you’d find that the higher the angle of stroke gets the less having both hands positioned radially aligned seems like the natural wrist-straight position. Particularly if you have the forward-pushing elbow high as is promoted in the Reitz video.

Just try it going through the motions sitting at your chair, you’ll see.


If you ever paddle in a serious wind
with a Euro paddle, you will know immediately why feathering is a good thing.

Feathered paddles come with various degrees of offset, and in two varieties: right hand control and left hand control. A lot of left handers use right hand control paddles because they are much more available.

With a right hand control paddle, the right hand keeps a firm grip on the shaft at all times. When a stroke is taken on the left side, the right wrist is cocked back enough to properly align the left hand blade. The shaft is allowed to rotate in the loosely gripped left hand as the right wrist is cocked back. When the blade is properly aligned, the left hand grip is tightened and the stoke is taken. As the stoke on the right is taken, the left hand again relaxes its grip as the right wrist “uncocks”. For a left hand control paddle switch left for right in the above explanation.

That sounds a lot more complicated than it is. The action becomes second nature very quickly. The more the blades are offset, the more you have to cock your control wrist backward. That is why most paddles are offset less than 90 degrees.

Incidentally, it is not just wind you want the feathered blade to slice through: when paddling through large waves bringing an unfeathered blade forward through the water will stop you dead in your tracks.

it makes sense to me
when I paddle I do split the difference so I am controlling the rotation of the paddle. But, I don’t control it with my hands, or my wrists. Remember, when you paddle your whole body is (should) be involved. Getting good clean catch, release, and propulsion action is difficult without adjusting the blades somewhat in relation to your body. It is a compromise between keeping the paddle blades oriented to the water, and to your body, for efficiency.

My suggestion… experiment lots, analyze, and figure out what works best for you.

WHAT feathering angle?

– Last Updated: Sep-14-07 11:23 AM EST –

Your comments would be much more valuable if you indicated what feathering angle you are using.

If you are "splitting the difference", then you are not using the standard techique for using a feathered paddle. While you are free to use a non-standard technique, the merits or lack of merits of that technique would be another discussion.

A Maine guide once suggested to me that for beginners needing to brace in choppy conditions or waves, you are more likely to get the blade in the correct brace position if it’s not feathered, than if it is. Note that I said for beginners. I’m sure that if you always use the same feather, you instinctively know where the “flat” is when you brace. But I thought what she said made some sense, and I paddle unfeathered in ocean. I try feathering in calmer conditions, just to see what works better for me. Haven’t quite decided yet.


– Last Updated: Sep-14-07 11:31 AM EST –

"With a right hand control paddle, the right hand keeps a firm grip on the shaft at all times. When a stroke is taken on the left side, the right wrist is cocked back enough to properly align the left hand blade."

The idea is to let the paddle shaft rotate with minimal "wrist cocking".

Keep in mind that the feathering angle (ie, offset) is directly related to the angle of the shaft (eg, low angle or high angle stroke).

With right-hand control, the paddle is held so that the blade edge points in the same direction as the row of knuckles nearest your wrist on the right hand. Whatever you do with the paddle, this orientation is maintained.

Your left hand is kept loose so the paddle shaft can rotate (slip) within that hand. You only tighten your left hand when you are stroking on the left side.


If you want to see how this works, a simple demonstration will show you and you don't even need a paddle.

Close your right fist and swing your hand across to the left so your hand and fore arm are at about the level of your fore head. -Don't- bend your wrist (keep your hand aligned with your lower arm).

This simulates a fairly high-angle stroke on the left side.

NOTE where the first knuckle row of your right hand is pointing. If you aren't doing anything funny with your wrist, the should be pointing generally behind you. Keep in mind that these knuckles are aligned with the right blade (which will be "cutting into the wind").

The "correct" feathering angle would be the angle that would place the left blade at a right angle to the boat.

If you vary the stroke angle, you'll notitce that the paddle shaft rotates less with less stroke angle. Thus, the feather angle is different for different stroke angles.

Clearly, kayakers often vary the stroke angle when paddling. This means that one would pick the feather angle for the typical stroke angle.


Note that the -current- way the paddle stroke is taught uses very little pushing/pulling with the arms. The current style strongly emphasizes using torso rotation.

The pushing/pulling style, which used a "punch to the bow", did entail a fair amount of wrist extension/flexion, which might have been a problem UNLESS one held the paddle with your thumb and index finger (one would loosen the other fingers).

Feathering -> stroke only

– Last Updated: Sep-14-07 1:45 PM EST –

Like a lot of things, feathering is a compromise.

Feathering is only addressing the foward (or reverse) stroke. Feather definitely complicates things like bracing and rolling.

You do have to practice a bit with feathering. People will probably find it a bit strange at first and abandon it too quickly.

The key thing to practice is "firm" right-hand control and slipping the paddle shaft in your left hand (or vice-versa if you want left hand control).

Missing stuff

– Last Updated: Sep-14-07 11:40 AM EST –

"This plane should be the same on both sides unless the person's body is significantly asymmetrical."

You are misunderstanding significant aspects of the correct techique to feathering. The "asymmetry" stuff is a red herring (it really is not as relevent as you think).

The key to using a feathered paddle -correctly- is to slip the shaft in the non-control hand. Doing this largley eliminates the asymmety "problem".

I'm guessing you use a fairly low angle stroke. The properties of feathering are much more apparent with a vertical stroke.

Keep in mind that I'm not recommending one over the other!

No wrist roll
I learned from high-angle paddlers, including a slalom racer, and am more comfortable with a feathered paddle. My perception is that you don’t need to roll your wrist at all if you raise the elbow on your control arm when it’s coming forward. My wrist stays straight in line with my forearm. I can open my fingers as I’m pushing forward and get a clean stroke.

I’m not saying it’s the best way to paddle, but it works for me. I’ve never had wrist problems.