Paddle swing weight

The quote below is from this paddle review: Carlisle Magic Plus Review | Tested & Rated
Due to the fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades, the [Carlisle] Magic Plus was one of the heaviest paddles we tested … Luckily the distribution of the paddle’s weight (heavier blades, lighter shaft) helps to give the Magic Plus a comfortable swing weight, meaning that it feels a bit lighter to paddle.”
Can someone help me understand how the combination of heavier blades and lighter shaft makes for a lighter swing weight? Intuitively, I would guess the exact opposite. What am I missing? Is there an accepted way to calculate swing weight or is it a subjective judgment?

You feel what you feel. My first paddle was what I believed as a Carlisle 220 cm Magic, but itbwas an all fiberglass shaft and blades paddle. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was how paddling felt like a “fat man in a little coat.” I’ve since graduated through seversl other paddles, including a Sting Ray with plastic blades that felt heavier, another Aqua Bound model, a Werner Camano, and now a Werner Kalliste and finally a longer Kalliste.

I have used the old Carlisle on several occasions since then. Neither the overall weight nor the swing weight stood out as an issue, but the length is still unacceptable to my paddling style, and the fiberglass isn’t stiff enough to control flex under load. My grand daughter preferred it as her favorite paddle.

I’ve since replaced her Carlisle with an all carbon Werner. I agree that it is an odd concept to accept. Despite logic, I must admit that the paddle my grand daughter is using in that picture is still a very good value and the first paddle I turn to if I want to offer a 220 cm paddle to a new kayaker. Whatever they did to design the swing balance of that Yellow fiberglass paddle still amazes me.

People make a big deal out of paddle weights so they keep getting lighter and more expensive. Then they wonder why paddles break.

I made some canoe paddles out of white ash, walnut and mahogany. Not light materials but they are strong and stand up to rocky rivers. I have used a paddle like that for 30 years and paddled some 36 mile days with it.

I am a low angle paddler. I do high angle at the times I need to speed up for a quick sprint, but 99% of my time is done with low angle stokes. I have not found mid weight paddles to bother me at all and my wood paddles float up far better then any other paddle I have except for the Warner Kalliste and even that one is as good but no better to float up than my GL and Aleut paddles.

I have come to appreciate the Kalliste (and also my Aqua Bound Eagle Ray) for many reasons but to be 100% honest the light weight has not been a factor I have noticed. My biggest GL paddle is 41 OZ. The Kalliste is 22.5 OZ. Close to 1/2 the weight. But the lack of weight is not what I found so good with the Warner. It was how responsive and easy to control it is in most situations. I have other spoon bladed paddles that are heavy and they did wear on me, but have to assume it’s more related to design then weight because my big GL paddle is as heavy (or at least close) and go out for 10-14 hours a day with it and never feel any pain or fatigue like did with the big Taiwanese paddle I started out with.
I am still too ignorant to speak accurately about paddles. I know what know, but much of what I know I don’t fully understand and can’t explain. I understand more about GL and Aleut paddles because I not only use them, but because I make them, and have done a lot of comparisons from one to another . But looking at an older Carlisle I own along the Warner they look a lot alike. But using them side by side they are not even close.
I don’t know!

But I can go out in 2 of my 3 kayaks and paddle for a long day with the Warner and feel no pain when am done. I do that with the Carlisle for about 4 hours and I am feeling some joint pain. It’s almost the same weight as the 8 foot GL. But I can also use that 8 foot GL for 14 hours and feel perfectly OK at days end. From before sunrise to dark and I am just fine with the GL.
So weight may be a factor but it is NOT the only factor.

I am convinced flotation is one of the other factors. I’d guess there are several others too, but I can’t describe what they are.

Here’s a snippet from elsewhere on
The Shaft - A Kayak Paddle's Backbone |
You don’t measure swing weight with a scale, you measure it with touch, with the senses. Two paddles can physically weigh the exact same overall. The paddle with the better swing weight will seem to flow through the paddling motions better, be balanced throughout the power stroke and the return arc swing. It will also tend to have lighter blades. A paddler will likely be much less fatigued after using a paddle with a good swing weight as opposed to one without.
We sorta know what this means: “The paddle with the better swing weight will seem to flow through the paddling motions better”, but it’s more than a little bit vague. Not much to go on for those of us who like to measure stuff.
However, it does suggest that lighter blades improve swing weight, which contradicts the GearLab statement in its Carlisle review (link posted above).

I’ve been thinking through this statement all day, and I think i finally came up with a way that it might make some sense … so I’ll take a swing at answering the question (about swing weight).

If the overweight of a paddle is in the shaft, then you might be more aware of it passing from side to side as it passes your centerline with each twist and stroke, and it may feel like it’s “tipping” you (a bit), and its rotational momentum won’t smooth out the feel because of the light blades. However, with the weight concentrated in the blades, so far from center, swinging the paddle or twisting with it is more detached from your own centerline, so maybe it feels smoother through the swing. Maybe it feels more balanced and the rotational inertia makes it smoother. (How did I do??)

All I can say is that I use an older version of that exact paddle and I have never, ever thought about “swing weight.” I absolutely love this paddle. It feels heavy to me, and my arms get tired of holding it up in front of me, but I always thought the fiberglass shaft was where the extra weight is, so maybe that shows how little I know about paddles.

I love if for its long length (260cm), and the hook which is actually quite good at pulling fishing line down from trees, and I love that even when I put abusive force on the blades (frequently) as I push myself off land and across sandbars with most of my weight on the paddle, the paddle has never made any complaints. Oh, the blades bend, the joint is a little loose (but easy to connect and disconnect), and I think I can feel flex when I paddle hard. However, I think it has taken a lot of abuse, and as for swing weight, when I’m paddling I focus on getting the blade in the water and pulling then pushing and the exit, then I’m focused on getting the other blade in the water and …

It makes for a lighter paddle than a paddle with a heavier shaft! I’d just forget about the sales hype and compare the overall weight of that paddle against the overall weight of other paddles.


I think your intuition is correct. The inertia of a swinging object is based upon the mass relative to a pivot point so having the mass in the blades is exactly where you don’t want it. Your pivot point must be between your hands I would think. In the canoe world blade-heavy is directionally bad for balance.

1 Like

Thank you for taking time to come up with an explanation. I’m not sure I understand completely … I’ll have to think about it for awhile too. Regardless of swing weight, you certainly have a great testimonial to the durability of those glass reinforced polypropylene blades.
Sorta makes me want to go out and see if I can find one to try! My local paddle shop carries some Old Town canoes and kayaks, but I don’t recall seeing Carlisle paddles there.

A personal trainer of mine was super strict on technique. He wanted me to use lighter weights but curl them slowly and deliberately. This he said, maximized the workout by using controlled contraction of the muscles.

He pointed out a ripped guy who was swinging a pretty heavy dumb bell up instead of using a controlled contraction. “Even a 90 pound weakling can swing a weight like that”, my trainer said. Apparently it’s got to do with the moment of inertia. That is the point of maximum energy input to start an object moving. Once it is moving, there is less energy needed to keep it moving.

I didn’t get my best grades in physics class, so I have no idea if it relates to this question.

1 Like

I’m sure inertia and momentum are involved, but it gets too complicated (at least for me) when considering water provides a lot of resistance to the momentum of one blade while air provides almost none to the other. My college room mate and I both took Physics 1A our first semester. Our scores on the first exam, added together, barely made the class average, so there’s that, too. Fortunately, we did better after the wake-up call!

I have raced for 12 years and find the swing weight means more to someone who uses the paddle to continually builds speed.

To those who don’t paddle hard it means little. A heavy paddle is just a heavy paddle.

To those who use their paddle a lot, swing weight means more. It allows the rhythm of the paddle to make it easier to continue paddling without beating yourself to death. The swing being at the outer end of the paddle actually takes a lot of work from you, you are not having to hold up a heavy weight, that weight is in motion and causing less damage to your more static muscles.

1 Like

How true. I was thinking along the same lines reading the “design/speed question” thread as well.

It’s interesting how we focus on things that sift down from racing or high performance fields but generally don’t have a large influence over everyday paddling. Of course the OP was about a marketing statement, information that is designed to make the casual paddler think the product will improve their on water performance.

One of our group has a perfected speech about the physics of skeg vs. rudder. He is a performance paddler/racer and will deliver the speech end to end at any opportunity. His definitive argument is that racers wouldn’t use rudders if they didn’t offer an advantage.

But his expert calculations are based on Epic designed hybrid ‘skudders’ which are positioned differently from skegs and certainly different than stern mounted rudders like the one on my kayak. They are also on boats designed to go fast in a straight line. So while he advocates for rudders, his advocacy is not accurate for everyday kayaks.

It’s fun though, isn’t it, to explore the dynamic world of physics and fluid dynamics that rules our sport?

[quote=“CraigF, post:12, topic:129878”]
It allows the rhythm of the paddle to make it easier to continue paddling without beating yourself to death.

This fits my rather vague idea of what swing weight means but explains it better.

Are you saying here that relatively more weight at the outer end (blades) improves swing weight? And does high angle vs low angle make a difference" I don’t race but I frequently paddle hard (at least by my standards) so that’s the context of my curiosity.

I believe you’re onto something @RiverWay . As I explained in my earlier post, I was satisfied with the swing feel of the Carlisle, but it didn’t have the length or stiffness that I prefer.

A 260 cm is a big paddle. I switch from a 240 cm Camano to a 240cm Kalliste. At first, i didn’t appreciate the performance difference between the paddles, until I sent the 240 Kalliste back to Werner for warranty repair. During the interim, I went back to my Camano. After one first trip with the Camano, I order another Kalliste because I didn’t know how long the other one would be in the shop. I decided on a 250 cm length to compare. The 250 cm length feels better to me, but, I found no difference in performance between the 240 and 250 cm Kalliste models, until I traded the 250 cm with StarlingGirl who was using a 240 Kalliste. She pointed out that the 240 length was easier to control. That insight helped me to focus more on accuracy of the paddle stroke (never dismiss the intuition of a person who has less time on the water). After further comparisons, I still like the 250 cm but have learned a lot about paddle length by sharing. @szihn used the same paddle for 3 months. I learned as much from his impressions as I think I learned over the past 10 years.

I don’t like the Greenland style paddle I made, for many reasons, but I was amazed that at nearly double the weight of my Kalliste, the swing weight was not objectionable. Dont know why, just my impression.

Regarding paddle weight and swing weight, I can’t argue woth RiverWay’s suggestion. However, its safe to say that some designs are better ballamced than other. My Kalliste is much lighter than my Carlisle and it feels lighter, yet the Carlisle feels good in action. Weight does become a greater issue the further you travel and the hogher your cadence. StarlingGirl drew my attention to contol, which was not as noticable to me because of my greater reach and stroke power. By the time I started using the Kalliste, my stroke had already been refined. Szihn focused my attention on how the Kalliste needed to be held at a consistent angle to avoid flutter. That explained why my nephew didn’t like it, and why he preferred a Manta Ray which I used two paddles ago. Warner makes a lighter model that’s similar to the Kalliste. It’s called the Ovation. Warner has a warning in the brochure that explains how the weight saving was achieved at the exlence of strength - but at your own risk. If your cadence is 50 strokes per minute, overall weight/swing weight has less influence on your effort than if you paddle at 70 to 80 strokes per minute. Similarly, you will not notice paddle fatigue as much during a 5 mile trip as you will on a 35 mile trip.

If you like a paddle, stick with it. If you’re looking for a change, then is the time to experiment. Light weight in a paddle becomes eponentially more expensive. Another thread discusses how to assess how much a piece of gear costs per mile of use. Frankly, I don’t care. If I want to enjoy the activity, I have to be comfortable doing it. My kayak has to have a seat that’s comfortable to sit in for long periods. My PFD has to fit and perform to save potentially save my live. My paddle swings more than once ever second, or between 70 and 80 times per minute, 4,200 to 4,800 times an hour, or more than 8,400 times in an 8.5 mile trip over a two hour period. A light paddle makes me happy. $475 is pennies on the mile and its still putting out. As far as I’m concerned, the other paddles I bought were the waste of money. The Kalliste proved such a value, I’ve bought 5 of them. Two for me, the rest for other people I value.

Derek Hutchinson, often considered the father of modern sea kayaking, used to talk about how he thought a heavier blade was better for paddles. I just thought he was an old cook and lighter paddles had to be better.

But after reading this thread, it seems there may be something to this. Maybe lighter paddles are easier because you are holding up less weight the whole time, but having the right amount of mass in the blade may help inertia/momentum. The blade in the water is supposed to be planted before you pull back, so there shouldn’t be any momentum/inertia on that side, but the blade out of the water you push away, so maybe it comes from there.

Some info about Drek - Derek Hutchinson USK Page
Note it is a bit out of date, as Derek passed away a few years ago.

1 Like

So much depends on the paddler’s technique. As I aged, I traded the power stroke for efficiency. What I learned while paddling with StarlingGirl is that the paddle entry controls the entire phase of the stroke, and the release happens efficiently without focusing on the exit, if the power phase is poised to enter cleanly. The whole cycle comes from the torso rotation. Speed builds slowly, and the speed of the paddle is matched to the speed of the kayak. High cadence keeps the kayak from falling off the glide. The boat lets you know the point where more speed requires you transition from aerobic to anaerobic. That’s where the longer paddle allows a shift of hands to open the chest to faciltate breathingl. I learned from szihn that pushing the blade too fast will cause lost energy as the blade slips, forms bubbles, and flutters through the power stroke. Steve prefers to cruise, but when he does push the kayak, his strength overpowers the 99.7 sq in paddle blades.

That’s what I do. It’s why I use the paddle I like. If you have a different paddling style, you need to sort it out on your own.

If you Google swing weight the top hits are around golf clubs and I think it’s interesting that they talk about pro’s and con’s (like heavier might help stronger folks with control/tempo and lighter might give weaker folks more speed and power). I wonder if individual preferences for paddlers vary as much as they apparently do for golfers. And we haven’t even touched on baseball bats.

All I know is what works for me. I don’t think beyond that. Experiment.

Interesting thought. Like @TomL 's golf example, I can see how paddles with relatively light shafts and relatively heavy blades would have more momentum (mass x velocity) when in motion. But when using a double-bladed paddle, the water is pushing so hard against the planted blade that it would stop moving almost immediately (assume no current) as soon as the paddler stops supplying energy. When the blade stops moving, momentum goes to zero, and since the blades are connected, the one not in the water would stop just as fast and its momentum would quickly approach zero too. I get how momentum relates to swing weight in the golf club example, but I’m struggling to see how it has much to do with what we call swing weight in the context of using a double-bladed paddle.

1 Like