Paddle swing weight

Golf swingbis closer to the Olymic style of paddling than a recreation-style paddling stoke for distance. The load on my blade is very low, because it’s only moving slightly faster than the boat. It always build incrementally.

I’ll try to explain my experience of swing weight in a kayak 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.”
First, I don’t believe that a firmly planted paddle moves much at all through the water (assume no current). The blade is planted, you are pushing your kayak through the water, as soon as the paddler stops supplying energy, the kinetic energy or momentum of the kayak continues until the resistance of the water slowly bleeds that momentum away. So if I’m moving along, and I decide that I’m going to just plop my blade forward into the water and apply nothing to it for this stroke, the kayak will still go right by it, and as long as I lift it from the water at my hip, no one around me is likely to notice that I applied no power on that stroke.
The other side of that would be when I am applying power. When I’m really trying to move my kayak, the power I apply to moving the kayak forward through the water so overwhelms the power required to lift the blade from the water that the blade exit seems less noticeable. Forcing the kayak forward through the water becomes hard at higher speeds, and lifting the blade at the exit seems comparatively less significant to the whole, even though it’s significance is probably still meaningful. In real world experience for me, I actually do always notice the weight of the paddle as a whole more when I’m lily-dipping along than when I’m taking faster paces.
So all this to explain my experience of what swing weight with a paddle is. I don’t think it has anything very meaningful to do with the power portion of the stroke. I’m holding onto a shaft attached to a planted blade, and just forcing my kayak past it. I think swing weight of a kayak paddle really only significantly pertains to the exit and plant of the blades. Heavy non-buoyant blades, even though on a fulcrum like a teeter-totter, require a bit more to get that swing back to the other side. Lighter blades require a bit less. Wooden blades that are buoyant can be weightless at the start of the swing, or even have a tendency to want to float up a bit. Foam core blades also take advantage of that weightless buoyancy on exit.
So I don’t think we get our paddleboats moving fast enough for swing weight to come into much effect as far as the power phase of the stroke is concerned - moving fore to aft. I would say it’s that quick swing of the exit of one blade and plant of the opposite. How much force does it take to initiate that momentum? The weight of that blade in the water at the start I think is most of it. How much water pulls up with the blade could probably have some effect too, although I’m not certain how significant differences are between blades I use when it comes to that. I’d say anything that adds weight on either side of the swing adds to swing weight, and the further from the fulcrum it is, the more significant the addition. I don’t have any problem with anyone enjoying the feel of heavier blades. But I would question that the feel they are enjoying is actually lower swing weight. Slightly heavier but more buoyant I could see. The Bending Branches Navigator is a pretty light paddle, but there are definitely lighter ones. I don’t think the wooden blades can get as light as foam core carbon. But those wood blades are buoyant, they’re connected by a carbon shaft, and it sure feels lighter while paddling than it seems like it would. I’ve always loved the Mitchell Black Magic paddle. It’s a bit heavier, but has the wooden cored carbon fiber blades that seem to make a difference in swing weight. The foam cored light weight Werners and Nigel Fosters and Lendal NA’s, etc. I think really dial that in in terms of overall light weight and blade buoyancy.
That’s my current take anyway.

This discussion is really giving me a lot to think about! I’m learning about paddles, and I appreciate the analysis you all are writing out, especially jyak’s specifics about his paddle experiences.

I think when I gave that gushing testimonial, I should have explained how I use my paddle. I spend a lot of time poking along the shore enthralled with nature’s details (I’m an engineer) and pulling down fishing lures and picking up trash. Then I fast-cruise to the next area of interest, which may be 3/4 of a mile away, in a kayak that is more recreational than performance, pushing lots of water. I only do from 1-4 miles per lake, and I hit 2~5 lakes or river stretches per day, just about every weekend. The longest cruise I’ve ever done (once) was 11 miles up a lake and river and back down to my starting point. My tailbone hurt, but that was all. So, I appreciate the reach of my paddle (for lures, and because I’m 6-2), and with the short distances the paddle flex and weight have never bothered me, and the length feels completely natural and I love the toughness of this paddle. It does flutter a bit in the water, which my previous one did not do, but I’ve never felt that the length or swing weight or anything else needed to be changed, besides the weight.

However … I’ve been planning to do long excursions (16 miles per day?) down the Huron River, with the ultimate goal of doing some overnights, and now jyak has me excited about getting a sweet, optimized cf paddle for it. (I should also add that I’m an endurance cyclist who now has knee problems, so I’ve been subconsciously shifting to kayaks for the challenge. Plus, I’m likely to stick with whatever beautiful cf paddle I buy first.)

The variables seem to be: paddle length; straight vs bent; and high vs low paddler. The only chart I’ve found so far suggests 240-250 cm; I’d never heard of bent shaft paddles before and have never had relevant issues, so I’m thinking straight shaft; and … how do I know if I’m high or low paddling?

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Good stuff. As I read through the thoughtful comments and observations here, I find that my thinking is aligning with yours. I had a paddle (since sold) with a trident-shaped spine for stiffness that pulled up a lot of water. I always felt more fatigued after using it. Not sure whether that was due to the extra weight of pulling up excess water or having to constantly fine tune my stroke to keep more of the water in the lake and out of the cockpit! As you said, I don’t think the lifting effort at blade exit is a factor when moving quickly with a more powerful (high angle) stroke and paddle. Late last fall, I picked up a foam core Accent Pace (low angle) at a good end-of-season sale. Can’t wait to compare it to one with heavier blades … as soon as the %#!& ice is off the lake and it warms up a bit.

Thank you for picking up trash and fishing lures!


I’m in the market for a quality double blade paddle too so I’m following with interest because I don’t want to collect double blade paddles and learn the hard way.

A couple of canoe examples for fun.

The paddles below are Pat Moore Cues (made to precisely place the boat on the water per Pat). They are the only paddles I’m aware of that had specifications for balance (and flexibility). The balance point is a bit closer to the handles than most paddles…all of the extra wood around the handle is purely to improve balance even at the expense of weight. The wood paddle is twice the weight of the carbon paddle (30 oz vs 15). They both have large blades ideal for freestyle where you need to accelerate the boat with one stroke and for that use the weight of the wood paddle matters very little if at all. But for cruising at around 40 strokes/minute both paddles will kill me quickly due to blade size ( and high overall length) and the heavier paddle will kill me extra fast since it’s a brick, for cruising. On a quiet pond they are special paddles. We won’t discuss durability.

I use the two bent shafts below in my Rapidfire. Both are 46" but one is a super light lay-up with a slightly larger blade. I much prefer the heavier (10 oz vs 8 oz) since it has better balance plus the blade size is just right so overall it’s noticeably easier on me than the lighter paddle. Both are so light in an absolute sense that one being 2 oz lighter does not make it feel better to me but for me the 5 square inch difference in blade size matters.

I have a young canoeing friend that collects vintage paddles and he says that balance is the most
important thing to him. I definitely prefer a paddle that does not feel blade-heavy too but after reflecting on it I think there are a number of characteristics that are important to me like balance, overall weight, blade size, smoothness on in-water recoveries, stability under power, clean entry, …? and if any of the characteristics I value get too far out of bounds then a paddle doesn’t feel good to me.

As a double blade novice they all feel heavy to me. I’d love to know what I like in a double blade and I have no idea if I’ll value the same things I do in a single blade paddle.

I just learned something from jyak in another thread that was a big revelation to me. My paraphrasing:

A shorter, low angle paddle supports a higher cadence, so you can keep the boat right up against hull speed more evenly.

I like it. I’ve never thought about cadence before. And I recalled the small pile of paddles I’ve accumulated with the used kayaks I’ve bought, but never touched, so I measured and weighed them and I have all the sizes 220 to 250 to try out.

I believe most on this site will say a shorter high-angle paddle will support a higher cadence as you’re reaching forward with the blades closer to the boat’s center line rather than reaching forward and outward with blades farther from the center line. On the other hand, some say that the high-angle stroke is harder on the shoulders, so that’s a factor too.


I now use double blades almost all the time in my Magic. Of the factors you mention, I’ve found that blade size is probably most important for me. I care less about rapid acceleration than I do about maintaining a good pace over some distance with less fatigue, so I go with mid-size blades - a Werner Shuna (615 cm2) for high angle and Accent Pace (613 cm2) for low angle. The Werner has heavier glass blades, but as has been mentioned here, I don’t notice a little extra blade weight when pushing it a bit at high-angle. The Accent has light foam core blades, which seem well suited to a more relaxed, low angle stroke.

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I think that the dead weight of a double bladed paddle would be more important than the swing weight. At the conclusion of a properly done forward stroke the offside paddle should be close to the position to plant the paddle. The paddle in the water should be relatively stationary to the water.

Some people find a bent shaft paddle is easier on their wrists, but i don’t know anybody personally that uses one today.

The overwhelming number of paddlers that I know use a low angle style paddle stroke. Most people find it a less aggressive style and easier on the shoulders and less tiring unless you’ve put in a lot of conditioning to use a high angle style. Wing paddles are supposed to be a high angle paddle, but with only a few exceptions everybody I know uses a low angle style with them. Some people switch between low and high angle depending on how aggressively they want to paddle.

As far as paddle length, the correct paddle length is when properly executing a forward stroke, the entire blade, no more and no less, is completely in the water for the majority of the stroke and the paddle is not hitting the boat. This will vary depending on the width of the boat, physical dimensions of the paddler, and whether the paddler is using a high or low paddling style. A high angle style uses a shorter paddle.

I don’t know if you are exceptionally tall or have a very wide boat, but a 260 cm paddle seems very long, more like a paddle someone would use in a very wide rec or fishing kayak or double blading from the center of a canoe. Most people I know who paddle sea kayaks use paddles in the 210-220 range. Using a paddle that is too long is less efficient and wastes energy.

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When I thinks of swing weight I think of axes, the heavy mass at the end of a lever arm does much more transfer of energy and more damage than the same mass distributed through the length of the lever arm. But paddles are not axes, however I prefer heavier blades for long distance paddling, and very light blades for surfing where you need to accelerate very quickly, and Greenland paddle is a whole different feel for “swing weight”.

When I was shown how to bat at cricket in the UK, I was told “remember it’s not the size of the bat, but how you swing it.” :roll_eyes:

With my first kayak, I was sold a 240 with an Al shaft and heavy plastic blades. I rapidly discovered that it was ideal for digging holes and splitting firewood.
Then my paddle journey started. My go to now has an almost GP blade of glass and a carbon shaft.
I use low angle strokes for shallow water and high angle to move faster. I suspect I use a combination most of the time.

Re axes … absolutely. Similar to the golf club example earlier.
Never tried cricket, but I’m a little surprised that size doesn’t matter. :thinking:

Since we’ve digressed to axes and cricket bats, I will add that for ski poles, the purpose of the basket is to keep the pole from sinking into the snow, so only the tip will dig in. But bigger baskets (more flotation in soft snow) = more swing weight. Over the years, baskets on nordic racing poles got smaller and smaller, because of the swing weight, until you almost have to kind of wonder what use they could be. But modern cross country race courses are typically really hard packed. Anyway, swing weight is really important if you’re trying to ski fast! Not so much while tromping around in the backcountry.

True. Baskets have disappeared from Alpine racers’ poles too.

I suspect for aerodynamics? And potential for whacking gates? Swing weight might be important for alpine skiers, I don’t know, never having done it. But for nordic skiing, you are swinging and planting your poles many, many times over the course of an event - poles are just as important (although less complicated) for propulsion as skis, and swing weight is noticeable.

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Thank you. I’m six feet. I’m told my Rapidfire wants a 230. I have an OK quality 260 and it seems huge. I think the manufacturer recommends a Kalliste 230 bent shaft as ideal but I can’t see starting with a bent shaft ($500 experiment). I was thinking I need an adjustable 220-240 since as a single blade guy I don’t want to lock myself out of the high angle option. Everyone seems to like the Werner Camano. Bending Branches also sells a wood/carbon 220-240 that seems like it should be good enough for me.

Interesting subject. Everyone seems to be after the lightest possible paddle, but I don’t really fully understand it. For example, if you need a hammer for a job, do you go to the lightest one or the one that feels right for the job. As others said, weight means inertia and it can be utilized to one’s advantage.
Plus there are other factors. One of my paddles is a Werner Shogun white water paddle. It’s really heavy, somewhere in 1100-1200 range. But it’s only 194 cm and has buoyant foam core blades. In a stroke it feels much lighter than the weight suggests. Overall I find it quite comfortable including long distance.

I used to own a fairly heavy Gearlab greenland which I preferred over their lightest model, which felt pretty unnatural and I generally I did not like how weightless it felt. The weight distribution and buoyancy of a greenland make their scale weight numbers mean something different compared to other types.

I also use an Epic wing paddle, that on paper is the lightest of all my paddles (~670 g). In a stroke it does not feel lighter than my current 800g Gearlab or the Shogun. The blades are a lot larger and grippier so the overall feel kinda gets blurred by higher stroke effort (and as a result significantly higher speed).

I think it’s harder to be more definite than “depends”. It’s all a function of a paddler, technique, a paddle and prior history. Best is to try living with different kinds and see where it gets you. The stroke shape is a living breathing thing that constantly changes so what felt certain way in the past may not feel the same now. For example when I switched to the Shogun after a greenland, it felt like a big whooping blade. But then I switched to a large blade wing. Whenever I use Shogun now it feels like an easy blade.

Plenty of truth there. Your hammer analogy is a good example. I’d probably choose a lighter one if I were planning to hammer smaller nails all day vs powering through a few big ones.

I think that also “depends”. If one takes time to use different hammers over time, one can develop a “hammer dexterity” allowing for efficient use of even a heavy hammer to nail small nails all day long. Which is kinda where I ended up gravitating as my blades seemed to get larger over time. But I suppose one can move the other way and figure out how to use a small hammer for heavy jobs as well. The physics of water do allow for a variety of approaches.