Paddle with oval shaft for both hands?

I’ve recently started paddling, and am using a Carlisle Day Tripper to start with. I’m looking for a new paddle, and am wondering if there are paddles that are oval for the whole length of the shaft, or at least at both hands. I’m getting a little cramping in my left hand, and think the oval shaft would help.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of info about shaft cross sections on the various paddle manufacturers’ sites.

Any recommendations?



High quality paddles are often
ovaled for each hand. But you’ll have to check on a case by case basis.

You didn’t mention whether using a single or double blade paddle. Most decent single blades have ovaled shafts, a notable exception being mid priced paddles with shafts made from purchased carbon tube, ~$200, which are often heated and ovaled where the shaft hand falls.

Kayak paddles need have the non control grip round to allow for shaft to spin in the second hand to compensate for feather.

An unfeathered double blade could have a double oval, but most paddlers grow through that stage pretty quickly.

Cramping in the hands, etc…
First, I’d not look for oval indexing to solve your hand cramping issue. You’re probably just gripping the paddle too tightly, using just your arms rather than whole body/torso rotation, and ultimately, losing circulation. If you first practice good techniques, you’ll probably not have the cramping problems, and then you can concentrate on finding a preferred paddle for the right, rather than wrong reasons.

Loosen your grip on both hands, and even open up the palm of your “pushing” hand on each forward stroke. Use only the minimum degree of “grip” to get the job done, as this encourages maximum relaxation and a “natural” feel; regardless of the paddle you’re using.

Second…may I be so bold as to recommend a GP (Greenland Paddle)? Why not, after all? As long as your boat can deal with a relatively short paddle and a more vertical stroke (not way too beamy, for instance), there’s no reason to simply consider the Euro paddle “standard”. I certainly wish someone had put a GP into my hands the first time I paddled a kayak rather than the Euro they did put into my hands; would have saved me a few years of waiting until I discovered the wonders of the GP. :slight_smile:


re: Boat
Sorry… Thought I had mentioned. Boat is a kayak. The Day Tripper is your basic, entry level, aluminum shafted double blade.


Thanks for the thoughts. I hadn’t thought about a GP, but I’m definitely intrigued. I’ll work on my form a bit more before I make a final decision.

My only concern is that I’ve had similar problems at the same spot on both hands in the past (base of the thumb) with other items (hammers, paintbrushes, drumsticks, etc), and have found that the oval shape seems to help with the the soreness and cramping.

I’ll keep at it, though… :slight_smile:

Thanks again!


Holding paddle way too tight, only need a light grip and then only on the side that’s actually taking the stroke. If the paddle flutters with that light of a grip then it’s a problem with the paddle, not the grip.

Rotation will help much too, you’re likely arm paddling, using your arms for the power, should be using your big muscles in the torso by rotating and using that to provide the power to the stroke.

I too highly recommend the greenland paddle, it’s much easier on the body specially if used correctly.

Bill H.

I would only add two thoughts…
Torso rotation is mentioned regularly, but that doesn’t quite describe the whole movement, which actually starts with feet and legs (even larger muscle groups). Pushing with the leg (blade-in-water side foot against foot brace) starts the movement, which in turn powers the torso rotation. The pushing arm is extended forward as the hand moves toward the center line of the deck during rotation, while the whole arm remains pretty much straight at the elbow (as starting with a bent elbow and extending the arm is just back to “arm paddling”, which negates most of the benefit of the rotation push).

Also, while there is certainly a bit of pulling with the blade-in-water side arm, the major movement is the push from the opposite side (following through with the leg push/torso rotation). I encourage people to not even think in terms of pulling; instead, just think of the pushing movement (we push the boat through the water, we don’t pull it), and the little bit of pulling on the other side will come naturally, while allowing the major muscle groups to do nearly all of the work.


“grow through” WHAT “stage”?
There are a LOT of experienced and highly skilled paddlers that PREFER unfeathered paddles, as there are a lot of advantages to then vs. feathered. All Greenland paddles are unfeathered. Even in whitewater, the trend is toward very little to no feather. There’s nothing about using a feathered paddle that indicates anything about one’s skill or experience as a paddler.

Some good information

– Last Updated: Jul-18-10 8:35 AM EST –

from Melissa here Mike. Having a "death" grip on the paddle (most don't even know it) can transfer muscle discomfort throughout the body. Having an entry level paddle with a heavy swing weight can cause fatigue. An oval shaft may have certain benefits touted by their manufacturers, however the main benefit is that an oval gives you perspective in where the blades are positioned without you having to look at the paddle. In addition to what Melissa spoke to you may wish to loosen your grip and use your thumb and first two fingers to provide the initial support on the shaft. This allows the paddle to rotate in your hand without it twisting your hand. If you need a firmer grip you simply close your hand. This also tends to make you push a bit more and not just pull.

My Aleut paddle calls for unfeathered. Heck its one piece of wood.

Narrow blades often never need feathering…

Guess I grew back through that stage. I started out feathered for years and molted back!

I use a GP oval loom

– Last Updated: Jul-18-10 9:45 AM EST –

it is very obviously oval and feels great in my hands. It is a greenland style and i prefer it over my euro blades. Don Beale made it - perhaps you should give one a try - he custom makes them for you. I know Bill Bremer of Lumpy Paddles is known also for excellent paddles but i cannot speak for them as i never saw one of his.

This is a very obvious oval compared to slight ovals on some euro blades.

Bill Bremer
It’s Bill Bremer of Lumpy Paddles, by the way:

I paddled with Bill and he loaned me a couple of his paddles to try and I can vouch for them, although I don’t have wide experience with a lot of other brands/makes of GPs.

To the OP: you might see if you can borrow a bent-shaft (aka crank-shaft) double-bladed paddle from a friend to try. These are designed primarily to reduce strain on the wrist joint by placing it in a more ergonomic position, but it might allow you to reduce grip pressure.

Right ! My mistake
A little early this a.m. Bill Bremer it is!

watersprite gives good ideas
Loosen the grip as much as you can. Only hold with the thumb and first finger, or thumb and first two fingers of your dominant hand. Your offside hand (left if you’re right handed) can actually even open up when that blade is in the air. See how loose you can hold it and still paddle. When Nigel Foster does it he looks like a ballet dancer or director holding a baton.

On the oval question, higher end paddles usually come with a slight oval cross section to them. I can’t see it with my eye, but I can feel it in all of my Werners. Did you say aluminum shaft? Flutter may be the paddle. Are the blades asymmetric, with one end of the blade extending farther than the other like this ? Paddles without that will often flutter. It’s based on design.

also technique
If you pull straight back on the blade you will often get flutter. Instead let your paddle blade follow the wake: Go in at the bow and ‘skull’ further and further from the boat as you draw the blade back. This stroke should come not so much from your arms as from torso motion. Your arms are just the go-between between your hands and your torso.

Try paddle wax
Paddle wax costs only a dollar or two most places or you can use surfboard wax. It increases the grippiness of the paddle so you’ll feel more comfortable with a very light grip.

Bill’s Lumpy paddles are the most comfortable paddles for my hands and they have an oiled wood finish that provides a great grip for loose handed paddling.

Paddle shaft
The paddle you are using is low quality, so you probably should not draw conclusions based on your experience so far. With a paddle of that quality, you can expect to be uncomfortable, to go slowly, and to get tired quickly. See if you can demo a real kayak paddle, $150+. Using a tolerable paddle is pretty much essential to enjoying kayaking. Most straight shafts are not oval, many bent shafts are, either can work great. Shaft quality, length, and diameter are more important.

Original question
To answer your original question, I just took delivery of an AT Ergo Tour T4E glass paddle. It has a bent shaft, which is oval at the hand locations. The rest of the shaft is round. This is their entry level crankshaft paddle - the other more expensive ones are oval at the hand holds as well. It’s a nice paddle, but not nearly as light as my foam core, all-carbon version (which cost more than twice as much). It would be a good paddle to move up to, keep the aluminum shaft as your spare.