Paddles. Low angle? High angle?

Not sure what all the “angle” terms mean. I have been a greenland paddler for 90% of my paddling life and I am looking at getting a Werner paddle. But, I have no idea what’s the low angle/high angle advantage. I will be mostly paddling a Cetus LV and a Romany. I like to play, roll and recently tried surfing. Any idea what paddle I need?

why move away from GP
I’m not a GP person myself, but I’m sure for anyone wanting to help knowing why you may want to move away from GP would help – I don’t hear as much of folks moving back from GP to Euro.

Generally GP style is a low angle one though I’ve seen exceptions. Many feel a higher angle (so paddle is closer to vertical when pulling water) has advantages in more efficiently pulling water and often making torso rotation more natural. But some might say this is at the expense of lifting the paddle higher which itself takes muscle. Most folks vary their form a bit from an extreme to somewhere in the middle as far as angle.

I personally prefer a higher angle because it tends to keep my arms straighter and more in front which in turn helps both my torso rotation and makes it less likely to have an arm go behind me causing shoulder problems.

If you can, take a forward stroke class from a good coach and you’ll learn all about it first hand.

I am staying GP…
But it’s good (I think) to practice Euro paddling and stay proficient with rolling, bracing and strokes. Not too long ago, a good friend who is a BCU and ACA coach who is a die hard GP kayaker tried rolling and bracing with his Euro paddle and had trouble feeling the blade and getting his rolls. If I am to continue with ACA and BCU endoresements, I think I need more practice with the Euro blade. But I am sticking to GP as my main means of paddling.

rolling and bracing
yeah, I can see how a long time GP paddler would have trouble at first rolling with a Euro. Keeping the blade close to flat on the water is way more important with a Euro than a GP. I haven’t tried a GP much but the first time I tried rolling with one was quite easy and led me to suggest it for some very first time rollers to get the feel of rolling quicker.

Surface area and blade shape

– Last Updated: Jun-07-11 11:31 AM EST –

I'm about a 50/50 GP/Euro paddler. I find large area Euro paddles to be pretty hard on my body, but have been happy with a lower area AT touring paddle. They have a more gradual increase in paddle area from the tip, which makes it easier for me to avoid over-powering my shoulders and elbows.

As an example of what I mean, look at the Werner Kalliste at 650 sq cm and AT Xception at 602 sq cm. Aside from the difference in area, the AT paddle has a more rounded blade, so the paddle area in contact with the water increase smoothly during the stroke. I notice that the Athena has an even smaller blade at 550 sq cm, but still has the somewhat boxy Werner blade shape which I don't like much. I've used a Werner for a couple of all-day paddles and it was nice, but I do like the AT quite a bit better.

Anyway, my point is that the shape of the AT blade more closely reproduces the gradually changing effort required when using a GP, which is one of its great benefits. All low angle blades are like this to a certain extent. High angle blades are generally wider at the tip, to give a big bite, and the paddle force required increases rapidly during the stroke.

From my experience, foam core paddles are fantastic to use, worth the extra money. Also, bent shafts are a benefit for me personally, and there is a difference between Werner and AT style bent shafts. People seem divided on which they prefer, and whether bent shafts are snake oil. I will say that having a bent shaft paddle gives a tactile indication of the paddle orientation, so might help in getting the blades correct for rolling. I can't say for sure, as I haven't rolled with the AT.

It would be ideal to try out paddles. I prefer the AT, but I bet I would've been happy with a Werner.

I would say go for

– Last Updated: Jun-07-11 11:48 AM EST –

something like the Ikelos or Cyprus if sticking with Werners. I personally thought the Ikelos was a little bulky/wide in the blade but felt the Cyprus was nice and powerful enough for me.

Make sure they are short enough for you too - these are "high" angle paddles that would work well for the more dynamic uses you describe, including surfing with the sea kayak.

I like the bent shaft versions better, personally but I don't own them.

For more relaxed paddling the Kalliste low angle is good but I don't see why you would trade your GP for one of these - the GP I think does a better job for more relaxed touring or easy paddling, for which the Kalliste seems to be best suited.

I do own a Lendal Kinetic 650cm area (was called S at one point) in their bent shaft and in some respects (for the feel of the catch and its stability in the water) prefer that paddle over the Werners though the Werners are a little smoother for slicing strokes and linking strokes.

The ATs are also great and probably will be closer in feel to the GP and smoother in the water than Lendals (just like the Werner foam cores, the AT's foam core are very smooth with no pronounced ridges on the back, so slicing and linking strokes is a bit smoother).

EDIT: forgot to mention, that the AT now come with a new ferule that seems to nicely allow angle and length adjustment if I'm not mistaken. The Werners are not length adjustable. Also, the ATs have less curve/spoon shape in their blades, which I think is one of the reasons that tey feel closer to a GP (a good thing, imo). If you are not set on a Werner, definitely check the top line AT as well as the Epic relaxed or active touring paddles.

This is good Euro paddle 101
Thanks for the info. I am actually going to borrow an older Kalliste paddle this week end. It’s the first generation of Kalliste made with CF shaft and glass blade. It’s a test to see if I like the Euro style. If I like that paddle, I may buy it. It was described as low angle and that threw me off. Had no idea what that meant. Perhaps later I could get the full carbon and keep this older one as the spare if this Euro paddle idea sticks with me.

article in California Kayaker Magazine
Interesting article in the latest issue of California Kayaker Magazine that talks about high angle versus low angle and blade feathering. Can be read online for free at or if you are in California, you can pick up a free copy at local shops.

Low vs. High Angle
Low angle means the angle of the shaft when the blade enters the water is closer to parallel with the water (ie horizontal). High angle means the angle of the shaft is closer to perpendicular. I you go to Werner’s website, they’ll have diagrams showing the different angels.

Low angle is closer to a GP than high angle blades. Low angle blades tend to be longer and narrower, the blade slices into the water more on the side edge, and the stroke tends to be a bit of a curve.

High angle: the hand of the blade out of the water is higher, around the shoulder. The blades tend to be bigger and wider, the tip of the blade is speared into the water, and the stroke tends to be closer to a straight line along the side of the kayak.

If you want a euro the feels similar to a GP, low angle might be best. If you’re looking for something with a different feel, try a high angle paddle.

High angle paddling is more powerful - it’s the stroke used by kayak racers, but some people find it more tiring and harder on the joints over long distances.

Nice article except …
the author is unclear about what is meant by pushing with your top hand. Hopefully what they meant was the top hand travels across the bow in front of your face. Never push down toward the front deck.

May not need saying, but…
…a low angle, un-feathered, straight shaft paddle will be closest to what you are accustomed to. Adding feather angle or bent shaft may mess with some of the muscle memory you have built up with the GP. Could be important when you really need that brace.

I agree partly - once I started using GP, I defeathered all my Euro paddles and am much happier. This would probably be even more relevant for rolling.

In my case, with messed up wrists, the GP is best, a bent shaft Euro is good, but a straight shaft Euro really hurts after a while. I don’t find any mental or physical disconnect between paddling an unfeathered bent shaft Euro vs. a GP.

I read your review of the Epic mid wing recently, as I’m considering a wing. I’m still considering the Epic nd bobcat. Anyway - great review. Thorough and the comparisons between paddles gave a great frame of reference. Well done.

my $0.02

– Last Updated: Jun-07-11 3:41 PM EST –

I agree with others here about the muscle memory, and the simplicity of unfeathered paddles. I don't feather my blades anymore.

Try not to think of low-angle or hi-angle as either-or. Lots of people use both alternately, in order to stretch or avoid soreness. I use a stroke somewhere in between the two.

If it were me and I was recommending a high-angle stroke for someone, I'd make a wing paddle mandatory. Otherwise a pure high angle stroke won't bear much benefit..

How tall are you?
If you’re 6’3" you may be using a higher angle paddle stroke than a person who’s 5’4 with the same paddle. Take all the opinions you can, digest them, try them and then use what feels good for you. If you have paddling friends, it’s good to swap some paddles for a length difference to see how they feel. Also, why have one stroke? if you’re tired and slogging into the wind, sometimes a little variation in your paddle stroke can give the muscles some relief. I know I do subconsciously.

Paddling with a GP will probably push you in the direction of the “Low angle” EP’s. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there about using wide bladed euros. Watch people from behind when you’re out paddling - most people, regardless of what paddle type they use, will paddle at about a 45 degree angle. Some higher, some lower, but most around 45 degrees (Myself included in that group, and I use a GP 95% of the time, and use about a 45 degree angle to cruise, and around 60 degrees to sprint with both GP and EP). In order to use a proper “high angle” stroke, you’ll usually have to go with a shorter paddle.

Racers and other competitive paddlers don’t count, because they are looking for any advantage, no matter how small. People out paddling for the day are into the best combination of efficiency and comfort. Whole different ballgame, and not a fair comparison. It’s like saying you should buy a formula one race car because the best drivers in the world use them, when all you really need is a basic car.

Best advice I can give the OP is start by trying a narrower, longer blade, and go wider and shorter until you find the one that fits you best. What I like, you may hate, and vice versa. My two euros are a Lightning Offshore and a Bending Branches Journey, both long narrow blades. But, I do like my better half’s Epic, too. I just wouldn’t want to paddle 25 miles with it like I do with my GP’s on a regular basis - my shoulders would gang up on me if I did that.

Find what works best for you, and go for it. Doesn’t matter what it’s shaped like. And the advice about staying unfeathered is spot on - I only paddle unfeathered because it feels more natural after so many years of using a GP, and keeps rolling and bracing intuitive.

How tall?
Well…I am a TOWERING 5’8"!

I paddle, in order of preference, a Cetus LV, Romany and Nordkapp 18. Not very wide boats. I also have a Chatham 16 which I keep by pool side to practice rolls when I am bored. So the Euro paddle would also be used in the pool with the Chatham.

Don’t overthink it

– Last Updated: Jun-08-11 2:36 PM EST –

I would stick with the zero-feather setting on a 2-piece adjustable paddle, at least to start. They all have that zero option. You can experiment by setting to small offsets, if you want.

Also would go with a so-called medium blade, not a big WW or surf-specific one. The medium blades work fine in a variety of conditions.

The Werner Shuna/Cyprus blades are big enough and you can use a medium to high angle with them. The shafts are adjustable in 15-degree increments.

Play around without specifically aiming for a particular angle, and find out what feels sustainable to your own body. That's the most important part.

"They all have that zero option."
I wish! I had to drill a new hole in my $$$$$ AT carbon TAP with fixed offset to get zero feather. It made me highly nervous, but came out right in the end.

Was it a 2-piece adjustable?
I thought those all had a zero-feather option.