putting the paddle in the water???

My husband and I paddle a bit differently and I think I am doing it incorrectly as my upper neck is beginning to ache when we paddle. At what angle is the paddle end going in the water? Does it go in horizontally with the water or vertically like as if it is your arm and hand swimming? Does the angle of how the paddle goes into the water differ for the person in the front of the tandem kayak?

matter of preference
Racers and whitewater kayakers favor a high angle forward stroke with a more vertical paddle shaft angle. It puts more power on the stroke and has less turning effect since there is less of a sweep component to it. It also keeps the blades closer to the boat so that they are less likely to whack a slalom pole or hit a rock when going through a narrow chute in whitewater.

A lot of touring and tripping kayakers favor a low angle stroke with a more horizontal paddle shaft angle as they feel it is more relaxed. It requires less travel of the non-paddling hand over the boat and does not require the offside arm and hand to be lifted as much.

It helps to have both paddlers in a K-2 paddle more or less in sync, and it may be necessary in a shorter boat to avoid sword fighting, but I don’t think you need to use the same paddle shaft angle.

may be more about torso rotation
As said, paddle angle is often a personal preference. But either way a good stroke involves some key elements that when done wrong most often affect ones shoulders (not so sure about upper neck). Some of these elements are reaching forward to your toes to put the blade in the water, pulling the blade out by the time it reaches your hips and finally using stiffer, often fairly straight arms combined with rotation your whole torso to get much of the power. One things these all have in common related to pain is that if your arms move at all behind your body (draw a line between your shoulders and don’t get behind that line) then you stress your shoulders too much.

Many take classes just to learn a good forward stroke and most are still working to perfect it. How the pain of a bad strokes reveals itself may also have a lot to do with which muscles are weaker on you. So if your neck muscles are weaker than your shoulders then it may be possible that your neck suffers the most.

Another cause of strain can be paddle blade size. If you’re not strong and pushing hard then a smaller blade will work better. This may be even more helpful for a tandem where the stronger paddler has a larger blade and in the end then can maintain the same cadence paddling.

I assume you are talking about …
The blade angle, and if you are, the blade should go in approximately vertical.

As the poster above says, some paddlers prefer “High angle” while others prefer a “Low angle”. All this means is in the high angle the shaft is in more of a vertical angle than using a low angle, but in both cases the blade should be vertical as it enters the water.

In a tandem both paddlers should be in sync, and for the most efficient paddling they both should be using either a high angle or a low angle stroke.

Using a high angle stroke, the end of the paddle will be entering the water before the side does, while using a low angle stroke, the bottom side of the blade will enter the water before the end does.

Tthe above can be explaind more in detail, but it is close to what happens.

Jack L

Try these

– Last Updated: Jul-28-11 5:12 PM EST –



– Last Updated: Jul-28-11 4:55 PM EST –

I am in no way qualified to analyze your stroke but for me the upper neck pain comes from bad posture and arm paddling. Put your butt in the seat with your hips hitting the back bracing. But keep your back forward of the seat back. Plant the paddle down by your feet and pull back while rotating and moving your off hand across your body. The key to the neck pain for me is pulling to far back and holding out my elbow like a chicken wing. Stop pulling at your hip and keep your elbow down. Hopefully this helps. But definitely take a class or at least watch some videos. There are basics that are important but a good stroke is like a golf swing, everybody's is a little different.

As far as the tandem goes I am qualified to answer this. I have paddled thousands of miles with a family member so I sympathize with the adventure. I don't think the style of stroke matters at all, but the synchronized stroke does. The bow paddler sets the pace, so the stern should match that. That said the bow paddler should try to keep a constant stroke and slowly adjust your cadence, no sudden start and stops.

Good luck.

Ryan L

Paddle design
I agree with everything above. I’ll just add that some paddles are designed to be high-angle, others low-angle.

Neck pain could be caused by so many things. If you can take a forward stroke technique class.

Are you in a tandem?
Above posts right about the most likely culprit, which is that you are pulling with arms rather than rotating with torso to use bigger muscles. But are you in the front cockpit of a tandem? And if so are you a rather small person in a not so small cockpit? You may have more trouble than your husband getting a good stroke if he is big enough to have less trouble getting that paddle cleanly into the water without banging the side of the boat.

response to questions
Yes I am in the front paddler in the tandem kayak

Yes I am much smaller than my husband

Yes his strokes are stronger than mine.

When we first started kayaking I had no discomfort. The tethers on the seat keep getting loose and I feel the back support begin to slant backwards. We are trying to fix this. I am trying to use my torso but maybe I think I am and I am not. I tend to place my paddle in the water in a very vertical position, the end of the paddle almost being like a hand pointing down in the water. Seems I get a better stroke that way. I assume I have a paddle quirk recently as my upper neck never hurt before.

I am an active swimmer and when I swim my neck feels better. But when I kayak it does not hurt, just afterwards when I wake up. So the two may or may not be connected.

thank you
That second video I had not seen. I have been watching video after video but the second one you sent pointed out that I may not be placing my legs properly. I had my legs straight in the kayak so I think I may be pushing back on the seat, which would explain the tethers on the seat getting loose and causing the seat to push backwards.I will try the legs with knees bent. Excellent video, thank you.

I will have to let my husband watch the last video so he knows not to yell at the front person! thanks for that too.

If it is affordable, it may be wise to
try a single seat kayak. No two people have the same body measurements nor do we think along the same lines when trying to do things.

The advice given by others is great but I for one prefer to enjoy myself in my own boat and not have to contend with my husbands style of paddling (and impatience) which is very different. He is about 5" taller than I am, thus his arms, torso and legs are longer which move at different distances than mine.

The videos available here on paddling.net are great and a lot can be gleaned from them.

Some may do fine in a tandem, but I’m not one of them. I paddle alot, whereas hubby does not.

3 points of contact

– Last Updated: Jul-29-11 11:34 AM EST –

Thighs in braces, feet on pegs, butt in seat. I suspect you can't hit the thigh braces because the cockpit is too big. If shortening up the foot pegs do you push against them with bent knee can't be done, try padding up behind the seat back to get more forward. Or get a single that fits you decently.

I’d guess around 40 to 60 degrees

– Last Updated: Jul-29-11 11:43 PM EST –

Spearing the blade in the water way up front with the top hand, and the thumb facing forward (medial rotation). You get an extra foot of stroke by locking out the elbow of the top arm, and the paddle automatically exits without any effort at the end of the stroke. Pulling with the bottom arm is counter productive and works against you. Better to let the bottom arm set the angle of attack, and transmit the return of energy back to the kayak or canoe. In other words, use your paddle as a lever, rather than your body, and your pain will go away.