Here in our area in Oklahoma City the kayak olympic team is based so I have seen their equipment including the racing paddles. These are hollowed out so that they catch more water as opposed to a flat paddle that just diverts water and which is customarily used for regular kayaking. Why isn’t a hollowed out paddle used for recreation as well? What are the pros & cons??
The paddles you describe are termed ‘wing’ paddles. An increasing number of non-racing paddlers of whom I am aware are using wing paddles at least occasionally.
Besides the great efficiency in forward paddling, wing paddles aid in torso rotation as their natural path of travel through the water encourages such rotation.
Wing paddles feel different when bracing and ruddering (though they are great for rolling) which might be considered a negative attribute.
I have been using a wing paddle for 3 of the 4 years I’ve been kayaking. They are great for putting power down to the water. No flutter or anything.
If you are into fitness paddling and going fast, they are ideal. On the otherhand, if you like doing tricks and going slow then perhaps they aren’t for you. I’ve actually got three wing paddles at home, but mainly use the onno because it is the lightest and the fastest to adjust or take apart/put together.
First, they are not hollowed out…
so they catch more water. the have that shape, (called a wing) because they act just like an airplane wing except they are moving through the water instead of air.
I use mine for recreation all the time.
If you want to go fast, you use it at a high angle, and more rotation, but it is great for lily dipping too.
"doing tricks and going slow…"
Do wing paddles function well for maneuvering?
Sometimes quickly and effectively altering the path of travel of your boat is necessary skill and not a trick.
My limited use left me feeling unsure of how well a wing would work surfing or rock gardening.
I cannot stand not use my wing.
After owning the Epic Mid wing for two months and using it for everything, I find I just can’t stand using anything else. I just bought an Aquabound Shred for white water. Man did that thing feel weird. It will work for what I want it, but for anything other than rabid foam, I will be using the wing. Skulling is the only short coming with the wing. But how much time do we spend skulling? It can be done, just not as beautifully. The Shred is the best skulling paddle I have. Everything else feels like paddling with a broom stick after perfecting the wing.
From Greg Barton
While a wing paddle provides greater power and efficiency for the forward stroke, it also limits the types of alternative strokes that you can do.
A wing blade does not work well whenever it is moved inward towards the kayak, or so that it forces water into the ‘lip’ on the leading edge. When this happens, the blade stalls, and usually dives downward in the water, taking you with it.
A wing paddle works fine for the following strokes - note that the blade moves in the favorable direction in each of these cases.
- Forward Stroke - as long as you keep the blade moving away from the kayak
- Modified Sweep Stroke - emphasis the first part of the stroke where the blade sweeps out away from the kayak, then exit the water before pulling back towards the boat.
- Low Brace - with the convex side of the blade down.
- Eskimo Rolls - The blade moves in the favorable direction with a Sweep roll, and is relatively stationary during the ‘C to C’ roll.
- Backstrokes - work fine. Do not turn the paddle around to do a backstroke, but use the back side of the blade (this is the recommended way for all paddles).
- Ruddering - generally OK, but can be a little trickier than with traditional paddles.
Avoid the following strokes when using a wing paddle. These strokes are best done with our Wayfarer model.
- High Brace - with the concave side of the blade down. You will probably end up swimming.
- Sculling - Does not work well during the return portion of sculling strokes.
- End of Stroke Steering Corrections - these are usually done by pulling the paddle back towards the boat at the end of the stroke - a ‘no no’ with wing blades. Often used by paddlers in kayaks without a rudder.
- Duffek Type Strokes - where the blade is planted in front of your body and the boat is turned around it.
What kind of boat?
If you’ve got a 19’ narrow boat, you really won’t be maneuvering all that much. The rudder is the most effective way to steer.
I’m not sure of anyone who does fitness paddling through rock gardens. That’s more for playing. You want deep water to go fast. Now surf on the otherhand, you should see the downwind runs the surfski folks do in South Africa. Wings are great for that.
I also use my wing paddle for recreation
I have an Accent wing paddle (a little heavier but much cheaper than other brands), and I can attest that you can go much faster with it, and you’re forced to keep a better paddling form (sloppiness can cost you a capsize, as explained in the thread above). It’s a good performance paddle that provides a better workout. That said, I’d never use it as my primary paddle only. I usually bring a spare “regular” paddle with me in case conditions become difficult, although I know people who use a wing all the time. I found that since it has a different “feel”, it’s good to alternate a wing paddle with a regular one on particularly long trips.
Sometimes it is necessary
to land, launch or travel through waters that are turbulent and/or rock strewn. (I'm not sure a rudder would get me away from a rock as fast as a Duffek stroke and I have been in conditions wherein a high brace was necessary.)
The OP inquired about using a wing for 'recreational' paddling.
I think there is no contest that for 'fitness' paddling on flat deep water a wing is best.
However, for general use the answer seems to be 'it depends...'