Rolling and NON feathered paddles

A different take on an old and much discussed topic, the merits of using a non feathered paddle for people learning a roll.

On the negative side, later if you prefer feathered paddle have to relearn your roll. Two, you might then be in a conflict between using a feathered paddle or non feathered one, etc.

ON the positive side, generalization learning and transfer of learning skills is maximized by doing things as much the same way as possible on both sides of the body as taught in many sports. Discrimination learning, i.e., finding the use of how the paddle is Different on the other side inhibits transfer of learning for bracing, sculling, and rolling.

The less athletic, sense of balance, and gifted a learner you are the more burder you add to the student’s learning curve.

If we are striving for making the process as easy as possible so that success breeds confidence, perhaps it might be worth considering having the student use an non feathered paddle especially those folks with other complications in their learning process. And while at it, what might be a list of things you all found simpified and sped up your process?

Thoughts all?

This is my experience. I am doing much better learning with an unfeathered paddle. Jed Luby first suggested it to me, and it does make a difference.

These days I usually only feather my paddle when paddling into wind.

My regular feather is 45 degrees, so I don’t think the adjustment will be that great if I choose to return to always feathering after I’ve mastered the initial skills I’m after.

I Think One Should Practice The “Tool”

– Last Updated: Jun-20-05 11:46 AM EST –

that one intends to use. Of course, that's just me. I learned to roll using a 60 degree feathered Euro because that was what I was using. Since then, I learned to scull and balance brace with GP as well as other variations of rolls since I switched to GP for touring. I now mostly use a less acute feathered Euro (30 and 15 degrees) since I've been mostly doing white water and surf. I can roll and scull either side with these. I learn the backdeck roll with this. I stick to learning with the tool that I predominantly use.

Ultimately, what paddle being used doesn't matter. It comes down to feel and kinectic awareness.

There is certainly an argument to be made about going unfeathered. But, I think if someone is going back to a feathered paddle, it's could be just as well to stick with that.

I don't think there is a right or wrong, or one method facilitating/enabling more than the other. I suspect it varies from individual to individual. As a coach, you just have to be willing to change up as required by the student, even if how that student learns is different than how one learned before.


Sweeps and extensions

– Last Updated: Jun-20-05 4:28 PM EST –

My experience is that it is much more difficult to do extended paddle and sweep rolls on the off side with my paddles feathered (60º). On the other hand, a 60º feathered paddle makes an onside "Pawlatta" roll bombproof because the outside blade is automatically set at a perfect climbing angle just by holding the inside blade with your fingers curled under and the blade flat against your wrist.

Unnecessary complication
I agree with Sing. Learn with what you are going to use. People easily learn to rotate the paddle when doing a forward stroke on the off side with a feathered paddle and the slight adjustment you need for setting up on the off side for a roll is easy to accomplish. One mistake that people make is to go right into trying the off side roll without any preliminary practice. Do lots of hip snaps on that side. Then do lots of braces, both hip snap and sweep braces. Braces in particular teach you how to transfer control to the off hand without thinking about it. Once you are using your off hand automatically, then move on to the roll.

good points all
always amazes me, start a post, wipe my mind clear and see how my own thinking can progress rather than listen to the sound of my own prior thoughts.

Likely one of the erros on the second side is thinking that the steps required for it will somehow come easier just because you mentally know what to do rather than muscle knoweldge.

In fact, many students tell me they can hip snap just fine, but when I watch they are hip snapping alright, but in the wrong direction, actually the muscles are doing what was taught on the other side!!!

slight adustment

– Last Updated: Jun-20-05 9:51 PM EST –

"the slight adjustment you need for setting up on the off side for a roll is easy to accomplish."

I have to partially disagree. When rolling with the paddle in "combat" grip, you're right, but when doing extended paddle rolls with the inside hand gripping the blade, feathering can make holding the paddle in correct orientation on the off side very awkward.

Got out my old 60 degree paddle
The first lessons I took (from a not very good instructor, I now know) I was taught to do the extended paddle roll on the on side by tucking the back paddle blade under my left arm. The outside is then in perfect position. If you hold the blade as is normally done, then you are quite right. Curling your fingers over the blade along the side of the blade works (arm on the power face side). However on the off side, you can accomplish the same thing by curling your fingers over the blade along the side of the blade, but with your arm on the back side of the blade.

Semi Extended
requires minimal adjustment in grip. Just slide the inboard hand to where the shaft meets the inboard blade and the then slide the out board hand in more accordingly.

I’ll resort to the the semi extended grip when I capsize without a good breath of air and I am in roily water than doesn’t give as much purchase for the blade. I’ll take the time to do a semi extended paddle roll just to make sure I get up on the first try.


Learn with the tools you are going to use, and practice practice practice. I use both a euro paddle and a greenland stick, and with enough practice your body adjusts to whatever you have in your hand. As well try a variety of rolls with both, it will make you more relaxed when you need to roll.

Combat vs Extended…
… really shouldn’t change much for you in terms of grip and blade angle. You should be sliding the shaft through your hands, not twisting it a lot. If you know your paddle, when the inboard hand gets to the blade it should help to verify the other blade’s angle. Just remember what it feels like in your hand setting up and be sure that’s where it always ends up.

Regular gear
Definitely roll with what you normally paddle with. Once that’s working OK play with feather just for fun. Then other paddles.

I paddle with GP - and learned to roll with same. The on the other side, and without extension. Then I tried my Euros, feathered or not, and was surprised it was still easy (I expected it to be much harder than the easy to index and very forgiving GP). Same with the wing paddle - which is super for sweep rolls.