stroke cadence fun

In my Q700X I did two back to back 5 nautical mile loops, first using my Onno wing set at 208 cm. Then I repeated the loop using my 223.5 cm (88 inch) Novorca GP. Cadence with the wing and GP were 72 spm and 62 spm respectively. GPS indicated moving average speed was 4.2 kts with the wing and 3.9 kts with the GP. But there were tidal differences, plus I was slightly fatigued from the first effort, so the utility of the comparison is questionable.

The short length of the wing, and the short wing stroke compared to the deep long GP stroke account for the cadence difference. A rowing instructor once told me that if one wants the boat to move faster, then pull faster not harder, especially over a longer distance. I think higher cadence might be more efficient for me and am thinking of getting a shorter GP to get that cadence increase.

I greatly enjoy fooling around with different paddles, technique, and my GPS.

Another comparison would be
To maintain the same heart rate and observe your speed with the 2 paddles. It would be interesting to see if the GP or the Wing moves you faster for the same effort. And if this is still the case over a short vs. a long distance…

pure mechanical vs human muscles
It seems it’s all about finding the sweet spot for each person. For a robot paddler keeping the blade in front and only moving it say a foot or two but very fast may be ideal. But human muscles have limits on cadence. Some of the limits I think geneticallly unique to each person but you can train to move those limits a bit. Often this means using a very short cadence for short bursts but finding something more moderate for the long haul. Cyclist deal with this same question a lot.


– Last Updated: Jan-10-13 4:54 PM EST –

Higher cadence, particularly within the relatively narrow window where the blade is square to the stroke always increases speed, up to a point.

That point is where our technique, control of shaft/blade, fails; towards which we practice to improve muscle memory and finite control at speed.

Then there is the conditioning thing, remembering that tumblehome is built into hulls so when we blow chunks they land outside the boat.

Interesting reading list on cadence:

Endecott, Wm, The Barton Mold 1995
Heed & Mansfield, Canoe Racing, 2005
Szanto, Canoe Racing, no date??
Toro, Canoeing; an Olympic Sport 1986
Winters, The SHape of the Canoe, 1996

"Fooling Around"
Really appreciate you sharing your experiences “fooling around” with different paddles and strokes. Watch out though, for eventually, you might discover better or more efficient ways of paddling that many experts consider wrong. So continue to experiment, enjoy and have fun paddling.

ps: Do reverse the order of your runs the next time (GP first). Or try using a smaller wing? For technique, I use the Onno Small Wing. Then switch the next day to the Onno Large Wing for training purposes (Onno’s scale out better than other wings).

Then its time to slow down
if you have lost the line. Paddling harder just makes correcting the course harder.

I am so sorry that I read this thread in the middle of risotto composition.

Kocho, I am not clear that heart rate is a good measure. Seems to me that with too large a blade your muscles get fatigued without raising heart rate excessively, and too high a cadence would raise the heart rate excessively. Also, over a 5 or 10 mile course the heart rate would not stay constant. But I have never tried a heart rate monitor, so don’t know.

jcbikeski, I agree that the best combination of paddle dimensions and cadence would be specific to a particular paddler. However, I think that there is no best cadence for a particular person; it depends on the paddle. I am happy at 70+ with the wing, but not my particular GP.

clydeh, Seems to me the general principles of the experts are mostly correct: full immersion at the catch, rotation, short wing stroke, longer GP stroke, etc. Going back and forth between different paddles helps me discover technique errors. I agree about reversing the order, and have done that, but conditions are always a bit different and it is hard to reach firm conclusions. My Onno is small-mid, which seems right for me (Pat’s recommendation), but the 208 length I arrived at is shorter than my instructor recommended (Pat recommended shorter).

Take a look at the videos
on the qajaqusa site and see what you think is their stroke rate.

I did some estimates of Doug van Doren in his greenland kayaking video and I kept getting 90-110 strokes/minute. I could never get close to that. When I got to paddle with him in person I was just amazed at how relaxed he looked, but how fast he could turn that paddle over. I would be paddling along barely keeping up with him and then he would decide to jump ahead to another student up ahead. No particular sign of extra effort but the stroke rate would look like he almost doubled it and off he would go leaving me behind.

Good luck in your experimentation.


Heart rate…
I’m no expert so I might be wrong, but if you are getting tired with low heart rate, it seems to indicate you are not working your large muscles. Also, I don’t suggest keeping a constant heart rate over time, just keep it similar between the two paddles. I don’t know how high vs. low cadence vs. heart rate interrelate… If you slice the GP rather than pull it back, you could have pretty high cadence despite the paddle being longer; gripping it with hands closer together on the shaft also helps increase cadence. But I might be mistaken - my GP is only a few inches longer than my wing and if yours is significantly longer, then it might make a bigger difference…

wing paddle length
You should play with the length of your wing and see what that does for you. I’m lucky enough to have a few elite paddlers in my weekly workout group. One guy suggested shortening up my paddle 1 or 2 cm. It made a noticeable difference in cadence and ability to change speeds and sprinting.

70 Kayak Strokes Equal 35 Canoe Strokes
Kicking it up around 80+ will make a hell of a difference. Even at 90 spm, it is only half as many as the current 200m Olympic kayak Champ does. One & half strokes per second, using an Onno Small Wing (@208cm) enables me to stay with the teenager. To maintain that pace using the Onno Small Mid-wing, I shorten the shaft to between 203 - 205 cm. With the Onno Large Wing, the Onno Lever Lock is clamped at 199cm for a hell of a workout with the pacer set at 90spm. When I decide on the appropriate length, I’ll order the Onno Mid-wing later this year and compare it to the others.

too high
The min length on my Onno small-mid is 208 and that length seems about right for me to get full immersion at the catch. I am too old to do any sprints and 80 spm is just too fast for me to maintain for several miles.

Are you the Mark with whom I paddled in Corpus Christi, with Ken J., a number of years ago? Do you still use your Mariner?

Anyway I watched the VanDoren video some years ago and recall that he emphasized a very low stroke with knuckles scraping the gunwales. Nowadays, most video I see does not show such a low stroke. It is much easier to get a high rate with my short wing than with my longer GP.

Preserve Your Fast Twitch Muscles
Or they’ll shrivel up if you don’t sprint. Do it often and you’ll find yourself warming up at 80 spm, for sprinting seems to awaken the whole body.

Guilty as charged.
Yes I am in Corpus. Mostly paddling an Impex Force Cat3. The Mariner Elan is kind of my camping kayak (since it does not have bulkheads) and I have not been doing that much camping lately. Acutally have not been doing much paddling at all recently.

Van Doren and Stamer definitely have different approaches to the GP stroke. I have taken lessons from both of them. Doug emphasizes a really short stroke well out in front of your body. In that respect it has a lot in common with much of what is taught for Euro strokes. That allows you to get some pretty fast stroke rates. I always tell people that if you want to use Doug’s technique one of the things you have to do is to remember to take the paddle out of the water about 1/4 of a second before you put it in :). Greg teaches a much longer and more vertical stroke. I often switch between the 2 styles for a little change of pace. I like Greg’s method more when going into strong winds and like Doug’s in light winds or when running downwind.


Just Wondering
If your stoke is “canted” for both GP styles?

good advice (perhaps)
My body needs waking up, especially those fast twitches. Unfortunately I stopped twitching about a decade ago. But you inspired me to try a few sprints on my next outings.