Switching paddles while on the water

The Fall 2015 issue of “Adventure Kayak” features an article on Greenland paddles. It describes a paddler struggling in a 25 knot headwind and switching from a Euro to a Greenland.

How do you do that while maintaining control of your boat?

Same question if it’s not a GP but a two-piece Euro with a smaller blade carried under the rigging on your bow that would have to be pulled out and assembled.


Not that close to ability limit
If you are in conditions where you are that close to your ability limit, you won’t change paddles.

If you can duck behind something that gives protection, you would do the swap then.

Getting a paddle out and assembling generally isn’t that hard. I find restowing the paddle I am not using as the harder part.

Switching paddles

– Last Updated: Apr-03-16 11:53 AM EST –

I switch between GP and Euro while paddling, usually every time I go out. The key is to have the paddles on the front deck already assembled and ready to go. My GP is one-piece, I keep the Euro assembled. The rigging up by the bow needs to be able to accept either paddle, obviously. With practice you can switch paddles and only miss one stroke.

I see you have a Samba, at 13'8" long you don't have a lot of deck to work with. I have a 13'9" boat and a 14'1" boat that I manage to do this with, so it is possible. On these short boats, the end of the stowed paddle will be alongside the cockpit.

Some paddlers put a wood bead or a turk's head knot on the perimeter line by the bow to allow the paddles to go under the rigging easily while switching. The rigging by the cockpit may need an extra velcro loop or something to hold the paddle flat and in a good location so you don't bump it while paddling.

I sometimes keep a break down paddle on the back deck, but it's not really feasible to pull that in conditions unless there is another paddler to help.


switching paddles in a headwind
does not necessarily mean losing control of your boat. Most boats at rest go bow into wind. Look at moored boats in the wind.

Yes you will go backwards which is more maddening than dangerous, because of all the work you did to get there.

Bow into the wind is always more stable than stern to the wind.

Bow into the wind
and lose some ground. As kayakmedic says, frustrating but not fatal. That strong a wind will likely pin your boat is some position.

That said, I always make sure that I can pull my spares before launching - those of us with not 6 ft relative arms do need to make sure the end is easily reachable - and if I do put other stuff like a chart under the bungies I make sure nothing is down so tight it’ll be a problem to pull the paddles.

And I had a set of paddles redone so that they go together and come apart without requiring a guy to come with huge hand strength to separate the one I want ot no use. It is just maintenance. Make sure you spares are maintained to be free of sand and the plastic treated same as your regular paddle.

I really like the paddle pants for this - I can set it a good position along the rigging so I can keep my paddles on the closer to me and the end is not going to get trapped.

Cool boat.
I carry a two-piece 215cm fiberglass Euro on the Samba foredeck but have never had the need to pull and assemble it. Will have to practice that a couple of times in case I need to modify its positioning.

Was helpful to see how the GP is carried in the photo. Carrying a GP on my boat is a bridge that I haven’t crossed yet, but expect to in the next few months.

Beaufort Wind Scale 6
lists wave heights at 25 knots to be 9.5-13 feet. That’s pretty big in my eyes.

I can’t imagine taking my hands off my paddle in 25 knots of wind. Actually, I can’t imagine being out in that kind of weather as small craft warnings would have been posted here in the Great Lakes.

I like the paddle pants, Willowleaf, but don’t think they would fit on my current boat. Would like to get them if I can find a 15-16 ft. LV.

25 knots . We have it here now
No way am I looking out the window at 9-13 foot seas.

Wave height depends in fetch, duration, wind speed, depth of water, tide .

In shallow areas you can have such winds and have very small waves under two feet. If the wind is with the tide its possible to have winds that strong and no waves visible. An offshore wind has fooled many a kayaker when the tide is ebbing.

I get a kick out of the Beaufort Wind Scale. From my experience I should have never gone out! Granted 20 mph winds on Superior make bigger waves than 20 mph winds on the Gulf of Mexico near shore… different bathymetry.

You will find me on the beach or on a rock in Superior in those winds and just trying to slug it out in Florida.

Paddle pants fit on my 15’3" Vela

– Last Updated: Apr-03-16 10:32 PM EST –

Unless the Samba has been modified from the one I know (a neighbor has one) I don't see why paddle pants would not fit on your boat. It is wider and as far as I recall not significantly shorter than the forward part of my Vela. You may find it best to rerun the perimeter line to make them fit so they hold position, but it is a good idea to periodically replace rigging anyway. And you can put in reflective deck lines in some neat contrasting color.

The GP is more of an issue with a shorter boat. I find the trickiest part is to work out some kind of loop that is as easy to insert the paddle back into as it is to take it out. Once you are in the boat you can't run to the bow to hold a loop open.

And yeah, the Beauford scale weave heights are based on wide open water. What most of us actually paddle on tends to be more protected than to generate waves of that height.

You need to go out on windy days or in other bad weather and observe the behavior of the water bodies around you. Over time you will find there are relatively sheltered areas when the wind is coming from a certain direction, so maybe don't go around that big point. Stuff like that.

into the wind
in open water. If you can’t pull it off without accepting losing progress or losing control the conditions are too rough.

Making a switch in conditions is what sold me on moving my spare from the rear to the foredeck.

boats at rest
kayakmedic says “Most boats at rest go bow into wind. Look at moored boats in the wind.”

Only moored boats go bow into the wind. Otherwise the boat can go broadside and can broach … not particularly related to weathercocking.

I guess I’m a wuss.

– Last Updated: Apr-04-16 2:23 PM EST –

When it's blowing at 25kt+ and small craft warnings are posted for Lake Michigan, they always include Little Traverse Bay. I paddle (solo) a small craft and have respect for such warnings.

I'm not sure how a GP will fit as a carry-on with my current boat and Peter's comment about restowing a paddle makes me uncertain how/if my Werner can be carried in one piece without getting in the way of the cockpit.

The Werner restowing question I can figure out whenever the ice melts here which, given the "gifts" we're getting from our Canadian neighbors, might not be until May.


– Last Updated: Apr-04-16 2:18 PM EST –

"Only moored boats go bow into the wind."

I think it's safe to say moored boats point into the wind because the painter is usually attached to the bow, and the rest of the boat acts as a drogue.

Kayaks can point into the wind, away from it or be neutral, depending on below & above water hull shapes, with the cross section of the paddler factoring into it as well.

it’s one of the things
I should practice.

Conditions here vary…
there are frequently winds coming from the SW or W and the waves can be NW or N to the wind. When this happens (don’t forget that even out to sea a bit in Monterey or SF Bays, there are rebound waves to consider as well), switching paddles can be…challenging.

In beam seas, (kayaks, as you point out, often adjust to conditions) most kayaks I’ve paddled (tend to) turn toward the wind and the, as the wave hits, turn into the wave. This is actually fun (at times), but can be problematic should, say, a paddle break. This hasn’t happened to me, but I think I’d have to do what I could with whatever blade was left in my hand rather than attempt to transition to my backup paddle. If paddling alone, this would be a very uncomfortable situation to be in.

These conditions are common in Monterey where rarely have I had wind/waves approach from less than 10 degrees off of each other (I’ve seen as much as a 30 degree variance).

SF Bay, or locations like it, where strong tidal currents follow a course that is entirely independent of wind - so wind, chop, and current add that extra dimension of confusion to the mix.

This is where the additional paddlers come into play. What could be a serious problem for a solo paddler can be easily mitigated by a small group with decent communication. This is also why paddling solo in less than ideal conditions (based upon the skills of the paddler) can be considerably more risky.


While inverted
One of our skills practice routines is to pull out half your paddle from under the bungees and roll up with it. For bonus points pull out both halves assemble it and roll up.

25 kts is enough to blow the paddle away if you let it got but it’s not like you would have to be constantly bracing to stay upright. A good system of bungees and paddle shaft holders would be important.

Small craft advisory winds CAN make for some great conditions given the right training and terrain,fetch, direction, etc. Here in the Seattle 25 kts produces 4 foot wind waves and great down wind paddling conditions. Out on the Olympic coast 25 kts is 4-5 wind waves possible on top of 6+ foot swell. Challenging for sure but not undoable.

Another drill would be
We often practice by stowing the paddle under the deck rigging and just sit with no paddle in the waves, say 1 to 3 foot waves. Once you can do that then swapping paddles is piece of cake. Much easier if you can roll up should you go over. But people in the group cant all roll and still do this practice. I use a normal greenland paddle I don’t use those funny looking euro paddles.

wait for an 4’ trough …

– Last Updated: Apr-04-16 9:05 PM EST –

then switch to a what ? in a 25 knot breeze ?

I'm downwind or having Tea. At the Inn.

But some go out in the 25 knot wind n practice wet re-entry.

Seriously, eyeyyhahaha, experts tell us a smaller blade is more effective in a strong headwind. Surly the Greenland paddle hahhahah qualifies. Bring a spoon. Hahahhaha.

A more rapid paddling stroke, shorter quicker may give more constant forward pressure than pulling with a larger blade. Effective forward pressure against constant wind pressure.

Canadian late winter humor or is that mid winter ? hahhahah.

Jus' saying.

Tune in to the Spring marine weather reports for BC waters or lower Inland Passage water south Alaska.

Tea ?