Touring Paddles

-- Last Updated: May-11-11 12:07 AM EST --

I just had a quick question about the difference in switching to a high angle stroke when using a low angle blade. Does a high angle make much of a difference on a touring blade? Is about the same power or efficiency lost if a high angle blade used at a relaxed stroke? I switch between my strokes in different water but mainly stay with a low angle to put in miles. I haven't paddled that many paddles to know yet. Has anyone noticed that much of a difference when switching different strokes and blades? Any advice would be helpful

From my experience;
You will use more energy with a low angle stroke with a Euro or touring paddle.

With a Wing paddle you must use a high angle stroke.

Prior to switching to my wing paddle about four or five years ago, I used a euro with a much lower angle then when I went to the wing.

Once I started using the wing the high angle became so second nature that when I used a euro, I just paddled with a high angle automatically and only used a low angle for sweeps and or certain corrections.

I only use a wing now, and can paddle all day long with out tireing.

I am sure if I was using a low angle stroke I would wear out quickly.

Jack L

Shoulder problems …
Tried moving to a high angle stroke a few years ago. I wanted more speed. Moved to a Werner Ikelos paddle.

Like my golf game, I found the boat’s forward tracking progressively moving from a push to a pronounced slice. After a few weeks, my forward stroke resulted in long but complete circle … like a boomerang, right back where I started.

After lots of thinking, reading, asking questions, and trying various things to correct, all I ended up with was an inflamed left shoulder and rotator cuff damage. Ended up taking almost 2 years off from paddling, and the left shoulder is still sensitive.

People say your paddle selection is as, if not more, important than the boat. Not sure if I 100% agree with that, but when I got back into paddling last fall, bought a new boat and paddle, I spent as much time and care selecting the paddle as I did the boat. Demo’d as many paddles as boats, and asked the instructors handling the demo’s as many questions about the paddles and my stroke as I did about the boats.

IMHO, if you’re looking to change paddles and\or stoke, it’s well worth getting some good advice from a qualified instructor who knows how access your stroke, discus high vs. low angle, and match you to a paddle. Especially if you have a desired end result you want to get by making a change.

BTW, in my case, it was not the paddle, but some bad advice combined with my ignorance. Not only was the paddle wrong for me, but I was using it wrong as well.

Some paddles…
will resist being used other than intended. Wings for sure, and paddles like the Epic Active Tour and Werner’s foam core paddles for high angle tend to flutter and fight back if you try using them for lower angle paddling. Whether this is an issue in reverse - trying to use a low angle designed paddle for high angle paddling - I can’t answer because my two main ones are high angle. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the better low angle paddles were also fussy.

The issue of shoulder problems is quite serious, unless you have unusually young shoulders compared to the majority of this board. Last check most of the younger ages were in the 40’s. Werner Ikelos for example is often chosen by people newer to paddling because they think that huge blade will make their stroke more powerful. But choosing big blades has sent more than on person in for shoulder surgery.

The best way to increase paddling speed is to learn good form and to increase your paddling cadence. Smaller blades are easier to get thru the water faster and a paddle that is well-matched to your preferred style will make both things easier. I’d suggest you spend some time paying attention to how well your current blade supports these two aspects of your paddling, then do whatever is needed to make a good match.

Shoulders are now 50 …
… And the left one will need surgery if I damage it again.

Guilty: wanting to go faster was the driver. Guy in the shop said “here’s what you want”. And it was on sale.

This time around, made sure to match the paddle to the boat amd my style, which is naturally on the high angle side.

Part of the problem with the other paddle was lenght: too short, forcing a higher angle. Plus the blade size. To get the to my natural rythem, I was pulling harder … fighting the paddle sounds right. Too much strain. And the boat didn’t go any faster … hull design.

Now I have a boat with a hull that can go faster, and a paddle (Shuna), the right length, that works with my style and rythem.

No shoulder problems
I am a fairly well conditioned paddler that sticks mostly to low angle but worried if I get in rougher water a smaller touring blade will not have enough power or flutter when I switch to high angle to punch through certain spots. Would anyone recommend the eagle ray for that type of paddling? I can’t decide between that and a high angle blade. Thanks for the input so far

I have a hard time defining it

– Last Updated: May-11-11 11:39 AM EST –

I use a high angle stroke. I use a low angle stroke. I use about everything in between. I imagine different blade lengths and shapes could offer differing resistance lifting the blade from the water from different angles, but I've never been paddling along and thought wow, this paddle is really unsuited to the angle of stroke I feel like I need to use right now. So I think you have to go for something that feels best to you once you feel you have a good stroke and you know your own style. I've somehow found myself at odds with what seem to be the prevailing designs. I haven't gotten into the feel of a wing with directional control strokes, but the catch is nice. The prevailing market seems to be all about dihedral, which I have grown to disfavor, so Werners, and really a pretty extensive list, are surprisingly not my favorites. I don't like the softer slippage of a dihedral, I'd rather feel the firm catch of a wing. Neutral to slightly spooned is what I've grown to appreciate. The only big-name maker of that style, Lendal, isn't very easy to find these days. But every blade they made, from the powermaster and nordkapp, to the kinetic series, was true spoon. Lift it from the water face up, and it will hold water on its face. Now I see "dihedral spoon" marketed, which means a spoon curve the length of the paddle, but the opposite edge to edge. To me a requirement of a spoon should be that it holds liquid, but opinions may vary. My Mitchells (neutral edge to edge) and Lendals are my favorites, and I hope they continue to make an alternative to the dihedral style. A loose grip, a solid plant, a balanced stroke, all things I want anyway, and a couple hours beyond the demo pond, I've never been able to figure out why I would have wanted to mask a symptom such as flutter with a good balanced paddle in my hands.
It seems I've gone off on my own paddle preferences, having nothing to do with high/low angle. So I guess I haven't found the high-angle low-angle specific thing very significant to this point. There's no reason why a low angle paddle - which seems to mean longer skinnier blades, would flutter using a high angle stroke done correctly. The biggest difference may be that there is a longer length of blade to plant before applying power. How significant is that? Probably not very if you predominantly use a low angle stroke.
I'm 39, in pretty good shape, an active sea kayaker in coastal waters, seemingly with a fairly strong forward stroke. These things seem like they may make a difference in paddle selection.

age and shoulders
I gotta think i’m one of the youngest ones here at 31. But i’ve dislocated my left shoulder more times than i can count, and partially separated my right one once. Both at least initially while rolling.

Take it from me, you can jack up your body parts at any age.

As for high vs low and shoulder fatigue, we’ve been there recently on this board. You should search for it.

As for my opinion of using a low angle paddle with a high angle stroke: You can, i have, but the shaft is usually too long. Not a big deal for short power starts and sprints, but over a few miles it gets tiring. Flutter usually isn’t a problem in high angle mode.

This topic is so huge, there’s a lot more to say, so many variables, but i’d say that if you’re curious about high angle you should try it with a proper short shafted paddle because it does make a difference.

Paddles = Gears on Bike
Carrying multiple paddles on long trips can allow you to shift gears.

Some paddles allow changes in length and offset angles

– on the fly to accommodate changing conditions

There might be days you want to gobble up mileage

  • and other times you want to go sightseeing.

    Bicyclists change gears, Paddlers can do the same.

Why do a low angle stroke?
It is analogous to paddling without rotation. It seems at the time to be easier and more relaxed. But in reality it requires more energy and will tire you out sooner. High angle strokes are more efficient and in the long run, if done correctly, you will feel better. Paddles designed to facilitate low angle strokes are market driven, not paddling driven.

The angle you hold the paddle has nothing to do with torso rotation. You can rotate as much as you want with either high or low technique. Why would you believe otherwise? Just curious. I mean how do you do a sweep stroke?

When done correctly a low angle technique provides me with much less fatigue over long distance days than high angling it. I’m talking about distances like 30 or 40 miles here. Not talking speed. And if you’re going to go low angle you need a boat that can track straight, that’s a key factor.

true, but…
for me personally I found that when I switched to a higher angle it tended to force me (i.e. it was more natural) to have my arms straighter and more in front of me. This in turn tended to make it easier to use my torso and less likely to let an arm/shoulder sneak too far back causing shoulder pain.

So for me (and maybe not others) it seems like I would have needed more work on technique to get it all to come together with a low angle stroke. I’m sure a lot of this is personal form sort of thing.

Just how high I go varies with a highest stroke being more for going very fast, but I’m never particularly low. I do a lot of 15 to 30 mile paddles and don’t find fatigue from the higher angle though I do have a light paddle.

Maybe not
When I watch paddlers with a low angle stroke they either tend to not rotate much (shoulder rotation) if at all and do a version of the sweep stroke or they bend their elbow and lift water. Not saying you do that. If you do true rotation (both shoulders and stomach rotate with your legs providing the support and push), maintain the power face pointing directly back letting your paddle drift away from the boat, and keep your lower arm straight then I have no problem. But that is actually harder to do, at least for me, than setting your shaft at a high angle and doing the stroke. At the end of the day I feel much better having done high angle strokes than low angle. YMMV.

i was thinking.
I have a wide rec tandem that I take out with my dad. As a result I have to use a longer paddle and a low angle stroke because of the proximity of my dad in front and his stroke cadence. Doing this for a few hours I always find myself relaxing and just arm paddling. However as long as I just keep my arms relatively straight and sorta sweep stroke, I can do that forever. It is terrible form but a lot of leverage is being employed and we can keep a pretty fast pace.

But, if I get I’m my solo boat that form would result on something awful. Even with a shorter paddle I push water up and my boat squats. When I use the high angle wing type stroke it forces you to rotate and keeps the boat on plane and once moving it seems to take less energy to move on.

Don’t know what that means, but in the end I feel like the high angle stroke is really the only way to employ torso rotation efficiently.

Ryan L.

I use a GP
in rough water, surf, and tidal races 90% of the time. Never had an issue once I advanced my technique. Technique is more important than what you’re swinging (Within reason, of course).

Learn to use what you have to your advantage first, and then move on if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll save $$$, and be a better paddler for it, too.

Length may be more an issue
The Euro blades I have seem to be fairly forgiving of various angles of implantation. However, a paddle length optimized for high angle sprints may be too short for relaxed low angle cruising, and vice versa.

Theoretically and ideally, I am a proponent of high angle strokes because they are more efficient. Practically, however, I am a fairly slow cruiser and usually use a sort of medium low angle stroke most of the time. To accommodate this, I usually carry two paddles of differing lengths and blade styles.

Today, there are variable length kayak paddles, but I don’t know how expensive or reliable they are.

Watch someone else…
This video of Greg Barton did wonders for me

The ability to see “thru” the kayak helped implant

the idea in my head of “spearing” to start the stroke,

using the legs to drive, alternating butt cheeks, etc.