Why do I hold my paddle wrong?

I use a Werner Camano bent shaft paddle. My left hand is about 1.5" further out than my right hand. I have repeatedly move my right hand out and my left hand in, but within 2 minutes they are right back where they started.

Does this matter?

Any way to fix it?

Any useful comments?

keep at it
if you keep paying attention to and changing it, it’ll stop.

You can also place a piece of tape at each grip so that you have a tactile reference.

Not a big deal
Your body apparently is asymmetric, an 1.5 inch difference if you have good paddling form otherwise is not a lot to worry about. In rough water, surfing etc I expect my hands move more than that in and out depending on how I am maneuvering the paddle. Work on good form for your forward strokes and maneuvering and the issue will sort itself out.

Are you left handed?
It’s pretty common for the hand of your weaker side to creep down the shaft (away from the nearest blade) – it happens unconsciously, probably due to less strength on that side. Moving it away from the blade lessens the force on that side.

I’m right handed and often discover my left hand creeping down the shaft. It’s something that I monitor often and correct when it happens.

I keep an “O” ring around the shaft on each side, not as a drip ring, but to make it easier to monitor (and feel) where my hands should be.

If you are not left handed then perhaps you are unconsciously correcting for another reason. If your left hand moves toward the blade (which would tend to turn the kayak to the right), you could be compensating for the kayak veering slightly to the left. This could happen due to leaning very slightly to the right or putting more weight on the right part of the seat (which causes the kayak to veer to the left).

There could also be other reasons, including the cranks not being in the right place for your anatomy. Have a friend watch you paddle, or video yourself, and check your posture, symmetry, etc. Some hulls aren’t true and will veer to one side, but it’s usually dangerous to blame your kayak (rather than technique flaws, strength imbalances, etc).

Greg Stamer

paddle hold
As long as you are comfortable it should not matter unless you are in competition

I Know a Fix
Get yourself a Greenland paddle.

I remember my hands going all off center when I used a Euro. Not so with the GP.

it does matter
unless you enjoy kayaking in a big circle… You get a bigger sweep on the longer lever arm.

Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger.
Paddle shift might well be an automatic instinct to compensate for tracking tendencies as well as shortcomings in concentric paddling technique. Either way, it isn’t something to worry about, but it might be helpful to place your drip-rings very evenly at about 3 inches beyond where your normal grip would be as a quick reference point. With the crankshaft, I don’t know how well that would work out. I would also wonder how well the hand positions dictated by the crank coordinate with what feels natural to you.

I would try to iron it out.
I sometimes unconsciously extend my paddle a bit to counteract weathercocking. If the boat is weathercocking starboard, I will find I extend the paddle on the starboard side to try to counteract it. That’s the side I might try to sweep some, or finish my stroke with a stern draw. You’re likely compensating for something in order to keep the kayak tracking straight.

I used to rotate to my right down through my hips better than I rotated to my left. Once I realized that was happening, and I worked it out, it improved both performance and comfort, and likely long-term lower back health. The back is not a good place to develop and maintain muscle imbalance.

So I’d definitely encourage trying to figure out what you may be compensating for in doing that. These are often very good learning opportunities.

I developed the same bad habit when I was starting out.

I solved it by getting a few large rubber O-rings from the plumbing dept. of the local hardware store and slipping them snugly over the paddle shaft to mark the correct hand positions. I could feel the O-rings while paddling, which helped to train out this bad habit.

Paddling offset is of course permissible when struggling to prevent weathercocking, if you have no other means.


Good luck!

Jeffrey Lee


My body must be lopsided
I used an elliptical today and found my right hand was two inches lower on the handgrip. I raised it equal to the left and it was awkward.

So I guess I will live with the mismatched paddle grips. Thanks for your help.

Just be careful of chronic back issues.
Unhealthy tweaks in the back can often go unnoticed and uncorrected. They can also catch up with you eventually. It could be beneficial to figure out why this asymmetrical motion is feeling more natural to you.


– Last Updated: Jul-16-16 5:48 PM EST –

Have you used a Greenland paddle? When I switched that problem went away.

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