assuming a relatively efficient, rudder equipped sea kayak, is there a worthwhile efficiency advantage to using a wing for distance touring? i define worthwhile to be, for a given distance, you are ultimately using less energy because of a piece of equipment. currently, i’m not sure i’m convinced that a wing paddle is actually a net energy saver, as opposed to a paddle that due to enhanced catch, provides those who wish to go fast, the ultimate speed tool. however, i my experience with a wing is very limited. what’s your experience for touring?
Depends. One you’d need to practice alot so you actually are getting the full benefits from the wing and are paddling a boat in conditions that don’t need bracing since the wing is pretty much useless for that. You also need a fairly skinny boat that’s pretty narrow at the feet to maximize the stroke and that’ll limit what the boat will carry. It can work for some people. Need to in pretty good shape to allow it for extended periods.
Wing paddle limitations
I’m not sure that Bill’s conditions and bracing observation is valid. I exclusively use a wing paddle and can attest to its very excellent bracing ability. Also standard rolls are not a problem. Now it IS useless for many draw strokes and although I’ve witnessed a paddler sculling sidewise it is not the wing’s strength.
For longer distance touring it would be wise to go to the small end of the blade size spectrum. Although there may be a learning curve on the technique that the wing needs to be effective, this is beneficial no matter what paddle you end up using because of the emphasis on rotation.
Rotation gets core muscle groups involved in propulsion and using these large muscles will get you a lot further than arms alone.
Check what Freya’s been using
for distance touring 'round Australia and such -
Exclusively a wing
Been using one for serveral years now. I like the effiency and the speed it affords me. For a long distance paddle it excels. Bracing is not a problem.
Jeff Allen too
I believe he has been using a wing for his recent expeditions. Definitely not just in calm conditions, either.
Consider the body.
For long distance paddling I think the most important thing to consider is what will be the best for you body. I like a paddle with some flex to it to take the shock out of the stroke. Once I was running in shallow water and caught soming like a branch or a root with the end of the paddle.I ended up with a stress fracture in my arm. Second I like a smaller blade to keep me from pulling too hard. This protects the muscules. I like a light weight paddle. It’s that old formula of strokes X paddle weight = effort requiered. Depending on what your paddling in but a greenland paddle could be a good choice but not the only choice.
I consider the body over anything else because I have always had heath issues of one sort or another. Even with my back and shoulder injuries I raced sea kayaks for many years successfully. My point of view has kept me in shape and fast with minimuly inflaming these injuries. A wing blade keeps arm travel and shoulder rotation at an extreme level and we are talking about long distance paddling here. Nothing against wing blades but they may not be the answer to every situations. They are great for speed, that’s for sure. I want to be paddling for another 40 years.
A wing is more efficient than a euro. It harnesses the lateral movement of the blade as well as the resistance of the water. I can’t imagine a better blade for distance touring or racing.
The low brace is not quite as firm as it is with a euro, but the high brace is BETTER, and my rolls are MUCH easier with a wing. Sculling takes some practice, but is very doable.
I regularly do 20-30 mile trips with an Epic Full Wing, but I’m 44, athletic shape and no joint problems.
i forgot about Freya
but i also wouldn’t put myself in that category of fitness!! i’m 42, relatively fit and find the wing stroke easy to learn, as i already paddle with that form with my regular paddle, generally speaking. i think the only clear answer is- get a wing and see for myself how i like it for touring. based on what i’m reading here, it sounds like there are some advantages, and you can mitigate the disadvantages. anyone have about 600 bucks i can borrow? i’d really like one of these Gut paddles from the Czech republic…
Unlike most any other paddle if you brace for a wing and the paddle isn’t oriented exactly correctly it can dive really quickly, makes for an exciting brace .
Notice the paddle that Wendy K. used
to circumnavigate Newfoundland...104 days, 1680 miles.
Take a look at ONNO paddles
I’ve got 2 of his wings. Extremely light and works of art for a reasonable price.
Light weight is key
I use Epic small-mid now in the signature hybrid layup. If I had the $$$ I would go for the lighter layup (with the flex shaft). Or an ONNO paddle.
Adjustable length is important to have IMO. I change mine during a trip depending on conditions or when I change boats (one of my kayaks rides considerably higher than the other, relative to where my bottom is).
I have not done that much long distance touring (15-20 miles usually is what I aim for at most, as a half-day paddle). And I have not done multi-day tours. But for day tours, I have seen no problems with the wing.
With a ruddered boat you won't miss the flat blade a euro or a GP offers for steering. But when I'm in my non-ruddered boat and trying to surf downwind, I switch to my GP - better steering with it.
On my last trip I had a chance to swap my small-mid with a fellow kayaker's mid wing (both Epic, same construction) for the return trip. We both confirmed that despite the small "on paper" difference, there is a very noticeable difference in feel on the water. The mid-wing has considerably more power and feels more planted, where the small-mid requires a little more attention to technique: the mid I can just slap in the water sloppily and it slides out, where the small-mid will offer a little less rigid path through the water and is thus easier to overpower and force it to move on the wrong trajectory.
Overall I think the small-mid is probably the right size for longer trips for the average in decent shape paddler, but I can see where the mid may be useful for really strong paddlers.
A well sliding seat and loose backband and knees are important IMO to allow best use of a wing - there is a notable difference on how the paddle moves if I keep my legs under the braces (even if not locked-in) compared to when I keep them together in the center. With the wing, the more rotation - the better it works. But getting rotation via twist is exhausting, hence, the loose fit of the cockpit and the sliding seat surface are important to get "rotation" not "twist" in the body. otherwise the benefits of a wing are diminished and at the extreme case (of being locked-in the cockpit) one may be better off with a different paddle...
Width of the kayak
I read a message on a message board several years ago, that kayak should be narrower than 24" for the wing and wing stroke to be effective. The advise seems correct according to my experience, as you need to use a vertical stroke to get the most out of a wing.
I switched to a wing 3 years ago, and never use anything else, even for surfing. I’ve been using an Epic Mid wing in the signatire layup, but my next paddle will be a small mid.
Swede form vs. fish
Narrow catch area is the key rather than overall width. My previous “fast” kayak was just just under 22" wide (less at the waterline) but was “fish” form and all that bulk was carried forward to where my paddle would enter.
The current kayaks I have are swede form. They are about the same max width but their paddle entry area is much narrower at 16-18" and that makes a big difference on the wing. But also noticeably helpful on other paddles I use with them.
Of course, it helps that I have long arms so I can plant the paddle way forward, where these kayaks are narrower than they would be for someone shortrer than I am…
Much less than 24", more like less than 21". Though some “racing” kayaks have extra width above the waterline well aft. General rule is if you’re feet arn’t cramped in width in the boat it’s pretty wide for a wing.
I don’t think you will gain any thing
with a wing except speed.
I use both a wing paddle and a touring paddle, and I have several of each.
When I am touring some days I use my mid wing while others a euro.
I definately would not enjoy my larger wing for touring.
I use a larger wing for fairly short races, and my smaller mid wing for longer races.
Just my opinion.
I agree w/ Jack. I only use my wing paddle (epic mid) for racing and race training. Just a note on the speed gained; they started using wing paddles in the olympics in the early 1980s; average times overall went down by 2% post wing as compared to pre wing. While 2% is a big deal in racing I don’t think it is worth the extra money just for touring.
What’s the longest distance kayak race in the olympics? Seems to me i’ve only seen shorter sprints and such. I wonder if over longer distances you’ll see bigger percentages lost in time.
Personally, i know i can go faster with my wing, but the higher work load isn’t always worth it. That said if i lower my stroke angle and just take it easy, my mid size wing is no more difficult to use than a euro.