wing-paddle technique

I am the proud, and intimidated, new owner of a Bracsa IV wing paddle. I am looking for advice on how to use the thing without swimming much. I will be using it for short trips (not more than two hours non-stop) in a 20-inch sit-inside boat (Kirton Tercel) on the Hudson River at Manhattan (lots of wind and waves).

I know about the DVDs by Reitz and Barton,,, and the book “The Barton Mold” at All other pointers, or direct advice, appreciated.

I have paddled a club wing a few times and the Bracsa once. I am concentrating on: planting right next to the bow, with a clean entry; keeping a constant angle as viewed from the front; and powering the blade until it’s completely out of the water, rather than easing off early. I got these ideas mainly from “The Barton Mold,” which is some 15 years old; if technique has changed, please tell me.

Particularly troublesome so far: small steep waves from the rear quarters. I haven’t capsized, but I’ve come close as I plunged the paddle while trying to do stabilizing strokes.

– Mark

Wing takes some getting used to
If you plant the blade wrong, it feels as if it’s pulling you. The stroke iself is easy, let the paddle dictate the stroke. You’ll know it when you feel it. The end of the stroke should be a good distance away from the boat. Unlike a typical vertical euro stroke.

I’ve paddled in some nice sized waves with the wing and haven’t had a problem. Maybe it’s the boat…

I use an ONNO mid tour wing.


tips on paddling stroke
in Fitness Paddling blog:

Rear-quartering waves are the worst ones. They shift the stern sideways, disrupting your present balance position. And, you aren’t exactly looking behind for them.

Try a lower stroke, and let the paddle go further to the side for more stability. When the paddle is engaged, you can brace upward or downward without changing sides as needed to help regain your balance.

my 2 cents
The best icf paddlers started when they were 10 and could stand up in waves. I started when I was 47 doing some ww then sea kayak. At age 49 got a t-bolt. Tippier than your kirton. To have more fun at starts and to survive power boats, I added small out of the way thigh braces from ww boat. They do not interfere with normal paddling stroke but are great when needed. And rear bulkhead so as not to hurt back if boat fills with water. Yes cables go thru bulkhead but very little leakage. It is possible to lay perpendicualr across back deck and paddle to shore. These suggestions are heresy to real icf paddlers. Tough! It works for me and survived 3 ft swells on St Lawrence from a freighter in a t-bolt.

More strokes in the Rough
When I first started with my wing paddle, also a Bracsa IV, I felt a little sketchy in the rougher stuff in my QCC700. After 3 times out with the wing, my technique suddenly clicked into place. Once I had the technique right, I found the wing paddle to provide far far more stability than a standard paddle.

However when in the rough stuff the natural tendency is to slow down or stop paddling and start bracing more. I soon discovered that the best way to handle a rough spot is to actually increase the paddling strokes per minute. It seems to go against your instincts to dig in and paddle faster when the boat starts getting knocked around, but once you realize that nearly all your stability is coming through the paddle it makes sense to keep the paddle moving through the water (properly of course) as much as possible.

Once your technique improves to the point where the wing paddle is providing all the stability, you will be able to jump into even skinnier boats and handle them fine.

A standard paddle feels like a wet noodle in my hands today. I am so much more likely to take a swim with a standard paddle.

I think there is merit to starting folks off with a wing paddle and teaching them proper forward stroke from day one. They will quickly advance to skinnier faster, more seaworthy kayaks. They will go farther and faster in conditions they wouldn’t dare take a standard kayak with a standard paddle. I still assume everyone wants to paddle faster since every piece of crap slow kayak sold today is advertised as fast and stable.

If half the time people spent learning rescues and rolls was spent learning a proper wing paddle stroke, we would soon have many more so called intermediates moving into surfskis where rescues and rolls are a thing of the past.

It took me about 7 seasons to finally move into a surfski, but I could have done it in 2 or 3 if I never wasted all that time with a standard paddle.

planting paddle in non-horizontal water

Thank you for this advice. I’ve been doing what you guessed: lilydipping when the waves come up. I figured that was the wrong thing to do, but it’s not clear to me how to insert the paddle in a wave. All the instructions I’ve found assume flat water. Furthermore, since the wing will plunge when it’s moving through the water the wrong way, I figured the same thing could happen when the water is moving relative to the boat and wing. Maybe you’d say it doesn’t matter – just keep pulling? Or maybe you have a technique.

So where do you aim the catch when a short, steep wave is coming at you from the side? Far side of the wave? How about a wave that’s too tall to reach over?

– Mark

wing paddle technique

The Reitz or Epic videos are great sources.

The Tercel sounds like a pretty advanced boat to use on the Hudson. I wouldn’t want to use a Tercel on the Hudson except on pretty nice days.

It took me about two years
to love my wing, which is just the opposite of what it is supposed to be.

I am still not sure if my technique is correct, but it sure as hell makes me go faster than the euro, and at least now it doesn’t work me to death like it used to, so my advice is to stay with it

My wife was just the opposite with hers. She claims from the first day she used hers that the paddle flys through the water and does the work for her.



Don’t Pull the Wing
You mentioned “just keep on pulling.” This makes me think your are not using the wing paddle correctly yet. I never feel like I am pulling when using a wing paddle. I am planting the blade near my toes as close to the boat as possible and then rotating my torso while my arms stay relatively fixed in a slightly bent position. I feel the paddle pulling the boat foward quite strongly, but I am never pulling the paddle backwards. I actually think that the blade exits the water in front of where I originally plant it when things are working right.

hrmph, you dodged the question
Hey, you ignored the interesting question about where to plant the paddle in rough water!

As for your terminology issue: I acknowledge that I’m not “pulling” the paddle in the sense of bending my arms and making the blade move toward me, relative to the water. But if the boat is moving forward, you have to be putting some kind of pressure on the paddle, and that’s all I meant by “just keep on pulling.” (As opposed to planting the paddle differently in waves versus flatwater.)

– Mark

What I do
is basically just try to maintain the same form as in the flat, with the paddle entering at or a bit in front of my feet and as close to the boat as possible, but the entry point has some tendency to creep out and aft a bit when I’m off-balance. But never let the lower hand start pulling inward on the paddle shaft, lest the blade dive and pull you over. The blade has so much grip on the water that you can get pretty sloppy about using it to prop yourself up, but the pressure has to be vertical.