Paddle length/feather, the old classic...

Inland paddling
Post Reply
User avatar
marv_mcd
Posts: 137
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 12:34 pm
Location: Bristol

Paddle length/feather, the old classic...

Post by marv_mcd » Wed Aug 17, 2005 5:37 pm

Hi again,
So as I'm currently looking at new paddles I've been thinking about length & feather. At the moment I paddle Werner Freestyles, 197cm & 60°, but a few people have commented they look to short on me (river running).
Ken Whiting reckons on his DVD that if you're over 6'1" then 200-204cm is the way forward, and 0° feather.
I guess the 0° is more for playboating but what is the trade off against low feather angles, apart from wind resistance which is surely more of an issue for marathon/lake paddlers etc? i.e. Why don't WW paddlers paddle flat, should I go this way?! Why do Werner stop at 45°?
Also, is there a downside to more length? At 6'4" ish I guess I'd be looking at 204cm according to Ken's rule but this soudns quite long.
Any thoughts please? New paddles are expensive!!
Cheers,
Martin

Steve B
Posts: 5699
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 2:36 pm
Location: Taunton, Somerset
Been thanked: 1 time

Post by Steve B » Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:02 pm

There was a rather misguided fashion trend towards shorter paddles, which resulted in a lot of chatter on the forums about 190-odd cm paddles. But I'm a big-shouldered 5'8" and 200 is plenty short enough for me.

The down side to more length is that it makes the blades feel heavier and reduces your ability to accelerate your stroke rate. But dammit I used 206 cm Schlegel Tech III Extremes (more than twice the weight of today's paddles) for years and had no problems.

Feather is closely related to paddling style, and rather than repeat the whole discussion again (yes it is a classic) I'll just say that for most people 45 to 60 degrees is good for river running.

Forget about wind resistance, it's important on open water but not here.
Steve Balcombe

User avatar
Simon
Posts: 984
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2002 1:45 pm
Location: Salisbury, Wiltshire
Contact:

Feather

Post by Simon » Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:28 pm

To complicate the picture further - I think paddle length and feather depends on the boat you are paddling as well as your own height.

Super short play boats might need a shorter paddle length and a feather angle closer to zero, longer river runners and creek boats might do best with a slightly longer paddle and a bigger feather angle.

Also - in my opinion, if you are using cranked shafts that also will mean reducing the feather angle by about 20 degrees.

In short play boats I used to use a 20 degree feather, and 45 in longer touring boats - but that was with cranks. When I occasionally did not use cranks I set them at 40 degrees and 70 respectively.

Hope that helps

Simon

ChrisMac
Posts: 233
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2005 4:05 pm

Post by ChrisMac » Thu Aug 18, 2005 10:24 pm

I would suggest trying some peoples paddles of a different length to see what suits you. Paddles do seem a very personal thing and what you want to do. I prefer the shorter length as it makes the paddles more nimble in that I can move them around quicker and accelerate quickerm the downside is that I will never go as fast.

I currently use 190cm at 15 degrees. The advantage for playing is that you can use both blades at the same time. I also like the fact that I do not move my wrists when forward paddling. The draw back is if its flat, long, and windy but for playing and creeking that's not really an issue.

User avatar
James F
Posts: 1669
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2002 3:04 pm
Location: Weymouth, Dorset
Contact:

Post by James F » Fri Aug 19, 2005 7:57 am

There was a rather misguided fashion trend towards shorter paddles, which resulted in a lot of chatter on the forums about 190-odd cm paddles. But I'm a big-shouldered 5'8" and 200 is plenty short enough for me.

The down side to more length is that it makes the blades feel heavier and reduces your ability to accelerate your stroke rate. But dammit I used 206 cm Schlegel Tech III Extremes (more than twice the weight of today's paddles) for years and had no problems.

Feather is closely related to paddling style, and rather than repeat the whole discussion again (yes it is a classic) I'll just say that for most people 45 to 60 degrees is good for river running.

Forget about wind resistance, it's important on open water but not here.
Long-winded, self-assured and wrong (again).

For easy grade touring (i.e. up to easy grade 4 - see Marks' point in another thread regarding the amount of class 1 paddled on the average white water river) long paddles such as the ones Steve uses (for his height) may well be ideal.

However when the need for reactive paddle placement or speed, takes over from leisurely and mostly planned placement of stroke, shorter paddles are better. On complex grade V and playboating, speed becomes increasingly more important in relation to power and power efficiency.

Weight of paddle which Steve refers to as "no problem", is in fact a problem if you need to move quickly.

Also, it's not fashion that dictates I need a paddle length nearer to 190 than 200, it's the fact that I am only 5' 7".

Steve's cover-all message above is incomplete, misleading and just to make myself clear, often wrong.

User avatar
David Fairweather
Posts: 2642
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2004 8:04 pm
Location: Villars-sur-Ollons, Switzerland
Contact:

Post by David Fairweather » Fri Aug 19, 2005 9:31 am

I'm about 5'11'' and use 188cm paddles at 35degrees, on hard whitewater I really appreciate the acceleration that this gives me. It does make long flat paddles a bit of a slog, but then I have alonger set (and indeed I usually use alonger boat) for that kind of thing.

User avatar
Randy Fandango
Posts: 3387
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: London/Kent/Somewhere flat and dry

Post by Randy Fandango » Fri Aug 19, 2005 9:43 am

skip wrote:I'm about 5'11''
Maybe, doing tippy toes or in your cuban-heeled elevator shoes mate....
I started ww paddling with 208 Schlegels, now use 185s (and definitely NOT schlegels) and there is a HUGE difference.
I occasionally have to paddle with longer paddles (running a kayaking centre for a living has that effect) and the difference in fine control, acceleration and manoueverability is immense.
Whilst its true that you will generally be happy with what you're used to, its still best then to get used to what's best for you and what you're doing.
Oh, I'm 5 ft 9 and a half, love fluffy kittens and my aims are for world peace and, oh I don't know, just everyone to love each other I guess!
(8 days and counting.....)
Giles

Steve B
Posts: 5699
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 2:36 pm
Location: Taunton, Somerset
Been thanked: 1 time

Post by Steve B » Fri Aug 19, 2005 1:40 pm

Clarification for anyone who needs it.
Steve B wrote:There was a rather misguided fashion trend towards shorter paddles, which resulted in a lot of chatter on the forums about 190-odd cm paddles.
When I started paddling in the early 90s it was all 3.5 metre boats and ribbed buoyancy aids. Boy how things have changed, and one of the reasons was the growth of playboating and the association with surf/skate culture. We now have kit which not only performs better, but also doesn't make you look like a complete dork. The benefits have been enormous, but at two costs I guess. One is that we are now paying much more for our gear. The other is that to some extent design and features can be driven by fashion rather than function. Witness the prevalence of camouflage-grey clothing, for example.

The move towards shorter paddles and less feather was given momentum by the rather different needs of playboating. I'm no playboater myself, but the reasons are obvious enough and not in dispute. Soon the word was out (heck it even reached Somerset) that short paddles and less feather were the thing to have. Well, there is little doubt that less than 90 degrees was an improvement, but some people fell into the trap of believing that less was good so even less must be even better. And if playboaters were using 15 degree feather to winning effect, it must be good for us too.

The same applies to length. Short paddles - several inches shorter than highly experienced river runners would recommend - were being chosen because (I believe) they were radical, not because they offered any actual benefit for everyday river running. Even JF, who seems to agree with very little that I say, concedes that for anything up to easy grade 4 slightly longer paddles may be ideal. And "up to easy grade 4" is what 95% of paddlers actually do.
But I'm a big-shouldered 5'8" and 200 is plenty short enough for me.
This is an important point that I shouldn't have glossed over. I'm 5'8" but short in the leg (think penguin). I have the shoulder width and strength, and most of the reach, of someone four or five inches taller. So what is right for me is probably what is right for an athletically built six-footer. On that basis 200 cm is not especially long, at least not for the grade 3/4 river running that I enjoy most.
The down side to more length is that it makes the blades feel heavier and reduces your ability to accelerate your stroke rate.
As always, I give a balanced view.
But dammit I used 206 cm Schlegel Tech III Extremes (more than twice the weight of today's paddles) for years and had no problems.
I'm not, of course, suggesting that today's composite paddles are not leagues better than my vintage 1.5 kg Schlegels. But for many years people ran technical grade 5 like the East Lyn with them, in much longer boats which were less forgiving of making your move too late!

Out of curiosity I've just skimmed the Werner web site. For whitewater paddling (inevitably a generalisation) they recommend 191-200 cm. They can supply up to 206. So I'm using paddles at the upper end of their recommendation, and 6cm less than their longest. Given my build as described above, that is not particularly unusual, in fact barely worthy of comment at all.
Steve Balcombe

User avatar
River Honey
Posts: 320
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2004 3:58 pm
Location: UK
Contact:

I love short paddles!!

Post by River Honey » Fri Aug 19, 2005 2:17 pm

A persons height as very little to do with length of paddle you need. A persons width and height of the torso, plus Arm reach as alot more to do with it.
I am 5ft 8 but have long legs and a short torso.
When I started I paddled with a 198cm 45 feather straight shaft, I found my hands would drift in and I lacked an efficient paddle stroke.
Last year I swapped to a bent shaft, 188 cm and 30 feather....much better. I paddle more efficient, my hands stay where they are.
I wouldn't go any longer myself infact for playboating I am tempted to go a little short and less feather..
But at the end of the day...it is the paddlers preference of what he or she is comfortable with.

User avatar
Randy Fandango
Posts: 3387
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: London/Kent/Somewhere flat and dry

Post by Randy Fandango » Fri Aug 19, 2005 2:50 pm

Steve B wrote:But I'm a big-shouldered 5'8" and 200 is plenty short enough for me.
Have you ever really seriously tried shorter paddles Steve before dismissing them so?
I've certainly used both long and short paddles over the years and have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I achieve far greater control with shorter paddles.
Clearly James was not suggesting that longish paddles were better for paddling up to G4 but that perhaps paddlers didn't really need the obvious advantages afforded by using shorter paddles until they were paddling harder water.

User avatar
Randy Fandango
Posts: 3387
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: London/Kent/Somewhere flat and dry

Post by Randy Fandango » Fri Aug 19, 2005 3:00 pm

Mind you, at least we're all vaguely in the same ball park.
A coach in my canoe club was spotted a couple of months ago teaching a group of adult novices (who were all in modernish shortish boats like microbats and acro 270s) that the way to judge that a paddle was the right length for you was to stand with your feet flat on the gound and have the paddle reach from the ground up to your fingers with your arm held high above your head.
For a moment time shifted and there I was a fresh faced child, eagerly awaiting getting aboard the shiny new KW7....
Giles

User avatar
James Hartley
Posts: 1608
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2004 6:49 pm
Location: North West

Post by James Hartley » Fri Aug 19, 2005 3:46 pm

I too remember being told that the way to make sure that your blades where the right size for was to stand with your arm raised and that was your your required paddle length. These days I'm surprised that any one still teaches that that is the correct way to size a blade, just as an aside and out of interest, I'm 5'7", and my blades are a 45' feather and a 191 in length. Now I wouldn't want a smaller feather, but would consider going up to a 60' or maybe even a 70' one, but only because I'm not a playboater, and really don't like the feel of the small feathering. As for the length, I did have the same paddle in a longer version, untill it was pointed out that it was proabaly too long, so after a while of contemplation, and actually watcjing where my hands where and using other peoples paddles, I decided that yes, for me shorter blades where better, so I sold them and bought a new pair
The more apparently complex an act, the more vital it is to search until you find its inner simplicity
Feed the rat

Steve B
Posts: 5699
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 2:36 pm
Location: Taunton, Somerset
Been thanked: 1 time

Post by Steve B » Fri Aug 19, 2005 4:00 pm

Randy Fandango wrote:
Steve B wrote:But I'm a big-shouldered 5'8" and 200 is plenty short enough for me.
Have you ever really seriously tried shorter paddles Steve before dismissing them so?
I get less opportunity than others to try different paddles because I paddle left-handed. But I have tried shorter ones, I'm not basing this on some dogged determination to stick with tradition. In particular the polo paddles we have at the club are much shorter (can't recall the actual length) and they are great for the very rapid acceleration you use in the pool. I don't think I've had an opportunity to use significantly shorter paddles on very high grade water.

I remember the first time I tried less than 90 degree feather. It was *very* weird, but I could understand the benefit and soon began to feel it too. I would hate to go back.

My old Schlegels are out in the shed, well worn and with the metal rims cut off where they'd broken away, but still usable. I must try them again, just for nostalgia's sake.
Steve Balcombe

jonba
Posts: 263
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:42 am

Post by jonba » Fri Aug 19, 2005 4:11 pm

For paddle size I was told to hold it naturally then rest the shaft on my head. Then my elbows should be at 90 degrees and my shoulders perpendicular to my body. I'd recommend just getting hold of a couple of sets and having a go. Having tried a few peoples I prefer 194cm but have 198cm and no money.

I'm 5'10" but have long legs and a short body. As for feather, i don't really see why you'd want anything less than 45 but i suppose it's down to personal preference.

I would find what feels comfortable, use the suggestions on here as a starting point but in the end it's what you feel that matters. If they look short i don't thinks it's an issue but if they feel short then maybe....

User avatar
James Hartley
Posts: 1608
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2004 6:49 pm
Location: North West

Post by James Hartley » Sat Aug 20, 2005 6:49 pm

Jonba, perhaps I'm misreading your post, ut you describe how to correctly poistion your hands, but don't relate it to how this affects/reflects your paddle lentgh
The more apparently complex an act, the more vital it is to search until you find its inner simplicity
Feed the rat

User avatar
Adrian Cooper
Posts: 9720
Joined: Thu Apr 25, 2002 2:26 pm
Location: Buckinghamshire
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 13 times

Post by Adrian Cooper » Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:59 pm

Does anyone have a useful sure-fire way of gauging a paddle length for a given paddler. When selecting an open boat paddle the rule of thumb often used is to stand up, put the blade on the floor and the tee-grip should be somehwere between the nape of your neck and your nose. Clearly with a short whitewater blade or an otter-tail you would get quite different results.

The much more precise way is for you to sit in the boat in your most comfotable position or most often used position, you hold the tee-grip out horizontally so that it is level with your shoulder and you make sure the whole of the blade is immersed and no more. This should provide a correct length paddle.

With kayak paddles the whole paddle length is made up from the two blades, the bit between your hands and the two bits between your hands and the blades. For a given paddler, the only bit we are concerned with varying is the bit between your hands and the blades and this is why the differences in paddle length are so slight.

So lets take our paddle, placed on our heads with our arms making a right angle, we deduct off the blades and we have a distance of between 4 and 8 inches (say). Would people like to suggest what this distance might be for the various types of paddling we do be it playboating, river running or touring. If we had this broadly agreed it might inject an element of science into the whole paddle retail experience.

Anyone got any problems with any of that?

Post Reply

Return to “Whitewater and Touring”