off from the beach, you slide through the glassy water. Only a thin layer of fiberglass
separates you from the crystal clear water. From the corner of your eye, you spot
a Grey Heron leaping from a piece of driftwood. The ripples from this pterodactyl
like bird send concentric circles that catch up to your boat and pass beneath
it. Welcome to the world of the Kayaking. Whether you like to hit the water in
a sleek surf ski or take a weeklong trip here is the biggest way to improve your
efficiency and make your time out on the water more enjoyable.
saying goes, "you are up #$%@ Creek without a paddle. One of the biggest
ways to improve your paddling is with the new breed of lightweight wing paddles.
Wing paddles, named for their airplane wing like shape, allow the paddler to center
the blade easier and pull more water with each stroke. You will see a 7-10% increase
in boat speed from the same effort over a conventional paddle. A wing paddle can
benefit anyone who paddles a kayak, allowing them to be more efficient and use
less energy during daily exercise or a weeklong tour. Many traditionalists think
that wing paddles are just for racers and are hard to brace and roll with. Both
these statements are false in fact, I am always amazed when I give a new paddler
a wing blade and watch as their stroke instantly improves and they no longer complain
of sore shoulders.
A wing blade is best compared to your hand as you stick
it out of the window of a moving car. Something we all did as kids. With your
hand stretched open and fingers apart you can see how a normal blade reacts in
the water. Air or water is traveling in all directions to find the easiest way
around the blade. This causes the blade to float and requires you to use the small
muscles of your arm to control the blade and keep it stable.
Now if you
cup your hand with closed fingers, you can feel the resistance a lot more and
you can hold back more wind. This is how a wing paddle works in the water. In
fact, if you place the wing in the water the wrong way it lets you know it immediately.
This encourages beginners to paddle more efficiently and use the stronger muscles
of the back instead of the small muscles in the arm. This is why you see the top
paddlers of the world with giant lat muscles instead of huge arms.
looking at wing paddles you will need to find the right length and blade size
to suit your needs. Most top paddlers use between a 213 cm for shorter women to
a 218 for a six-foot male. To find your proper length, paddle your kayak and only
the blade should be fully buried in the water. If the shaft is going down into
the water then your paddle should be shorter. Likewise, if your blade is not fully
in the water then your paddle needs to be longer. This is why a new breed of adjustable
paddles has found its way onto the market. Paddles like the Simon River Shark
or Hammer paddles adjust by 10 cm so you can dial it in perfectly for your needs.
Most store bought and rental paddles are way too long which causes the paddler
to have a slower stroke rate and low arm swing which contribute to sore shoulders.
It also makes the overall swing weight of the paddle seem like your swinging a
dump truck. I use the same 214 cm paddle whether I am in my Current Designs Speedster
or a giant Libra XT. I just use more twist in my torso to clear the wider girth
of the boat.
Usually most manufactures offer three blade sizes. Unless you
are using an Olympic K-1 and going to the Olympics then you do not need to touch
a large blade. Most paddlers will be fine with a small blade, which is better
for a higher stroke rate over long distances. Melanie from Pulling Water and Simon
River Sports best described blade size to me by saying," both a small and
medium blade will allow you to reach the same speed however the small blade just
takes longer to get to that speed." I reduced my blade size a couple of years
ago from a medium to a small blade and get less fatigue during longer paddles.
In reality, the difference in blade size is not any more than a centimeter squared.
can also be "Feathered". This means the blades are adjusted so that
the blade in the air is slicing through the air instead of catching it, a huge
advantage in a headwind. On the first feathered paddles, the blades were offset
at 90 degrees. This is most efficient however using a full 90-degree feather requires
a large amount of wrist action. A 60-75 degree feather is both efficient and easy
on your wrist. Paddle blades can be feathered either right control or left control.
The paddle is gripped solidly with the control hand and allowed to rotate in the
non-control hand. There is no advantage to one side or the other for control so
use what is comfortable for you.
Simon River Sports has leapt onto the paddling
market with their new gorgeous wing blades that are both strong and lightweight.
Their cream of the crop paddle is the Shark. This all carbon paddle is one of
the lightest on the market and has stood up to my abuse for over three years and
still looks new. The cost saving Hammer uses a nylon carbon blade which hides
scratches better and is better for rental kayak companies.
Cost is the biggest
issue regarding wing paddles. With their lightweight carbon lay-up, wing paddles
are $400.00 to $750.00 dollars. However, a wing paddle will last you a lifetime
and frankly using a $150.00 paddle to paddle a $3000.00 kayak is like buying a
Porsche and putting a Hyundai engine in it. A good kayak store will show you all
the options and allow you to try out the difference so you can make the best selection.
Multi-Sport athlete David
Norona has seen a lot of the world...and eaten its dust, gotten its dirt under
his fingernails and its water in his lungs. In the past 13 years the 34 year-old
from North Vancouver has cycled, run, kayaked, in-line skated, and cross-country
skied throughout Greenland, Alaska, China, Africa, Europe, New Zealand and North
and South America.
Visit his website: www.Davenorona.com
© 2005 Dave Norona, Used with permission