Jump to content

Wing paddles - sizing, length, and disadvantages?

Dan Foster

Recommended Posts

I have a number of questions about wing paddles.

1. Length: Is your ideal wing paddle length the same as your ideal sea kayak paddle length? (Assuming you are using the same boat - a standard touring sea kayak like we all paddle).

2. Blade size: If I compare "Blade surface area", even a small-mid wing seems huge compared to a full-sized sea kayak paddle. But if I compare lengths and widths, the sea kayak paddle is much wider and the lengths are roughly the same. What's a comparable sea kayak paddle for each of the common wing sizes?

Werner Ikelos: (high-angle, full-size sea kayak paddle, can feel like "too much paddle" for long days):

Blade Width: 19.75cm

Blade Length: 48.5cm

Blade Surface Area 691 cm2


Epic small-mid wing: 

Blade Width: 15.9 cm
Blade Length: 49.9 cm
Surface Area: 735 cm2

Epic mid wing:

Blade Width: 16.4 cm
Blade Length: 50 cm
Surface Area: 750 cm2

I read that a wing is ~5% more efficient than a Euro blade when using the proper stroke technique. What are the disadvantages? Is a wing noticeably worse for bracing, paddling in conditions, rolling, etc? How quickly does that efficiency disappear if your forward stroke technique gets sloppy?

If a new sea kayaker (asking for a friend) is mainly interested in endurance racing and long distance touring (8+ hours on protected ocean and tidal rivers), is a wing paddle an appropriate design to start with? If not, what's the biggest concern you have?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can tell you what little I know.  I'm used to paddling with a Cyprus the first month of the season and then switching to an Ikelos - guarding my elbow tendons, which seem to cause trouble if I start off too fast.  On my timed paddles (around Elizabeths) I was spinning out the small-mid Epic; the mid-wing seemed to be just a tad larger (elbow-strain-wise) than the Ikelos. 

With Euro blades, I paddle my Taran rudder-up most of the time; in fact dropping the rudder slows my times a tad. With a wing, it's the opposite. I loose time if the rudder's up. I think it's because with a wing blade, I need to concentrate on power delivery. An occasional sweep/edge just slows the boat down.  I gain about .2 kts with the rudder down. 

(Not sure if you know about hydrodynamics, but a lifting foil captures the leading vortex and releases the tail vortex.  On the catch, you should  see a SINGLE vortex, unlike the two a Euro-blade sheds.  If you see two, it's stalling, i.e. not acting as a lifting foil, and all advantage is lost.  You have to concentrate  initially to get used to this - it's best if someone paddles just behind you yelling out the number of vortices they see in each paddle 'puddle'.

Many local paddlers are routinely shedding the leading vortex at the catch, i.e., they are not getting ANY of the wing blade's advantages, while seeing all the disadvantages.  They may be used to it, 'good at it', fast, or whatever, but two vortices at the catch + no lift.

FWIW, I CAN get the Ikelos to shed one vortex, but only in flat conditions with minimal power delivery - I find it a great exercise.)

Anyway, back to paddling. I noticed when I need to steer the boat, I start to shed the second vortex.  I'm getting better at it, but have a ways to go before I can do it in conditions. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, challenges with the wing paddle are mainly apparent in conditions and rock play. Bracing is ok but not has solid as with Euros based on the relatively exaggerated convexity of the back side of the paddle. Forget maneuvering strokes such as bow rudder or sliding draw. Rolling can be an issue but not impossible, depending on technique.

Surfskis are becoming more and more popular around the world and those folks probably all start with wings, which is not to say that is the right thing to do. It's certainly not as user-friendly for a beginner. If you use it like a Euro blade, which I have some locals seen do, it loses its advantages.

Wings require a lot more proficiency with the forward stroke. Fatigue, as you pointed out, will result in sloppy technique and the wing loses its power, therefore making it a less ideal paddle for long-distance races, where fatigue is a problem.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Josko and Andy, thank you both for the detailed responses. I really appreciate the explanation of how the wing actually works and the "two vortices = no benefit" heuristic.

Is your preferred wing paddle length the same as your Ikelos/standard sea kayak paddle length? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good thing about the Epic paddles: Adjustable length. It depends on whether I'm going upwind or downwind. I'm experimenting with cadence and heart rate, length adjustability comes in handy there. Also still trying to find the best offset angle for me, much higher than my Euro angle, between 45 and 60 degrees.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Josko wrote: <...but a lifting foil captures the leading vortex and releases the tail vortex...>

Do you mean a lifting "aerofoil", Josko?  The word foil means nothing to me in this context (although, of course, I understand you by implication)  Please (just to please me?) use correct terminology?  (There <is> one other that crops up here, from time to time: the use of the word "yak", presumably for kayak -- kayak is not hard to write and a yak is a hairy, four-legged animal from the steppes of Asia, is it not?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I paddle with an Epic small mid wing in full carbon or my Greenland Paddle. My Greenland paddle (Gearlab shoulderless Akiak) is 220 cm and I prefer around 208 for my wing. I enjoy paddling with either, but do notice that the GP is a little kinder to my shoulders. If I pay attention to the stroke with the wing, my shoulders are spared, but I must be meticulous with the stroke. When I am not tired, and fresh at the beginning of the day, I can really fly with the wing. On a long trip, I'd probably use both, switching to the GP once in a while. I wrapped the shaft of my wing with silicone tape so I could relax my grip a little. Prior to that, I had to hold it so tight, that I got forearm strain.

Rolling with the wing has been just as easy as with the GP, only I come up a lot faster! Orienting the blade so that it won't dive is not hard. Blended strokes are not as easy (compared to the GP) and bracing is different. I really appreciated the immediate power with the wing when I was breaking through some big waves while playing in a rocky spot where a capsize would have been very bad. I don't know if I would have gotten out of there quickly enough with my GP. It's funny, because I was a little hesitant to use the wing for rock-play that day, having not done it before. In that one case, I was glad to have it. If you are reading this Beth S, you know the spot!

Since you are used to paddling with a GP, I think you will enjoy a wing.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...
6 hours ago, cope07 said:

@nchill I'm curious why you went with the shoulderless Akiak instead of the shoulder Nukilik paddle?

I don't know why @nchill went shoulderless.  Personally I find sliding strokes, including setting up to roll, paddling off-center to manage wind and waves, and simply adjusting my grip width for variety or conditions are all more comfortable with a shoulderless GP.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...