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What a great day after the membership meeting. I hope my uncoordinated flailings didnt keep people laughing too long. I am thankful for the people that did notice that I may need the extra attention such as the other Rick figuring out my paddle (240cm) may be a tad too long for a low paddler. Forgive me, I forgot the name...to the wonderful woman(Mea Cupla.....Paula....Dee reminded me!) who got to practice a rescue with me..Tis great to be one with the sea except when it fills your drysuit. I am 90% sure I forgot to roll my tunnel up on my two piece.

The good news I didnt have to do my PT for my rotator cuff when we got done..........

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nice to meet you as well.

at your size in that boat a 240 is far too long - you end up doing a series of modified sweep strokes to propel your boat forward and that isn't too terribly efficient.

see if you can get your hands on a rental 215-220 over at nesc and see the difference.

anyways, the shorter shafts will allow you to bring the stroke into a more vertical position and you can propel yourself along a bit more efficiently. more bang for your excercise buck.

those 2 brit boys are around this part of the week still, right? if you've the time and inclination, i can't think of a better opportunity to learn from some pretty skilled guys. barring that, try to hook up with someone in the club that knows what they're doing in regards to strokes, rescues, etc., and then go grab those paddles. your switching out kit so be kinda cautious when you first give it a whirl, eh? it's going to feel different.

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Rick, I've got some extra Lightning paddles that are 215 and for sale. You're welcome to borrow one and see if it works for you. They are for right index and 45 degree feather, and work best for a high angled stroke.

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>anyways, the shorter shafts will allow you to bring the

>stroke into a more vertical position and you can propel

>yourself along a bit more efficiently. more bang for your

>excercise buck.


To ask a follow up question. Would one way to select a length be to select a length that just fully puts the blade underwater with a tad to spare? I suppose that assumes a decent forward stroke.

I found going down to 210 made many things, as in various control/turning strokes, easier and promoted a more vertical and shorter/efficient forward stroke. FWIW

Ed Lawson

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Got a link you can send me to...As I had said earlier my paddle is almost horizontal when I paddle because of rotator cuff issues.



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>As I had said earlier my

>paddle is almost horizontal when I paddle because of rotator

>cuff issues.

If you can find a time and place, I suggest taking a forward stroke class with Danny Mongo of Impex kayaks. He has a great down to earth style, and I think he would be a good resource for how to deal with joints that are not perfect since he has some personal experience. Ben Lawry is a master as well.

I suspect you might find the shoulders are not the limitation you think they are after some time with these instructors.

Ed Lawson

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A few years back, Ken Fink, retired oceanographer and owner of Posiden Kayak in Maine wrote an article in Atlantic Coastal Kayaker on paddles.

The bottom line is that shorter is better because you have better leverage (See explanation at bottom of this message). Those who feel they are going faster because they are "working harder" with a longer paddle are right only in the sense that it is less efficient for the same speed or distance. It's the same as a cyclist going up hill in 10th gear. Instead, racing cyclists use lower gears to maintain a higher tempo because it's more efficient over the short or long haul. For most motions, the human body has more power and endurance when it expends light effort more frequently than heavy effort less frequently. Maybe Andrew can explain the physiology behind this phenomenon.

Ken conducted experiments with his students and repeatedly showed that people paddle faster with shorter paddles...and can keep it up longer. He had a hard time getting his short paddle back after swapping with a student's long paddle.

How short is short? The practical limit is whether the blade can be comfortably submerged in the water and whether you can clear your deck without hitting it with the blade. Surprisingly, Ken says that most paddlers, large and small, should use a paddle about 215 cm long. Long arms don't require longer paddles since they can reach the water just fine with a short paddle; shorter on a short torso may need a bit of length to clear the deck. Someone with a long torso and shorter arms might need a 220 cm to reach the water. 210 cm is where many experienced paddlers end up because it is more efficient, but does require a more vertical stroke and more rotation. Proper paddle length has little to do with your height: it's more the relationship of your hands to the water when sitting in the boat.

Long paddles are especially problematic for paddlers who don't feel especially strong or who struggle to keep up on trips.

Those who prefer a more horizontal stroke (or need one due to shoulder injuries) may need to use a longer paddle, but it is not likely to be as efficient, other things being equal. Whether it's the stroke mechanics that's causing shoulder problems is hard to say in the abstract, but lack of torso rotation can certainly contribute to shoulder injuries. Proper rotation keeps the shoulder in a much safer place through the stroke. Anyway, it's harder to do an adequate torso rotation with a horizontal stroke, but that is another topic.

The main reason to go above 220 cm is if you're in a wide kayak (Sit on Top or double) where the beam is over 28 inches and you have difficulty reaching the water with a shorter paddle. Unfortunately, many shops still recommend and sell 230 cm paddles as a standard length and 240 cm for tall people. Don't listen to them as I did many years ago. Anyone want to buy my 230 cm...oops, wrong conference.


Leverage Explanation:

Ken Fink's core insight is that a paddle in your hands is basically a lever: your blade is the load (Point A), your on-side hand is the fulcrum (Point B) and the offside hand is the force (Point C). The ratio of the lengths (i.e. BC/AB) determines the relative leverage you have on the blade. Since the distance between your hands is usually fixed, the ratio is determined by the distance from the on-side hand to the blade...which in turn depends on the overall paddle length. The shorter the paddle, the more leverage on the blade; the longer the paddle, the less the leverage. You can also improve the leverage on the blade by widening your grip since it improves the ratio; it's a handy technique when you need to temporarily increase acceleration (e.g. in surf), but you can only widen your grip so much without messing up your body mechanics. Surf kayakers use much shorter paddles (190 cm or so) in part for the power to sprint through and onto waves.

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I suppose we have hijacked this thread enough, but seems a nice discussion so I will add a few more neophyte ruminations.

>Those who feel they are going faster because they are "working harder" with a longer paddle are right only in the

>sense that it is less efficient for the same speed or


When trying boats, paddles, or playing with techniques, it is amazing how the mind/body plays tricks on us. A GPS and heart rate monitor really tell the tale and often it is not what we thought at first.

>For most motions, the human body has more power

>and endurance when it expends light effort more frequently

>than heavy effort less frequently. ...

Higher cadences in cycling require practice and learning skills before it becomes "normal". I suspect that is true of paddling too, but once you get it: you have it, it is automatic, and it enables you to maintain a good pace even when exhausted.

> Proper paddle length has

>little to do with your height: it's more the relationship of

>your hands to the water when sitting in the boat.

I suspect blade shape/size is also big factor in how well we paddle, but don't see that discussed much. I suspect there is little reason for most of us who are mediocre weekend warriors to be using the big blades favored by those active in the more "sports" aspects of kayaking. However, like boats, and other things, we tend to emulate the pros or coaches even if their abilities and needs are different from ours. Your comment also points out that it really is a function of a total system as in shape of the boat, etc. so that fixed rules are not particularly helpful.


>Long paddles are especially problematic for paddlers who

>don't feel especially strong or who struggle to keep up on



A few weeks ago at the end of a long and hard day, I thought I was going slower than I should have been because I was using a GP so I switched to the euro with which I could normally move the AA faster Instead, it felt like I was sticking it in mud and I could not get the speed of rotation that felt "right" and which I could maintain. Everything just bogged down. The GPS showed the boat was over half a knot slower, and I was working out of sync and harder. Going back to the GP, the cadence went back up and the boat went faster. It was an example, I suspect, of the blade being matched to the effort I could make at my "normal" cadence that I could sustain effectively even when tired and, consequently, more effective. Then again, maybe I have been seduced by the dark side, and I was not using the euro properly.

Ed Lawson

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> Ken Fink's core insight is that a paddle in your hands is basically a

> lever: your blade is the load (Point A), your on-side hand is the

> fulcrum (Point B) and the offside hand is the force (Point C). The

> ratio of the lengths (i.e. BC/AB) determines the relative leverage you have on the blade.

That's a pretty simplistic analysis of the mechanics of a forward stroke. It assumes that all the force is generated by moving the offside hand forward against a fulcrum at the onside hand. In fact, a forward stroke is a combination of at least three levers or simple force components.

With a good racing stroke -- upon which a good touring stroke is based -- most of the power is generated by twisting the body around the spine (so-called torso rotation), which is not a standard ABC lever at all. The other lever is moving the onside hand backwards against a fulcrum at the offside hand, the opposite of the lever you describe. In fact, of the three, my guess is that the one with the onside hand fulcrum is the least important, especially for distance paddling.

Look at this movie (which we've analyzed before) to see all this pretty clearly...


This is not to cast any doubt on the need for shorter paddles. In fact, analyzing the other simple lever probably leads to the same conclusion, and analysis of the rotation would probably show that there is an optimum paddle length for positioning the hands vertically, and that likely would also support a shorter paddle.

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Your point that it's more complex than a simple lever is well taken. However, the "other lever" you reference has the same ratio and the exactly the same effects: the shorter the paddle, the more the leverage. It doesn't matter where the fulcrum is.

The relative contribution of the three movements (two levers plus torso rotation) will indeed vary a lot by individual and stroke, but I suspect for most paddlers (who do not emulate a racing stroke much at all), the two levers will dominate.

The effects of short paddle length on the effectiveness of torso rotation? More stiffness and thus power transfer in the connection from torso to blade (leverage again), particularly in the first crucial foot of blade travel when your arms are fully extended; more likely to be vertical earlier in the stroke and therefore better transfer of power; easier and quicker to exit the water at the hip and thus less power robbing stroke behind the body; quicker cadence; etc.

One could elaborate propositions and speculate on the effects endlessly. For instance, I'd guess that:

1. a longer paddle would cause the blade to spend more time off perpendicular to the direction of the stroke.

2. the shaft on a longer paddle would be more likely to be horizontal and thus result in a sweep as the other Rick (Stoehrer) suggests.

The biomechanics get complicated pretty quickly....


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I wish that paddle length specs were a bit more complex, stating the SHAFT length and then the SPPON length...and then perhaps SPOON surface area for a power estimate.

Using simple TOTAL length can be deceiving, as effective mechanical leverage cannot easily be estimated, the "fulcrum" being centered on the MIDlength of the paddle spoon, not its end or throat.

My Werner examples: started with a 230cm bent Kalliste (low angle, long spoon); found that a 220cm Ikelos (high angle) uses the same bent shaft geometry, including EXACTLY the same shaft length.

Because of the much taller spoons (larger total surface area) of the latter the stroke effort is much greater, even though the spoon midpoint is slightly closer to the paddler. Temdonitis sets in once in awhile, so I found that the same bent shaft length with the smaller high angle spoons exists in the CYPRUS 215cm. Now the paddling body geometry is identical in all three paddles, as the shafts are clones, but the efforts vary both because of longer and taller spoons. If I wanted to preserve identical total length I would have gotten a 220cm Cyprus, and achieved lower force because the spoons are smaller...BUT the hand positions would have been further apart because the SHAFT is now longer! So I chose to have shaft-clones and just get smaller (and shorter) spoons....

It's easy to suggest getting 210-215cm paddles for high angle supposed "improved efficiency", but this argument only has validity if the spoons aren't changed. In practice, most high angle spoons are taller and not as long, thus automatically resulting in a total length spec that's shorter.

If someone requires (or prefers) a lower paddling angle, then the quicker immersion of the total spoon offered by a long thin spoon (GP is the ultimate?!) like the Epic Relaxed Tour or Werner Kalliste would require a fairly long length in order to generate some power.

If a too short low angle paddle is selected the shaft may be simply too short, as the spoons are quite long.

(Again, Kalliste 230 = Ikelos 220 = Cyprus 215 in shaft geometry; force required (mechanical effort) is more correlated with spoon surface area than with the spoon midpoint lengths away from the paddler, but BOTH need to be considered when selecting a paddle.

You should know the spoon geometry, and then by subtracting it from the total paddle length arrive at shaft length, critical for equalizing curves in bent-shafts.

A 230 Cyprus is harder to paddle than a 230 Kalliste, even though its spoons are smaller in surface area, simply because the CENTER (midlength) of the shorter spoons is farther away from the paddler, effectively increasing effort required. So one reasons that getting a shorter total length results in less effort and coincidentally provides a higher angle geometry. But it's not that simple.

I suppose that the best specs would include shaft length, spoon length, and total surface area. One could then calculate total EFFECTIVE length as the sum of the shaft length and the two spoon midpoints (equal to one spoon length). So adding the shaft length to ONE spoon length gives you the total lever arm pair length...useful in asessing paddle angle. One then picks the spoon area appropriate to power/fatigue issues.

Of course the same results can be approached by subtracting spoon lengths from total paddle lengths when attempting to normalize shaft length (and bent geometry), but then the effective lever lengths will not automatically equalize as the spoon midpoints are not identical. But one finalizes paddle decisions empirically anyway, so the differences in calculation schemes aren't that critical.

It'd just be easier to select a shaft length and spoons separately, even though mistakes would be made and manufacturers would pull their hair out for awhile....

One buys pants by inseam length and shoes by foot length...not by total waist to toe total length, eh? Ok, the analogy breaks down pretty quickly, but you get the idea.

I suppose only 3 or 4 piece paddle makers would find the individual shaft and spoon lengths specs attractive for marketing ease, but it'd still be useful to spec two-piece paddles that way as well, especially for those of us who want our hand positions uniform on bent-shafts using different spoons for different conditions or fatigue levels.

I would suggest that Mark start with a 215-220 Kalliste or similar low angle paddle if his shoulders require a low angle, or a 210-215 Cyprus (again, same shaft length, different spoon length, but pretty equal force requirement).

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You bring up some subtle points in paddle design and length.

However, your theme that total paddle length doesn't mean much without knowing blade (spoon) length seems to me to apply only to bent shaft paddles. I paddle only straight shaft, and my hand placement does NOT change with different blade lengths nor for that matter shaft length. It's pretty much determined by my shoulder width; I just grab where my body wants them to be. I do change the width sometimes for more power (wider grip increases leverage) or a change of pace to vary muscle use.

In fact, that's one of the reasons why I don't like bent shaft: there is only a very small range of adjustment you can make in the width of your grip. Straight shaft gives you lots of choice. Of course, if you need the bent shaft to deal with wrist issues, it's well worth it.

There is a manufacturer that gives you the ability to size blade length (and width) separately from paddle shaft length (and style): Lendal. Their 4-piece PadLock system let's you mix and match, plus it travels easily. In addition, it gives you can repair a broken shaft or blade by swapping out the part. They even have bent shafts.

See http://www.lendal.com/page.asp?pgid=500010058

I use them exclusively and like the flexibility.


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Hi Scott,

I was aware of the Lendal system, but didn't like the idea of increased swing weight and theoretical loss of rigidity with a 4 pc system...or maybe just their prices?

I use an Epic adjustable length-lock mid-wing once in awhile, and do like the free adjustability of hand placement, but rarely change grip once I've dialed in the shaft length. But that's maybe a consequence of the more fixed wing-stroke geometry too, I suppose.

I was going to bring up the business of increased efficiency (+5% claimed) through use of a wing paddled in its inverted "V" stroke, and how the increased stroke length (hypotenuse of triangle) requires a MODERATE shaft/paddle length, not a really short one, as the stroke flattens a bit at the end as it lowers angle and requires sufficient spoon length to stay submerged. Hence wing paddles tend to be long and narrowish, more like a low-angle touring blade than a high-angle short fatty.

Nonetheless I've been told that ALL the wing-racers seem to fall into a 215-218 cm length. I guess a 210 setting compromises the "V" geometry and thus overall efficiency too much?

It'll be interesting to see which of my paddles (Ikelos, Cypress or Mid-Wing) I end up using the most. CRCK suggests that I use the wing to REALLY get my Force 5 up to speed for passage-making. Hmmm....

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