× Tips and techniques for getting the most out of surfskiing.

Paddle length, is there a formula?

6 years 1 month ago #9123 by Moll
I have been following one of the other threads where paddle length is measured against stability etc.

I have found a couple of articles all with differing theories and one in particular used a formula taking length of your back etc into account. Admittedly it was for K1 racing and not Surf Ski. I will try fnd the article but according to that i should use a paddle around 218 -222. I am not incredibly tall at around 6'1.

It would be interesting to hear what paddle lengths people are using and taking their height into account.

My split shaft paddle does 212-222 and I have found less than 214 feels too narrow and I observed in video that I am not submerging the whole blade, that however may be a result of shocking technique and not having a steep enough angle on the paddle :blush:

Current Quiver:
- Think Evo
- XT Double
- Popes Big Foot Assegai K1
- Wilderness systems Tarpon 160

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6 years 1 month ago #9124 by Rightarmbad
192cm

Various formulas have spat out numbers in excess of 220cm, one even told me 227.


Currently using 205 to 207cm.

I tried the long paddles, and yes it made me look like every other paddler out there with too long of a paddle.
It feels great in the creek, but I simply cannot get as high a heart rate, and therefore as much power as a short one.

When I first started venturing into the shorter paddles, 210cm felt just bloody stupid, 213 manageable, and there was even a small island of good power around this length.

But I am willing to experiment, and 210cm began to feel better, it certainly made the front part of my stroke more productive.

I kept going after I got a new shorter paddle all the way to 205cm, at first I couldn't reach the water sometimes in the ocean, but again, I soon learn't to adjust and this is now my preferred length.
Sometimes in short sharp waves I have trouble reaching the water, so I go out to 207cm.

The reality is, the body soon learns to use any paddle, and it eventually feels natural.

I accelerate better, I hold a pace better, I feel more stable on the extremely short length.
There is notably less influence on the paddle by the wind.

I don't believe there is a single formula out there that can tell you your correct length.
If I was younger and was a little stronger, maybe a longer paddle would be better.
I certainly used to push bigger gears on the bike.
And I am also in need of getting into the gym for some weight work.

Paddle length is the single most influential thing on your stroke mechanics.

Most paddle groups members all look the same when they are coached by the same person, yet no two groups look the same.

Says something.

There is more mysticism and untested theories in paddling technique than any other sport I have done.

So, I'll be blunt and ask anybody to prove otherwise.
There is simply NO formula out there that will get you the correct paddle length.

Sometimes it will, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.....
And pretty close for a few hours either side......



So here are my questions for anybody out there that thinks that they are using the right paddle.

How many have you tried?

Have you persisted with a paddle size/length that seemed wrong at first?

Are you willing to try even the absurd, just in case?

How was your first paddle picked?

How far from that paddle are you now?

Have you done any back to back testing to determine which is best?



Do you understand how a wing paddle works?

Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.--- Thomas J. Watson

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6 years 1 month ago #9126 by robin.mousley
Guys on surfskis use shorter paddles than on K1 - 218 would be way out there on a surfski. For example, Herman Chalupsky, tall brute 6'4" or taller uses 210.

Have you tried the Epic "Paddle Wizard"? Told me 212cm. I've been using 213. I'm not suggesting it's the be-all and and-all, but perhaps something to factor in.

Rightarmcrook makes good points. I'd just add that there is a trend towards shorter paddles in surfski.

My paddling is going through an awful dip in speed at the moment so I'm keen to try anything - and will be trying a shorter length in the next few weeks!

Rob

Currently Think Evo II, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others I can't remember!

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6 years 1 month ago #9127 by Kayaker Greg
I agree with RAB. I'm 5'8" and until recently ran my Epic Mid Wing at 208cm which was the shortest it would go. I tried for 6 months to get an Epic Mid Wing at 205cm but they never became available and I found that as I got stronger I had increased the length to 209cm, however at times like into a headwind it feels to long. I also feel my cadence is a little slow. When I finally bought my next Epic Mid Wing because a voucher had to be redeemed I was told that the shop could shorten my Epic paddles if I wanted, so that is an option for me and I might get my older training paddle shortened to give me the option.
I was told at the same time that Stephen Ferguson, 6'5" uses a Epic Large Wing at 210cm, perhaps Kiwial can confirm or dispute this.
I see people in sea kayaks all the time using way long paddles, slowly. I use a Small Mid in the sea kayak, usually about 208cm, however last time I went out in the sea kayak with this paddle I felt underpowered, probably as I was reasonably fit from a lot of ski racing. But the Mid at 208 + feels too big and slow turnover, so I think a Mid at a smaller length might still be the way to go in the sea kayak at least, be good to try.

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6 years 1 month ago #9128 by Dicko
I'm 6'4" and have found my paddles slowly dropping in legth over the years. About 3 months ago I dropped down to 206, shortened my stroke at the exit and increased my cadence slightly. I'm an extremely average paddler of 50 in a carbonology Vault, but am finding I'm paddling almost as fast as I was 3-4 years ago.
There seems to be less fatigue with the new technigue. The most interesting thing is that the carpal tunnel that has plaqued me on every paddle I have ever done has all but disappeared. Both hands used to go completely numb. Very disconcerting. All I can put this down to is less stress on my forearms and less overall fatique.

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6 years 1 month ago #9129 by Boef
187cm and I paddle an Epic split shaft at 205. Always. Started paddling at 216 and progressively went lower - initially as I started developing rotator cuff problems with the 'wide' angles that go with a longer paddle. Shorter took a bit getting used to but the stroke angle is higher, elbows stay tucked in during the stroke and there are way less shoulder issues for me. Shorter is also way easier in the ruff stuff and generally feels easier once you get used to the feel. Its like your grip on a squash racket: with a higher grip you have better control and less stress on your elbow.

Most important on going shorter is that your hands are closer together on the shaft - and the distance between the outside of your hand to where the blade and shaft joins remains the same as it would have been with a longer paddle. So nothing changes on being able to reach the water for me.

With a shorter paddle length a higher angle (65-68degrees) is also possible for me.

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6 years 1 month ago #9130 by candela
186cm

I got some technique coaching from an x-Olympian who also does the odd ocean race awhile ago and the first this he did was change my paddle length to 212 and angle to 60. Now when I do sprint training especially 60sec intervals I struggle to get my HR to the 90% + range, I just can't get my cadence high enough.

When I play with the Epic paddle wizard I get varied results depending on a few options I don't really understand.
-What's the difference between "Vertical Style" and "Horizontal Style"?
-Also how do you know what seat height you ski is, where is it measured from for example on a V12?

I think I might start doing some experimenting with shortening my paddle and see if I can get my cadence up.

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6 years 1 month ago #9131 by MhojoNZ
Length isn't the only consideration - Having recently forked out for a Braca, I can vouch for blade design and shaft/blade stiffness making a hugh difference, as well as, of course, blade size.

I think in kayaking shaft length relates to 2 issues - the first, as noted is how much force needs to be applied to the lever, the second is one of paddling mechanics - how far forward the blade can be placed on entry, and whether the full length of the blade is submerged during the power phase of the stroke.

I don't think you can just took about length in isolation of other factors.

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6 years 1 month ago #9132 by owenfromwales
189cm

My first paddle around the early 80`s was a 220 flat Lendal Powermaster and I was paddling spec skis around the cans mainly. Over a few seasons the flatties dropped to 118, 116 and even a foray to 113. When the first Lendal wings came out around `90ish, I was paddling 114 wing for single ski and 116 for double.
Over the years I`ve tried a few different things and gradually built up a collection of different Bratcha type paddles. These days I`m really comfortable with 112 for a long paddle in the bumps. When it`s glassy flat I`ll extend it to 114 and that feels nice too. For angle, I`m happy with 67.
The other thing I have picked up though from trying different blades, is how bigger blades make me feel a lot more stable on the tippiest craft. I currently use a Swing LD from Knysna, but my old Bratcha II which was about 6 mm wider and quite a bit longer in the blade, was a lot more stable in the water, even if I couldn`t rate so fast, but no problem as these days it`s really easy to just shorten the shaft.
So, once you settle on shaft length, I`d recommend trying different blade sizes to see how they affect you too.
Happy paddling All!

189cm 90~100kg
Present skis:
2017 Stellar SEI 2G
1993 Gaisford Spec Ski
1980s Pratt Spec Ski
1980s UK Surf Skis Ocean Razor
Previous
1980s UK Surf Skis Ocean Razor X 3
1987 Kevlar Chalupsky (Hummel) (Welsh copy!)
1988 Kevlar Double Chalupsky
1992 Hammerhead spec
2000 Fenn copy

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6 years 1 month ago #9135 by Rightarmbad
I think you can talk about paddle length separate to size.
And this is why:

Paddle size is not a function of anything but how strong you are.
It's as simple as that.
If it slips when you crank on it, it's too bloody small, irregardless of length.
( or your technique sucks and you have not got the paddle anywhere near vertical during the power phase )
If it is too big, then you are swinging weight around for nothing and getting it blown around as well.

So find your blade size, then go search for the length.

Only if you are doing marathon paddles, like more than 40km or so, should you go to a smaller blade, and only then after considering all facets of the paddle you are undertaking.

Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.--- Thomas J. Watson

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6 years 1 month ago #9149 by Stew

Rightarmbad wrote: Only if you are doing marathon paddles, like more than 40km or so, should you go to a smaller blade, and only then after considering all facets of the paddle you are undertaking.


A small blade size seems to work for Tim Jacobs, and he's a big unit. What works for one, may not work for another. I wouldn't rule out a small blade size, if you are in the market for a new paddle, without trying it.

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6 years 1 month ago #9152 by MhojoNZ
How small is small?

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6 years 1 month ago #9155 by Rightarmbad
The faster the blade moves through the water, the more lift it makes.
So if you are a stronger type and can move it fast, you can get away with a smaller one.

If however you are a midpacker and simply don't have the paddle speed, then maybe you are better on a bigger one.

Maybe Tim has come to the conclusion that he is faster by allowing some small slip to get his cadence up?

Ideally, You would find a paddle size that doesn't slip, and is therefore efficient for you but also allows you to spin at the cadence that is ideal for you.

If that doesn't happen, then a compromise must be struck to get your body in the right zone, if you cannot do it with length, then the only real option is do do it with the blade.

So it will depend on which is the better of two evils, a bit of paddle slip, or a slightly wrong cadence.


I think somebody paddling at 10 or 11kmh is going to have more problems with getting a good cadence and no slip, than somebody capable of paddling at 14 or 15kmh.


Well, that's how my theory goes anyways.....

Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.--- Thomas J. Watson

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6 years 1 month ago #9168 by Stew
But the theory of a wing paddle is that you pull yourself past the blade, not pull the blade through the water, as was the case with flat blades. So I'm a little confused as to your thoughts on this.

Also, I would suggest a smaller blade would suit a mid packer better, as a bigger paddle is harder on the catch, and a possible result is a shortened stroke at the front when they don't have the power to make the required catch of the bigger blade area.

I would also think that someone traveling at 10 to 11kmph will find it quite easy to get a good catch as their stroke technique isn't under as much pressure, and they also don't have to force the cadence/ stroke rate. A nice, smooth , cruisey technique is the norm in that speed range, regardless of blade size.

As a foot note, my paddles are as follows:

217cm medium or large blade in the kayak, depending on race and conditions

211cm small or medium on my Gibbons spec ski, depending on race and conditions

209cm small in almost all conditions on my Uno ocean ski, with the exception of a 209 medium on flat, harbour conditions.

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6 years 1 month ago #9170 by Rightarmbad
The blade goes sideways, the lift force is produced at 90 degrees to the drag force.
Standard wing theory.

With a longer paddle, the blade travels further, faster, so therefore can be a smaller size to produce enough lift.

If you come down to a shorter paddle, my theory says that you may need a bigger blade to produce the same lift due to the shorter travel.

If you are paddling faster, it may be possible for a smaller blade to produce enough lift due to the faster blade movement in the water, to offset the extra lift requirement of a stronger, faster paddler.


I was trying out some paddles once, one was quite small, but at 10kmh or so, it was the sweetest paddle I have ever used.
I couldn't go much faster though, as it simply wouldn't support the extra pull required.
I was a bit heavier then.

If I use an Epic midwing, when I try and up the pace, it shudders as it comes out of lift mode and into drag mode.
A large midwing, doesn't do this, doesn't matter how hard I try, it will always stay in lift mode.

Maybe if my own body was faster moving, a smaller blade would be fine.


As regards to the catch, my experience is that blade shape has more effect than blade size.

What's your reasoning behind a smaller paddle for ocean conditions and larger for flat?

I find my speed is always higher in the ocean and even in the flat if the water roughs up a little.

When would you choose the larger blade for the Gibbons?
I assume that it has a high seat position that you use a longer paddle on it.

Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.--- Thomas J. Watson

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6 years 1 month ago #9171 by Rightarmbad
And a general question for everyone.
How many out there have ever tried something as short as a 205?

Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.--- Thomas J. Watson

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6 years 1 month ago #9172 by Stew

Rightarmbad wrote: The blade goes sideways, the lift force is produced at 90 degrees to the drag force.
Standard wing theory.


You still pull past the blade, and not vice versa if your technique is correct. The pressure created by the blade shape allows for the blade to move out, allowing for better rotation. If you are simply pulling the blade back through the water, the catch isn't there.



Rightarmbad wrote: If I use an Epic midwing, when I try and up the pace, it shudders as it comes out of lift mode and into drag mode.
A large midwing, doesn't do this, doesn't matter how hard I try, it will always stay in lift mode.


The only time I ever feel a paddle shudder is if I get the stroke wrong, and pull the blade with poor catch, and too close to the boat, no matter the size of blade.


Rightarmbad wrote: As regards to the catch, my experience is that blade shape has more effect than blade size.


A wing paddle is a wing paddle, they are all designed to have a good catch, but as we know, some have a stronger catch than others. A large blade size will give that feeling of a good catch, even if the blade placement is poor at the front of the stroke.

Rightarmbad wrote: What's your reasoning behind a smaller paddle for ocean conditions and larger for flat?


In the ocean I want to accelerate to chase down runs and chops. I cant do that with the bigger blade for any prolonged length of time. The small blade allows me to tip along nicely. It's a very common set up for guys to do so, and everyone in my club does the same, from Olympians to run of the mill guys like myself.

Rightarmbad wrote: When would you choose the larger blade for the Gibbons?
I assume that it has a high seat position that you use a longer paddle on it.


I assume you mean larger as in longer? If so, yes, the seat is higher than that of the Uno. Big surf, smaller blade to accelerate through the conditions. Smaller or flat conditions, bigger blade to get more boat run. Pretty standard stuff really.

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6 years 1 month ago #9173 by Rightarmbad
Even with a flat blade, nobody just pulls straight back.
The flat blades were used in a curvilinear arc that allowed a lift dominated action.
This leaves the blade slightly angled, and therefore the resultant force did not point straight ahead, but a little to the side.

A wing improves on this by allowing the blade to move a straight sideways path with the blade always angled directly to the desired direction of motion.
And there is the magical 6 to 7 percent benefit of a wing.
It is fully lift dominated with the resultant force all pointed forward.

A flat blade paddled well, can go a long way close to this, but in the end, it always has to be tilted a bit in it's action to create lift, so the resultant force can never truly point the right direction.

The goal of stroke mechanics is get these forces pointing the right way, while at the same time tapping into the bodies ability in the best compromise.

We still suffer a bit of poor force direction, especially when paddlers push forward with their top hand, which points the resultant forces to the bottom and we apply a downward force to the boat.
Hence the importance of the forward stroke, once the paddle gets too far backward, even though you may feel like you have a good lock on the water, a large part of that force is simply not making you go forward, but up and down, because as the blade passes the hip, it must point down progressively more and more.

The power you apply there is better put into the front part of the next stroke, so get the bloody thing out of the water.

A top hand allowed to come back toward your face, not pushing forward, and the stroke ending at the hip keeps the forces in the right direction as best as possible as we can manage.

It also just happens that this type of action, the paddle going out sideways whilst our body rotates, allows us to tap into our bigger muscle groups.

So basic stroke mechanics is; keep the back of the blade pointing forwards, not downwards or sideways.

So go for a paddle and see whether there are parts of your stroke that have the paddle not optimally placed. As in the back side of the blade facing anyways except forward.

There will be many, and even the best have the paddle slightly facing the bottom during the most propulsive part of the stroke.
It's a compromise struck between extracting maximum power from the human body and delivering it to the water.

But for sure, paddling past your hip is a mistake.
As is the pushing forward of the top hand to do anything but start the the next stroke by reaching far forward, so as to get the most out of the forward part of the stroke where the angles are favorable.


I can MAKE an Epic midwing paddle hard, by angling it a little bit, a slightly higher angle of attack, it will not shudder then.
But why would I do that and point my forces anywhere other than forward, when a slightly larger blade doesn't shudder, even though it still has it's forces aligned as best as possible to forward motion?

A wing paddle will be fully lift generating once it has traveled it's own width, that's all a catch needs to be, get the thing in the water, align it as best can be done to get the forces acting forward, then pull with full force as soon as the blade can support the force in lift mode.

Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.--- Thomas J. Watson

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6 years 1 month ago #9174 by jamo
well moll hope your question has answered seems to me from what i've read there is no answer than in next breath there is.
so confusing.
my advise is to work out how far you wish to paddle how comfortable you want to be as in physical excersion when you you get there then add 10k because paddling can be addictive.
be honest with your self about your strength.
oscar uses a mid wing.in his training he states he does 1 arm rows at nearly 100 kg.alot of power and acording to rob mousley a slow stroke rate. that was when they done the downwind together.
most k1 paddlers use big blades with long shafts in flat water for 500 to 1000 meters.
most surf ski races are 14 km in rough water and wind.for the record i use epic small mid at 205 in the ocean and 205 up to 209 on the flat pending wind current etc my hieght 170 cm

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6 years 1 month ago #9175 by Stew

Rightarmbad wrote: Even with a flat blade, nobody just pulls straight back.
The flat blades were used in a curvilinear arc that allowed a lift dominated action.
This leaves the blade slightly angled, and therefore the resultant force did not point straight ahead, but a little to the side.

A wing improves on this by allowing the blade to move a straight sideways path with the blade always angled directly to the desired direction of motion.
And there is the magical 6 to 7 percent benefit of a wing.
It is fully lift dominated with the resultant force all pointed forward.

A flat blade paddled well, can go a long way close to this, but in the end, it always has to be tilted a bit in it's action to create lift, so the resultant force can never truly point the right direction.

The goal of stroke mechanics is get these forces pointing the right way, while at the same time tapping into the bodies ability in the best compromise.

We still suffer a bit of poor force direction, especially when paddlers push forward with their top hand, which points the resultant forces to the bottom and we apply a downward force to the boat.
Hence the importance of the forward stroke, once the paddle gets too far backward, even though you may feel like you have a good lock on the water, a large part of that force is simply not making you go forward, but up and down, because as the blade passes the hip, it must point down progressively more and more.

The power you apply there is better put into the front part of the next stroke, so get the bloody thing out of the water.

A top hand allowed to come back toward your face, not pushing forward, and the stroke ending at the hip keeps the forces in the right direction as best as possible as we can manage.

It also just happens that this type of action, the paddle going out sideways whilst our body rotates, allows us to tap into our bigger muscle groups.

So basic stroke mechanics is; keep the back of the blade pointing forwards, not downwards or sideways.

So go for a paddle and see whether there are parts of your stroke that have the paddle not optimally placed. As in the back side of the blade facing anyways except forward.

There will be many, and even the best have the paddle slightly facing the bottom during the most propulsive part of the stroke.
It's a compromise struck between extracting maximum power from the human body and delivering it to the water.

But for sure, paddling past your hip is a mistake.
As is the pushing forward of the top hand to do anything but start the the next stroke by reaching far forward, so as to get the most out of the forward part of the stroke where the angles are favorable.


I can MAKE an Epic midwing paddle hard, by angling it a little bit, a slightly higher angle of attack, it will not shudder then.
But why would I do that and point my forces anywhere other than forward, when a slightly larger blade doesn't shudder, even though it still has it's forces aligned as best as possible to forward motion?

A wing paddle will be fully lift generating once it has traveled it's own width, that's all a catch needs to be, get the thing in the water, align it as best can be done to get the forces acting forward, then pull with full force as soon as the blade can support the force in lift mode.


OK, I'm lost now. How does a description of the dynamics of a wing paddle support your theory that:

"Only if you are doing marathon paddles, like more than 40km or so, should you go to a smaller blade, and only then after considering all facets of the paddle you are undertaking."

Let's not muddy the water with technicalities. What works for one person will not work for another, and I'm interested to know why my paddle of choice is a bad one, as you have said.

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