Perfect Paddle Selection

3 years 11 months ago #27228 by photofr
Perfect Paddle Selection: There isn’t one, but perhaps this will help…

People often ask: what’s a good paddle, and right there: it hurts. Judging from the lack of information shared about paddles, I guess it’s a difficult subject for most people to get into. I am probably going to fail miserably, but I am going to attempt to simplify things about wing paddles, and put it all into prospective.

It probably helps to point out that wing paddles weren’t originally designed for surfski paddlers, but instead were designed specifically for flat water kayak racing. This is important because originally, paddles were rather unforgiving – zero tolerance for any trajectory deviations (you had to nail your stroke in order to get any benefit out of the paddle).

I like to place wing paddles into three groups:
Powerful & unforgiving, Weak & forgiving, and Everything else in between.

There’s nothing simple about paddle choices, however, it’s slightly easier when you think of what is needed for your particular “program” or needs.

FLAT WATER
For flat water training and racing (on a kayak or on a surfski), you’ll probably want a paddle that is somewhat aggressive and powerful. Aggressive refers to somewhat unforgiving, with usually a very strong catch. Powerful refers here to a large blade size, and even to an abnormally long shaft.

This type of “ideal” paddle may not be very forgiving, but you might survive the shock, only because you are paddling on flat water. Keep in mind that more often than not, flat water training is between 200 meters and 10 to 15 km, so a very large and powerful blade isn’t going to harm you as much as if you were paddling 40-50k in Open Ocean.



OPEN OCEAN
To better determine your paddle needs, ask yourself a few questions:
How rough is your preferred Open Ocean?
What are your preferred distances?
How often do you paddle?

There are many other factors that will determine your next paddle purchase, but I feel that the 3 above will make a world of difference for you.

Generally speaking, you will want to add stability to your ski when facing rough water. A shorter shaft will force you to paddle with a faster stroke rate, thus adding stability. You’ll also want to prevent injuries, so a smaller blade size will be advantageous there. Finally, if you don’t paddle often, your paddle stroke may not be the most accurate: you’ll need a rather forgiving paddle in order to remain comfortably upright.

In my opinion, this is why a great number of paddlers have gone with a smaller blade size, and with a shorter paddle length. This is perhaps also the reason for which paddle manufacturers have gone to great lengths to provide us with very forgiving paddles, which are still quite powerful.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
BRACING: Some paddles are horrible at bracing – they provide little or no support. Others are rock solid on the brace, so be sure to test your bracing.
CLEAN EXIT: Some paddles feel so heavy when exiting the water, so look for one with a super clean exit.
CONSTRUCTION: The finish of a paddle usually says it all. Look for paddle makers that have been around for a really long time. I once paddled with my hands for 4.7 km on a huge downwind. That was not very fun. You’ll want to be very confident in your paddle, because you just don’t want it to break.
WEIGHT: Anyone can make a strong paddle with plenty of extra material. The key is to make it strong and LIGHT. This can usually only come from a lot of experience in paddle-making.
ADJUSTABLE: Don’t think about the resale value. Think of the max length you’ll ever need, and go down from there.
STIFFER BLADES: The blade acts as an anchor, so make sure you don’t have a noodle of a blade. Since the catch is so important, make sure your blade is as stiff and as light as possible.
SOFTER SHAFTS: Softer shafts will save your shoulders, and proven to prevent injuries. A shoulder injury is not an “overnight” problem: it’s for life. Do yourself a favor, go for a softer shaft.
FORGIVING: Open Ocean paddling isn’t a perfect science, and the effect of water moving all over the place around you is going to affect your “perfect paddling stroke” greatly. For this reason, you’ll probably want to aim at a very forgiving paddle to favor downwind or chaotic conditions.

PERSONAL CONSIDERATIONS
SKI WIDTH: You’ll need at little bit of a longer paddle when using a wider surfski, this is especially in reference to the ski width where your blade actually enters the water.
SEAT HEIGHT: You’ll also need a longer paddle if your surfski seat is highly padded or naturally higher than others.
PADDLING BEHIND: you’ll want a shorter paddle to somewhat prevent paddling too much behind you.

Paddler’s arm length, paddler’s torso height, paddling style, water conditions, paddler’s weight, and ski weight will all affect your paddle choice: mainly blade size, shaft size, and shaft stiffness.

FAVORITE
It’s so much easier for me to tell you which paddle I did not appreciate and why – but that’s for another day. Today, I can tell you this:

Braca has been making paddles for a very long time. One of their most popular model ever built (and most duplicated blade on the market) is the Braca IV (4). It seems that Fenn and Epic even based their paddle on it, amongst others. It’s a paddle that I liked to paddle with, but I truly fell in love with the Braca XI (11).

The Braca XI is the newest Braca paddle produced. It is based on an exclusive license by Van Dusen (Massachusetts, USA) which underwent a great deal of lab and field testing. Aside from being a beautiful paddle with a lot of twist, I find the Braca XI to provide me with a super clean catch, and a very clean exit. It’s one of the most efficient and comfortable paddle I have had. As a bonus, I find the Braca XI to provide me with a solid brace.

There’s no way that the Braca XI could be everyone’s favorite, but I highly recommend everyone in the market for a new paddle to at least give it a try, especially if you are going to paddle in chaotic waters.


File Attachment:

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)
The following user(s) said Thank You: Punches, Atlas, Uffilation, grasshopper, seajak

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago - 3 years 11 months ago #27232 by Uffilation
Replied by Uffilation on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
Thanks for the detailed insight. While I understand that Nelo comes with Braca ;-), one of your older mentions of the XI caused me to order a testpaddle to compare it with a Jantex Gamm Rio and an Epic Midwing of similar blade size/length on a same day. The van Dusen 92 is a classic , so a test w.b. mandatory anyway for a noob like me. Will see how it feels, once it arrives.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27233 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
ahahah... NO - Nelo doesn't come with Braca.
Braca is a company with a very long history of paddle-making, based in Eastern Europe (Lithuania).
Nelo is a completely different company with a huge repertoire in boat-building. All surfskis are made in Europe, on location (Portugal).

I hope I didn't confuse you:
Braca makes the Braca XI, which is a Van Dusen.
Braca also makes the Braca IV, amongst many other paddles.

To compare similar paddles, I recommend:
Checking out the Epic Mid wing with the Braca IV (4).
Checking out the Rio with the Braca XI (11).

Icing on the cake:
The Epic is notorious for splashing water at you (more so than most paddles I know of). The Braca XI tortures you the least in that respect :)

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27234 by RedBack
Replied by RedBack on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
Great write-up Ludovic, - thank you!

Personally, - I'm a Jantex Gamma fan. Great catch, solid stability throughout the stroke and a beautifully clean exit.

I must admit, I haven't tried the Braca XI though.

I run a Medium+ blade with a soft shaft at 211, though I sometimes drop it to 210 for longer races.

Just to reiterate your comments regarding the exit, - I find that for lumpy, uneven ocean conditions, having a blade with a clean exit is really important. Getting the blade out of the water without "catching" improves stability and allows you to accelerate the ski more quickly when a run appears.

Even in flat conditions, at the end of 40+km you really appreciate not having to "heave" a lethargic blade out of the water! :-)

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago - 3 years 11 months ago #27236 by Uffilation
Replied by Uffilation on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
Ludovic, I know that Braca and Nelo are different companies and I am aware of each company's history ... I am surprised that my pun with Nelo/Braca did not hit the mark though , whatever ... lol

Thanks for the write up, but it is clear to me that the XI is the van dusen 92 shape, I just tried to emphasize why I therefore have to test the XI, ' cause it's a classic ... maybe this was not clearly worded by me.

I also tried an Epic once and agree it was wet, wonder if drip stoppers would help or disturb.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27238 by Uffilation
Replied by Uffilation on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
@ Redback,
I have a small plus and medium. What angle/feather do you use? I use 60 degree. I know it depends on X-factors what a paddlers chooses, but I am asking out of curiosity.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27239 by Midlifecrisis
Does anyone have experience with the Legend Fluid paddle ?

Can you tell me which paddle type it equates to and would it be considered a powerful and unforgiving paddle, or something else?

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27240 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
@ midlife:
I probably chose the wrong categories:
Powerful & Unforgiving
Weak & Forgiving
Everything else in between.

However, I wanted to clarify that “Everything else in between” is what you should seek for a near-perfect surfski paddle for Open Ocean. Just like surfskis, there are today a lot of great choices. Finding a Powerful paddle that’s still somewhat Forgiving may be easier than you think.

In the case of the Legend Fluid Paddle: I have never tried it, but since it’s advertised as Multisport, Marathons and Surf, you can pretty much bet that it will be Forgiving (unforgiving paddles make the worst surf paddles).

Will it be powerful enough for your needs?
Hard to tell: you may just have to try one out. Judging that it seems more geared towards moving water in rivers, it’s very difficult to tell.

Couple of things to keep in mind with New Zealand and Australia paddle builders: They seemingly have always produced some excellent designs. Back in the late 80’s, I know of couple of people in the USA taking “notes”.

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27241 by RedBack
Replied by RedBack on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
@Uffilation:

I have an old injury from my youth (badly broken wrist) that reduces movement in my control hand, so I use 45 deg.

It works for me - and even going into a wind it doesn't seem so bad. (Not that I have a choice!)
The following user(s) said Thank You: Uffilation

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27243 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
It's a question of "habit" for me: started with an angle of 85 degrees in the 80's - and kept that for a really long time. I am now down to 68 degrees. I find two schools there:
Older people with older habits seem to use more blade angle.
Younger paddlers getting into (what I feel is) better habits and who use 35 to 45 degrees.

* More blade angle makes a blade feel quite unbalanced, so I do not recommend more than 50 degrees (but teaching an old dog a new trick isn't the easiest thing in the world)

Uffilation wrote: @ Redback,
I have a small plus and medium. What angle/feather do you use? I use 60 degree. I know it depends on X-factors what a paddlers chooses, but I am asking out of curiosity.


Ludovic
(Brittany, France)

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27245 by Aurelius
Replied by Aurelius on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
Are paddle blades designed for a certain angle of entry during the catch? I find that a high angle of insertion (high hand at eye height or above) occasionally causes the blade to wobble in the water when I pull back on it, whereas a low angle of insertion (high hand at chin height) never does that.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27246 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
Yes... and no.
As a paddler, you can paddle with a upper hand relatively high (slightly higher than eye level) or with your upper hand relatively low (a bit lower than eye level). This shouldn't "really" affect the wobbling. However, and as you have noticed, your paddle can wobble depending on your upper hand height.

The reason for THAT wobbling isn't the upper hand's height; it's mainly due to the trajectory of your LOWER HAND. Tp prevent wobbling of your paddle, try this:
- Relax both hands
- Let the paddle tell you where it wants to go
If all fails, make sure your blade enters the water close to your ski, and make sure that the blade travels AWAY from your ski while obviously submerged. You also want to ensure that the face of the blade is open, and not angled while travelling.

Try to visualize each statement above; hoping that I didn't confuse you too much. The above seem to help my past students - in person.

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)
The following user(s) said Thank You: Punches

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago - 3 years 11 months ago #27251 by Uffilation
Replied by Uffilation on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
@ redback, thanks.

Stats of what angles paddlers use, from Epic, 2011, scroll down to the tables:

www.surfski.info/getting-started/tips-ot...on-wing-paddles.html

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27252 by Uffilation

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27278 by Uffilation
Replied by Uffilation on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
@ Redback,

I have just paddled 18km with 45° today. I will stick to tha angle now for a while.
I know that I have tried this several times before, but never seriously it seems and long enough
or my technique changed in the meantime so that only now I could better exlpore the benefits thereof ...
The following user(s) said Thank You: RedBack

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27280 by Aurelius
Replied by Aurelius on topic Perfect Paddle Selection

Uffilation wrote: @ Redback,

I have just paddled 18km with 45° today. I will stick to tha angle now for a while.
I know that I have tried this several times before, but never seriously it seems and long enough
or my technique changed in the meantime so that only now I could better exlpore the benefits thereof ...


Yesterday I went from my usual 80 degree to a 50 degree feather angle. I noticed no difference except that my wrist had to flex less, so I'll probably stick with the 50.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27288 by Punches
Replied by Punches on topic Perfect Paddle Selection

Uffilation wrote: ah nice
www.surfski.info/forum/2-announcements/1....html?start=80#27224

Nice article thanks.

I had a similar experience to that on the other thread with Brand A and Brand B medium blades during my progression from beginner skis to high performance skis. The names of the paddles are not important and they are both excellent. I can change high performance skis very easily but I find switching paddles very difficult, especially in chaotic water. Some of my mates swap paddles regularly according to the conditions by comparison proving we are all different.

When I moved from an Epic V8 to a Stellar SES I soon after changed paddles from Brand A to Brand B as the latter was grippier in chaotic water, tracked on its own and had a forgiving exit in comparison. I immediately had less capsizes due to my paddle hooking up in the water on exit.

Now that I'm much more experienced, stable and executing a better forward stroke I've reverted back to Brand A as it allows me to maintain a higher stroke rate in rough conditions for longer and the negative traits don't concern me any more. I haven't tried it but I suspect that I would also benefit from a small Brand B blade instead of the medium

In conclusion I think it's important that beginner paddlers use beginner blades to maximise their potential to hard wire good technique earlier.

Currently own Fenn Elite S, Renegade Double
Previously owned Epic V8, Think Legend, Stellar SES

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27289 by TaffyMick
Replied by TaffyMick on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
Used to think years ago when I got my first ski that this paddle selection/criteria/etc. was a lot of mumbo jumbo.

My first wing as with many entry level paddlers was the Epic mid wing. The comfortable oval shaft and rock solid adjuster for length and catch was the bees knees as far as I was concerned and used it for a number of years. I then graduated to a slightly larger blade and rounded shaft that was near enough a Jantex clone. After a year or so I bit the bullet and bough a Jantex Gamma Rio Medium wing. Have used this blade for marathon racing and recreation paddling of sea kayaks, surf skis and my K1. Depending on the conditions I have a shaft length of 211-212 offshore and 214 inshore with a 60 degree right hand feather.

Daresay there are several similar blades in the marketplace. But one thing I have learned, paddle selection is not mumbo jumbo or a black art, it is critical to enable you to maximise your paddling potential, power and ultimately...fun on the water.

Regards,
Mick

Stellar SEI, Fenn Bluefin S, Sladecraft Comet Long Rec & Vajda K1

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27290 by kwolfe
Replied by kwolfe on topic Perfect Paddle Selection
I have to admit that I'm so jealous of you guys that can try new skis and new paddles. Here in the middle of PA, it's just not practical. I would have to drive 2hrs to even try and make it happen. I have an older Epic Mid Wing and would really like to try a Jantex and Braca just to see. I also have the chance to get a small-mid Epic at a good price, but not sure if I would like the smaller blade. Grrrr!

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

3 years 11 months ago #27291 by Aurelius
Replied by Aurelius on topic Perfect Paddle Selection

kwolfe wrote: I have to admit that I'm so jealous of you guys that can try new skis and new paddles. Here in the middle of PA, it's just not practical. I would have to drive 2hrs to even try and make it happen. I have an older Epic Mid Wing and would really like to try a Jantex and Braca just to see. I also have the chance to get a small-mid Epic at a good price, but not sure if I would like the smaller blade. Grrrr!


I feel your pain. You would think that in a state surrounded on three sides by ocean, there would be surf ski dealers on every street corner, but no. There's only ONE in my area. I thought I'd lucked out when I found an Epic dealer in Daytona, but I was told that they don't stock surf skis; only kayaks. :angry:

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Latest Forum Topics

Selkie's Avatar

Surfski Drysuit? (24 Posts)

1 hour 55 minutes ago

Fenn Fennix Boats - any different? (21 Posts)

5 hours 56 minutes ago
Protected by R Antispam