Paddle shapes

4 weeks 2 days ago #33863 by mrcharly
Paddle shapes was created by mrcharly
Disclaimer: I'm not a surf-ski paddler, I paddle K1.
Why am I paddling (ahem, writing) here?  When googling for information on paddling technique and paddles, this forum had the most lively discussions and informative sources.

So, after a few months of borrowing club gear, I'm after my first paddle. The club paddles aren't adjustable, most of the adult paddles are too long for me (I'm 5'8" and the 'adult' paddle blades are 217cm long or so). Most of them lack decals (worn off), so I don't know what I've been using . . .

A few decades ago I used to paddle a K1 a lot in Oz, back before wings existed. Getting used to Wings and the very different paddling style has been quite a learning curve.
I've tried a few paddles and struggled to cope with some. Quite a few of the paddles have the blades set at a pronounced cant to the shaft. This means they 'set' themselves in the water; you can place them badly, just pull hard and the catch will be good. However, I find that I don't get on with these blades for a number of reasons:

They are difficult to use when bracing.
Sprinting is hard - I lack fine control with the blades. 
Turns and sweeps are not easy to control.
The Orka and Jantex paddles have this 'cant' (I've really only tried the Orka Bmin). As far as I can tell, the Epic paddles don't have this so much. 
A club member kindly lent their Orka Bmin to me last night. It felt like I could paddle at a medium cruise for hours with that paddle; just don't ask me to round a bouy, sprint to catch a group or sprint for a finish!
Am I just too fussy, or is it really such a matter of individual taste and style? Should I persist with trying something like the Bmin (so many paddles seem to be this shape).

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4 weeks 2 days ago #33865 by pprin
Replied by pprin on topic Paddle shapes
There is a good article on paddle shapes on the paddle cal web site.  See:   paddlecal.com/blogs/paddlecaliforniablog/choosing-a-paddle
It does seem to be very personal and small differences in shape that are even somewhat hard to see result in differences on the water.  I have an Epic mid and a Knysna 4Max.  They look fairly similar but the Epic seems natural and the Knysna requires concentration.  Likely a result of the Epic being the first paddle I used, but then I think the Knysna forces somewhat better technique because it is less forgiving of sloppiness.  My conclusion so far is that it isn't about better vs. worse but the idiosyncrasies of the paddler: your personal shape, paddling history, etc....  If you read through Michele's article you will see comments re some blades being more parallel edged versus tear-dropped.  Perhaps the parallel edged blades would be closer to what you are used to using?

-pprin
The following user(s) said Thank You: mrcharly

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3 weeks 6 days ago #33885 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Paddle shapes
I've not had an opportunity to paddle since trying the Orka Bmin, not until last night.
So, last night was the regular 10 km time trial. I've only recently moved out of the 'beginner' boats to something more racy (my balance isn't good in the dark so I've been putting this off). 
So last night was my first TT in a faster boat, I'm looking for a PB and I used the paddle I have been used to. It is pretty much a parallel blade I think and no cant. Assumed it would be familiar and I'd be easily speeding along.
Hmm, well, yes, reassuring control; until I was tired. 
Two things really stood out, having previously used the Orka Bmin:
  1. I was now 'plopping'. It is really important to place the parallel blade very carefully for every stroke to avoid this.
  2. Once tired, at about 6.5km, I was having trouble with blade angles, mostly with my left blade. If I didn't place the blade 'open' (face angled out away from the boat), there was little grip and catch. I nearly went for a swim a few times, had to back off my power and watch technique. 
Would have really liked a go with the Bmin immediately afterwards for contrast.

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3 weeks 5 days ago #33888 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic Paddle shapes
I think an epic wing is a good blade to start on. It is kind of plain-Jane vanilla. It is acceptable to almost everyone and offends almost no one. It has a very easy, predictable, non-technical catch. It is low twist and so has very little tendency to dive under the hull. It is a very reassuring and stabilizing blade in rough conditions. If you get one with the oval shaft (standard until the latest iteration) that also adds to the security of always knowing how the blade is going to enter. The epic is a very easy blade to learn on, yet is still the preferred blade of some of the world's best paddlers. I have tried many other blades but always end up coming back to the epic. You should try a mid or small-mid. 
The following user(s) said Thank You: Steve Hansen

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3 weeks 5 days ago #33891 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Paddle shapes
Thanks, that is really informative.
I'll see if I can try one out. I think a friend has an epic knock-off, will ask her if I can have a go with her paddle.
On Sunday I'll get a chance to try a Jantex Gamma. Sadly they don't seem to be available in the UK anymore (just the Gamma Rio). 
Any here used the Gara Freya? The description of 'hybrid parallel and teardrop' makes it sound to be a forgiving first paddle. Gara get good reviews for quality.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #33893 by tve
Replied by tve on topic Paddle shapes
My first paddle is a Gara Odin Small. Incredibly light and it just wants to pop back out of the water which helps in not making too long a stroke.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #33899 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Paddle shapes
So I went paddling, and decided to spend time trying out paddles rather than training. I've written up how the paddles felt to me. All paddles were set to the same length (214cm) and near-identical feather. Two were fixed to about 65degrees.

Jantex Gamma Rio Medium -  (stiff shaft)
Pros
Reassuring catch, very solid. Rock-like in the water. Secure for braces and sweeps. Didn’t have to look at paddle angle to check placement. No plopping, no excessive splashing.
Settings on paddle showed the feather setting in degrees (set to 70).
Cons
Felt like hard work, bit tiring. Thought this could be overcome with training, however after about 2km left wrist started to twing. Might be too much paddle for me.Could also be stiff shaft.

Orka Bmin
Pros
Very comfortable to cruise with, felt like I could paddle for hours.
Cons
Didn’t feel stable, braces were uncertain, didn’t have security of know what was happening with the blade. Tried ‘sprinting’ and just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t get rapid grip on water, not even shortening stroke or speeding up cadence.

Club Braca IV
Pros
Not tiring to use, although blade was bigger than one I’m used to paddling.
Cons
Tendency to dive under boat. Not certain about placement, no security when turning and bracing.

Canoesport ‘original’ Club
pros
Very easy to paddle with, easy to brace and sweep.
Cons
‘Plopping’ when paddling. Blade is a bit small for me now and it is easy to overpower it.

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3 weeks 3 days ago #33900 by RedBack
Replied by RedBack on topic Paddle shapes
The Jantex Gamma Rio is actually a size larger than the equivalent Gamma, so you're pulling a lot of water with that blade, - particularly at 214.
The paddle I use is the Gamma Rio in Medium Minus with a flexi-soft shaft.
The flexi-shaft is kinder on the joints than the stiff shaft and the blade size is more appropriate for distance work.  Indeed, I could probably go down to a Small Plus for long races (3okm+).
May I suggest you try a Medium Minus with a flexi-soft shaft?  I suspect it will address all of your concerns.
You might also try dropping the length a little and playing around with feather angles.  70 degrees is way up there, requiring a flexible wrist and a quite specific technique to make it work correctly at the opposing catch and exit.
Don't be afraid to try a low feather angle.  You'd be surprised how many good paddlers are now around 50 or even less.

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3 weeks 3 days ago #33902 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Paddle shapes
Thanks - I had come to pretty much the same conclusion, even before I checked blade sizes. The Gamma Rio Medium is 760cm2, the Medium Minus is 740.

For such an aggressive shape, 740 is plenty. I had already decided that dropping down a size would be a good idea and that the 'stiff' shaft was not for me. 

Our racing (although it is distance work) involves a lot of stop-start work, so predictable handling, sprint starts and then a steady cruise, often in the dark for training, is the order of the day (and night).

I'm going to order a medium minus with a soft shaft. Hope it give me the balance of a bit of give combined with predictable response. 

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3 weeks 16 hours ago #33916 by RedBack
Replied by RedBack on topic Paddle shapes
Good stuff.
I think you'll enjoy it.
Let us know how you feel about it after a couple of sessions.

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2 weeks 1 day ago #33960 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Paddle shapes
I'm still waiting for my paddle . . . the vendor claims to have shipped it on Monday, it might turn up today. Oh, well, we are all a bit impatient these days, used to instant Amazon shipping. 

Sunday was my first race. Low division (8), so no portages, and only 6.4km. The division system matches people purely by division, regardless of age etc, so I was up against people 30, 35 years younger than me. 
Beaten by a junior from my own club in a sprint for the finish. Neck and neck all the way, the next nearest finisher was 1.5 minutes back. We were 2 minutes up on last year's time for this race and would have been first and second in div7, had we entered that instead of div8.

Very satisfied with my race, I've never done well in any sporting event, not by athletic ability. The division ranking system is great. 
Been told I might get bumped two divisions to div6, which means longer races. 

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1 week 4 days ago #33979 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Paddle shapes
So - now I've had a bit of experience with the paddle.
10-15min playing about up and down in front of the clubhouse while I was on timing duty for the regular club TT and a longer session on Saturday. 

Saturday was my longest paddle to date (25km), less than perfect conditions for a K1 (one part of the river had standing waves on it from the wind); best way to learn a new paddle, eh?
Set it up with 65 degrees feather and 212 length. The markings are crystal clear, no need to add any lines for your favourite settings. Right or left feather; both are absolutely clear. 212 is a couple of cm shorter than I've been using (club fixed-length paddles), but I've wanted to get my stroke more vertical and it feels that shorter would be better for that. 
Straight off from the bankside it felt right. No plopping, no loose exit, no diving, easy control of the blade. 
Cambridge has a section populated by punts, usually out of control with tourists onboard, getting through this is called 'punt slalom'. I could accelerate, brace; even felt like I'd be able to pull off sidescull if necessary. 
That makes it sound like the blade wasn't gripping. Not so; plant the blade, pull hard and it has that 'in cement' feeling of a good wing blade. Definitely benefits from a short, hard stroke, moving to the side.
This blade is bigger than the ones I've been using, and grips harder, and I could feel that a little. I had an ambition to paddle to a particular lock that was further than I'd been on the river, but wasn't sure if that was a good idea. Decided if I reached the previous lock quicker than my previous best time, I'd carry on, but slow down a little. Previous best time (this is cruising, mind you), 53min. Reached the lock in 48min. Terrific, I carried on. When I got tired, later, the paddle was still rock-steady in catch and pull.
So, what are the negatives? I was getting a 'flutter' in the left blade. Not on every stroke, but most of them. Might be worth playing with the feather a bit. 
The shaft has a texture to it. Not rough exactly, it is like the carbon weave has come through to the surface. I liked it. Some people might find it hard on their hands.
The shaft release is in-line and doesn't protrude much. That is good, if you really don't want something that could snag on clothing. If you want a release that can be easily flipped while out in your boat, it isn't easy (unless you have strong fingernails). 

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