Paddle length questions

3 years 7 months ago #31915 by Hardy
Hi all,
I'm 178cm, 70kg, still new to the sport. For the first months I've worked primarily on the basics (leg drive, rotation, "lock" from feet through body til hand, vertical paddle style, stroke away from the boat, good catch, clean exit not to far back etc). Now I think I've got that about right, of course still far from perfect.

Currently I'm experimenting with different paddle lengths. I'm using a Braca XI s min. My observations so far:

- shorter paddle (210-212cm): feels natural and comfortable, I can get a easy to get the cadence up to 80 or so.

- longer paddle (around 215): I can get the catch a little more in front of the feet, get a little more positive angle at the catch, which may translate into more "lift", but the whole movement becomes a little edgier, and the top hand needs to go higher, which gets tiring after a while. More difficult to increase the cadence.

Question: Is there a general rule which way is more effective? Or is it a matter of personal taste? Or body type (power vs. flexibility etc.). Or of the situation (sprint vs. marathon, fresh vs. tired)?

Thanks for comments or advice!

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3 years 7 months ago #31916 by PSwitzer
Replied by PSwitzer on topic Paddle length questions
Hardy, I'll take a stab....

Assuming of course that max speed over a set distance is your goal, then basic principle is that paddle length determines how much work you can do with each stroke. Longer paddle= more work/distance per stroke with all things being equal. So for a given distance, if your paddle is too short you will be "spinning your wheels" and not achieving the best possible speed that your engine is capable of. Picture pedaling a bike downhill in a small (low) gear. Your legs will be spinning like crazy so your HR will still be high but you're not going as fast as you could be.

If paddle is too long, you're not able to achieve the ideal cadence for your engine. Bike analogy= pedaling in the big ring (high gear) up a steep hill. Your muscles are totally maxed out but you're not efficient because your turnover is too slow.

Because longer distances fatigue the paddler, a shorter paddle allows you to keep a reasonable cadence when tired and unable to perform as much work/distance per stroke. 500 M sprint= longer paddle than 10K.

Yes, style and technique affect the paddle length equation. A more horizontal stroke needs a longer paddle than a vertical stroke. For surfski, it's harder to maintain balance and rhythm in rough water with high hands so you'll notice in general guys use lower hand position.

Grip position on paddle makes a difference too. The wider the grip on the paddle, the lower the gear/ less work per stroke assuming equal body rotation etc. But what tends to happen especially with novices is that a narrow grip allows you to cheat on body rotation, whereas a wider grip forces you to rotate out with the torso in order to plant up front.

So the next question is: For any individual, how to figure out what is "long" vs. "short"? I'm similar size to you and I'll go 209 on the short end (upwinds, rough slop) and 211 on the long end (flat or pure downwind) A buddy of mine who is way faster, from a pro K1 background runs 209 for all conditions, but with a bigger blade size. The only way to figure it out for yourself is to experiment. But I don't know of anyone or have heard of anyone using 215 for surfski that seems too long unless you've got an abnormally long torso and short arms. I would think it would be really hard to maintain a reasonable cadence with that length.

What kind of conditions are you paddling in, or hope to paddle in?

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3 years 7 months ago #31922 by Fath2o
Replied by Fath2o on topic Paddle length questions
At 176 cm and strictly from a comfort/habit stand point, I use 209 cm with 65 degree twist. (Posted for comparison.)

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3 years 7 months ago #31927 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic Paddle length questions
I am 180 cm and paddle 209 cm. Most people my height seem to be at 210 - 212. A long reach is great, but the longer the paddle is the harder it is to “get ontop” of the stroke. There is also the question of gearing. Longer shaft = a bigger gear, just like on a bicyle. Smaller gears lack the potential too end speed but accelerate more quickly and put less of the strain on the muscles and joints. To each their own.

Current Skis: Kai Wa’a Vega, Nelo 550L g2, Epic V12 g2, Carbonology Feather, Think Jet, Knysna Sonic X

Former Skis: Epic V12 g2, Epic V12 g1, Epic v10 double, Fenn Elite S, Custom Kayaks Synergy

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3 years 6 months ago #31950 by Hardy
Replied by Hardy on topic Paddle length questions
Thanks for all your answers! That pretty much clears it up for me. I'm gonna proceed with paddle lenghts around 210-212. I would also try shorter, but my paddle is a 210-220 (being my first paddle I bought it based on the length recommendation by the dealer. Epic paddle wizard throws out a 212 for me. Next time I'll buy a 205-215) . PSwitzer, thanks also for mentioning grip width. Another variable to play around with...

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3 years 6 months ago #31956 by ccchappell
Replied by ccchappell on topic Paddle length questions
Hi Hardy,
I'm the Braca Distributor for the US, not sure where you are located but if you'd like some assistance on shortening your XI please let me know. It should have been assembled with hot glue, making it relatively straight forward. Removing a cm or so from each end may work well for you, I often assemble 207-217, 208-218.... I can email you some instructions, or if you are in the US I can do it for you.

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The following user(s) said Thank You: Selkie

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3 years 6 months ago #31957 by nell
Replied by nell on topic Paddle length questions
Just as another data point for you, Hardy, I and others about my height and speed, who run about 177 to 179 cm height, use small and small-mid size paddles 206 to 209 cm in elite width skis on both flat and rougher water for training and 1-4 hr racing. Many of us started off 20 yrs ago at 215 cm or so. At 177 cm height, I keep trying to go a cm or two longer each season, but 206-208 cm ends up feeling better and the ski seems to run faster.

When I've used the Epic paddle wizard in the past, it puts me a few cm longer than what seems optimal. It's a good place to start, though.

From my observations of other paddlers over the years, if you're a low "power to weight" paddler - meaning that you probably can't do more than 10 pull-ups at a go - then you might be better off using a paddle a couple/few cm shorter than what the paddle wizard recommends.

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3 years 6 months ago #32000 by sski
Replied by sski on topic Paddle length questions

I found this quite useful-it's how I picked my length.

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3 years 6 months ago #32078 by Gooch
Replied by Gooch on topic Paddle length questions
I am 187 cm with ridiculously long arms, and was running 218 paddle length (recommended) until I watched Oscar's video where he talks about the gear factor to paddle length. One day I was tired I moved it down to 210 (higher gear idea) and not only did my cadence improve everything else about my stroke did too, including my average pace. So I have kept the paddle short and continued with good results. I few times in rough water when I needed more power I lengthened it again but most of the time I find I do much better with the shorter then recommended paddle length. I also switched to Zero feather after that video and have liked that better too. Great video to challenge all of your traditional rules and make you play with what works best for you.

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3 years 6 months ago #32081 by Hiro
Replied by Hiro on topic Paddle length questions
I'm 186cm. When I started I was told to paddle a 218. I now set my paddle somewhere between 207 and 212.

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