Do you ever experience tired wrists or forearms? Are you lacking smoothness, control, or power? Perhaps your paddle grip is the culprit.
Know Width Of the Grip
Grip problems can be subtle and difficult to recognize. First, check the width of your grip. Your arms should form a 90-degree bend at your elbows. Although this may feel awkward at first, given time you’ll appreciate the greater power and control. Sliding each hand in an inch or two is okay, but this limits your power.
Mark Your Hand Position
Sometimes you may find it advantageous to choke up on your shaft momentarily, especially for rolls and aggressive play. Your shoulders may feel more protected this way. Marking your hand position with a piece of tape can help you locate your original hand placement.
Don’t Grip Too Firmly
Avoid gripping the shaft too tightly by relaxing the fingers of your top hand during each stroke. Allow the shaft to rotate freely in your non-control hand. Maintain index with the forefinger on your control hand, but allow your other fingers to relax. One hand must release or your grips will be in constant conflict. If this happens you’ll develop a “boxy” style with limited dexterity and open the doors for future tendonitis.
Know The Offsets Between Blades
Old school paddles had 80- or 90-degree offsets between blades, meaning you had to learn a proper grip technique for an effective stroke. The recent popularity of 45- and 60-degree offsets has eliminated wrist problems for some, but created problems for others. You still need a relaxed, non-control hand for all but the most vertical strokes. Many paddlers limit their ability by grabbing tightly with both hands, and therefore don’t get either blade to grab the water with the correct bite. This limits power and keeps you on a skill plateau.
Give Your Forearm Some Relief
Many people are turning to crank-, or bent-shaft, paddles for forearm relief. If set-up correctly, these paddles can provide more extension and alleviate arm strain. But if the bends are located too wide for your arm length, the result can be limiting. If you decide to spend the extra money for one of these, be sure to get it set up correctly.
One final note
Learn proper bracing and rolling technique to preserve your shoulders. Consider using smaller blades and a shorter shaft to reduce shoulder torque.
Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.