Question: Hi, I am hoping you can help. I started paddling about 8 months ago and a friend lent me his paddle (alb atross name on red paddle). While I really enjoy paddling, the paddling is killing my shoulders and my mates seem to be going faster than me. Would changing my paddle help, and if so what should I look for?
Answer: Hi Bradley, thanks for the question. Before I discuss which paddle is right for you I need to explain a little about the wing paddle and stroke technique. While trying not to get overly technical the wing paddle, unlike the flat paddle, has a curved edge at the top and a flat edge at the bottom of the paddle. The curved edge doesn’t allow the water to slip over, and instead channels the water over the flat bottom. Basically this shape cause the paddle to move a certain path sideways in the water. If you have never had technical advice it is likely your paddling stroke will not be the most efficient and this will cause instability in the boat and likely have a high impact on your body (which could result in injured shoulders). The strokes power should be generated from a connected body and not isolated muscles.
Moving on to which paddle is right for you, this is a difficult question to answer we need to take in a few factors; blade size and shape, paddle length, and paddle construction. It should go without saying that the larger the paddles blade is, the harder it will be to pull the paddle through the water, but the more power and speed in theory you should be able to generate (depends if you have the strength to pull the paddle.) The paddle shape or catch will depend on your preference however most prefer a tear drop shape catch for surfski paddling, and finally the shaft. The more carbon in the shaft, the lighter the paddle will be, however it will also make the paddle very stiff and therefore have a higher impact on your arms; if your technique is poor rather go for a shorter shaft.
What I recommend is to go for the smallest tear drop shaped blade you can get. Also look for a soft shaft with adjustable length of around 208-215 cm. This will allow you to paddle with the least impact on your muscles and joints and you can work on improving your stroke technique and strength without injury.
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