Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting a grip
So, you have the perfect boat and the perfect paddle. You're all set, right? Well, hold on. Do you have the perfect grip? That is, are your hands placed at the 100% (perfect) distance apart?

Test paddlers in recreational boats often hold their hands too close together. It's obvious when you see them that they have absolutely no mechanical advantage as they are holding the short end of a lever. But, then, how far apart should one's hands be?

Jumping ahead, I am going to guess that the answer is where ever your hands and stroke are most comfortable. Besides, what difference does it make...other than sore shoulders, no torso rotation, etc.. This all came to me yesterday as I happily paddled with a 230 set up.

I realized that I could get a different feeling of power by putting my hands ever so slightly further apart. I also realized that doing so ever so slightly reduced the reach of the blade and, thereby, shortened my stroke...ever so slightly. My arms pretty much stay the same length, and the distance from my hand to the tip of the paddle becomes shorter as I move my hands out toward the blades. Or, does moving my hand out increase my torso rotation and, thus, add back in the lost length?

We instructors often have new paddlers hold their paddles with their hands as far apart as they can in order to get them to rotate their torsos. Then we tell them to make the touchdown sign with the paddle atop their heads and tell them that that is a good starting position. We usually don't, and can't, tell them exactly where the ideal grip will be, and they don't have enough experience to know when they have it. More over, they inevitably have the wrong length paddle (too short) and do not efficiently reach the water where ever they place their hands. So, how do they, and we, know the best hand placement that gives us comfort, power and efficiency?

I knew I was too happy paddling yesterday. In fact, my only worry was that I had run out of things to worry about.

Paddle safe...


JohnB said...

. . . and that will never happen (you run out of things to worry about)!

As to your comment that new paddlers start out with a paddle too short, my experience has been that they start out with a paddle that's too long. We tend to focus on the paddle length and the forward stroke. Granted that's what we do most of the time. however, a shorter paddle for most other strokes and maneuvers is certainly more effective and efficient. Think (worry) about that statement for awhile ;-)

Michael said...

I had an interesting day recently playing around with various strokes with a GPS unit mounted on the front deck. I don't have a paddle selection to play with, but it would be equally instructive. Watching my speed change while using different strokes was a revelation. I recommend trying it as you sort out your paddle mysteries!

derrick said...

ummm, doing distance with a Greenland stick a longer paddle is more effective...however, sharp maneuvering is another matter.

JohnB said...

Michael makes a good point about the GPS--a few years (5 or 6) ago while on a solo trip I used a GPS to monitor my stroke efficiency. I'd be slugging along for awhile and look down at the GPS to see that I was only going about 2 mph! While I was paddling into a 15 mph headwind, with gusts to 20+, I'd tighten by technique up--focus on good form, and I was able to pretty effortlessly go up to 3.5 mph, 4+ was pushing it in the headwind, but 3.5 with focus on good form was pretty easy. Sort of mid to high angle, good extension on the catch, good torso rotation, and just a nano second of a pause before the catch, and a clean release. Now these things are pretty well ingrained in my technique.