why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

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BigDave88
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why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby BigDave88 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:17 pm

it's all in the title.

just wondering why you are a high or low angle paddler.

i am typically a high angle guy, although if the wind really kicks up, i believe a low angle is easier to tweak to help with lee/weather cocking.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby campwoolly » Mon Jan 17, 2011 6:53 pm

Big Dave,

I am just a paddler. Sometimes high, sometimes a bit lower, depends on the conditions and the paddle i am using and who i'm paddling with etc. I think most of us around here naturally go with what you would probably call a 'high angle' stroke using a shortish paddle but try not to pigeon hole it too much. The important part is the technique and maximising rotation of the torso no matter where you are holding your paddle. Having said that of course, a higher hand position (around forehead height mostly) does facilitate that torso rotation a bit better in my experience.

I am sure others will have something too add...

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby JohnA » Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:16 pm

G'day Big Dave,

I've just gone with what the local instructors have told me to do. They tell me a high angle stroke is more efficient in terms of propulsion as the blade runs closer to the boat and there is less turning force applied. Combined with a shorter paddle and faster cadence you get better acceleration too. Your comment re lowering your stroke in wind supports this, more turning force applied for course correction and the high end is less likely to catch as much wind. A lower angle in rougher conditions may also offer a more stable feel.

There's a whole array of pros and cons for different styles with respect to technical strokes and stroke blending and generally the shorter high angle paddle comes out in front for these. Having said that many of us here are picking up greenland paddles and enjoying the low angle, low impact greenland stroke which is generally agreed to be very easy on the shoulders. But as campwoolly has so rightly said it's all paddling and if it suits you and you enjoy it, then more strength to your paddling arms.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby schroeds » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:23 pm

A very important factor here is what kind of paddle you're using. Wing blades are designed for a high (ie aggressive) stroke.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Late-starter » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:40 pm

It seems to me that in a quieter high or low stroke is as contentious as the rudder/skeg debate! I am usually a high angle paddler as thats how I started. Albeit not very efficiently then. Many of my paddling friends are low angle. It seems to me that either work well as long as torso rotation is used but I do have friends who break all 'the rules' and paddle very quickly over distance.

Windy conditions sometimes mean I lower my stroke but I like to maintain normal stroke as long as possible. Changing stroke to water and wind conditions works for me but I stay as close to normal as I can. The high angle for me seems to suit my long body. As a carpenter I also think I have got used to using my upper body in a certain way. Hand and arms play a big part in getting tasks done.

Here's a thought are office workers more inclined (good word) to use low angle? Because they sit and reach rather than stand and stretch?

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby FatPaddler » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:58 pm

Interesting thread. For those of us using Greenland paddles you tend to use a mix depending on what is required at any given time. I find a high angle far easier and more efficient with a GP for straight out speed (despite many saying GP users stick to low angle strokes). Throw in some messy confused water and I drop it down to a lower angle which means I can quickly react to the shifting water with braces and corrective strokes. In shallow waters the low angle is obviously required (unless you have hardwood tips!). The other aspect of GPs is that not only are you constantly shifting the angle, but you are also moving your hands across the whole length of the stick, giving you greater fast turning leverage, or just more stick in the water to brace with or dig deep with. With head winds, the GP is brilliant because it doesn't really catch the wind at all, but if the wind is really up you can switch to a storm stroke which doesn't leave a paddle blade in the air at all.

Ok, I'm totally biased in my love of Greenland paddles - but I do see how almost all stroke types tend to get used at one point or another.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby ewolin » Tue Feb 22, 2011 2:15 am

I've heard that most long-distance paddlers who start out with a high-angle stroke eventually settle into a low-angle stroke. I personally mix it up, but my latest paddle, a Werner Kalliste, is supposed to be optimum for low-angle strokes (just got it, haven't used it yet).

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Mark Sundin » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:25 am

I pretty much guarantee that if you watched the first 20 paddlers finishing each day's stage in an event like the 450km Murray Marathon, you wouldn't see any of them with what sea kayakers call a 'low angle' stroke. People who enter paddling from a competitive background, surf-ski, marathon or sprint, all paddle very much the same way, with terrific rotation. In 99% of cases, this produces a stroke where the top hand hand runs somewhere between your chin & eyes, what has become known as a high angle stroke. In paddle sports, where people are coached from the beginning of their career & are always striving for an advantage, efficiency is king. The only efficient way to paddle is with full rotation, allowing you to transfer all of your energy into the paddle stroke when it's upright, using all the power from the ball of your foot, through your legs & then your torso. If the paddle is upright, and the blade is immersed to the level it needs to be to maximise the paddle area, then so too will your hands be upright at the moment of maximum transfer, & you'll have a higher stroke. Not because you're trying to be high, just because that's the way the biomechanics work!
High or low is mainly a sea kayaking construct, which I believe stems from the self taught nature of most sea kayakers, & even sea kayak instructors. It feels easier, therefore it must be right? It might feel easier to have your hands lower, but you're nowhere near as efficient, and the chances are your stroke is also unsafe, from a biomechanical perspective, especially at the catch & the exit. I don't buy the argument that you need lower hands to cover more distance. What you need to cover long distance is efficiency, & I haven't see a low stroke yet that can incorporate the sort of rotation I consider to be necessary in a good forward stroke in order for it to be efficient.
Corrective strokes, supporting blended strokes etc can all be done at the angle that best saves your bacon or brings you back on course, & they should seamlessly blend with your forward stroke when you're in dynamic water. Forward stroke however, can only be done one way with very subtle variants if it's going to be efficient, both in terms of boat speed & biomechanics.
If you want an example of a guy with a beautiful ocean paddling stroke, at the lower end of high but still nowhere near 'low', go find some videos of Oscar Chalupsky at his peak.
Mark.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Roland » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:35 am

In shallow waters the low angle is obviously required (unless you have hardwood tips!).


Using a GP in shallow waters I find it hard to keep up with my buddies using using Euro blades. No problem keeping up in deep water, with a higher angle stroke, but using a very low angle, in a depth of 30cm approx, I can't get any purchase on the water. Any ideas?

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby beanzl » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:53 am

The angle depends mostly on how you paddle. High angle is usually faster because you can transfer power better. Lower angle is more like cruising. Not saying that you can't have a high angle cruise but it is just more relaxing when you paddle low angle.
Get Inspired on and off the water.
Sea kayaking in Scotland

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Megan » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:55 am

Fear of tendonitis or tenosynovitis causes me to keep a high angle. I was incurring an issue with my right wrist tendon area about a year ago so I got instructor Rob M to point out what I was doing wrongly. I consciously practicised to correct my previous bad habits and have not had any issues with my wrists since mid last year. I feel I am more likely to drag the paddle blade back too far and limit the arm room to exit the blade cleanly out of water if paddling at a low angle. A fringe benefit is a more powerful and long term efficient stroke especially when paddling with sea kayaks with up to a 1m longer waterline than mine.

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Last edited by Megan on Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby gages » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:32 am

Three of the strongest/fastest paddlers I have paddled with are low angle paddlers ,Stu Trueman ,Dave Winkworth and Larry Gray .Only one other paddler was stronger than those three Andy Mcauley who had a very(almost ridiculous) high angle stroke and he used a wing paddle as standard on the ocean where the other three used traditional flat blades

Stu has a powerful low angle low cadence stroke ,Dave's is just powerful and similar to Stu's and Larry's looked absolutely weird with almost his elbow sliding along the gunwales of his boat but it sure was powerful
All 4 are masters of long distance paddling (not to mention skill level)

When I paddle I use a mix of high and low strokes depending on how I feel/conditions etc. Its hard to paddle efficiently 100% of the time especially in a sea kayak when your being buffeted around by wind and waves and needing to throw a correction stroke in here and there

If it was just a flat water race and I was being assisted by rudders to maintain course then yes a High angle stroke would be the most efficient stroke to use but I 'm yet to see a paddler in any boat have enough control on an average day on the ocean to stay in that high angle stroke 100% of the time

Mix it around to get a blend of efficiency through low and high angle paddling .

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Mark Sundin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:59 am

"If it was just a flat water race and I was being assisted by rudders to maintain course then yes a High angle stroke would be the most efficient stroke to use but I 'm yet to see a paddler in any boat have enough control on an average day on the ocean to stay in that high angle stroke 100% of the time"

Here's a few examples of fantastic rotated forward stroke 98% of the time, on the ocean on an above average day:
http://vimeo.com/17332268 - watch after about 1:30
http://vimeo.com/16923178 - again, watch after about 1:30

There are plenty of others. This isn't flat water, nor is it unidirectional, & these boat are way more demanding than any sea kayak in the market, yet these guys pretty much universally paddle with a great rotated stroke, which coincidentally happens to be high angle. Why? Because most of them come through surf clubs or competitive paddlesports where they are coached from an early age. They are throwing in plenty of support strokes if you watch carefully, but forward stroke 98% of the time is a repeated form. True it's not 100%, but my point above was this:
'Corrective strokes, supporting blended strokes etc can all be done at the angle that best saves your bacon or brings you back on course, & they should seamlessly blend with your forward stroke when you're in dynamic water. Forward stroke however, can only be done one way with very subtle variants if it's going to be efficient, both in terms of boat speed & biomechanics.'
In any sport there are people who do it there own way & succeed. It doesn't mean it's an easy thing to teach others & repeat. Bradman was incredibly unorthodox if you read the old reports & nobody has ever suggested that his technique was one that can be repeated & coached to kids.
My point about all of these skills is that learning a solid base of skills which involve good biomechanics allows you to improvise & develop other things in your paddling that work for you, like Stu, Dave & Larry. You're inevitably going to develop them from a base of good rotation, which is the absolute key to any form of paddling, and have far less chance of doing yourself repetitive strain injuries from poor technique.
In my own case I have improved out of sight in every single aspect of my paddling since I undertook some serious stroke correction, especially with my forward stroke. What I thought I was doing well was actually rubbish in the eyes of a real expert, in my case an Olympic kayaker who set me straight. I'm still battling away trying to hone the stroke, which is hard but enjoyable work. As I've said, the high/low angle thing is a bit of a furphy, what we really should be asking is 'are you rotating, or aren't you rotating, in your paddle strokes'?

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby gnarlydog » Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:31 pm

your (professional) sportsman competitive background is showing in your posts, Mark.
It all makes sense if one's goal is winning races and to "be efficient" but there is truth in what Gages says too.
There is not only one way to paddle like there is not only one type of kayak that is right.
As individuals we have different goals and not of all us want to actually be schooled into the perfect most efficient "racing mentality" stroke. But I do understand that as an instructor you have to teach that.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby gages » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:53 pm

I understand what your saying Mark and agree with it mostly
There are many references from major players on this subject especially paddle makers.Werner have a description [url]http://www.wernerpaddles.com/paddles/design/
[/url] that makes a lot of sense

Some of those Ski paddlers actually use a low angle but with lots of rotation. Luckily they have a rudder under their bums so they can concentrate on their technique .I think its harder to keep the technique up there ( definitely something I still try and maintain)in a skeg or rudderless boat having to deal with other influences and slightly easier in a ruddered boat that's why they use them on all race boats

I use a 207 cm paddle that makes me use a high angle stroke but have a 217 cm paddle that forces me to use a lower angle and I cant be positive I have great rotation with the 217cm but I really feel the difference when I use the 207 and the cadence increases dramatically with the shorter length.

I'm going to take note and use the 217cm and try and use a high angle stroke to see if they go together ..high and longer or is shorter just better ??

Great topic !!

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Mark Sundin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:17 pm

Gnarly, I'm not saying there is only one way to paddle to go fast & win races, I'm saying there is only one way to learn basics, & they all revolve around rotation. People have no problem identifying a problematic high brace for example as being 'outside the box' & therefore dangerous. They take a bit more convincing to see that their forward stroke which slightly over exposes their shoulder joint every single time they take a stroke - maybe 20,000 times a day, is equally problematic. It will eventually cause them joint pain, it means they work harder than their mate who is technically more sound, and they are less efficient.
When you learn a sport, in my case cricket, you're taught the same set of universal truths about technique whether you're in Sydney, Barbados, Karachi or Manchester. Same goes for paddlers learning forward stroke at a racing club in Hungary, or Penrith, the basic principles are identical. The innovative stuff comes from p[layers who are already so sound in the basics that they're operating from a very high base skill set, and like the top ski paddlers they make thigs that are really very hard, look very easy.
This has never been the case in sea kayaking, I have people coming to me who spout a technique they've learnt from instructor A as being totally different to Instructor B, and in my opinion it is because this sport has evolved around the Bradman principle. In other words, he's a legend, what a paddler, we should do it the way he does it, even if what he has developed individually is really not very sound from a biomechanics perspective.
I know that sounds a bit high falutin' but really everyone should have goals in paddling to do things like forward stroke as well as they can. A good stroke makes racing, as well as gentle cruising, way easier. And, it's just as easy to learn to do it properly as it is to learn to do it badly.
And Laurie, you're kind of making my point for me. You're an experienced paddler with miles of sea paddling under your belt, who began with a good grab on the basics. You have the basics down pat. You can use that high base skills set to do what you want with your paddling now, & not really run the risk of doing anything that is going to be considered poor from a technical perspective.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby gages » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:09 pm

yep I said I agreed but not with the furphy that there is no high or low angle paddling, other than that especially the blending of the strokes ..was spot on

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby Earvin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:57 pm

Mark Sundin wrote: They take a bit more convincing to see that their forward stroke which slightly over exposes their shoulder joint every single time they take a stroke - maybe 20,000 times a day, is equally problematic. It will eventually cause them joint pain, it means they work harder than their mate who is technically more sound, and they are less efficient.


And this is why I have just spent a 2 hour session with Rob fine tuning my forward stroke and will probably spend some more time on it next session. It's the one I use the most so I may as well do it as best I can. It's a no brainer for me.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby haresfur » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:06 pm

I agree that overall a high angle stroke is more efficient and that good rotation is the key. But there are several ways to paddle with good rotation.

It is worth considering why it is difficult to get an average day-paddler to use an efficient stroke. I believe in part, it is due to lack of conditioning to use the muscles required. If you look at how high ski paddlers hold their arms - that in itself takes effort. It is effort well spent if you have the strength, but not all do. In addition it is easy to let the mechanics slide when tired.

I think it is well worth teaching an efficient forward stroke but realize it is a lifelong quest for most. As such learning rotation is the number one thing that will help even when the rest gets sloppy.

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Re: why are YOU a low or high angle paddler?

Postby JDJTas » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:18 pm

My experience in paddling shows that in strong headwinds and choppy seas a longer stroke maintains forward speed better than a shorter high angle stroke. In fact I find that by extending the stroke past my hips gives a more sustained forward speed. I have tested this many times by paddling next to companions and altering my stroke to a low, "extended" stroke. Sure if you want to go fast and accelerate a high angle stroke will do this but how many times do you really need this on an expedition paddle with a heavy kayak and adverse conditions?
Of course the experts say this is all wrong but for me it works.


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