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Old 05-04-2016   #1
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 160
Choking up on the paddle

I have noticed over the years my hands have gradually gotten closer together on my paddle. I learned and paddled for years with the 90 degree elbow bent rule. In the last few years without noticing I have gradually moved my hands closer. Not drastically but enough to make a difference. When I go back to the 90 degree form it feels very weird since I'm not used to it. I feel like I lose leverage and power while bracing, boofing and rolling. I assume the draw back is more force on the shoulders?

I have a 6'-8" wing span with a 203cm Powerhouse straight shaft paddle if that makes any difference.

Is the 90 degree rule more of a general rule? Are people these days chocking up a little more than they used too?


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Old 05-04-2016   #2
KSC's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
I've personally experienced the exact same trend. That said, there seem to be good boaters that use both a relatively wider and narrower grip.

Do you think your grip changes based on paddle length? I recently bumped up a size in length and find my grip seems to gravitate to the same width irrespective of the length.

In my ideal world I wish bent shaft paddles came in variations on placement of the bend. I've noticed AT puts the bent closer toward the center which is a much more natural place for me.

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Old 05-04-2016   #3
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 160
Nice to see I'm not the only one.

I don't think my grip spacing changes with the paddle length but it's hard to tell. Last year I went from a 200 to a 203 and I immediately noticed more power in all phases. Maybe I will measure my distance in the 203 that feels right. Compare that to the distance in the 200 that feels right.

Also, is it me or are people going with longer and longer paddles these days? A longer paddle would mean more leverage in general so it makes sense at the expense of your shoulders.
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Old 05-04-2016   #4
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 808
I have found myself doing the same thing. I'm now that the point that I'm often not using the bends in my bent shaft paddle at all. I think that the narrower grip provides more power- like being in a taller gear on your bike. But it comes at the expense of stroke placement if you are inexperienced, and it only works if you paddle with torso rotation. A narrow grip with arm paddling will make you look like a T-Rex.

Since I don't use the bends anymore, I'm considering going back to a straight shaft, and maybe a size longer too...
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Old 05-04-2016   #5
Duluth, Minnesota
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 175
Same here..I think it's a "power over time" thing. Basically you're getting a longer application of power vs a shorter, more powerful burst. If I find myself getting tired and sloppy my hands are usually wider and I'm trying to overpower everything. If I slide in I'm much more attentive to stroke placement and the current.

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Old 05-04-2016   #6
Sacramento, California
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 232
I've noticed I do the same. I don't think I ever followed the 90 degree rule, but lately I've been trying to train myself to hold the paddle a little wider, closer to the 90 degree rule. I am not sure how important it is, just that it is the way it is taught, and thought I should at least try it out.
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Old 05-04-2016   #7
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Huson, Montana
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 990
Me too. But I changed it on purpose. I found that it is much quicker with a close grip to switch sides when playboating . I can take more quick strokes when I don't need as much power but do need control. When I need a power stroke i spread back out.
"You're gonna be doin a lot of doobie rolling when youre LIVIN IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER"
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Old 05-04-2016   #8
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 567
I am a crusty old crumdgen that has watched this for years and the compromise I have come up with is having thumbs a little wider than shoulders.

After having a number of students come back from World Class paddling too close together. I started looking at images of good paddlers online young and old, slalom racers, flatwater racers, playboaters, and general paddlers. The old farts were all 90ish Dane is close to 90, Levinson closer to shoulder width, Ben Marr halfway between, Some slalom racers were less then shoulder width but most were closer to 90

the trade off is power vs dexterity. Wider more power and ergonomics. Closer speed and dexterity.

Wider grip gives more power. To use the lever analogy - your bottom hand is the fulcrum or pivot point. The closer it is to the blade the longer the lever is to your top hand. You can also think of it as the farther away you move your hand the longer lever the water has. Often mistaken that having to pull harder means it is more powerful. Wider hands is like granny gear, Narrow hands is know the other gear where you have to push harder. Flatwater racers are generally closer 90 degrees.

Narrower allows for more dexterity and speed. Your hands don't have to move as far so they will move the paddle faster. Of course this allows for you not to use your body as much. For example you can get your paddle pretty close to a bow draw position with out turning your torso at all if your grip is really close. However you have no power. Your shoulders are bent too tightly and you are just using your forearms.

Which brings me to what we call in the business "...being stacked" One thing to take into consideration is joint alignment and the paddlers box. Not only does this protect your shoulders but keeping your wrists in front of your elbows and in front of your shoulders provides power and less torque on joints. having a wide grip forces your to use your body more. That takes time but you get the power back out. Pretend you are holding your paddle like normal. You probably have a natural forward bend at the shoulders 40 to 50 degreesish and a natural bend at the elbow 30 to 40 degreesish. Now pull your hands straight back to compare them with your shoulders and you will find you are a couple inches wider than your shoulders.
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Old 05-04-2016   #9
Flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 384
My grip had gotten narrow over the years too. I recently paddled with a very well respected instructor who encouraged me to be just inside of 90 degrees. That put my hands right back on the bent shaft of a 197 Werner Player which I rarely used any more because the grip felt too wide. One of the main reasons I think I went narrow was because it felt quicker & easier to get the paddle shaft vertical during a stroke. I've been trying out near 90 again & there are some definite benefits. It forces better technique to get the shaft vertical, and creates more stability when bracing. When your hands are closer together they wind up on the same side of the cockpit when bracing. Near 90 results in only one hand off to the side in most braces, the other hand is over or very near being over the cockpit still, which improves stability. It is taking some getting used to but I'm liking it...

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