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Old 09-17-2013   #1
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 57
Is Hand Paddling Easier and Safer for your Shoulders?

Looking for opinions of Hand Paddling vs with a paddle.

I have had two shoulder surgeries on my right shoulder (strongside roll) and am having issues getting back on the horse. I last hurt my shoulder while snapping a quick roll at the bottom Blackrock to avoid the undercut. Had surgery and it is strong now, but I'm constantly fearing that if I go for a hard combat roll again, that it will pop. It isn't a fun way to paddle being scared of having to roll, and is causing me not to go.

I have decided that it is no longer an option to not paddle. I plan to hit a lot of pool sessions this winter and get comfortable rolling again, to hopefully get those doubting thoughts out of my head. That is why I'm considering hand paddling as well. It seems that the hand roll puts your shoulder in a less compromising position. But conversely, it looks like while hand paddling in the river that your arms are more often extended, and you definitely flip more often. Can you grab eddies as well hand paddling. Boofing?

So just not sure what to do here. Thanks for the help.


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Old 09-17-2013   #2
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 183
I hand-paddle often, unless I need the power to push through big holes or waves. You'll flip more, because your brace is weaker, and you don't have as much power. I use paddle-gloves, but I can flip bare-handed, or even with just one hand without problem (pear shaped girls unite!). Sometimes even if I have my paddle, I'll drop it to roll quicker with my hands, which is kind of a bad habit, because then I have to grab my paddle again, assuming it hasn't floated away.

The point is, you can flip pretty easily paddle-free if you really work on a good hip flick. I flip mostly with just my hips. Guys have it harder, but if you practice that, you barely need to use your arms anyways (unless you're in something really rough, stuck, etc), so you can save your shoulder!

If you're wondering how to do it, find almost any girl at the pool session and ask her.

*edit*- and as far as boofing or anything else goes, you can definitely play, surf, and squirt - it's just harder, and will require much more use of your shoulder than a roll likely would. I don't know about boofing, I could never do that even with a paddle.

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Old 09-17-2013   #3
4CRS, Durango, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 295
I hand paddle almost exclusively and I do feel it is easier on the shoulders. You do not have the leverage of the paddle pulling on shoulders during bracing and rolling. I do not feel I flip more often as you can brace on both sides at the same time basically giving yourself outriggers. Catching eddies is not a problem. Boofing. It's a little harder in many situations, sometimes it's easier. I do miss my paddle in some situations, big water is a bitch, it will crush your arms and sap your strength. I miss the speed I had with a paddle, railing shit is just not as easy without the speed you have with a paddle. Hand paddling forces you to pay more attention to the subtleties of the river currents. Give it a try, see what you think.
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Old 09-17-2013   #4
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David Miller's Avatar
Gypsum, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 458
Im a rafter and not a kayaker. Don't know anything about paddling but I know a lot about rehab. If you want to get back where you were you need to spend every free hour in the Gym doing exercises recommended by you physical therapist. Truth is you have lots of pain ahead but you can get back to where you will not worry when you use your shoulder. Pain in the Gym will equal confidence on the water. God Bless.
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Old 09-17-2013   #5
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 123
I think it might depend on the shoulder issue, or I need to build mine up more (ok that's a given). While I like hand paddling, and rolling with them is easier than with a paddle I feel, I do feel that paddling with them is harder on my shoulders. I notice it more on the shoulder I had labrum repair done on, but do feel it in both shoulders. If I have been good and my shoulders are feeling strong and I've been doing exercises, it's not too bad. But if I start slacking, I will feel more pain from hand paddles (Riverholic pro paddles) than my Werner's.
"Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing." -- Werner von Braun
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Old 09-17-2013   #6
Miller Time's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 288
I too creek a lot with hand paddles. Play boating can sometimes be harder on the shoulder if you are sloppy. Avoid ever letting your arms go back behind your shoulders, especially front surfing.

As for creeking, I agree with Tony. Speed is something you wish you had in some cases. I like the maneuverability of hand paddles (can track a line well with essentially two draw strokes). Even with a two hand boof it is not as powerful as one might think.

Back to the real topic.....shoulders. I don't find it hard on my shoulders. Too many times people rely on a high brace and hurt themselves WITH a paddle. Good luck with the recovery!!
History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.
-Winston Churchill-
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Old 09-21-2013   #7
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 31
Hands paddling and shoulders

I think hands paddling is a bigger shoulder workout. On the plus side, you have to get the know the water better and plan ahead a little more. It is harder to get up the speed for a spiffy eddy out if there is a wide eddy wall or squirrely water. You can just as easily throw out a shoulder, believe it or not, if you ignore the same "window of safety" as with a paddle roll, that is if you stretch out, back, and rotate your shoulder out. With either paddle or hands roll equally you have to make sure you are rolling with your hips not your arms.
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Old 09-22-2013   #8
Flying_Spaghetti_Monster's Avatar
Farmington, Utah
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 707
Most of the hand paddlers I know in the South East are hand paddlers because of shoulder issues. I love hand paddling, and I feel that it is easier on the shoulders. It also builds the muscles needed to prevent shoulder injuries. I make, and sell hand paddles. I have had some supplier issues, but that seems to be worked out. Check them out peakperformancepaddles.com
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Old 09-23-2013   #9
Flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 382
What's it like getting a hand paddle off quickly? Can you get at your sprayskirt grab loop w them on?
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Old 09-23-2013   #10
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
I've met a lot of paddlers who got shoulders repaired and got back to paddling with a stick with no problem.

Sounds to me like fear is the problem more than the paddle. If it was me I would work on the fear and paddle with a stick vs. trying to learn to paddle with hand paddles.

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