Originally Posted by zcollier
I feel that to advance your skills you should be both a puller and a pusher. If you're doing class III, rivers you've memorized, or big water without technical moves then you can stick to being just be a "pusher." Pulling is required by rapids like Blossom Bar and more technical Class IV+ (or harder) rivers like the Wind, Cherry Creek, Cal Salmon, or North Fork of the American. You can get away with just pushing on big water rivers like the Grand Canyon or the Futalelufu. On most Western multi-day trips you can get away with pushing and want to in order to make miles.
In our rowing schools we teach "pull away from dangers" as a Class III skill and "can push aggressive moves" as a Class IV skill. We find that rowers that come from a drift boat background tend to pull too much. We also find that kayakers and people that learned from their boating friends push too much.
We find the most problems occur when boaters try to push away from logs or wrap rocks. Pulling is a critical skill when there are particularly dangerous spots on rivers.
Then of course there is what we call the downstream ferry where you look over your shoulder and pull downstream. This is a great tool for some moves - especially harder rivers.
Here is a video from one of our Class IV rowing schools showing students having different levels of success trying out both pushing and pulling on a rapid where you can do either:
Obviously all techniques are needed when navigating Class III-V whitewater and different rivers need different techniques to match.
That said...at least from your videos...I see you doing a lot of strokes that pull upstream to slow down and make time to move. I use that sometimes too...but predominantly try to keep moving downstream at least a little bit. Maybe its just a habit left over from my kayaking days...since killing momentum by back paddling is gonna result in a bad result 9 times out of 10. I also don't like to waster effort... I'm gonna put in a stroke, I'd prefer it move me down the river a bit faster in addition to it maneuvering the boat.
I don't think there is anything wrong with preferring either technique... its just a personal style thing. Like we've said though...the two styles don't always mesh if they are are both in the same group unless you get the boat order correct. Pushers do a lot of waiting on those days though
. Oh...and I'm also one of those weird oar feathering guys you talked about in the pins n clips vs oarlocks video.
I did watch this video...and tend to agree more with Zac from Sawyer then with Zach with NWS...but again its personal preference. I'm a huge fan of the Squaretop and at least from all the oars I've tried they have the lowest swing weight and best feeling in the hand of anything out there. There is no comparison to a counterbalanced composite oar. I don't feel any of the momentum and having to stop the oar like you do with a Counterbalanced MX, Polecat, or the Cataract brand stuff. I've tried a bunch of different setups, usually when someone wants to try the Squaretops to see what all the hype is about, so have at least some personal experience with a bunch of different oars. The MX is a great oar for sure and I know lots of people are happy with them. They'd probably be my second choice. I don't think you can count out the Polecat from the competition either...especially if you like the stiffness of the MXG. Heavier for sure...but they seem at least as strong as anything out there and you won't feel as horrible abusing them.
The only real downside I find with the Squaretop is the argument that you loose the whole oar if you break the shaft. It seems like most of the time someone breaks the oar, at least anecdotally for me, is when they flip or swim and it gets wedged between the boat and an obstacle. A lot of the time when that happens, the part with the blade is never found...so you are still out of luck and will have to buy a new oar anyways. I'll admit it is kinda nice to be able to take the blade off to get the oars in the back of my truck without sticking out...but the pluses outweigh that inconvenience.
Strength wise, I've never witnessed a squaretop breaking and have seen a bunch of composite oars do so including three MX oars on a single Grand trip. I'll admit its probably 8 or 10 to 1 composite oars to Squaretops... but so far mine have held up awesomely. I've put my 9' pair through hell over the last couple years and other then the Dynel edges wearing down they have take that abuse very well on class IV+ rocky creeks. I'm considering ordering a set of XD's to combat that...but we'll see. Like they said in the video...composite oars get a side hit and they are done. Maybe not right that second...but its not gonna be long.
In addition to reducing weight at the ends of the oar...I find the taper of the Squaretops to be hugely beneficial in keeping them from breaking and getting them back in the locks when they pop out. You can fit them fairly tight in the lock where the rope wrap is....but because of the taper you can pull them in and out of the lock about a foot past the end of rope wrap.
With oars that are the same diameter all the way...you have to make the decision on whether to keep the oar locks tight and have it be hard to get the oars in and out of the locks or vice versa. You basically have to put the oar in the lock down by the blade with composite oars. Some manufacturers make that especially hard with the flat spot where the blade goes into the shaft... which is one of the nice things about Sawyer oar blades across the board (and others...but not all).
I say they keep it from breaking as much because if you see an obstacle coming that might smash an oar...its pretty easy to just pull the oar out of the lock into the boat...get passed the obstacle...and then pop it back in. Its also much more likely pop out of the oarlock during a hit. It does mean you could spend more time pulling an oar out of the water after it pops out during a swim...but I'd rather fish an intact oar out of the water then have it get stuck in the lock and break.
I'm sure the Smoker Bandit is an amazing oar...but I'm skeptical whether it will work for how I boat. I love the light weight nature of it...but it also seems more fragile then I would prefer too. I'd still love to try a pair on an easy run.