On the Water And In The Woods

Sea kayaking, sailing, and lightweight backpacking in the-Chesapeake Bay, Mid-Atlantic region

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Single Blading

During the last several years a friend has completed two of the watertribe challenges, including an ultimate florida circumnavigation. One of the items he used during the last trip was a single blade canoe paddle modified for use with his kayak. The theory is that using a single blade paddle for very long distance days reduces fatigue since you are only lifting half a kayak paddle, and don't have really any windage issues from an upraised blade. Intrigued by his comments, and what I have been reading on the long distance paddling networks, I have borrowed one of his paddles to use for a while.

The paddle I have been using is a Power Surge FW-Z Light. Weight is listed as 8.5 ounces. The actual paddle is less, since the owner has reduced the shaft length to allow for easier paddling from a kayak seated position. The paddle is bent shaft, 12 degree angle, and constructed of carbon fiber.

Sea Kayaker Magazine's June edition has a nice article on how to paddle a sea kayak with one of these. I read the article a couple of times, then took the paddle to the water to give it a try. Here were my first impressions.

This is a very light paddle. When changing sides, I feel like I have to be careful not to accidently throw the paddle away. I'm wondering how this would feel in very high wind situations. But then again, I'm not sure I'd use this in high winds and waves, as there might be times when the paddle is on the port side, and the brace needs to be on the starboard. The paddle is very well made; sturdy, with no noticeable give or flex.

I normally paddle with a greenland paddle, and the stroke distance (how you put the paddle in the water, and where you take it out) feel very similiar between the greenland and single blade paddles. The rapid cadence of the blade stroke will feel very familiar to greenland paddlers. So far I've only used the paddle in my Outer Island(http://www.impexkayak.com/outer_island.html), which has a skeg and no rudder. Without the skeg, in flat water with no wind I'm taking about four strokes per side before I veer too far off course. With the skeg down, I'm at about eight strokes per side before switching. You lose time, momentum, speed, and rhythm by having to switch sides, which I suspect I'm doing badly. I suspect that in a ruddered boat the course correction issue will improve and I will be able to paddle longer, if not as long as I want, on one side before switching to relieve my muscles. Using a GPS, I can comfortably cruise for many hours in the Outer Island at about 3.2-3.4 mph in flat water with winds 10 knots or less on the beam. At an excercise pace I can average about 3.6-4.0 mph. I suspect my speed will go up with a ruddered boat. In a semi-serious sprint, I can hit and hold 6.0 mph for a couple of minutes.

J stroking does not appear to be much of an option with these paddles. The bend in the blade/shaft connection seems to drop your speed quickly when you rudder. Sweep strokes work well. Side sculling strokes work well. I can roll with the paddle. It is similiar to rolling with half of a euro blade. Use an extended arm sweep from a Pawlatta roll. Rolling with the power face down is easier than with the back of the blade. The paddle works much like a traditional kayak paddle as an outrigger when entering or exiting the boat.

I could see myself using this paddle for day trips where I am trying to go very long distances on windless days, or to use in the last third of a very long paddle as a change of pace from my typical greenland paddle. All in all, something that I will be experimenting with further in the coming weeks.


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