Monday, September 5, 2011

Lesson on a stick..

In the warmer months I look forward to spending some time with all three types of paddles enjoying many styles of kayaking.

For exercise I like the solid grip of the wing and the feedback it provides you about catch and rotation. The wing is uncomprimising power.

For all round boat control my flat "euro" blade feels superb, allowing fast linking of sweeping, slicing and power strokes. My favourite all rounder for rock hopping, guiding and surf. If there is manouvering to be done the flat is so versatile.

The Greenland stick is so quiet in the water it is clearly my stealth blade of choice and wonderful for support and rolling strokes. It is very tactile and generates lift that can be harnessed for many purposes.

The simplistic myths of the "weak greenland stick", the "brutal flat blade roll" and the "joint destroying wing" are surely behind us and need no further refutation. Let's just say that in each of these crude stereotypes the problem lies with poor technique or understanding rather than equipment.

In my paddling world I am wary of dogma, I don't choose to become an advocate for one style of paddling or one style of paddle because I don't have to. Besides, the principles of good body mechanics remain the same no matter what you have in your hands. If you are happy with your paddle of choice, and you are neither critical of others or curious by what other paddles may have to offer, then this challenge is probably not for you and I have utmost respect for whatever your choice.

On the other hand, my challenge to the zealots is to try the other blades regularly and develop an understanding of why they have succeeded. If you can use all three with a reasonable level of competence then you are in a better position to decide whether you would still really rather chase running seas with a stick, do the reverse sweep roll with a euro blade or rock hop with a wing.

Obviously we might often combine rolling, touring and rock gardening all in the one day so there is a need for realistic comprimise and I respect that we may have different priorities in choosing the right paddle for us.

From the elegant simplicity of the stick to the advanced geometry of the wing I feel there is much to learn by keeping an open mind. If you want to understand the appeal of other paddles and styles try paddling a ski with a stick, greenland rolling with a euro and surfing with a wing.

These have all been done before with varying degrees of success and high degrees of fun.

If you approach these "left field" challenges with an open mind you will not only learn why all these paddles have their niche; you will also learn about your ability to adapt to the improbable and discover that it doesnt pay to take yourself or your favourite style of paddle too seriously.

Every paddle requires different techniques. To adapt to any boat-paddle combination is to learn about yourself and that is why I see each of my paddles as "a lesson on a stick".


JA said...

Lovely post Rob,
I tried a little gentle rock hopping with my wing on Saturday afternoon, it was an interesting exercise :)

John A.

Bryan said...

Great points about using the right tool for the job. I have a hard time caring what paddles other kayakers use or if they're a zealot in their choices. Frankly, that doesn't reflect on my choices. I just shrug my shoulders at the "zealots" and use whatever paddle I happen to have in my hands.