Reflections from the Cockpit
"Using All of the Paddle"
May 2003

During one of my on water classes called "Bracing Beyond the Cockpit" at the April East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival in Charleston South Carolina one of my students asked me if my intention was getting people to move to Greenland Style paddling. The reason he asked the question is because extended paddle techniques were utilized during the class while using regular touring paddles (which some are now calling euro-paddles.)

My reply was "the extended paddle techniques are not primarily being used to promote Greenland Style paddling. However, the Greenland Style concept of using the entire paddle is a philosophy that has a lot of advantages regardless of the paddle being used."

How long should a paddle be? The answer is dependent upon your needs, your size, your kayak and whom you are asking. What your paddle length should be, is not the focus of this reflection. I can tell you the trend in paddle lengths for sea kayaking is shorter paddles. This trend adds even more reason to consider learning and using extended paddle techniques.

The potential resistance provided by the paddle (the lever) is determined by the distance from the tip of the blade that is in the water to the hand closest to that blade. The excess part of the paddle (the portion on the outside of your hand farthest from the blade in the water) is not being used in normal strokes. The farther the working blade is from your working hand, the greater the lever and the greater the resistance that lever can provide for any given paddle. If you look at some basic physical principles, the idea of using a longer lever at specific times makes sense. By moving the working blade farther from the working hand you get more leverage from it.

Advantages to the extended paddle position and the increased resistance it provides:
More brace time
More support for rolling (see extended paddle roll)
More turning potential with sweep strokes

Disadvantages to the extended paddle position and the resistance it provides:
Not practical for normal forward and reverse strokes
Support only on one side in any given position
More potential strain on the body due to the increased resistance during prolonged use

Extended paddle techniques can be used for support in some passive maneuvers and proactively in turning, bracing and rolling. There are times you need additional support when bracing. There are times you have to counteract the greater forces on windy days. You will appreciate greater support when you need that reliable roll. As conditions change so do our needs.

I have used the extended paddle techniques to improve my edging and leaning when turning while increasing my confidence level because I knew I was not going to capsize. More confidence meant I was more relaxed, which translated to better performance. I can vouch for the power I get when I need to do windy day turns when using extended paddle strokes.

Extended paddle techniques are not commonly discussed in any detail in the kayaking books presently on the market. I learned my extended paddle skills from Derek Hutchinson’s during one of his specialty clinics. He has also put these skills on an instructional video (Beyond the Cockpit) with some great teaching progressions for improved bracing, edging and leaning.

When you are in a position that calls for greater power and support, you can take a lesson from the Greenland Style kayakers and use the entire paddle, if the technique is appropriate to your circumstance, rather than only using the paddle in the standard paddling position.

As a side note, over time we will be adding more of the extended paddle strokes to our skills pages. See this months skill of the month (Extended Paddle Forward Sweep Stroke).


Wayne Horodowich


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