Bring the boats up to a relaxed cruising speed. Both paddlers will maintain this cadence. Paddler #2 will change their grip on the paddle so that only the thumb and 1st or 2nd fingers of each hand are holding the shaft (like making the O.K. sign). Both paddlers continue for one to two hundred yards and note what separation, if any develops. A variation is to use only the fingers of the lower hand while the upper hand cradles the shaft against the web of skin between the thumb and index finger.
What most paddlers find:
Most teams stay together over the distance. One paddler did it with much less energy expended to hold the paddle.
Lessons to learn:
We generally grip the shaft more tightly than is necessary for control. A tighter grip shortens your reach, fatigues your hands and arms faster, reduces circulation, and may contribute to repetitive stress injuries. You may need a more aggressive grip on the shaft if you’re fighting 20 knot winds, but even then you’ll still benefit from the most relaxed grip the conditions will allow.
Get the boat up to cruising speed. With one hand hold the paddle with the “Cobra Death Grip?. With the other hand, hold the shaft with a very relaxed grip. Does the boat turn away from the “death grip? side or the relaxed grip side? Which grip allows the blade to enter further forward?
When the blade enters the water at the beginning of a forward stroke, hold the shaft with just the thumb and one finger. As you begin to apply force to the blade, add fingers one at a time until you’ve got a firm grip on the shaft. Do you feel any loss of control?
For the next experiment you don’t need a boat; just a paddle shaft or broomstick will do. With one hand, grip the shaft and squeeze moderately hard. Maintain that constant pressure. With the other hand squeeze the shaft firmly for two seconds then open the hand for three seconds. Squeeze for two seconds, open for three seconds. Repeat this sequence for a period of 2 minutes. How do your forearms feel? Is there any change in your grip strength? How do you think it would feel after two hours? How would your circulation be affected?
Atlantic Kayak Tours, Expert Center
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