Posted by: bobdvm on Apr-11-12 2:33 PM (EST)
While Wayne Horodowich makes good points that are well substantiated, I would just like to pull a little harder here, so to speak, for wing paddles. Though Wayne felt the wing paddle might be more stressful, since it bites harder, consider that if you can go faster with less effort, that means that instead of exerting more force, you can actually slack off 3-5%, creating less strain for the same speed.
Another issue though is that the wing paddle technique is very different from either euro or greenland technique. I believe that wing technique is the least stressful on the body, because it distributes the load the most evenly. No matter what anyone says about rotating the torso, euro paddlers pull with the arms and shoulders. Until you're in a hull that simply doesn't allow it, that's what you'll do. It feels unnatural and effortful to make the big whole-body motions that a wing paddle asks for. But once you do make them, the load on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists drop off tremendously. So much more of your force comes from pushing with your upper hand, and the onset of force builds more gradually when you pull with your legs and abdomen instead of your arms.
So, I would say the wing paddle is actually the gentlest paddle at speed. But, the issue is that often you're not going all that fast if you're touring or paddling with friends, and in that case the more elaborate motions needed to get the paddle swung up for a vertical catch, and the hips rotated with the legs, and the powerful but short-range abdomen pull, all starts to get energy-wasting. You do all that motion, and then put in a little mild 4mph stroke.
Anyway, that's my take on it. I think if you're finding the wing paddle stressful, there's a decent chance you're doing it wrong, and the only for-sure way to correct it that I've found is by getting on something really skinny where flaws in balance and symmetry drop you into the water, and paddling it until full-force is a balanced, graceful feeling. At which point all the joint stresses pretty much drop away, and you're stuck against the limits of your heart and lungs.
But again, this is fitness-paddling perspective. On slow trips I still use the wing, but tend to just treat it like a euro.
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