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  Posted by: gstamer on Apr-06-13 1:41 PM (EST)

Good posts. This becomes cultural: students get into kayaking, take a class, are taught to paddle feathered, grow in experience, become the next generation of teachers and teach their students feathered -- sometimes without questioning fundamental beliefs.

A year ago I taught a forward paddling class with Ken Fink. During our discussion I mentioned that I used a wing paddle unfeathered and he was simply flabbergasted and shocked. He did not deny my claim and he respects my skills, but the idea that you HAD to feather in order to paddle a wing with a high stroke (to square the non-controlled hand blade) was so ingrained in his mind, that he no longer questioned it.

I find there are many things that we learn in kayaking 101 that we take as gospel and never question again. For example, when you start to use a GP or a wing you quickly learn to throw away advice that was once commonly taught such as "never let your pushing hand cross the center-line of the kayak". These ingrained beliefs are difficult to shake and cause confusion because often you don't even realize that they are part of your thinking (or muscle memory).

Challenging ingrained beliefs, either within yourself, or the paddling community, is not easy. Skills become vested, especially among individuals and organizations that teach and certify them, so change is always a messy, turbulent process. Muscle memory doesn't like change, so any change feels awkward and strange for a long time.

Having said all this, please don't think that I am endorsing unfeathered as "the way". Both feathered and unfeathered have their strengths and weaknesses. A good paddler will understand this and excel with the method they choose.

Greg Stamer

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