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  From a wind resistance standpoint...
  Posted by: Bnystrom on Apr-06-13 5:59 PM (EST)
 

...feathered paddling has a very limited range of directions where it is advantageous and a much larger range where it is a disadvantage.

As the original poster pointed out, when paddling into a headwind, a paddle with any feather angle other than 0 or 90 degrees is going to have one blade that tends to rise and the other that dives. This can cause significant control issues, since the forces involved are trying to capsize the paddler. The same is true with a tailwind. With crosswinds, the blades catch wind (especially with 90 degree feather) and are pulled forward or back, depending on the wind direction.

It may be difficult to paddle unfeathered into a straight headwind, but at least it's consistent and there are no forces on the paddle trying to capsize you.

As to why many people still start out paddling feathered, it's generally either that they're taught that way or that they're taught the outdated concept that they must have a "control hand" when they paddle. If you're gripping the paddle firmly with one hand, it forces you to use a feathered paddle unless you use a very low stroke. As the paddling angle increase, the paddle naturally twists progressively more during the stroke, even with no wrist rotation.

If you maintain a loose grip on the paddle with both hands, feathering is unnecessary, regardless of the height of the stroke. That's why Greenland paddles work at any angle; Greenland technique does not use a control hand. The same is true of an unfeathered Euro paddle; as long as you don't use a control hand, it works just fine.

For some reason, this has been a difficult concept for some feathered paddle devotees to grasp over the years that this debate has been raging. That's probably because using a control hand can be difficult to unlearn once it's become an ingrained habit and until you learn to "let go", unfeathered paddling will not feel right.

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