The feather of your kayak paddle refers to the angle your blades are offset from one another. Feathering your blades is especially helpful in windy conditions. When one blade is in the water, the one in the air can slice through the wind rather than be a drag in the wind. An unfeathered paddle is more intuitive to use, so using a feathered paddle takes some practice. And whether you feather at all is completely up to you. Feathering a kayak paddle simply means you adjust the ferrule on the shaft so the blades are at an angle to each other rather than straight. The ferrule is where the two pieces of the kayak paddle come together in the middle of the shaft.
Why does Feathering matter?
Feathering your kayak paddle is really a matter of personal choice. Some paddlers feather and some don’t. Here are the most common reasons for feathering:
When it’s windy and the wind is at your face, you can feather your paddle and adjust your wrists so the blade that’s out of the water is flat instead of broadside to the wind. You’ll notice less wind resistance. On the other hand, if the wind’s at your back, you may want the wind to catch your blade since it’ll push you forward a bit with each stroke. So in that case, don’t feather. In high-angle paddling, many paddlers find feathering is easier on their wrists for long days of touring or fishing. This is something you’ll want to experiment with. Try it and see how it works for you. If you have unlimited feathering options, try different angles and see what you like. Feathering could give you a slight edge in paddling speed if speed and efficiency is important, say in racing or a fishing tournament.
Whether you feather your paddle or not isn’t a right-or-wrong choice, but a preference. Many kayak paddles have adjustable ferrules that permit the paddler to adjust the feathering on-the-fly to fit the specific situation. Most kayak paddles today can be feathered between 15 and 60 degrees. 60 is most typical, except for whitewater paddlers, who usually use 30 to 45 degrees because of the rough conditions they face. Experiment the next time you’re out in your kayak. Try feathering in different conditions and see if it helps you. Try different angles if your ferrule system allows for it.
How to use a Feathered Paddle?
Your control hand is the hand nearest to the blade entering the water. It should be 6-12 inches up the shaft from the blade, with your big knuckles lined-up with the edge of the blade. Your other hand will hold the shaft an equal distance from the off-blade. At the end of each stroke with your control hand, your off-hand will rotate the shaft so that blade is ready to enter the water for the next stroke. Loosening your hand and rotating the shaft happens between every stroke. Of course if you decide not to feather your paddle, you won’t need to rotate your shaft between strokes. Be sure to hold your paddle without a tight grip. Keep your hold firm, but relaxed. You’ll experience less fatigue as well as help prevent blisters and over-use injuries.
Sit in Your Kayak Properly. As you sit in your kayak, you should be sitting upright - not leaning back. Your feet should rest securely on the foot pedals, your knees slightly bent and a little apart. You’ll find one of the most important difference between basic kayaks and higher-end ones is the quality and comfort of the seat and back support