How Surfski Equipment Tweaks can Reduce Injuries Part 2
In part 1 we took a look at the weight of the boat and how important it is when it comes to managing injuries.
In part 2 we take a look at the paddle, where the real magic lies. My first paddling injury was a bad case of tennis elbow. It almost ended my paddling career before it had a chance to get going. In an effort to keep paddling, I started to experiment with the paddle’s feather angle. I radically changed from 60 degrees to 20 degrees and immediately noted an improvement. As the injury improved I gradually increased the feather angle until the elbow started to hurt again and then backed off the angle slightly. 45 degree feather has been the magic number for me and I have recommended this to quite a few people with great success. But everyone is different so trial and error is the way fwd.
On a side note the only reason feather angle exists, as far as I am aware, it to reduce wind resistance of the out of water blade. Only a 90 degree feather angle really takes advantage of this and given the relatively slow speeds of our sport, I am not sure if there is much advantage to be gained. Anything less than 90 will give wind resistance to more or less the same degree. So there is not much to be gained by having a 60 degree feather over 20 degrees or even zero. There is some evidence to suggest that there is natural off set angle between our left and right wrists. So choose what’s comfortable for you.
Here is a great link for more on feather angle
This feather angle change also had the pleasant side effect of reducing the strain I was feeling in my wrist. While I never had full blown wrist tendonosis, I wager the feather angle will have a dramatic impact on this class of injury. The more neutral, or less flexed, the wrist is during the push phase of the stroke, the less tendon strain there will be.
Most recently I have been plagued with the dreaded fore arm pump, more accurately known as compartment syndrome. Basically your forearm feels like it’s going to explode. Your grip strength disappears and your fingers go numb. A good warm up and managing intensity helped tremendously but I was still struggling. It was suggested I try a skinnier paddle shaft and I have not looked back since. The situation improved almost instantly. I have 2 paddles, both with a skinny shaft.
The bigger blades can still stress my forearm if, I am out of shape, my training load is high or I don’t warm up. My smaller set makes me bullet proof when it comes to forearm pump. They are an easy pulling blade that does not make any heavy demands on my technique. I flip between the 2 depending on the needs of the session or race. But always a skinny shaft of around 26mm diameter (83mm circum). A standard shaft diameter is around 28mm (93mm circum). This small change has made a massive difference. The skinny shaft has also improved the tennis elbow and rotator cuff niggles. It seems all the physiological structures involved in the paddling stroke are that much more relaxed.
I also suffer quite badly from numb legs which I have been able to solve through padding my seat in a very specific manner. I will cover that in part 3.
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