Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A superb paddle!

The superb quality and outstanding performance of BRAČA-SPORT paddles is highlighted by the number of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals won at World Championships and Olympic Games by athletes using our products. The majority of today’s world class paddlers make BRAČA-SPORT their #1 choice.
BRAČA-SPORT paddles enjoyed great popularity at the World Championships and the Olympic Games of the millennium in Sydney. An overwhelming majority of the finalists used our paddles.
The Braca I is the original design and our most widely used paddle. A number of our other models were developed from this ever-popular classic shape. It is recommended for male athletes. (picture and text - )

My newest toy is this high tech carbon fibre wing paddle! On his continuous quest for perfection one of the team members of the Dutch National Flatwater Kayak Selection changed his paddle brand. So I could take over an as good as new Braca I. I am so happy. Since a long time I want to experiment with a wing paddle. Once in a while I had a change to borrow one for an hour or so, but now I have got my own one and really can work on it!

First impressions after an hour paddling this morning: Wow! It feels enormous powerful and gives a great speed sensation. However, I must admit that, after just one try-out, it’s very difficult to say if it’s more than only the suggestion of power and speed. Checking with the GPS I noticed that there was no difference in the max speed I could make with the Euro-paddle or with the Wing. With both paddles over 11 km/h it felt as if I was paddling against a wall and I couldn’t make any more speed. As the Pintail isn’t known as a seakayak with a high hull speed, it is probably not the best kayak to do this test. I also tried out a flatwater-touringkayak of Wyrda. I could paddle that kayak on a higher speed level without fighting against my own bow wave, so I suppose in a faster kayak there should be more difference noticeable in max speed between the Euro and the wing.
It is even more difficult to make objective comparisons about cruising-speed. I paddled the Pintail with the Wing comfortable at 9 km/h, but I can’t say if that took more or less effort than with the Euro-blade. I suppose it costs less energy. I did my favourite test round (“het rondje Singel”) paddling fast, without pushing it to the limit, in 17.45 min. My best time before with the Pintail was 18.20 min. My personal record on this course is (with the Svalbard - a faster seakayak than the Pintail) 17.20 min. I made that record the first time I did “rondje Singel” with a stopwatch, more than a year ago, and since then I never came close to this PR.

After trying out speed, I did some experiments with the handling of the Wing paddle. Rolling left and right didn’t give any problem. The butterfly-roll (one of the rolls I learned from Freya) also went perfect. But that is no wonder: as a matter of fact you don’t need a paddle for the butterfly-roll (without a paddle: call it a hand-roll!). The big surprise came with the re-entry with an extended paddle: normally one of the easier exercises, but this time: I hardly made it! It took me 3 times before I could come up with the Wing Paddle. I really had to figure out how to keep the paddle-blade from diving. The asymmetric shape of the blade requires much attention. Sculling also proved to be a challenge, but I made it on the right side.
The awkward thing about the handling of the wing I found the behaviour with all those small corrective strokes you normally make without even thinking about it. With a moving kayak and strokes like the bow draw or rudder the wing blade tends to “bite” suddenly in the water. I have to work on that!

Altogether: I do realise I still have to learn to adapt my paddle style to the wing. That will cost some time, and I am looking for an experienced wing-paddler near Woerden to coach me. First I want to concentrate on the forward stroke: hoping for more speed on longer distances. There is an old K1-racing kayak at Wyrda, no one uses it: in the next months it’s mine!


Rene van der Zwan said...

Hi Hans,

Welcome in the Wing-club. Congratulations with your new Wing.

I will follow you and your wing-experiences because I am curious about your comments on it.

I advise you to take your time in getting used to it because you have to change quite a lot of reflexes (necessary for quick recovering or manoeuvring strokes) with your paddle that you can not count on anymore without changing; you will notice you start learning again.

About the speed sensation I expect you will first have to improve your paddling style and get used to the wing before you will notice that your speed has increased. Anyhow, it must be faster otherwise these paddles wouldn't have penetrated competions for 100%

As you probably know I experimented for half a year with a competition Wing and today I own a Kinetik Wing from Lendal; it took me a year before I dare to take the wing out at sea in heavy weather.
It took me also the same year before I got the impression I became faster as a result of improved technique. I discovered that the fastest way in learning what the best paddling style is, is to make use of a GPS and while trying different ways of paddling, directly have the speed feedback. It is a matter of “listening” to your body and paddle-movements.

I guess you will improve your speed once you increased your trunk-rotation and make your stroke longer cq.. more to aside. I can recall that I got aching muscles after the first months while training with the wing: muscles in back, shoulders and waist that never had hurt before. Concluding these need to be trained first before you get the most out of a wing.

About the speed I can give an example that once while paddling next to a fast Bahiya, I concentrated at a certain moment on paddling correctly and noticed, while doing so, that within 5 paddle strokes, I run out 10 meters on the Bahiya

If the wing you bought will be suitable for use at sea I don’t know because I suspect the curved leading edges of the blade will/can play dirty tricks once out at sea. (I met some of these tricks while paddling in surf with tha competition wing). But you never know: these competition wings also evaluate. In the mean time you have at least a perfect flat water paddle.

I don’t know if you think Wormer is nearby enough, but I think it would love it do some training together with you on wings.


Rene van der Zwan said...

Hey Hans,

Just another thought that came into my mind:

When paddling a kayak like the Pintail, which has as you describe, not the highest hull speed, you migth also look at the speed issue with other eyes.

May be it is for seakayaking not important how fast we can go, but is is important how long we can go!

I am sure we use less energy with the wing, so you must be able to paddle longer without feeling fatigue.
May be that is the greatest benefit of the wing for Seakayaking. Unless of course your intention is to start seakayak-competitions.

Another benefit is that it is easier to increase the speed temporarily for some reason or the other. So here comes speed again looking around the corner: may be you will have to try practising to increase your paddle-frequency.

Just a few thoughts again

Hans said...

Hello René!
Thanks for the extensive comments and the offer to coach me in my Wing development. Wormer is too far away to train together on a weekly base, but I look forward for an occasional training together. We'll phone for an appointment.
I completely agree I have to learn paddling again. Wednesday I noticed that I could concentrate for about 10 minutes on a wing-like paddling style, and after that period I soon felt uncomfortable with some before unknown muscle-areas in back and shoulders, and fell back in the old paddling habits. But I had my joy playing with it. It will come in little steps.
I also realise it will take a very long time before I will have the confidence to take the wing out at sea under rough conditions (when ever..).
Speed in itself indeed isn't the main purpose, but paddling longer distances with less effort is a tempting perspective!
Perhaps next year a Polderrally, Veluwerally or Hiddensee Marathon (is this weekend, missed it again this year, hope next year!) with the wing? Next Sunday I am going to paddle the "Rondje Venen" of AKV de Kromme Aar, 42 km's on placid water -> I will take my euro paddle: not ready for the wing yet!