Beau Whitehead of Bellingham, Wa recently placed 2nd in the final Naish Race series in San Diego. He was on a standard Isle board, using the Werner Nitro Paddle. He said he had the only small blade paddle in the race, and beat out many who had race specific boards. While many factors affect how races are won, but this did lead to a chat about blade size. I also have the Nitro and find it’s easier on the shoulders, and when used correctly – using a shorter and quicker cadence, it is faster, for me.
I already have dealt with tendinitis from kayaking in using a very long paddle (240cm) and a lower angle stroke. After a year of PT pulling rubber bands attached to a doorknob and popping Advil daily, I solved the problem by using a shorter length paddle, (215cm), higher stroke (whitewater stroke), and fatter blade, (the Werner Corryvken). That was three years ago, and I haven’t had an issue since – in kayaking. But in testing the fatter bladed sup paddles the past few months, I’m was beginning to feel a touch of sensitivity in my right shoulder. When I tried the Nitro, no pain. I’ve found that the narrow blade and shorter strokes create less overall shoulder stress, and is interestingly faster. Greenland style kayakers using the Greenland ‘stick’ paddle that is a 2×4 carved into a minimalist double bladed paddle. Their stroke is slightly different than the standard kayak stroke, often noted for less shoulder stress. Many Greenland paddlers feel their paddle is just as fast as a fatter bladed kayak paddle. One advantage in surf could be less paddle to deal with when going down the line.
Every board and every paddler are different. I use the Laird 12’1 Softtop. Some feel bigger is better, each his own.