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Blade area?

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I recently purchased a book on paddle making.
There is a lot in it on paddle history and design.
One thing it talks about is stroke rate and blade size.
Supposedly, the voyageurs, when paddling long distances, preferred a smaller blade area and fast stroke rate.
Long day, small blade. Short day, big blade.
Of course, a strong, fit person can use larger blade than a weaker, unfit person.
Ego comes into play here. Who wants to admit they need a smaller blade?
I'm trying to not let my ego dictate my blade size, so I've been looking for paddles with smaller blade areas. I'm not as strong as I was when I was younger.
I'm even thinking of modifying a paddle by removing area.
I believe I read that some marathon racers use a smaller blade and faster stroke rate. It is less tiring over a long distance.
Thoughts?
 
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I think most of us find a stroke rate that seems comfortable and stick to it, regardless of blade size. A smaller paddle blade will just make the whole process seem less painful. You might naturally increase your stroke rate with a smaller blade, or you might not. If you do it intentionally, it will seem like work.

I'm less concerned about speed now than I was as a younger fella. But I still use an 8 inch Sugar Island style paddle, I've used skinny paddles, just never liked them.
 
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I am with you, sir. Over the last couple of years, (and after shoulder surgery) I have cut and narrowed my favorite mid-70's Grey Owl, replaced my Sanborn Gunflint with the smaller Gillis, and sold my carbon paddles for the narrower Werner Algonquin. It's not easy to admit the limitations of old age, but I've even acquired a small canoe trailer for the day I am unable to lift my boats aloft.
 
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I have a small blade area Zaveral that is also light. I carry another paddle as a spare and if I swap paddles the spare seems like a club even though its 19 oz. ( the Zav is 10) so weight over thousands of strokes even if each is just a half pound difference can be important. I have lots of wider paddles for Freestyle where the cadence is very low and turning a priority and wide blades are perfect for enhancing turns. But till you are used to wide blades and use them every day its like wearing oversized shoes. Clunky and makes your boat tend to turn when you might not want it to.
 
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I'm going to conduct a test.
I ordered my third MAX canoe paddle, from oakorchardcanoe.com. and I plan on removing some of the blade area.
I made a template and I'm going to Walmart in the morning and buy some double sided tape and something for tracing around the template.
Hopefully, the surgery will go well.
I'll have an unmodified paddle to compare it to.
Next spring, I'll do laps around the local lake with both paddles and see what I think.
I don't know the blade area of either paddle, so it won't be as helpful as it could be, but it's about the best I can do.
These paddles are bent shaft, curved blade. When I'm not paddling sit and switch, I prefer a straight shaft and a longer, flat blade.
But, all in all, it should answer some questions for me and, maybe, end up with a good long day paddle.
I have three ZRE paddles. Light is good, but tough is good too. The MAX paddles weigh a ton but you could beat a rhino to death with them. But right now I'm just testing blade area. Weight is a separate issue.
 
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I'm going to conduct a test.
I ordered my third MAX canoe paddle, from oakorchardcanoe.com. and I plan on removing some of the blade area.
I made a template and I'm going to Walmart in the morning and buy some double sided tape and something for tracing around the template.
Hopefully, the surgery will go well.
I'll have an unmodified paddle to compare it to.
Next spring, I'll do laps around the local lake with both paddles and see what I think.
I don't know the blade area of either paddle, so it won't be as helpful as it could be, but it's about the best I can do.
These paddles are bent shaft, curved blade. When I'm not paddling sit and switch, I prefer a straight shaft and a longer, flat blade.
But, all in all, it should answer some questions for me and, maybe, end up with a good long day paddle.
I have three ZRE paddles. Light is good, but tough is good too. The MAX paddles weigh a ton but you could beat a rhino to death with them. But right now I'm just testing blade area. Weight is a separate issue.
A simple way to determine the blade area, is just using a paper template, take a piece of paper, measure the length and width ... then weigh it, that gives you weight per square inch, for the paper Then trace your blade shape, cut it out and weight the paper ... divide by the weight per square inch value of the paper and you have the paddle area.

That is just to help if you want a little info on what you are testing, without too much additional work.

As far as the discussion of larger blade versus smaller blade, I think it more about matching the blade to purpose and stroke cadence, than it is about "bigger blades for stronger paddlers". Paddle designs usually take this into account, in Gidmark and Warrens book, the plans for a Sugar Island (straight shaft) and a Sugar Islet (Bent Shaft) ... although the "shape" of the blades are largely the same, the actual area is less for the bent shaft ... I believe this is because the bent shaft provides the same "push" over a longer stroke, making the blade area larger would increase this "push" but would also fatigue the paddler more ... so the different areas of the blades deliver about the same "push" with different mechanics.
If you took a higher cadence twin blade, the individual blade area will usually be much smaller than a regular single blade ... you could make them larger, but the cadence would then have to drop, there is a limit to what energy a paddler can output. Balancing this paddler energy output, to the most efficient means of translating that energy into forward motion is the subject of many research papers.

This whole idea gets horribly complicated with different paddling techniques, paddlers. environments and situational paddling demands.

Will be interesting to see what your findings are, don't forget to post them.

Brian
 
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I have 2 paddles of differing blade shapes and sizes; the animal tail being narrower and longer of the two. However the Sugar Island type has more blade area. I know because I feel the difference, but just to be sure I've measured them. The 2 different blades were intentional as the skinny is fine and easy for underwater strokes and quieter paddling whilst the fatty is for covering distance more efficiently. ie the skinny is for smiles, the fatty is for miles. The differences are not extreme but I feel it regardless of cadence. This works for me. I too am aging, funny how that works, so slowing down has been both a conscious decision and one forced upon me year by year, trip by trip. I/we have decreased the cadence but have lost little in the smiles department. Miles, meh. Sometimes focusing on the small details needn't be complicated. In recent years my bow paddler wife has been dipping her paddle less, I tell her to paddle when she chooses and she likes this (unless we have challenging conditions). I reach for whichever stick suits the situation while she relaxes, the skinny for slow tranquility, the fatty for getting somewhere, but in both cases the trip is in the travel and not entirely the destination. My trip needn't be yours.
 
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Well, it probably took me less than two hours to modify the blade, including making the template.
Far from perfect, but good enough. I'll touch it up over the winter.
The blade on the left is what it originally looked like and the blade on the right is the modified version.
Blade area is reduced and, I believe, center of pressure is moved up the blade, which is something I was aiming for.
It is true that, with an increased stroke rate, weight is probably a bigger factor, but I think I can still determine if I like the smaller blade.
Now all I need is spring.
Modified MAX paddle.jpg
 
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