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Kayak Paddles: To Feather Or Not

Kayak Paddles: To Feather Or Not

Don’t underestimate the importance of your kayak paddle because it can have a huge impact on your performance and overall enjoyment while paddling. A key decision in choosing a  kayak paddle is whether you want a one-piece or a 2-piece paddle. Paddles that can be taken apart are easier to pack when traveling or stow on deck or in your hull as a spare. The second factor to consider is the ability to “feather” your paddle. This leads us to the great debate of whether to feather or not to feather.

Should You Feather Your Kayak Paddle?

An unfeathered paddle has both blades lined up along the same axis. Lay an unfeathered paddle on a level surface and both blades will lie flat on that surface.

If you turn one of the power faces a little, generally 30-90 degrees, you now have a “feathered” paddle. The feathered blade is offset from the working powerface blade and rotated during the power stroke. Either blade can be dominant when rotated effectively. The hand you use to rotate is your control or dominant hand.

So, should you feather or not? Most kayakers will likely now tell you that it’s a matter of preference. So go ahead and try it both ways.

Today, fans of feathering typically cite two reasons:

  1. Reduce the effect of wind on the upstroke paddle by leading with an edge into the wind instead of with a flat surface, and
  2. Some find feathering allows for a more natural wrist movement reducing strain. Others disagree!

Again, the best way to find out what works for you is to try paddling both ways. Whether you feather will boil down to personal preference. Your paddling technique will have a greater impact on your comfort, performance, and overall enjoyment than whether you decide to feather your paddle.

Kayak On!



I was first introduced to kayaking as a teenager when I joined a competitive canoe club. It was instant love. But when I went off to school and then got a job, adult responsibilities got in the way. Now approaching retirement, I've rekindled my kayak romance. My husband and I love to throw the kayaks on the trailer and head out on adventures. Maybe you'll join us?!

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