Why Are Kayak Paddles Feathered – What Is Feathering?

Why Are Kayak Paddles Feathered - What Is Feathering?

Feathering your kayak paddle means adjusting the ferrule (the middle of the shaft where the two pieces of the paddle come together) in order to position the blades at an angle to each other. Feathering reduces wind resistance by angling the blades at opposite angles so that one paddle slices through the air while one blade is in the water.  

Also, feathering options for snap-button ferules are usually determined by the angles allowed by the buttons. However, many high-quality ferrule systems allow unlimited feathering angles for easy customisation even while you’re out in the water.

Are All Kayak Paddles Feathered?

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a kayak paddle is whether you want a two-piece or one-piece paddle. There are two main benefits of choosing a paddle that can be taken apart (two-piece paddle). The first benefit is ease of transportation and the second one is the ability to feather your kayak paddle. The blades of an “unfeathered “paddle are aligned along the same plane, and you must rotate one power-face to ‘feather” the paddle.

kayaker holding a paddle
Kayaker Holding Paddle

Can You Adjust Feathering On a Paddle?

There are numerous degrees of rotation; some people choose to range between 30 and 60-degree angles and others tend to prefer the 90-degree right angle. The discussions about straight vs feathered have persisted over the years; from a matter of personal choice and preference for either into an adamant rationalization for one over the other.

Most two-piece kayak paddles will offer two or even three feathering positions. Such paddles usually offer both right and left angle options allowing you to choose which hand to use as your control hand. Even some lower-end paddles will have up to 3 slots that the snap button can clip into (60 degrees to the left, 0 degrees and 60 degrees to the right). Many higher-end paddles offer greater adjustability by providing angles to both sides (left and right) in smaller increments. This can be very useful when paddling in an area with constantly changing wind speeds hence necessitating smaller feathering angle changes.

Paddler's box

Why Is Feathering Important?

Feathering can be advantageous when paddling into strong winds because it reduces the resistance you’ll encounter. On the other hand, an unfeathered paddle is most advantageous when paddling with the wind on your back because it works as a small sail whenever you raise the blade into the air. Some of the reasons for feathering include:

  • Paddling in windy conditions

When paddling with the wind at your face, you may want to feather your kayak paddle and adjust your wrists accordingly to help reduce wind resistance against the blade that is out of the water. On the other hand, when paddling with the wind on your back, don’t feather your paddle in order for the wind to catch your blade and push you forward with each stroke.

  • Feathering your paddle could give you an edge in paddling efficiency and speed during a fishing or racing tournament.
  • Feathering is easier on the wrists especially for long days of fishing or touring in high-angle paddling.

man kayakingMany kayak paddles today come with adjustable ferrules that allow you to adjust the feathering to fit the situation. However, whether you prefer to use a feathered or unfeathered paddle is really a matter of preference. Therefore, you can experiment with different feathering angles in different conditions to see if it really helps you.

Happy paddling!