5.1 What are outrigger paddles made from?
5.2 What timbers for paddle construction?
5.3 Are super lightweight paddles always the way to go?
5.4 Are steerer's paddles different from paddlers paddles?
5.5 How do paddlers paddles differ?
5.6 How many degrees bend do bent shaft paddles have?
5.7 Should all paddlers in the canoe have the same paddle designs?
Predominantly timber, but things are changing in this area. Solo outrigger canoeists are favouring extremely lightweight paddles as light as 9oz constructed from exotic material, generally carbon fibre and based on Olympic "C" Class designs.
However for six person canoeing, timber paddles are still favoured. Constructed from timber laminates a well made paddle is a work of art. The skill is in manufacturing a lightweight paddle that's strong, durable and of course hydro-dynamically efficient. New generation 'hybrid' paddles are now becoming in demand - a blend of wood and exotic materials.
Once again depending where you are, some rules will state that only timber paddles may be used. In Australia and Canada you can paddle with a paddle of any material.
This will vary upon availability, price and the manufacturers location. Their are definitely preferred timbers, favoured for there strength to weight ratio; as strong and as light as possible. These timbers include in ascending order of weight; Western Red Cedar, White Pine, White Cedar, Northern White Spruce, Sitka Spruce, Cypress, Douglas Fir and White Ash. The heavier, hard woods are preferred for blade tips and edging and as laminates for in particular, steerer's paddles. Shafts are often made from laminated strips of Oak, Ash, Koa and Sitka Spruce. Other timbers include Purple Heart and Koa.
Purple Heart has a beautiful colour which when combined with a white timber, creates a beautiful affect. Koa, a native Hawaiian timber is heavy and strong and often used sparingly to give strength and stiffness to shafts and blades, though sometimes solid Koa shafts are constructed.
In island regions of Oceania, many common commercial timbers are unavailable and so local timbers are used and these can include in particular hau (Hawaii) or sea mangrove which grows in many parts of Oceania. Many paddles in Tahiti are constructed from such timber, having often a curious green tinge. The timber is lightweight and strong and was traditionally used for many applications including the making of fishing net floats and outrigger floats (ama).
The only time that super lightweight paddles can be hard to handle is in strong winds. Because they are so light they do not have any inherent inertia so that the paddler can end up wrestling with the blade trying to control it, whilst a heavier timber blade can be more controllable. Then again experienced users of lightweight synthetic paddles, tend to swear by them in any condition.
Exotic paddles are more expensive to repair, but generally very tough to begin with. Either way, light is best it seems but as with many other considerations in the sport of outrigger canoeing, the traditional element and the use of timber is an issue that is central to the sport. Timber has that certain feel you just can't replace.
Yes. Steering paddles tend to have larger blade areas and may be straight shafted. The steerer's paddle has to act much like a rudder and therefore needs to be constructed tougher to handle the sideways stresses that it experiences. In particular the shaft has to be strong. Steerers will often have a quiver of paddle sticks to cater for a variety of conditions, for rough and smooth water, sprints and distance races and some will actually change paddle types throughout a race, where a support boat is present, to cater for the change in ocean conditions.
There are many varieties of paddle on the market and the major designs include: straight shaft, bent shaft and double bent shaft paddles. The bend being referred to, is a design principal first introduced to outrigger canoeing during the late 1970's, but originated during the early seventies for "marathon" canoe racing, pre-dominant in mid-western USA and Canada. The shaft is angled at the point at which it joins the blade, in an attempt to make the blade in the water more efficient throughout the length of the stroke, especially the later part. Olympic "C" class paddlers might well benefit from a bent shaft, but the rules apparently prohibit it.
The double bent shaft is not only angled at the blade but also
further up the shaft so as the grip is angled closer to the top hand.
The bend at the lower shaft, puts the wrist at a more comfortable angle
reducing fatigue. Straight shaft paddles, are generally preferred by
5.6 How many degrees bend do bent shaft paddles have?
Varies accordingly, but between 5 and 14 degrees.
In terms of shaft to blade angle it appears the answer is yes (excluding the steerer). In terms of blade width, there is a theory which runs along the lines that the stroke can have a narrower blade width than the rest of the crew, as they pull the cleanest water and that blade widths can increase by 1cm per seat position as you move to the back of the canoe. In short though, widths and overall blade areas should be similar throughout, as radically wider blades will behave differently in the water than narrower and may affect the paddlers ability to mirror the stroke rate.
The length of the shaft according to paddlers height, will naturally also differ, but it is the shaft to blade angle and blade area which would appear to directly affect the potential to synchronise and mirror technique throughout the canoe. Paddle design in general is a complex topic, involving bio-dynamics and hydrodynamics and theories vary.