Twist in Your Kayak Paddle? Here’s Why

You’re still new to kayaking, so admittedly, there’s plenty you’re learning. You had always assumed your paddles were supposed to be straight when you use them. Then you saw other kayakers with their paddles twisted. Why do this?

Twisting or feathering your kayak paddles means angling the blades and can be a great way to lower wind resistance. You’ll also see kayakers twist their paddles when fishing or participating in races or other competitions, as feathering can reduce wrist strain. 

If you still have questions about kayak paddle feathering, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll first define feathering in more detail. Then we’ll recommend the proper paddle angle and tell you how to adjust your paddles. You won’t want to miss it! 

What Is Kayak Paddle Feathering?

Even if yours is an inexpensive plastic kayak paddle, more than likely, it’s still adjustable in some way. Namely, you can twist the blades to your liking. As we stated in the intro, this is also known as feathering.

A feathered kayak blade is set at an angle. The angle can be more minute or visibly twisted. If you’re used to your paddle blades being straight but you’ve tried angling them, paddling the first few times can be a bit awkward, but you’ll get used to it, likely sooner than you would have thought. 

If you’re still struggling, fortunately, we’ll have some tips you can follow later for paddling with a feathered kayak paddle, so keep reading! 

So why feather your kayak paddles at all? There are several scenarios in which doing so can benefit you, so let’s talk about those now.

The Wind Is in Front of You 

You chose today to go kayaking because it was sunny and beautiful, but you weren’t expecting this much wind. You can feel the gusts slapping you in the face and rustling your hair.  

Admittedly, the wind is breaking your concentration and making paddling in your kayak quite difficult to do. You don’t want to fight with the wind for the rest of the afternoon, but you don’t want to quit kayaking on such a lovely day either.

There’s a workaround, and it’s twisting your kayak paddle. The angle of the paddle should be such that the blade that isn’t in the water is flat. This reduces your wind resistance so you don’t feel like your boat is being battered.

Competitions and Races

Some kayakers swear that by twisting their kayak, their efficiency and speed are better compared to kayaking with a straight paddle. If you’re soon participating in a race, you can put this theory to the test yourself to see if it helps you cross the finish line first! 


Do you plan on spending a long day on your boat? Feathering can be easier on your wrists so your hands can be steady and sure as you fish. You don’t want to slip up when you’re about to catch a big one, after all! 


Experienced kayakers who like to challenge themselves will try high-angle touring for hours at a clip. Once again, twisting your kayak paddle will help you spare your wrists so you’re not in pain three hours into your tour. 

We do want to make it clear that twisting your kayak paddle isn’t something you must do. Outside of the above scenarios, it’s not necessary. In some instances, it can even be detrimental. 

For example, if the wind is at your back rather than coming at you from the front, feathering your kayak paddle can worsen the lack of control you feel. You’d be better off leaving your kayak paddle set at its original angle. 

What Angle Should a Kayak Paddle be Set At?

Once you acquaint yourself with your paddle’s ferrule (the component that allows you to feather your paddle), you’ll realize you can set the paddle at a variety of angles. The lowest angle available angle is zero degrees and the highest is 90 degrees, at least with some models. 

With so much versatility in your hands, how do you choose the correct kayak paddle angle? 

We recommend you tinker and explore. We’ll tell you how to adjust the angle of your kayak paddle in the next section. Through some trial and error, you’ll find an angle that works well for you.

If you want a baseline in which to start with, set the angle to at least 60 degrees and no higher than 85 degrees.

Within this range, you should still enjoy the benefits of better speed, less arm pain, and lower wind resistance, but without changing your kayak paddle angle to a ridiculous degree. Your paddle won’t feel too unwieldy to use, although to reiterate, you should expect a brief adjustment period. 

How Do You Adjust the Angle on a Kayak Paddle?

Okay, you’re ready to twist your kayak paddle. Here’s how it’s done. 

The ferrule is the joint where the two paddle halves connect. It’s also the area where you’ll twist your paddle, as mentioned. 

Many ferrules have a series of numbers on them that increase incrementally. These numbers represent the angle degrees of your kayak paddle. Depending on whether yours is an entry-level paddle or a more expensive one, you might be able to set two or three angle positions. 

The ferrule will usually have several slots (at least three) that are for clipping in a button. This is how you set the angle. For some kayak paddles, you pull the ferrule straight to lock it into place. You might be able to set the angle for both your left-handle paddle and your right-hand paddle.

How to Use a Twisted Kayak Paddle

We’ve mentioned twice already that it can be awkward and a little difficult to use a feathered kayak paddle. You’ll be swiftly reminded of your early kayaking days when you were slicing your blade into the water too hard without any sort of technique or refinement.

To help you over the hurdle that is adjusting to a twisted kayak paddle, here are some steps to perfecting your abilities. 

Choose Your Control Hand

A feathered kayak paddle demands a control hand. This isn’t necessarily your most dominant hand, but rather, the one that’s closest to the blade when the paddle goes into the water. That means that even righties could have a left-handed control hand and vice-versa. That said, for the easiest paddling experience, you want your control hand to be one you can freely and comfortably use.  

Position Your Control Hand Correctly

Once you’ve determined which is your control hand, it’s time to get that hand into position. Your hand should be at least six inches from the top of the blade. Some kayakers do double that and move their hand 12 inches along the shaft. Whatever feels most comfortable for you is what you should do.

Trace the blade’s edge with your eyes and then align your big knuckles to the edge. 

Then Position Your Non-Dominant Hand

Your non-dominant hand is the opposite of the control hand. Although it’s not your main hand when using a twisted kayak paddle, it does still play a role in moving the paddle. You want this hand to be on the paddle’s shaft. The distance from the off-blade to your hand should be equal.

If you’re having a hard time getting your hand positioning right, some kayakers will raise the paddle until the ferrule is on their head. Then they set their elbow to 90 degrees and check their hand placement. This is where your hands should go on the paddle shaft. 

Rotate the Paddle

Then you want to dip the paddle into the water the way you usually do when kayaking. During each stroke using your control hand, the other hand should rotate the paddle. This allows for the blade to easily enter the water the next time. 

You’ll probably have to loosen up your non-dominant hand to allow for easy rotation.

Although at first, you’ll be very conscious of this extra step added to your paddling routine, the more often you do it, the more natural it becomes. 

Final Thoughts 

Twisting or feathering your kayak paddle comes in handy when you want to move faster across the water, spend long hours in your kayak without wrist pain, or when the wind is in your face and obstructing your paddling. 

Although some kayakers never twist their paddles, it’s a handy trick to pull out when the situation calls for it. Now you can do it in the above scenarios and show your fellow kayaking buddies how it’s done as well!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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