To feather or not to feather…that’s a good question! And one we get a lot. So here’s a basic overview of kayak paddle feathering if you’re scratching your head over what it is and why it matters.

feather a kayak paddle
(Photo courtesy of Eric Atkins)

What is Paddle Feathering?

Feathering a kayak paddle simply means you adjust the ferrule on the shaft so the blades are at an angle to each other rather than straight. Like so:

feather a kayak paddle

(The ferrule is where the two pieces of the kayak paddle come together in the middle of the shaft.)

If you have a snap-button ferrule, your feathering options are limited to the angles allowed by the holes. Bending Branches’ snap-button ferrules offer 0º and 60º angles. Ferrules like our Plus Ferrule System give you unlimited feathering angles.

Why Does Feathering Matter?

Whether or not you feather your paddle is a personal choice. Some paddlers feather and some don’t. Here are the most common reasons for feathering:

  • When you’re in windy conditions. When the wind is at your face, feather the paddle and adjust your wrists so the blade that’s out of the water is flat instead of broadside to the wind. You’ll notice less wind resistance. On the other hand, if the wind’s at your back, you may want the wind to catch your blade since it’ll push you forward a bit with each stroke. So in that case, don’t feather.
  • Many paddlers find feathering to be easier on their wrists for long days of touring or fishing, especially in high-angle paddling. This is something you’ll want to experiment with. Try it and see how it works for you. If you have unlimited feathering options, try different angles and see what you like.
  • If speed and efficiency are important—say in racing or a fishing tournament—feathering could give you a slight edge in paddling speed.

Feathering isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but of preference. Experiment the next time you’re out in your kayak…the next several times. Try it in different conditions and see if it helps you. If it does, great!