Kayak Paddle Feathering: What is It and Why does it Matter?

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.

kayak angler on a marshy lake

(photo courtesy of Drew Gregory)

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:

kayak angler with a feathered paddle

You can see how the blades are offset from each other (photo courtesy of Chad Hoover)

This off-set angle is achieved by adjusting the ferrule.

What is a Ferrule?

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

There are many ferrule designs on the market, some of them better than others. The most common and least expensive is the snap-button ferrule.

snap button ferrule system

The Angler Drift has a snap-button ferrule (photo by Reggie Chapa)

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 Versa-Lok give you unlimited feathering angles. Because there are handful of parts that make up the ferrule, paddles with this type of upgraded system will cost a little more.

A paddle with an upgraded ferrule system like Versa-Lok is usually easier to feather on-the-fly than a snap-button model.

Read more about our ferrules here: Kayak Paddle Ferrule Systems: Snap-Button vs. Versa-Lok.

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 you paddle into a strong headwind, feather the paddle and adjust your wrists so the blade that’s out of the water is always flat to the wind instead of broadside. You’ll notice less wind resistance and, therefore, less fatigue.
  • 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! If you don't like it, that's fine, too.

What paddle questions can we help you with? Contact our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 or [email protected]

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