Have you ever heard stories about how elite golfers choose their clubs? Let’s just say they don’t simply walk into their local shop and choose whatever club is on sale. It’s often taken to a much higher level.
For example, many golfers prefer to spend several hours using a club before buying it. If they’re religious, they might pray about it. Others will go even further, sleeping with the club under their pillow. If they still feel good about it in the morning, then they’ll consider it the perfect match.
At the bare minimum, elite golfers always take the time to carefully consider a club’s length, weight, flex and composition before pulling the trigger.
What do golf clubs and dragon boat paddles have in common? A lot, actually. They’re both sophisticated tools that, when chosen properly, can elevate your performance. Conversely, when you’re paired with the wrong one, it can be a serious impediment. It can make the sport a lot less fun.
So even if you don’t plan on sleeping with your paddle, you can learn from the deliberate way that golfers approach their equipment. Your paddle is your lifeline in a dragon boat—your primary connection to the water. Don’t compromise on it.
The most first, and most essential, decision you need to make is what paddle length is best for you. If your paddle is too long or short, your body will naturally contort to compensate. This can result in poor technique, slower boat speeds and even possible injury.
To identify the right paddle length, you’ll need to go well beyond the standard sizing charts that most manufacturers provide. There’s nothing wrong with these charts. They provide helpful data that can help you get a ballpark idea of what might be right for you.
The thing is, they’re based on generalized data. The unique details you need to consider include arm length, your stroke rate, your skill level, what part of the boat you sit in, what type of boat your team uses and what type of water you typically paddle in.
Armed with these details, you’ll be prepared to make a more informed decision. Of course, reading product descriptions and reviews will only get you so far. To find the perfect paddle, you’ll need to get your hands on it. It is also highly recommended to ask your coach which paddle length she or he recommends for you.
How to determine the right length of a dragon boat paddle
Here are a few techniques you can use to determine the right paddle length:
Do a sitting test: Sit on a flat surface and stand your paddle up next to you, blade down. Can you reach up and grab the handle? If so, this might be a good paddle length for you.
Do a standing test: Stand on a flat surface and stand your paddle up next to you, blade down. If you can fit at least three fingers between the handle and your armpit, this might be a good paddle length for you.
Do a real test: To truly find the right paddle, you have to add water! With that in mind, the easiest way to determine your ideal paddle size is to use paddles of different lengths for a few minutes at a time during practice. Simply swap paddles with your teammates and see what length works best for you.
Taking the time to determine your optimal paddle size will pay dividends in the long run. It will ensure that you’re set up for success, making you faster, happier, healthier.