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Paddling Is the Best Medicine

Posted: 06.23.2016

kayak fishing

After about a year of trying different treatments and taking time off it finally hit me that maybe a change of paddle would help.

by Cody Carpenter

Kayak paddles have evolved just as much as the kayaks have in recent years, but how do they enhance your paddling experience?  The newest kayak features are usually very apparent to most paddlers but not so much with paddles. I only recognized one of these subtle improvements after it helped me recover from an injury. In the spring of 2014 I began to have severe pain in my right elbow. Being an Athletic Trainer I immediately knew what my problem was. Lateral Epicondylitis, or more commonly known as Tennis Elbow. This is basically an inflammation of forearm muscle tendons at the point where they attach to the bone at the elbow. The primary function of these muscles is grip and wrist stabilization. This is an overuse injury from daily work and life, but I believe that my case was severely exacerbated from the amount of paddling I was doing and the type of paddle I had.

My pain was at the point where lifting an iPad caused great pain. I knew something had to be done, so I tried all conventional treatments such as electric stimulation, ice, ultrasound, rest and even a cortisone shot. They all provided temporary relief then the pain would inevitably come back. The reason I could never shake it was because I would eventually get back on the water and kayak fish again and then symptoms would come back. After about a year of trying different treatments and taking time off it finally hit me that maybe a change of paddle would help.

The paddle that I was using was my Oracle Angler from Adventure Technology and I loved it, but it was just not conducive to what I need at that time. After looking at the various models I landed on the Fishstix paddle also from Adventure Technology. I had used bent shaft paddles before but never really saw the “ergonomic” advantage, but I thought at this point it couldn’t hurt. After receiving the new paddle, I immediately took it for a test drive. The bent shaft took a little bit of getting used to but after a few minutes it felt natural and after a couple months of using the Fishstix I am proud to say I was pain free.

Was it the paddle that healed me? Was it a coincidence? I wasn’t sure so I decided to look into it a bit. I called a man named Hastings Blumer, who is the mad scientist/engineer for AT Paddles and asked him to help me out with my questions. I told my story of injury and recovery and that I believed my paddle was the answer, but I wanted his insight. What he told me solidified every suspicion I had. Blumer said that he wasn’t at all surprised by my outcome with the injury because that was specifically what the Fishstix was designed to do. I was so intrigued by the science behind this explanation that I asked Hastings if we could video chat to better understand his explanations, he kindly obliged. He asked me to make a fist, and look at the natural progression of my knuckle line. The vast majority of individuals will have a declining pattern from one knuckle to the next, because this is our natural anatomical progression. Next he asked me to hold my straight shaft paddle, and again to observe my knuckles. This time my knuckles were aligned straight parallel with each other, which was different from the natural position. This misalignment contributed to the intensity of my condition due to overstretching of those muscles and tendons on each paddle stroke. Then he asked me to do the same with my bent shaft paddle, and I did. My knuckle line this time looked like it did when I made the fist, with the declining progression.

After seeing this difference for myself Mr. Blumer proceeded to explain why the Fishstix was different from other bent shaft paddles. Other bent shaft paddles on the market have one bend in the shaft that doesn’t exactly return the wrist and hand back to a natural position. The Fishstix has a duel axis bend that is specifically unique to the AT Fishstix. This double bend is what allows the hand and wrist to maintain correct anatomical position. Basically, this double bend or duel axis grip prevented the muscles and tendons in my wrist and forearm from being over stretched and inflamed throughout each paddle stroke.

The Fishstix was designed to prevent and aid with injuries exactly like the one I suffered from. There is no doubt that I was able to overcome my injury because of switching paddles. This paddle truly is ergonomic in every sense of the word. I am most appreciative of the great work from Mr. Blumer and his team at Adventure Technology for designing paddles with the paddler in mind.