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rowing vs paddling on flat water, speed effeciency comparison
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Hugo Matte
(Hugo_Matte) - MLife
rowing vs paddling on flat water, speed effeciency comparison on 07/15/2012 13:21:23 MDT Print View


I posted a question on the forum of the alpacka website. I will post the same question here as I would really like to hear about other people's opinion.

Here is the text:

I bought the fjord explorer with the rowing frame back in late fall 2009 and used it considerably on flat water!

I wanted to hear what are people opinions in terms of speed / efficiency differences between the rowing boat and the more conventional alpacka paddling boat.

Needless to say I have the old boat design, bathtub style as opposed to the new boat design of last year. I read some posts about people saying the new design is 10% faster due to the pointy stern which would take the boat track better. Would that be the case for boats equipped of the rowing frame as well or would the improvement pretty much have less effect? Could it mean the benefits of rowing would be less then before (theoretically speaking)?

Did anyone write or post any lengthy articles on the subject? I would love to hear about others opinion.

The way I see it there are a few benefits and cons from rowing to paddling.


Speed (long term): Would love to have statistics here. That was the main factor driving my decision at the time.
Body movement: Rowing is suppose to be a more complete body movement, energy efficient. I would tend to believe you use less energy per km here.


Weight: Take more space to row then paddle, as you need to extend legs. Hence the requirement for a bigger boat. Total boat weight is heavier because of the set up as well.
Vision: When you row you don't see where you are going, hence you need to turn your head quite often.
Whitewater: obviously less maneuverability between rocks (not really a consideration in my case).

Share your thoughts!


Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Pros and Cons on 07/16/2012 16:41:27 MDT Print View

Regarding which is better:

"Body movement: Rowing is suppose to be a more complete body movement, energy efficient. I would tend to believe you use less energy per km here."

Not so true. Paddling correctly uses equivalent amount of muscles.
I think of it this way, rowing correctly uses most of the muscles along the back of your body.
Paddling correctly uses most of the muscles along the front of your body.

An inexperienced and untrained rower will use more muscles than an inexperienced/untrained paddler and that is why people think it is more efficient.
An inexperienced paddler tends to use her/his arms to propel the boat where an inexperienced rower will be forced to use the whole body.

But with some training and experience, a paddler will use more leg and core muscles to propel the boat.

Tight white water situations are handled much better paddling than rowing. Rowing is fine if you think you will be dealing with wide rivers, but I wouldn't want to carry the extra gear.

Hugo Matte
(Hugo_Matte) - MLife
speed difference on 07/16/2012 17:27:42 MDT Print View

Thanks for replying!

What would be the long term speed differences in your opinion. Would it be negligable?


Hugo Matte
(Hugo_Matte) - MLife
debate on 07/16/2012 18:11:11 MDT Print View

The rowing vs paddling debate seems like having very mix opinions. Just found this forum discussion as an example:

I guess it depends on the boat and the many different circumstances surrounding the activity. In the ends it is probably just a matter of taste.

I would love to know if anyone ever done some kind of serious testing on the alpacka raft. Rowing vs paddling. My first guess would be that only a small proportion of boaters would buy the rowing model in the first place due to the weight difference and the white water disadvantage as you mentioned before. Can't argue on this one.

I don't think there are many folks out there who own both models.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
My guess on 07/16/2012 18:54:51 MDT Print View

My guess is that for most people rowing would be more efficient. People tend to use their arms too much when paddling and tire quickly over long distances.
The exception would be people who have proper paddling skills, but most do not and will not ever learn this skill.

The other thing to consider is how much of the trip is hiking and how much is on the water.

If the trip is mostly hiking, paddling would be the obvious choice because of the required gear for rowing.

I personally would never consider rowing because of the weight, size, lack of flexibility and the fact that you can paddle with more confidence than rowers can in rough water conditions. Bracing is not as effective while rowing.

Edited by brooklynkayak on 07/16/2012 18:57:07 MDT.

Hugo Matte
(Hugo_Matte) - MLife
field test on 07/20/2012 16:04:40 MDT Print View

I tend to agree with your opinions. I think the best would be for me to field test the paddling regular boat and see the differences by myself. This would be an interesting test.