Shoulder Update- Canoeing and SUP Still OK, Kayaking is Borderline

My orthopedic doc sent me for an MRI for my shoulder and discovered a torn rotator cuff. He said it is moderate in size and he would normally want to do surgery to fix it, but I am asymptomatic- no pain or weakness in relevant motions like shoulder rotation. He will monitor the tear and we’ll revisit later this month. He said the concern if the tear were to grow is that the ball of the ball and socket joint (glenohumeral ) can slip upward if not restrained properly. There’s no sign that is happening yet but he’ll watch it.

Doc said there are no additional restrictions, just avoid overhead movements and anything that causes pain. I had modified my resistance training routine to eliminate the overhead press and replace it with upright row for the central deltoids and a pushdown exercise for the triceps so that is all still fine, as is my heavyhands walking, nordic walking, and paddling.

I went kayaking for the first time this year at Vasona Lake county park which is 23 miles away, the closet lake where I can rent. They rent beginner sit-on-tops there which are fine for exercise, if I want to rent “sit inside” sea kayaks I have to go a bit further to Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, or Monterey. You can also rent canoes and Standup-Paddleboards (SUPs) at Vasona.

Vasona Dam (on Los Gatos Creek) is behind me.

Approaching the dam:

Local dragon boat crew out practicing. That looks fun, with a similar paddle stroke to outrigger canoes, with the major difference there are two rows of paddlers so you can’t switch sides while paddling. I think that would wear me out:

View in the other direction towards the Santa Cruz mountains:

It was a very nice day to be out on the water. Unfortunately, my right shoulder still bothered me which surprised me because it is fine when I do it at home on my homemade trainer. It doesn’t like the recovery from the paddle draw on the right side. I have to figure out a way to modify my stroke so no rotator cuff motion occurs during the recovery. The canoeing and SUP paddling stroke should still be fine as that is a more forward and back motion. So I’ll try SUPing next time.

That has to wait till my shoulder recovers from my recent fall. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a lot of biking.

4 thoughts on “Shoulder Update- Canoeing and SUP Still OK, Kayaking is Borderline

  1. Sorry to hear about your shoulder injury. Based on the pics posted I want to point out that the style of PFD worn is not good for paddling as it impedes your motion. It forces your arms out more forward than necessary. Also, pay attention to your technique, i.e. you don’t want to be pulling too much with the lower hand. The top had should be pushing forward and never above eye level for you. The rental SOT kayak is also too wide and your paddle may not have been the right length either. The best paddle for low impact paddling is the Greenland stick, but it does not pair well with SOT style kayaks (too wide). If you go SUP, it may actually be worse for you since the top hand is always pushing overhead. Hope you have a speedy recovery!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very good points from an experienced kayaker, thanks. That pfd is the one the rental place gives you, if I do this more often I’ll get a more suitable one of my own. The rental places in Moss Landing and Monterey have better pfds and narrower sit-inside sea kayaks (I passed their class so I can rent them). Maybe I should stick to going there.
    I try not to pull with my lower hand. The pain I was experiencing was when the lower hand was recovering from the stroke and had to go from low to high. Keeping the high hand never above eye level is a good tip, I think I was doing that.
    Interesting point about SUP. I have a homemade trainer that simulates SUP and my shoulder doesn’t seem to mind the top hand pushing, but you are right the top hand does have to come up higher than in the kayak stroke. I’ll have to see how that works out on the water.
    Thanks for the helpful comments and good wishes 🙂


    1. Sure thing! Another thing to watch for is that you rotate your torso so that you get more reach at the start of the stroke, and most importantly that you do not continue the stroke past your hips. Ideally your stroke should end before the hips! This way you avoid placing additional stress on the shoulder. Paddle length is based on your height and boat width, usually between 210 and 220cm for most people.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks- I was doing the torso correctly, but I think I was pulling back too far. As for paddle length, I think I’ll stick to renting from one of the higher end places where they’ll size it properly for me. And rent me a narrower boat. 🙂


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