Analysis of the New Technical Aid Swimming Hand Paddles
The US patent office recently published a patent application for a new type of a swim paddle that I thought looked interesting. Below I will describe the claimed benefits of this paddle along with potential drawbacks and discuss how it could be simplified.
What differentiates this paddle from others is the “attached angled section, which provides instant resistive and visual feedback when a swimming stroke is not properly executed”.
“Technical Aid Swimming Hand Paddles “ by Doyle; Joseph Gordon, 2011:
Here is the background of the problem that the paddle is trying to solve as described in the patent application:
“Throughout the development of swimming stroke mechanics, it is widely accepted that a swimmer’s palm must be perpendicular to the direction of travel and pressing water in the rearward direction. If the swimmer ceases to press water in the rear direction while the hand is still in the water, then the swimmer is not increasing his or her body speed in the desired direction. If the swimmer’s hand becomes non-perpendicular to the overall direction of travel, then the swimmer will essentially be decreasing the amount of resistance at which he or she is able to push the water backwards.”
To help swimmers develop perfect stroke, the “technical aid swimming hand paddles” introduced a special flap that is attached below the paddle and that can open and close like a duck’s beak.
According to the paddle description, when the arm stroke is properly executed, the paddle stays perpendicular to the surface of the water, and the pressure of the water keeps the flap closed (the duck’s beak is closed). Here is a simple diagram to help you visualize this concept:
When the stroke is not properly executed, the paddle is no longer perpendicular to the surface of the water and the pressure of the water opens the flap (the duck’s beak opens), which immediately generates more resistance and alerts the swimmer.
There is, however another case that is not described in the patent application but is important to consider. What happens when the hand exits the water?
When a swimmer’s hand exits the water, the hand, although is still perpendicular to the surface of the water, now moves up (not backwards). During this movement, the water pressure between the “lip” and the paddle will open the paddle flap, which will generate more resistance and alert the swimmer.
Unfortunately, the very mechanism that that was designed to help swimmers develop better technique during the pull phase of the stroke will cause negative effect during the hand exit phase. The open flap will generate more resistance, which will add more pressure to swimmer’s shoulder and might hinder his or her technique.
At this point we might ask ourselves a question, can the design of this paddle be improved to avoid opening of the flap during the hand exit phase of the stroke?
The answer is yes. We can effectively implement the idea of the “visual feedback” by utilizing existing paddles. If you attach a regular paddle to the middle finger, you will essentially get exactly the same paddle as the “technical aid swimming hand paddle”, only significantly simpler.
Let’s think of the “technical aid swimming hand paddle” on a swimmer’s hand in abstract as three layers: the hand, the paddle and the flap. Again, the diagram below will help you visualize this concept:
When the stroke is not properly executed, the flap opens and generates resistance in the area between the paddle and the flap (or between the flap layer and the paddle layer). When the stroke is executed properly, the flap, the paddle and the hand all stay together (all three layers are staked on top of each other):
Now, if we look at the two images above and think of the “technical aid swimming hand paddle” in terms of layers then we can notice that the only purpose of the paddle layer is to connect the flap and the swimmer’s hand. We can also notice that the flap actually serves two purposes: to be the paddle and to serve as a visual feedback of incorrectly executed stroke.
This poses an obvious question, if the only purpose of the paddle is to connect the flap to the swimmer’s hand, why can’t we connect the flap to the swimmer’s hand directly and eliminate the paddle layer altogether? This will simplify the device without sacrificing any benefits.
As mentioned above, attaching a regular paddle to the middle finger will essentially create the “technical aid swimming hand paddle” but without the extra layer. The absence of the wrist band on the regular paddle means that the paddle can move away from the swimmer’s palm, just like the flap can move away form the actual paddle in the “technical aid swimming hand paddle.” When the stroke is not perfectly executed, the pressure of the water will move the paddle away from the palm, which will generate more resistance and alert the swimmers, again, just what the flap does in the “technical aid swimming sand paddle.”
Finally, since a regular paddle is flat and doesn’t have the “lip” that the flap on the “technical aid swimming sand paddle” has, it will not open during the hand exit phase and will not generate extra resistance and will not add extra stress to the swimmer’s shoulder.
The “technical aid swimming hand paddle” is an interesting device that has certain benefits. Unfortunately, it also has a serious drawback. In my opinion, the design is overly complicated and the goal of this paddle can be achieved by using existing paddles.