Paddlesport Entanglement Safety Tools: Effectiveness and Efficiency in Knives and Shears


  • Tina Aldrich University of Arkansas
  • Merry Moiseichik University of Arkansas
  • Gretchen Oliver University of Arkansas


Paddlesports organizations stress the importance of having proper gear for optimum safety (ACA, 2009; BCU, 2009; Johnson, 2002; Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors, 2009). Paddlers of all abilities refer to a “to bring/gear list†when preparing for time on the water. Gear lists vary in their recommendations for tools concerning entanglement safety. Some indicate the need for a knife (ACA, 2009; Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors, 2009). Others do not mention the need for such an implement (BCU, 2009; Johnson, 2002). A review of gear lists from nationally recognized organizations, paddlesport books, and paddlesport clubs found that the knife was the only tool recommended for entanglement safety. Folk knowledge suggests that other entanglement safety tools (trauma shears, multi-tool, hook type razor, etc…), though not as popular, are also being carried by paddlers. Folk knowledge is learned by word of mouth, watching others, and partaking in traditions (Bulger, 2000; Landers & Kretchmar, 2008). Literature on entanglement safety in paddlesports, both empirical and expert opinion, is sparse. There is a lack of inquiry about the efficacy of potential rope entanglement safety devices. One purpose of this study was to measure which tools, knives or shears, cut paddling related ropes more efficiently. Surface electromyography (sEMG) was chosen to compare efficiency of knives verses shears on cut throw and tow ropes by assessing muscle activation levels. Muscles emanate myoelectric signals. The sEMG sensory system used these signals to analyze the muscle during a cutting maneuver (Basmajian, & DeLuca, 1985; Konrad, 2005). Statement of Hypotheses: Shears will utilize less muscle activation, less time, and allow for more success than knives to cut a tow rope or throw rope.