When it comes to kayaking, choosing the right paddle is second only to choosing the kayak itself. The right paddle can significantly improve your performance and comfort as well as help you reduce the effort and energy required to move you through the water.
There are four main areas to consider when it comes to choosing the right paddle, so to help you find the perfect one, we have put together a short guide:
Kayak Paddle Length
The first thing that you need to consider when it comes to choosing the right paddle is the overall length. This will be based on your height as well as the length and width of your boat. The taller you are, the longer that paddle that you will need. Most manufacturers will have a recommended sizing guide. So selecting the correct paddle length is as simple as checking the manufacturers’ sizing chart. Quality brands will also offer a range of smaller sizes for children and teenagers.
Kayak Paddle Angle
This is one of the most crucial parts of the paddle as the angle of your blade will determine how it interacts with the water; which in turn will affect your feeling and performance. There are two typical angles that paddles come in:
A high angle paddle is one that has been specifically designed to be more vertical during a forward stroke. This gives the kayaker far more power and momentum, moving the kayak through the water much faster. The blades are typically shorter and broader than other types.
On the other hand, a low-angle paddle is more horizontal and your hands are typically closer together. These paddles are easier to use as they are less tiring and help to ensure that you can enjoy a more consistent paddling experience – which is why they are popular for those who enjoy kayak touring.
Although not being a complex design, the materials that make up your paddle are very important in its overall performance. The material used will affect the weight and maneuverability during use, as well as helping to transfer the energy produced from your arms into the water.
Most paddles will be made from either an aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon shaft. Aluminum is the most cost-effective and is highly durable. Fiberglass and carbon are more expensive but are considerably lighter, making them easier to use without detracting from the performance or durability. For these reasons, fiberglass and carbon are popular choices for experienced kayakers.
When it comes to the blade, these are also typically made from three materials:
Plastic or Nylon
This is the most common option thanks to it being very cheap to produce and very durable. For most beginner kayakers these are a great budget-friendly material to select.
The next level up is a fiberglass blade. These offer great performance and durability combined with being significantly lighter in weight compared to plastic or nylon blades.
Carbon fiber blades are at the top of the range in terms of cost and performance. Incredibly lightweight, they offer the user maximum performance and are the best option for highly experienced kayakers.
Paddle Blade Design
The final aspect that you should consider when choosing your paddle is the overall design of the blade. There are a number of different shapes to choose from but the most common include:
A wing blade has one face with a shallow scoop, which helps to increase the surface area of the blade; making it more efficient and powerful during a forward stroke. These are not suitable for beginner kayakers or those who are more recreational kayakers, with the wing design most typically used by racers.
A dihedral blade is one that has two power faces. You can typically spot this blade by the fact it has a rib down the center of each face. This style is designed to minimize the vibration during each stroke and make it easier to catch the water.
A rather unusual design, Greenland blades are a traditional style used for centuries in Greenland and resemble an airplane propeller. These are a popular choice for touring use as they are highly versatile and offer a high level of cadence.
One Piece or Two
If you want to feather your paddle, you will need to choose a 2-piece. Read this article if you want to learn more about feathering your paddle. All of the considerations when purchasing a 1-piece paddle still apply when selecting a 2-piece kayak paddle. The key difference is that you will have to decide on the ferrule, the connector used to join the two shaft pieces.
The most basic setup is when you simply insert the end of one paddle shaft into the other. If you are into hardware terminology, you slide the male end into the female end to connect the two paddles into one long continuous shaft. Often, a spring lock secures the two ends together and a button insert keeps the shaft from rotating within its sleeve while you paddle. There are typically multiple holes to select from allowing you to choose the amount of feather you would like. You simply depress the button and pull the two pieces apart to break down the paddle.
- Ensure a tight fit. You don’t want any twisting between the joined sections while you paddle.
- Evaluate the ease of use. Adjustments to change the feathering angle should be simple to do under all conditions. Some ferrule systems also allow you to make slight changes to the paddle length. You want adjustments to be quick and painless. Many systems use calibration markings or even ‘clicks’ to make this process easier.
- Consider your profile preference. Do you want a continuous smooth shaft or is a seem at the join ok? Considering that you don’t hold your paddle in the middle, this isn’t a significant consideration for most paddlers. However, some paddles have adjustment hardware on the outside which can have a more pronounced profile. This could feel cumbersome to some kayakers. The last consideration on profile is your preferred kayak rescue method. If you use your paddle to slide or brace against your boat, a protruding adjustment mechanism could be limiting.
Don’t use a lubricant. It can become sticky and trap debris in the mechanism, possibly causing damage to your paddle over time.
Final Thoughts On Choosing A Kayak Paddle
The paddle you choose can significantly affect the performance and enjoyment of your kayaking. So if all of the choices are a bit overwhelming, talk with your local outfitter. Discuss your style of paddling and they’ll be happy to help you choose the perfect paddle for your particular needs.
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