You will see various lengths, blade types, and materials that make up a myriad of choices for prospective paddle purchasers. Here are some points you should consider before spending any money, and I do mean “any” because if you buy the wrong one, you will not enjoy it.

  • What is the paddle made from?   The material is a big determinate of the weight of the paddle. If you are paddling properly, your abs are working, not your arms, and north of the abdominal muscles, where you will feel the weight the most is in your trapezoid muscle. The lighter the paddle, the more time you will enjoy being out paddling. Aluminum shafts conduct heat and cold; fiberglass shafts do not. Generally speaking, as paddle weight goes down, its’ price goes up.
  • What blade shape is best? High-angle paddling is usually done by whitewater kayakers and by touring kayakers while sprinting. High angle paddles are usually shorter by 10 cm than their touring, or low-angle counterparts. High-angle paddling is the sprint, versus the long-distance low-angle paddling. The high-angle paddle blade is short and fat, which catches more water each dip, so it will require more effort to move. For touring, low angle paddling is less tiring, as you can be doing it for hours. The blade shape for touring is long and lean, which also makes it easier to move. The paddle is approximately 10 cm longer than it’s high-angle counterpart, allowing you to keep your stroke low, avoiding the arm lift.
  • Paddle length is determined by 1. paddler height  and 2. kayak width. Knowledgeable sales reps will guide you in choosing the best paddle for your needs.

 

By Larry S. Kang

Of all the gear that a kayaker uses, one of the most important is the kayak paddle. The most important, of course, is the kayak. But even the kayak won’t be going anywhere without the help of a proper paddle. Kayak paddles come in many varieties – they can be made from many different types of materials, come in different lengths, and can have different blade and shaft shapes. The most popular materials from which to make them are aluminum, plastic, wood, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.

The cheapest paddles you can get are made from aluminum and plastic. These are cheaper materials that are still strong enough for use in kayaking. A typical aluminum and plastic paddle has a tubular aluminum shaft and plastic blades and both ends. Sometimes, these very basic models come with the kayak as part of a package. Inflatable boats and rafts also come with similar paddles. While most kayakers prefer to spend a little extra money to get something nicer, these are still good for use as backup paddles, in case a primary one gets lost. If you want to use a plastic and aluminum paddle as a backup, simply stow it in your kayak somewhere you can reach it in case you lose your primary paddle. Some paddlers keep their spare paddle under their deck bungees, for example.

Wooden paddles are stiff, lightweight, and in the opinion of many are the most attractive looking paddles. With many wooden paddles, the workmanship is apparent from the finish. However, you may be surprised that the cost of acquiring a wooden paddle is really not much more than the cost of a comparable fiberglass one. Wooden paddles typically have both their shaft and blades made of wood; however, some of wooden paddles that can be taken apart into two pieces have a middle section made of a composite material such as carbon fiber where the joint is. Wooden paddles are made from stiff and lightweight woods such as basswood and alder.

Composite paddles are made from materials such as fiberglass and carbon fiber. These paddles are very strong and lightweight because they are made from woven fibers with a high tensile strength. The woven fibers are soaked in resin, which is very stiff when it hardens. The resulting paddle has the strength and light weight that is appreciated in a kayak paddle. Fiberglass paddles are cheaper than carbon fiber paddles, but are also a little heavier. The last few ounces are the hardest to eliminate, and the cost of a carbon fiber paddle is substantially higher than that of a fiberglass paddle. Carbon fiber paddles are almost always black, and usually allow the carbon fiber weave to show through for a high tech look.

Most kayak paddles are breakdown paddles, which means that they can be separated into multiple pieces for easy transportation and storage. Since a kayak paddle can range in length from about 210 to 240 centimeters, this is a useful feature to have. Ideally, a breakdown paddle should have a joint that is secure enough that the paddle feels like a single piece when it is assembled.

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