How to select the correct kayak paddle


Posted September 29, 2016 by

Kayak Paddle Options

There are a multitude of quality kayak paddles on the market today and it can become quite confusing if you are unsure of what kayak paddle to choose. Not only that, but there are numerous quality kayaking paddles on the market, with some being constructed from wood, fiberglass, and even aluminum. The shape of the blades can differ, with some kayak paddles having flat or dihedral blades, some might have feathered or unfeathered blades, whilst some may have symmetrical or asymmetrical blades, and oval or round shafts.

When choosing your kayak paddle, understanding the shape of the blade and what that shape means to general kayaking is an important step when choosing the correct kayak paddle for the type of kayaking that you want to do.

Curved blades—also known as spoon blades—enter the water more easily, improve your bite on the water, and make paddling easier than do flat blades.

Feathered blades – offset or turned 30 to 85 degrees from each other, help make the paddle less wind resistant and increase the biomechanical efficiency of each stroke. Feathered paddles come in right or left-hand control models to match the angle of the blades to your control hand. A right hand control model is the most popular type, as your right hand remains stationary on the shaft and determines the angle of the blades. When you take a stroke on your left side, your right hand rotates the shaft through your left hand so that the left blade can bite the water. In a left hand control model, your left hand does all of this.

Oval shafts: (also known as indexed shafts) make all of this easier by letting you home in on your blade angle by feel even when you can’t see your blades.

Things to consider when selecting a paddle

Almost every kayaker I know has a different concept of the perfect paddle. Most of my friends like fiberglass; whilst others may like wood paddles. I think it comes down to personal preference really – but it is always important to at least go and check out a paddle in your local kayaking store and test out the weight of each type.

Some kayakers like their blades feathered 60 degrees; others opt for 30—degree offsets. There’s lots of room for debate on blade shapes and sizes, and you will get opinions on the best kayak paddles from all corners, but what is most important when selecting a paddle, and probably THE most important step you’ll take when selecting a paddle is to determine your optimum paddle LENGTH.

Ideal paddle length takes into account your height, arm length, kayak size, and paddling style. If you are quite tall, have a large kayak, or seek some extra support from your paddle, opt for a slightly longer paddle. On the other hand, shorter paddles are lighter, faster, and fit into tight spaces on narrow rivers.

If you are like most consumers, money is always tight, but don’t get fooled into buying budget and trying to skimp on quality when purchasing a kayak paddle! Some inexpensive paddles may seem like good deals at the time, but they are easy to break or bend, and they tend to make paddling more fatiguing. There is no use buying a cheap and nasty kayak paddle and then not enjoying your paddling experience. So take it from us, go for a more expensive paddle and skimp on other accessories if you can. Obviously you should get the best paddle you can afford and then ensure that you take good care of it.

In one of our later posts, we will be reviewing some of the best kayak paddles on the market right now, so watch out for that post!

If you are just beginning in the kayaking world, here are some tips for selecting your first paddle.

If you grab a paddle within the recommended range and try the hand positioning technique, the paddle will be properly sized if you can fit one fist between your hand and the butt of the blade. Later, you can select a paddle length that best suits your paddling style.


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