When it comes to kayak paddles, the one you choose is going to be the difference between your energy level and comfort on the water.
Thankfully, choosing the right paddle isn’t all that difficult.
Choosing the right kayak paddle
With that in mind, what should you be looking at – size-wise, shape-wise and material-wise?
1 – Length
Kayak paddles can be found in lengths of 210cm to 260cm. The size you need will depend on three things: boat width, your height and the paddling style.
2 – Paddling Style
You have two types of paddling styles to choose from
- Low-angle paddling – This type of paddling uses a relaxed style with a gentler tempo. It provides efficiency when on long trips. The more horizontal the blade angle into the water means low-angle paddles will have slim blades and be just a tad bit longer than the higher angle ones.
- High-angle paddling – This type of paddling is far more aggressive and has a quicker tempo. When you need speed and maneuverability in moving water, this is the type of paddle you want. And, since it demands ample force for every stroke, it’s ideal for fitness.
3 – Blade Materials
When it comes to materials, the more lightweight a blade is, the easier it’ll be to paddle. In saying that, the best paddles will offer both strength and be lightweight. Weight is necessary for touring paddles… for long trips. If you weight whitewater paddles, then you want a paddle that has strength to it.
- Fiberglass – Fiberglass paddles are great for recreational and touring use because of their durability and lightweight. They’re also found in an array of colors.
- Carbon Fiber – When you need a high-performance paddle, you want a paddle made out of carbon fiber. Although it does cost you a little more, it’s lightweight and has a distinctive look that you’ll appreciate for a multi-day trip.
- Aluminum/Nylon/Plastic – If you want paddles you rarely need to take care of but are still durable, you can’t go wrong with plastic, nylon or aluminum paddles. They’re also reasonably priced. These paddles are great as a spare (when you absolutely need it) and are ideal for beginner kayakers. However, it’s important to note that they can be heavy and, if used in the colder months, the aluminum is going to be cold to the touch.
4 – Feathering vs. Non-Feathering Blade Design
Blades will be either feathered or not feathered. What’s the difference? Feathered blades are at an angle to one another. Non-feathered blades are in line with one another.
With feathering, there is a reduction in your wrist becoming tired and wind resistance. When one blade is in the air, the other is in the water. Feathered blade angles have a range of 30 to 45 degrees. Larger angles provide the best efficiency when you paddle, but the smaller angles tend to be easy for wrists.
Feathered blades allow for one hand to be in control over the paddle. This hand can rotate the shaft with every stroke, so blades going into the water at the best possible angle. The majority of whitewater paddles uses the right hand to maintain control.
The majority of touring paddles come with take-apart shafts that enable you to change the angle of the feather and control hand. The control hand is more about personal preference nice, and isn’t figured on whether or not you’re left-handed person or right-handed.
5 – Shaft
Most of the kayak paddles are designed with a straight shaft. But there are paddles with a central kinked area that gives a greater degree of comfort and less fatigue and discomfort resulting from the paddling action.
A shaft for ease in travel and storage includes 2 or 4 piece units. The multiple piece paddle is a perfect choice as a backup or using with the inflatable kayaks.
Plus, the diameter of the shaft can vary with the smaller options preferred by those with smaller hands.