Choosing a Paddle
Selecting the right paddle for your adventures on the water involves a few different factors. One size simply does not fit all. And of course, you need to be comfortable while paddling to ensure efficiency and fun.
Kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding? This should be an easy one to answer. Next you’ll need to consider the length and width of your vessel because a longer craft can sometimes require a longer paddle to aid in maneuvering and steering. And a wider kayak will require a longer paddle, too.
Your Paddling Style
Kayakers using a high-stroke paddling style where the blade enters the water from an angle high above their heads will require a shorter paddle to enable faster strokes and minimize arm fatigue. Medium-stroke paddlers plunging their blades into the water from a midrise level – around the head – will need a more standard size. And low-rise paddlers who want to barely lift the paddle above the edge of the craft will require a longer paddle to help create enough force for forward motion.
Kayak Paddles vs Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) Paddles
Kayak paddles are double-sided and designed for use while sitting in the cockpit of a kayak. They vary in size by as much as 30 cm, as well as in the types of construction materials, the weight and the design.
Touring – Designed for maximum efficiency over long distances, touring kayak paddles typically have longer shafts and thinner blades and are used in low-angle paddling.
Recreational – Constructed from durable and inexpensive materials like plastic, recreational kayak paddles are designed for use in both high-angle and mid-angle paddling.
Stand-up paddleboard paddles are designed to be used while standing with two feet planted on your stand-up paddleboard. They feature a blade on one side and an ergonomic grip for your hand on the other.
Paddle Anatomy & Features
Kayak Paddle Length: The length of the paddle impacts performance and also your comfort level. A shorter paddle is necessary for a high-angle stroke style that requires fast movement through water. Smaller paddlers might find a short paddle easier to handle as well. Longer paddles can be necessary for steering longer crafts.
Stand-up Paddleboard Paddle Length: The length of the paddle needed for stand-up paddleboarding is determined by your height.
Shaft: Paddle shafts made of aluminum are heavier but more durable as they tend to absorb the shock of being dropped on the ground or struck against a rock. Fibreglass paddles are lighter and more rigid which can increase control, maneuverability, and efficiency. Carbon fibre paddles are very light and considered the most responsive type of paddle.
Blade Feathering: This refers to the ability to offset the blade face from the opposite paddle allowing the paddler to be in a more natural position. The power-face of the paddle is rotated so that the angle at which the blade enters the water is natural. Should you feather or not? This is a personal choice but you can decide by adjusting in 15-degree increments. A common feathering angle is 45 degrees as it allows the paddle to cut through the water and wind more efficiently.
Relatively inexpensive, aluminum kayak paddles can be a good choice for beginners and also a good choice for your spare paddle set – just an extra paddle to keep on board in case of emergency. These paddles are considered very durable.
Good for touring and recreational kayaking, fibreglass kayak paddles are lightweight and durable. They’re priced at an approachable level for beginners and fibreglass is a material that can withstand years of use while also adding a noticeable advantage to your performance.
Carbon kayak paddles are the professional’s choice. They’re extremely lightweight and rigid, which helps you move across the water faster and makes long paddling adventures easy. A weight reduction of only a few ounces will have a considerable impact on your efficiency over a long-distance kayaking trip.