Kayak Paddle Comparison
Kayak Paddle Buying Guide
What is a Kayak Paddle?
Kayaking is a tremendous sport. You get to feel that rush that comes from being out on the water and feeling the wind in your hair. There’s very little equipment involved in kayaking, so that pieces that you do buy are of the utmost importance. The kayak paddle is one of the most important bits of equipment that you can supply yourself with, and there are a lot of models out there to choose from.
It can seem daunting at first when it comes time to buy a paddle, and that’s why this buyer’s guide was written to help you to make the task easier. Lets take a look at some of the key features that you need to pay attention to when investing in a good kayak paddle.
In terms of adult kayak paddles, there isn’t a tremendous amount of variation when it comes to paddle blade sizes. But if you’re someone who paddles a lot, then you’re going to find that subtle variations do make a big difference. If you’re trying to paddle hard with a smaller sized blade, then you’re going to feel like you’re not getting enough power because it’s going to seem like the blade is slipping. But if you don’t have a whole lot of upper body strength, you’re going to find that a large paddle isn’t going to make it feel like you’re going that much faster, so it’s about finding the balance.
Bigger blades are going to add weight, and this will make it more fatiguing for those who aren’t as strong. However, if you are a strong paddler, then a larger blade is going to give you much more speed. So what it comes down to is experimentation and knowing your level of strength. This will help guide you to the length of paddle that is just right for you.
There are many styles of blade that you’ll find on the market. Most of the paddles that you are going to find come in the traditional Euro style which have short, wide blades. But even among Euro paddles you’re going to see a lot of variation in terms of ratio of blade length to width. An expert paddler is going to be able to perform well with any kind of blade, no matter what its shape, but those who are new to paddling need to take shape into consideration. Wide blades will tend to be more forgiving in terms of making mistakes when turning and bracing.
This just means that the blade will be less likely to dive and cause your vessel to capsize should you make an error in the angle of the blade mid-stroke. But this is also the reason that wide blades will make rolling easier. That’s why it’s recommended that you get a touring paddle with a blade that is at least 7” wide. But, if you’re someone who doesn’t like kayaking in rough conditions and you don’t want to roll, then you will be better off with a low, narrow blade, which will be easier on the shoulders.
If you’re someone who enjoys kayaking on the sea, then you probably have a taller, wider front of your kayak and therefore you need a longer shaft for your paddle in order to be able to reach into the water for a strong forward stroke. This has nothing to do with how tall the person is, keep in mind.
The optimal way to choose your paddle length is to try several different paddles until you find the one that gives you the best average speed over a long distance. You’re going to find that different lengths will give you different speeds, but it’s all about finding the balance in terms of how much speed a paddle is giving you and how comfortable it is to use.
When paddles used to all be made of wood, the shafts of the paddles had a larger diameter than the fiberglass ones that we find today. Once the shift to fiberglass happened, the paddle builders went with a common size which was smaller and proved to be strong enough for most people. This shaft was also much lighter and easier to hold. The reduction in diameter was not noticed by most people, and within no time this new shaft size became the standard.
This means that those with average sized hands or even larger hands are going to benefit by adding heat shrink tubing or some other kind of material around the paddle shaft to thicken it up a little, as the fiberglass handle was not designed with ergonomics in mind. Should you have small hands, then you’re going to find that the standard size is going to be just about right for you.
Straight Shaft vs. Bent Shaft
“Bent shaft” kayak paddles feature many bends on either side of each hand grip, and this makes the shaft appear bent. The reason that it is designed with this complicated shape is because it extends the reach that you get when you’re planting your paddle at the beginning of your stroke. This also keeps your wrist in better alignment with your forearm. The flip side to this is that to maintain the same strength as a straight shaft the bent shaft ends up being heavier, and even though it improves your wrist position, it also makes your wrist position worse when it comes to backing up and low bracing for stability.
Should your wrists have a history of injury from repetitive use, then a bent shaft paddle is going to help you to minimize the risks of further injury. But, if you haven’t had any problems so far, either style of shaft is going to work for you just fine. It’s always important to maintain a loose grip and learn to use ergonomic stroke patterns in order to prevent injury. If you’re just starting out with kayaking, then it’s recommended that you begin with a straight shaft paddle.
Feather angle is the twist from one blade relative to the other, and it was once a deciding factor when it comes to buying a paddle. But today, all the two-piece sea kayak paddles have adjustable ferrules that will allow you to set any feather angle that you choose.
This means that you can adjust it from 0-90 degrees left or right in various 15 degree increments. It’s important to experiment a bit to change the feather angle to whatever is most comfortable for you.
If you’re someone who loves to kayak, then finding the right paddle is very important. It may seem like they’re all the same, but this is simply not true. We highlighted the top rated paddles on the market, and these are the ones that are guaranteed to give you solid performance. You can purchase any one of these paddles with confidence, but if you choose to continue your search then our buyer’s guide will no doubt help you to make a great purchase. When in doubt, go in person to a kayaking or sporting goods supply store and ask the representative about which paddle might be best for you. You need to take into consideration your height, level of strength, and skill set before choosing the paddle that is right for you.
With so many options out on the market, it may seem daunting at first when looking for the right paddle for you, but take heart. No matter which paddle you choose, you’re going to have an adjustment period where you learn to use the paddle properly, then after this you’re going to see that you have it down in no time.