The most important piece of the kayaking kit everyone needs is the paddle. Rightfully so, we use it regularly to guide our craft across the water. It controls the speed, direction, rotation, and overall performance. However, making successful water trips is impossible unless we choose the right paddle out of thousands of options. We may end up in the mid-lake with a broken paddle or flipping/ misleading the boat. Besides, unfit paddles usually take more time than required. Since the kayak paddles come in various forms, consider the following parameters before buying:
A Complete Kayak’s Paddle Buying Guide
An ideal paddle’s size depends on the rider’s height, kayak’s width, and the type of kayaking activities. Let’s elaborate.
Tall people need a long shaft where a short unit will work great for passengers below 5ft. Using too short models results in non-stop hand banging on the sides. Then, you will face difficulties reaching your destination. Too long kayak paddles have disadvantages too. Their additional weight causes strain to the paddler’s joints. Never take such a risk of injury. Besides, You will be casting long strokes that will go behind the boat. Such actions cause zig-zag motions rather than a straight line. When it comes to kayaks with average width, short kayakers use 220 to 230cm long paddle. But people above 6ft height range need at least 10 to 20-inch more extended models.
A person will need different models for a narrow and a broad craft. An average man has a height between 5ft to 5.6ft. He will feel comfortable with a 220cm long paddle while using 23 to 28-inch wide boats. For higher speed, he has to shift to wider kayaks. A 230cm paddle will suit him the best for any craft wider than 28-inch but narrower than 32-inch. Lastly, if the width crosses 32-inch, he should go for 240cm paddles.
When the person and kayak remain the same, we still have to change the paddle for paddling style. You may wonder about how to buy a kayak paddle considering the different strokes. Low-angle strokes maintain a short distance from the horizontal to the shaft. They apply minimal pressure on the muscles and joints, making long-distance traveling very comfortable. Users who own short and wide watercraft cast these strokes with a long paddle. The majority of kayakers prefer 220 to 240 cm in length. Contrarily, a high-angle stroke delivers more power while keeping the shaft close to vertical. It is mainly for whitewater and surf models. You should buy a short paddle to utilize this technique properly.
The shaft is the rod-like segment of a paddle. Judge its quality based on these criteria:
We are arranging the most common shaft materials in a couple of sections:
- Aluminum: They are an excellent choice within a limited budget. Despite not costing too much, aluminum combos are surprisingly durable. They withstand long-term heavy and rough uses. Therefore, one single purchase usually lasts up to years. The main drawback is, their metal frame quickly gets cold or hot. Make sure to cover the hands with glass before heading to the reservoirs.
- Carbon: Here comes one of the most expensive shaft components. The key benefit of carbon shafts is the weight. The combination of carbon blade and shaft forms the lightest paddles ever. Even after covering a hundred miles, your hand will be fine. Skip them if you are a short-time traveler.
- Fiberglass: Another durable alternative is a fiberglass shaft. Although it is lightweight, there is no compromise on strength. Users love it for its flexibility as well. Its superior performance will not let you down. These models cost more than plastic and aluminum counterparts but less than carbon products.
- Composite: They are made of both fiberglass and carbon. As you can assume, you can expect both materials’ advantages from them. Lightweight and durability are their basic features.
- Plastic: They are the rarest kind of shafts. Nowadays, only a few people use them. The reasons are their heavy-weight and bending tendency.
The most popular shaft styles are:
- Straight: The rod is straight and does not contain any curved section. It lifts water after each stroke, decreasing the kayak speed. Less number of modern paddles include a straight shaft.
- Bent: Bent-shaft paddles have kinked sections that push the water almost straight back. One can sense the usefulness during the power portion of strokes. They position hands at a more comfortable angle. Your joints will no longer suffer from severe pain after hours of paddling.
Some shafts have bending points so that we can break them down for storage.
- One-piece: Single-pieces are not breakable at all. We can’t deny the fact that they are reliable. They are appropriate for whitewater paddlers, not for camping.
- Two-piece: In general, 2-piece paddles are cheap because they require more backpack space. They offer several plus points too. Buyers find them very light to use and highly reliable against obstacles.
- Four-piece: Many plans to enjoy kayaking and hiking together; they prioritize four-piece models over the first two categories. These shafts feature four short and equal parts. You can fit them in a tiny space without worrying about protection.
Unlike the canoe blades, a kayak paddle consists of two blades. The blade properties vary from brand to brand. Let’s have a look.
The shaft and blade elements can either be the same or different. We have already discussed the shaft’s variety. Check the blade diversity now.
- Plastic or nylon: We are starting from the most wallet-friendly one. The manufacturer uses polypropylene for its construction, which is a high-impact plastic. They endure harsh uses quite effectively. You can easily survive, hitting rocks and obstacles. The downside is they are more prone to bending rather than breaking. Continuous use and high temperature can damage the frame. So be careful.
- Fiberglass: The popularity of fiberglass versions is rising day by day. We are impressed by their performance and long lifespan. The owner can lift them effortlessly because they do not weigh much. Above all, they are available at a medium price range.
- Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene: These models mix complementing materials to obtain specific characteristics. The credit for their durability goes to the polypropylene. Meanwhile, the fiberglass layer lightens the weight and keeps a perfect balance between compactness and stiffness.
- Carbon-fiber: If you don’t mind spending top dollar for optimum performance, carbon-fiber blades are for you. They are genuinely ultralight and ultra-stiff. These qualities supply incredible energy during every stroke. Apart from long-lasting service, they operate smoothly under the water.
It simply indicates the angle between the two blades. Companies cover both feathered and non-feather models.
- Non-feathered: these units carry both blades at the same angle. They need more power and therefore lead to discomfort and fatigue.
- Feathered: Advanced paddles arrive with blade adjustability design. The blades have an angular difference from each other. They go through the water and wind alternatively to reduce headwind or tailwind resistance. No chance to feel acute fatigue in the hands.
Blade size affects kayaking performance a lot. It is responsible for controlling the required amount of power in the strokes. Big and small blades go well with tall and short paddlers, respectively. Bigger ones can provide high power and speed. Experiencing more joint pain compared to small blades is a common thing. If you want less discomfort but similar power, purchase paddles with medium blades. They give an unbeatable pleasure for typical lake running.
Blade’s construction can either be symmetrical or asymmetrical. All contemporary models feature the second form. The edges do not look similar at all; one side is slightly shorter than the other. Each blade gets a more uniform surface area during moving into the water. It helps to keep us safe from twisting. Asymmetrical dihedral blades have become trendy in modern times. They offer smoothness and stability in strokes. If you like getting instant power, grab a spoon blade instead.