How To Choose a Kayak Paddle

When you are kayaking, it's all well and good to have you kayak sorted, and your kayaking clothes, but if you don’t sort out what kayak paddle you will be using, and put a decent amount of thought into it then you may as well be padding like a stick, and that is just no good, it will not work. 

Even just being out on the water takes up plenty of strokes and so a proper paddle will really make all the difference for you. 

There are four defining factors you need to consider when you are seeking a paddle for your kayak. Today we will talk you through these factors, so that you know how to choose your perfect paddle. 

The four defining factors

There re four defining factors that will influence your paddle choice, these are; Length, Materials and price, blade choice/design, and shaft choice/ design. 

The length is a factor influenced by both your height and the boats' width. The materials will decide where it is lightweight or not, if so it will improve the performance but add to the cost. Blade choice is about the size and shape which affects its overall efficiency, and the shaft choice can also influence the effectiveness. 

Now, lets look at how each of these things will influence your purchase and which is best for you.

Length

Figuring out the correct size for a paddle is shockingly straightforward. The wider your boat is the longer your paddle will need to be, your height should also be taken into consideration, especially if you have a narrow boat, a taller paddler will also need a longer paddle. 

For this reason a paddle make will size the paddle according to these two factors. Strangely enough the paddles are sized in cm’s, even though the boats re measured in inches. 

You should always check what brand you are considering, to see how they size theirs, but here is a vague idea for you; 

Boat Width

Paddler Height
< 23”
23” to 28”
28” to 32”
> 32”
Less than 5ft
210 cm
220 cm
230 cm
240 cm
5ft- 5ft6
215 cm 
220 cm
230 cm
240 cm
5ft6 to 6ft
220 cm
220 cm
230 cm
250 cm 
6ft +
220 cm
230 cm
240 cm
250 cm

In between (tweener) sizes

There is a chance you may fall in between sizes, in the case that this happens, it is advised to go shorter rather than taller. Taller may work, but you will save yourself the extra weight by going smaller. 

Materials

The material you have on the blade and shaft will make a difference to your paddling, you can get different materials for both the blades and the shafts.

Blade Materials

While in many sports, and activities you may believe that heavier is better, in this case it is not. The blade has to be raised higher than the shaft and so lightweight materials will stop you becoming fatigued. 

Plastic is a common choice, it can crack though, and it will degrade when left in the sun. It is flexible, but flexibility in the water will sacrifice efficiency on your stroke. 

Fiberglass is mid-price range and its more lightweight than plastic, it may chip, but it won’t crack all the way. These are fairly efficient. 

For the highest price you can get carbon fiber, which is ultra-stiff and gets an excellent stroke. 

Shaft Materials

While plastic shafts are rare, most are aluminum, the most wallet-friendly material. It can get hot or cold, so gloves are always a good shout. Carbon fiber and fiberglass gloves are durable strong and lightweight too. Though they are more rare and cost more. 

Design of the blade

A majority if paddle blades these days feature a shape that is asymmetrical dihedral. It is relatively narrow and shorter on one side. This angles it so that the surface area of the blade is more uniform when it pushes through the water. 

These are identifiable by the rib that goes down its center. It allows water to flow smoothly and evenly over both halves of the blade. Blades without this flutter more, which makes it more difficult to track straight. 

Narrow blades tend to be more comfortable for long stretches of paddling. These are especially helpful on a full-day tour or multiday trip. Wider blades will often provide themselves a quick powerful stroke that will allow you to accelerate very quickly. 

Design of the shaft

The first question you need to ask yourself about your paddling shaft is if you want to use a shaft that is bent or straight. A bent shaft will have a kinked section that positions hands at a more comfortable angle as you use them. It helps to minimize fatigue. If you were to change your shaft from straight to bent, you want to plan a day on the water in calm conditions to adjust your technique and get used to the new shaft. 

You can also get two pieces or four piece shafts, both are designed to break down for easier storage, like many things these days. A model with a four-piece just has shorter sections, so if you were to hike somewhere with a portable kayak or take your paddle on a plane, it makes for easier transport. 

There are also small diameter shafts, which off less fatiguing grips for paddlers with smaller hands. You can either target standard or small, so if you can’t make a ring with your index finger and thumb around your regular shaft, you probably need a small one. 

You can also get blades that are either feathered or matched.  Matched ones are aligned with each other, feathered ones are not, they are offset at an angle with eachotehr to reduce wind resistance on the blade out of the water. 

Any shaft should allow you to rotate them to be matched or feathered, you can also adjust the amount of feathering. 

So, which paddle is right for you? 

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