Kayak Paddles – Materials Matter

Second only to the kayak itself, the kayak paddle is widely considered to be one of the most essential pieces of equipment for those who enjoy kayaking. In addition to being the only feasible means for propelling the kayak through the water, the kayak paddle also can greatly affect the paddling experience. Among the best features to look for in a kayak paddle are weight, ergonomics, and length. Kayak paddles are typically double-bladed and made from lightweight materials such as aluminum, plastic, wood, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.

Aluminum and plastic paddles are usually the cheapest and also the heaviest. Even though they are cheap and durable, most serious paddlers have upgraded from plastic and aluminum paddles because they weigh so much. As every paddler knows, the weight of the paddle is extremely important because the paddle must be moved repeatedly and continuously during paddling. Thus, the amount of work done by the paddler increases by the additional weight multiplied by the number of strokes the paddler takes using the heavier paddle. This can add up quite quickly! However, because they are cheap and sometimes come with the kayak anyway, a lot of paddlers keep their aluminum or plastic paddles around as spares in case they lose their primary paddle.

recreational kayaking

Wood or fiberglass paddles are very popular among kayakers because they are lightweight and only moderately expensive. They are also strong and rigid materials that can take a lot of abuse. Wood paddles are a little less common than fiberglass ones, but can cost about the same. In addition to being a little more rare, wood paddles also have a pleasing appearance which some prefer over the look of fiberglass paddles. Fiberglass is also an excellent material from which to make kayaking paddles. Fiberglass itself consists of woven sheets of fabric that are soaked in resin and then formed against a mold. When the resin hardens, the fiberglass retains the shape of the mold. The woven fibers give strength to the finished product.

Carbon fiber paddles are less commonly seen on the water than fiberglass paddles, but are still popular because of their light weight. If you are used to handling heavier paddles, you may be surprised the first time you pick up a carbon fiber paddle. Some carbon fiber paddles can be a few ounces less than similarly sized fiberglass paddles, which are already pretty light. A few ounces may not sound like much when you are handling these paddles in a kayak store, but remember that the difference in weight is multiplied over thousands of strokes over the course of a kayaking trip. A typical carbon fiber paddle can weigh as little as 26 ounces. The trade off is that carbon fiber kayak paddles can be double or triple the price of otherwise comparable fiberglass paddles.

As with many things, a good rule for kayak paddles is to buy the best one that you can reasonably afford. Since the paddle is so important, you probably don’t want to settle for a sub-standard one just to save a few bucks. When allocating your budget, save money on other non-critical gear items where cost is not so correlated to performance.

How To Choose The Right Kayak Paddles

Many people spend a lot of time choosing the right kind of kayak and even kayak helmet, but they don’t spend enough time choosing the right kayak paddles. In most cases, they will simply take what the salesperson gives them. Sometimes, they may simply buy the cheapest one available. The truth is that the wrong kind of paddle can make a kayaking trip a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Before buying your paddle, it makes sense to know how to buy the right one for you.

Size Matters

The most common mistake people make while buying kayak paddles is that they buy ones that are of the wrong length. To choose a paddle of the right length, you need to consider your own height and what kind of paddling you will be doing. For instance, whitewater rafting generally calls for a shorter paddle, while those for touring kayaks are generally longer. The kind of kayak you will be using also plays a role in choosing a paddle of the right length.

sunset kayak

It also helps to know what material the kayak paddles are made of. Accent paddles have a solid foam core that is coated with carbon and fiberglass, with Dynel edging. This ensures that the paddle is not only light, but is also strong and durable. This kind of paddle also comes with a LokTite Feathering System, so you can easily adjust the angle. Another factor to consider while buying a paddle is whether you want a straight or bent shaft. Both shafts have their own advantages. Straight shafts are comparatively lighter and less expensive, which is probably why they are also the more common kind of paddles. Paddles with a bent shaft are more comfortable to use, puts less strain on the joints, and are better for proper stroke alignment.

Shafts And Blades

The diameter of the shaft is another thing to consider while buying kayak paddles. Interestingly, this is usually the last thing that people think about. In many cases, they don’t even consider this to be an issue. The fact is that a shaft with a diameter that is too big will prove to be a difficult grip when you are on the water. If the diameter is too small, you will have problems controlling your paddle. While buying a paddle, make sure it fits comfortably in your hand. Remember that even small comfort issues that may not seem like a big deal in the store could end up being a big pain when you are out in the water.

Last but definitely not least, you need to consider the kind of blade that will be on your paddle. There are two kinds of blades available-unfeathered and feathered. In an unfeathered model, the blade is in the same alignment along the shaft of the paddle. This makes for an easy entry into the water and is also easier to use with either hand. A feathered paddle has the blades at an angle to each other. This cuts down wind resistance and is best suited for small-angle paddling. By taking these tips into consideration, you can buy kayak paddles that are best suited for you, your kayak, and your kayaking expedition.


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