Kayak paddles are equipment that not only allow the kayak to move faster in the water, but also prevent energy of the paddler from being wasted. Those passionate about learning to kayak must note than kayak paddles form an important phase of kayaking. Just as arms are extensions of the body, kayak paddles are extensions of the body while kayaking. Thus, having the right paddle is necessary. People looking for the perfect kayak paddles should know that nothing of the sort exists. It is different for everyone.
There are all sorts of paddles available in the market, and their choice will depend on factors such as length, weight, blade shape, material and personal preference.
Blade Shape and Design
Paddles are available with various blade shapes such as; symmetrical, asymmetrical, narrow, wide, etc. and each shape allows the paddler to paddle in a different manner. For example, a narrow blade will be easier to paddle, however, requires more number of strokes to reach a distance. The wide blade requires more energy to paddle, however, requires lesser number of strokes to move the kayak across the water. The large symmetrical blades require more energy, but can move the kayak quickly across the water.
Asymmetrical blades aid in efficient paddling and use lesser energy as compared to the symmetrical type. This type is good for people who paddle for long periods of time. Blades are either feathered or non-feathered, wherein the feathered blade has the right and left blade at an angle to each other. In case of non-feathered blades, the right and left blade are arranged parallel to each other. Feathered blades reduce wind resistance, however, they require additional wrist turning, which may be difficult for beginners. Thus, beginners can opt for collapsible paddle which can be adjusted to feathered as well as non-feathered types.
Boat width, personal preference and individual height, are factors that determine the paddle length. If the kayak is a tandem kayak and a wide type, then longer paddles are required. Long paddles will enable the paddler to reach the water without straining. Shorter paddles require more effort to propel the boat. However, for people who prefer to make quick rapid strokes, the shorter version is better. Tall paddlers will require longer paddlers, whereas shorter people will require short paddles. A general guideline for paddle length is that tall people with wide boats should opt for a length of 240 cm or more. The 230-235 cm range is required for average size people, and 220 cm one will do for recreational paddlers and shorter people. After considering all these variables, one should choose the length of the paddle.
The best kayak paddles offer a balance of strength and lightweightedness. These paddles come in different materials such as wood, fiberglass, aluminum or plastic and carbon fiber. Paddles made of wood help get a feel of the water well, and thus aid in achieving smooth strokes. Moreover, it also retains heat to some extent and keeps hands comfortably warm, in cold weather. Fiberglass paddles are durable, lightweight and virtually maintenance free. As far as price range is concerned, these paddles are a popular choice. The lightest paddles available are those made from carbon fiber paddles. These are slightly expensive and less durable as compared to fiberglass ones, however, are a good option, if weight is a concern. Kayak paddles featuring plastic blades and aluminum shafts are economical as well as durable. However, they are heavier than other materials and feel cold in cool weathers.
Depending on the size of the paddler's hands, one can choose an appropriate paddle shaft. Shafts come in two shapes: round as well as oval. The oval shafts offer better grip as compared to the conventional round one. The shafts can be manufactured from aluminum, fiberglass, wood, etc. Depending on the paddles blades, shafts will be available. Some round shafts offer oval hand sections for comfortable grip.
It is advisable to have a spare paddle in the kayak. A spare paddle will enable one from being stranded in the water, if the paddle falls into the water and disappears. 2 piece and 3 piece kayak paddles are available, which can be easily stored on the kayak deck.