The most important accessories you can purchase for your kayak is the paddle. No one wants to be up the creek without a paddle, if you know what I mean. So, we are going to look at how to choose the right kayak paddle for you.
Here is a beautiful graphic to help you visualize the different steps of choosing a paddle. For more detailed info, read the entire article below.
Courtesy of Outventurist.com
Let’s Talk Length
Okay, let’s talk about length. Does length really matter? Well, I guess that depends on whether you are trying to retrieve your favorite fishing lure or not, or trying to get your friend wet while staying relatively dry.
All kidding aside, length is kind of important. Take for instance, if you are 6′ tall and your kayak is 2′ wide you certainly would not want a 5′ paddle. Length plays into the amount of energy you are going to expel paddling, how much strain you are putting on your back and shoulder muscles and how efficiently you move through the water.
So here are a few simple but easy guidelines. The wider your kayak is the longer your paddle needs to be. Your height also needs to be taken into consideration. Typically, paddles are measured in centimeters, although boats are measured in inches. Also, the type of paddling you are going to do will determine the length of paddle. There are two types of strokes. You have the Low Angle Stroke and the High Angle Stroke. The low angle stroke requires a longer paddle, versus the shorter length for the high angle stroke.
Low Angle Chart
Paddler Height Boat Width Paddle Length
5′-0″ – 5′-10″ 21″- 23″ 220 cm (7′-2″)
5′-6″ – 6′-2″ 23″ – 26″ 230 cm (7′-6″)
Over 6′-3″ Over 25″ 240 cm (7′-10″)
High Angle Chart
Paddler Height Boat Width Paddle Length
5′-0″ – 5’10” Under 22″ 210 cm (6′-10″)
5′-6″ – 6′-2″ 22″ – 23″ 215 cm (7′-0″)
Over 6′-3″ 23″ – 24″ 220 cm (7′-2″)
The chart above is just a basic guide for touring and recreational style paddles. I also converted the metric lengths to an approximate USA Imperial conversion. I know for myself, converting metric in my head doesn’t work. If you are looking for a paddle to go white water kayaking, you are going to look into smaller lengths. The average length for a white water paddle is 60″. The shorter lengths are not as cumbersome when dealing with twists and turns in the river.
How About Materials
Paddles are composed of a couple of basic materials. All of which lend to weight, durability, price and performance.
The blades can be made of plastic/nylon, fiberglass, or carbon-fiber. Plastic also known as the polymer/polypropylene and plastic blends are typically the lowest on the price range. So, they tend to be the most popular with the recreational kayakers. These paddles can be slightly heavier and may not perform quite as well as some of their counterparts.
The “middle of the road” in price point tend to be the fiberglass blades. They are also durable and effective on performance as well as lighter than the plastic. While they can chip, they are not prone to cracking all the way through as can sometimes happen with the plastic.
If you are willing to pay for the top of the line, look at the carbon-fiber blades. They are ultra light, durable and provide the best performance with each stroke.
Shafts are primarily made of aluminum, fiberglass or carbon-fiber. Plastic shafts are rare and really would not be worth the money in my opinion.
Aluminum, while it tends to be the less expensive has some cons. They can get hot in hot weather or cold in cold weather. You may want to invest in some gloves. Also, they not going to be as light as the fiberglass and carbon-fiber.
The fiberglass and carbon-fiber shafts are durable and perform very well when paired with either one of the lighter options of blades. You won’t be sorry you paid a little extra.
Did You Know
First of all, did you have any idea that there was so much that went into buying a paddle? Me either!
After doing the research and reading about all the paddle options, I was kind of blown away. Being a beginner myself, I am learning a ton about the basics of kayaking. Makes me want to go to my local sporting goods store and compare some of the different styles available out there.
My paddle is the basic aluminum shaft with plastic dihedral blade. It is a bit heavy and cumbersome when I am fishing. Now mine does break into two pieces which is very convenient for transporting and packing away. In my research I have also seen some that break down into 4 pieces.
And Just When You Thought You Were Done
I just kept diving into my research and here is where I found out that there are also bent shaft type paddles, wider blades, narrower blades, and fishing blades. I am definitely going to have to look for these. Any time you can find something to help you retrieve a lost fishing lure, you must have it, right?
Then there are also different blade shapes. There is the spoon and dihedral. Dihedral being the most comfortable of the two shapes and used primarily for low angle paddling. Spoon shaped paddles are used more for shorter more powerful strokes. You also have the option of asymmetrical, and symmetrical blades. So many options to consider.
Importance of Paddles
The one thing I did learn was the importance of finding the right paddle. Some of the cons of not having the right paddle are not being able to reach the water without bending over, banging your knuckles on the sides of the kayak, sore muscles due to excessive weight and working way too hard to get somewhere. While some of these may seem minor, just wait till you have to rub your whole body with icy hot to relieve the muscle aches. Just saying!
I hope the information I have provided here helps, I know I am going to be shopping for something a little lighter myself!
Happy Shopping You All, till next time!