We all know how much fun we could get from a day out kayaking. Although things could turn south quickly if the right components are not used. From choosing the wrong kayak to selecting the wrong paddle, it’s established that choosing the wrong components can completely ruin your kayaking trip.
What are Kayak Paddles
Paddles are commonly used for kayaking and canoeing. They consist of rigid sheets usually called blades and a handle or a shaft.
The paddle for kayaks are usually different in structure than those used for canoeing.
Kayak paddles tend to be longer and have blades at each end of a shaft. The paddle is handled from the middle of the shaft. Those canoes have only one blade and a handle.
Paddle shafts can be made of carbon fiber, wood, fiberglass, and iron. They also have varying costs due to the carrying cost of production using different materials. Paddles made with aluminum or iron tend to be cheaper than those made with fiberglass or carbon fiber.
Other things kayak paddles have are variant sizes to suit preferences of kayakers, ‘smaller diameter shaft’ paddles are made for kayakers with smaller hands or children. Blades of paddles also vary, with some specific colors paying attention to safety.
How to Choose a Paddle? What Size Works Best?
Selecting a kayak paddle is almost as challenging as selecting a kayak itself, and as always, some factors must be considered to get the right kayak for you.
Professional kayakers can attest to the fact that even the littlest variation in size of a paddle blade can have noticeable effects. Bigger blades tend to add more weight to the paddle thereby effectively reducing the speed. Using the same effort, a kayaker with a smaller blade size would go faster than one with larger blade size.
Feather angle represents the twist from one blade relative to another blade. It is a major factor to consider when selecting a kayak paddle, most of them but all the sea kayak paddles available have adjustable ferrules that allow you to set any feather angle you want from 0 – 90 degrees. Left or right in fifteen-degree increments. This provides the choice to change the feather angle to any angle that suits you.
Blade style deals with the variations of the ratio of blade length to width. High angle paddles which have wide blades are most efficient for every grade of kayakers. They are more forgiving of mistakes made during turning and bracing.
Most cases of kayak capsizing are caused by mistakes made from misjudging the blade angle to the surface of the water. The high angle paddles reduce the risk of such cases even if this error occurs.
For similar reasons, wide blades also tend to make rolling easier. Although an expert can do anything with any paddle regardless of the style, we all can’t be experts.
Paddle Shaft Diameter
As stated above, shaft diameter is one of the most important considerations to make when selecting a kayak paddle. This is because if you get a paddle with shaft that does not fit comfortably in your hand, it would be extremely difficult to use.
Kayakers with smaller hands should consider selecting paddles with smaller shaft diameter. For those kayakers with bigger hands, a kayak with a slightly bigger diameter would suit you perfectly. Selecting a kayak with an inappropriate shaft diameter can lead to blisters.
Bent Paddle Shaft
We all at some point must have seen a bent paddle shaft and immediately felt the paddle was broken. Paddles shafts are intentionally designed with a bend and for good reason.
Bent shaft kayak paddles consist of several bends on either side of each hand grip area making the shaft look something like the crankshaft in an engine. Some people actually call it the crankshaft paddle, and rightly so. The bend increases contact between your hand and the paddle, improving comfort and effectively reducing movement of the paddle within your grip. It also keeps your wrist better aligned with your forearm at the beginning of your forward stroke. A lot of science for just a couple of bends, right?
This is the most important factor to consider in choosing a paddle and also answers the question “what is the best size for a kayak paddle?”.
Paddle size should be chosen by considering the length of your torso and the width of the kayak; like the math bros would say, paddle size is a function of torso size and kayak width. The longer your torso and the more width of your kayak, the longer the paddle length to choose.
Measuring your torso length is quite easy, you just have to take note of the length from the top of the kayak seat to your nose.
Some torso size and their corresponding paddle length is shown below:
(Torso Length, Paddle Length)
- (22, Youth 180cm)
- (24, Youth 180 – 200cm)
- (26, 190 – 210cm)
- (28, 200 – 220cm)
- (30, 210 – 230cm)
- (32, 220 – 240cm)
- (34, 230 – 250cm)
- (36, 240 – 250cm)
- (38, 250cm)
What Happens When You Use Too Long a Paddle for Kayaking?
Kayaking with a paddle longer than it should lead to a whole lot of unpleasant experiences. First off, you tend to exert extra energy building more speed the kayak using a paddle that’s too long. In using the right paddle, you can easily attain certain speed due to the perfect reach and control you get.
Maintaining stability in kayaks is also really difficult when a longer paddle is used. This instability puts you at risk as your kayak can easily capsize.
In using a very long paddle, your hand moves along the shaft which generates blisters especially if the shaft is made of wood or iron making kayaking very uncomfortable.
Wrapping it All Up
Remember, kayaking is meant to be relaxing, comfortable and fun. Regardless of your preference, body structure or budget, there is always a kayak paddle that suits you perfectly and ensures you have a great day kayaking. Don’t settle for anything less.