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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Choose the Right Paddle for YOUR Next Adventure (or Lazy Sunday)

You spent countless hours researching, testing, and debating color.  You surveyed friends, and strangers on the forums.  You lay awake wondering if those additional rod holders will come in handy, and how to explain to the neighbors the boxes of PVC for your custom built storage. 

FINALLY, your kayak is here, and she’s a beauty.  So now what?  Choosing a paddle is the easy part, right?  Well…almost.  There is a different paddle for just about every different kayaking experience you can imagine, and quite possibly a few you can’t.  Want some help in figuring out what’s right for you?  Keep reading..

Size Actually Matters

First, you’ll need to determine the type of kayak you purchased, and what you’ll primarily be using it for.  We’re going to focus on the two main categories for this post, but if you would like more information let us know in the comments below!

Touring Kayak – Typically long and narrow, they are a favorite for long outings or traveling long distances. The average width is around 22”-27” (Think the Express or X-13 models)

Recreational Kayak – Recreationals don’t necessarily refer to use of sport, but more the shortened length and wider base.  Most fishing kayaks fall under this category, with an average width of 27”-35” (The X-Factor, Stealth series, and even Mini-X fit here)

The next step is to measure your torso size.  Using a flat chair, sit tall (no slouching!) and measure the distance from the surface of the chair to the tip of your nose.  The general rule is the taller you are, the longer the shaft and wider the blade you’ll need to balance your weight.  Shorter?  Choose a less lengthy version.  The key is to find the balance between your torso length and the width of your kayak.  After you've determined your shaft size (hey, let’s keep it PG here folks), you can move on to the different blade styles and makes.

A common misconception is that the larger the blade, the easier to paddle. While a wide blade (like our Tsunami) with more surface area can provide greater acceleration, it simultaneously proves a greater resistance in the water.  Great for working out, not so great for beginners.  A more narrow blade (like the Navigator) cuts through the water with less effort and makes traveling long distances considerably easier. 

Feathered vs Unfeathered…huh?

A feathered paddle refers to an adjustable shaft with angled blades, which allows for a more efficient stroke as the blade outside the water is more aerodynamic – aka cutting through the wind as easily as its partner is cutting through the water.  While this type of paddle is often preferred among avid kayakers, the movement is sometimes awkward and potentially straining on beginners, and it is suggested they try an unfeathered version first. 

What is That Thing MADE of?!

Paddles can be made of fiberglass, plastic, Kevlar, carbon…the list goes on.  With each material used for build, the weight and durability changes accordingly (along with price).  For shallow waters, a plastic paddle might suit you best, as the odds of hitting gravel, rocks and debris are increased.  For deeper waters and more avid kayakers, it might be wiser to review paddles made of a higher composite that will be lighter, provide more power, and are often more ergodynamic than their low cost competitors.

There are also plenty of specialty brands out there, like Backwater Paddle Company’s Assault Paddle, that was designed to attach to nearby foliage or push away debris.

Just want the cliff notes?  

Most paddlers in a sit-on-top kayak between 28”-34” fare perfectly fine with a 230 centimeter paddle.   If you’re not sure about the weight of the paddle and what you’ll prefer, try this simple test:  Hold the paddle in the center with one hand, and slowly tilt the paddle left and right.  If you’re easily tired or feel your wrists starting to strain, try checking out a lighter material.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share for choosing a paddle?  What do you use in your kayak?  Tell us in the comments below and we might feature you in our update!

A BIG special thanks to our Facebook Fan Lynn Rimmel who inspired this blog!

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