Choosing the right kayak paddle depends on a lot of things, such as your size, your torso length, your kayak size, if your new to kayaking or an avid kayaker. Did you know that the longer your torso is, the longer the paddle you will need? All of these things need to be taken into account when choosing a kayak paddle. A proper sized paddle can make the difference in your enjoyment on the water.
What happens if the paddle is not right for you?
This could lead to you overexerting yourself and working a lot harder than you need to. It will not matter if the paddle is too short or too long. Both situations will lead to over exerting, and that will lead to discomfort and inefficiency of your paddling skills. Or, even less control over your paddle and kayak.
If you use the wrong size paddle, it could result in any one of the following:
• Shoulder strain
• Blisters on your hands
• Overall fatigue
• Hitting your hands on the side of your kayak
When looking at which paddle you need, you must think about your kayak size. Say you’re a shorter person and your kayak is wide, you may need the same length paddle as a person taller than you, but in a narrower kayak. A rule of thumb is, the wider your kayak is, the longer your paddle should be. That way, you can properly reach the water comfortably and not overexert yourself.
Before you pick out a kayak paddle, think about these five categories:
• Length (If the length is wrong your hands may move along the shaft causing blisters)
• What the paddle (Shaft)is made of (Aluminum, Carbon and fiberglass)
• Price (What is your price point –price range varies)
• Shaft (For smaller hands try and find smaller diameter shaft, straight or bent)
• Blade (Material-Plastic, Nylon, Fiberglass, Carbon-Fiber)
Different types of kayaks come in different widths. Here are some guidelines of widths:
|Touring Kayak||Width 22″ to 25″||Length is generally 12-15 feet long.|
|Recreational Kayak||Width of 26″ to 30″||Length is generally 6-12 feet long.|
|Performance Kayak||Width 19″ to 22″||Length is 15-18 feet.|
|Whitewater Kayak||Vary widely in dimensions||Length is 7-11 feet long.|
Here are some guidelines to consider when looking at paddle length.
|Paddler Height||Boat Width|
|Under 23″||23″ to 28″||28″ to 32″||Over 32″|
|Under 5’tall||210 cm||220 cm||230 cm||240 cm|
|5′ to 5’6″ tall||215 cm||220 cm||230 cm||240 cm|
|5’6″ to 6′ tall||220 cm||220 cm||230 cm||250 cm|
Over 6′ tall
|220 cm||230 cm||240 cm||250 cm|
What if I fall between sizes?
If you should fall between sizes on the chart for height, then go for the shorter paddle. However, if you have a shorter torso, then go for the longer paddle because it will help you with the reach. Your torso length is very important. It is used to determine the distance when sitting in the kayak between the water and you. If you have a long torso, you will more than likely need a longer paddle, even if you are short. To tell what your torso measurement is in relation to your kayak, sit inside and measure the distance from the seat to your nose.
A side note, paddles are sized in centimeters, and the kayaks are measured in inches.
The lighter the weight in your blade, the better the fatigue reduction you will find. The different types of material and designs of blades will also affect your stroke. A wider blade leads to a faster and more powerful stroke, letting you accelerate faster and quicker. While a narrower blade is good for longer paddling trips. The dihedral blade that has a rib down the center, lets the water flow smoothly over both halves of the blade, causing it to be more difficult to go straight. Asymmetrical blades are narrow and short on one side, which helps when navigating the water.
|Plastic / Nylon||Flexibility, Lowest price point||Can crack and degrades when left in the sun for long periods|
|Fiberglass||Middle price point, Great performance and durability, lightweight||Blade might chip|
Shaft Materials and Designs
You will usually find that aluminum is very durable and wallet friendly. The downfall of this material is that it can get very hot or cold, which is why gloves are always recommended. The shafts can also come in carbon-fiber and fiberglass. These are lightweight, which make a good performance paddle. The shafts come in straight or bent, two to four pieces and small diameter. In the bent shaft, there is a kinked portion that place the hands in a comfortable angle. This also minimizes fatigue. The straight shaft is more traditional. The shafts that come apart into either two or four pieces are great for storage. Small diameter shafts are good for smaller hands.
Your paddle will have the biggest impression on your experience, on the water. Choosing the wrong kayak paddle could lead to you not having a good experience, and may lead to you never going kayaking again. However, with the right paddle, you could stay out on the water for long periods of time without fatigue, overexertion, blisters or shoulder strain. The more you test kayak paddles, the easier it will be for you to find what is the best paddle for you. Choosing the right kayak paddle does not have to be complicated, and hopefully with the information listed above, picking the right paddle just got easier.
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