How to buy the right kayak paddle
What's Out there
There really are a lot of paddles out there, from an ever growing list of manufactures, but here are our a few favourite's and suggestion.
If you're looking for a good starter paddle we would suggest the TNP Asymmetric Paddle which is very strong and great value at £44.99. The Palm Drift Livery is another good option that is particularly popular with customers looking for a nice light weight paddle that works well with sit-on-top kayaks.
For an all-round whitewater paddle that is strong and not too heavy the TNP Rapa is a great choice, coming with either a glass shaft, £88.99, or duralumin shaft, £67.99. For the money a wise choice! Moving up in price Werner are hard to beat for build quality, strength and price. Check out the straight glass Werner Sherpa or Powerhouse for a great all roound whitewater paddle £188.99. For a real top end paddle look no further than the Lettmann Ergonom Extreme £485.00. This is the paddle of choice for most of the staff in the shop and many world champions! The strongest paddle you can buy: no flutter and a proper power crank shaft for extra power and control! Beautifully made. You cannot go wrong with this one.
For sea kayaking and touring paddlers tend to like a longer, lighter paddle. The TNP Wolferine £89.99 is a great mid level paddle and works very well as a first sea kayaking or inland touring paddle. Going a little lighter & stiffer still the Werner Tybee £129.99 is an excellent choice for many paddlers which is made with a carbon shaft instead of fibreglass. Lighter and stiffer still the Werner Corryvrecken, at £242.99, in glass will give you a bit more power and a better swing weight. For the ultimate in sea touring performance have a look at the foam core Werner Ikelos £359.99. Air met water and paddling has never been such a joy.
What am I going to be using it for?
For kayaking you need a double-bladed paddle which is what this article is about. For canoeing (i.e Open boats) you need a single bladed paddle.
What length do I want?
This depends on your height, arm span, personal preference and what you are using it for. For example a 5”11 male with an average arm span might want a 194cm paddle for freestyle (tricks and stunts in a kayak) where as he might want a 197cm for a whitewater river trip. If he were to race slalom he might look at a 200cm paddle. However many people use the same length paddle for all sorts of kayaking. There is a paddle size guide here. Most paddles will come in a variety of sizes suitable for what they are designed for. However most whitewater paddle manufactures will also make them to your own custom length and feather. Give us a call and we can sort this out.
What feather (the angle of the blades) do I want?
The feather of a paddle refers to the angle that each blade is offset from each other. The feather from one blade to another is normally measured in 5 degree increments. The most popular feather is 45 degrees and is a great all round feather. Have a look at this great article on paddle feather here.
Do you get left and right hand paddles?
Yes. For the majority of people paddling today, regardless of if you are left or right-handed, most instructors will teach you a right hand technique. While this is fine for most, some people do struggle and need a left handed paddle. The difference being a right-handed person will have their right hand as their control hand (tight on the right, loose in the left) a lefty will use their left hand as the control hand, and spin the paddle in their right hand.
The Types of paddles
All-round / General purpose - This is where most people start their paddle buying experience. The paddles generally come with aluminium shafts & plastic blades, the plus of this is that the paddles are very strong and relatively cheap, the down side is that they tend to be fairly heavy, normal length is around 215cm. Whitewater - Stronger blades and shaft, typically made from composite materials (Glass / Carbon), length’s 194cm’s to 200cm’s. Sea Kayaking / touring - Lighter weight blades and shafts, typically longer than whitewater paddles, commonly made from composite materials (high-end) and aluminum’s and plastics (lower end), typical lengths 210cm’s up to 220cm.
Straight and Crank Paddles
Ergonomic Crank - The most common crank you see on the water, this crank doesn’t give you any extra control over the paddle it simply lets your hand sit at a more comfortable angle on the shaft, reducing the strain put through your wrists and elbows. Power Crank - Not so common! A power crank puts your hand behind the power face of the blade, this gives you extra reach on a forward stroke and gives you better control as you pull the blade through the water. Straight Shaft - This is what most people will plum for! Keeping it simple works well for general purpose, touring or white water.
Most kayak paddles have a diameter of around 30mm this is fine for most adult paddlers. There are however some paddles out there designed with a smaller shaft diameter of around 22mm, perfect for smaller women and junior paddlers.