Let’s help you choose your first kayak paddle … we’ll take a look at the parts of a paddle you need to know about and run through the options for different kinds of paddle, then we’ll help you decide on the length of paddle you’ll need.
Types of paddle
For touring kayaks, sit-on-tops and inflatable kayaks, the mid-sized Drift is a great first paddle. The Drift is available in a range of options including one with adjustable length.
For long distance paddlers, the Vision has stiff, lightweight blades and a composite glass fibre shaft. Good for longer, faster kayaks for covering distance like sea kayaks and narrower sit on tops.
For whitewater kayaking, the Maverick is a great first paddle that you can rely on in rough water. It has a large surface area for powerful strokes and you have a choice of several tough materials.
Why are paddles different shapes and sizes?
Larger paddles are more powerful, but over the course of a long paddle they will be more tiring to use. Each kayak paddle design has subtle differences in shape to make them the most efficient. Looking at them side by side, the difference between paddles can be subtle but small differences in shape or size are very noticeable when you pick up and paddle.
Kayakers in fast moving water will want powerful strokes to get around, so the Maverick has a large blade surface area at 680 cm2. Their wide shape catches the water quickly and powerfully.
For paddling long distances in touring kayaks, lighter strokes are what’s needed over a long period of time. The Vision paddle has a smaller blade area of 630 cm2, and longer, narrower blades, making it less fatiguing to paddle all day.
The Drift paddle, designed for recreational kayaks, sit-on-tops and inflatables, is for paddlers who want a bit of everything. So the Drift sits somewhere in the middle, with a 660 cm2 surface area.
What length paddle do I need?
The length of paddle depends on what kind of kayak you’ll be using, and to some extent, personal preference.
Generally speaking, the wider the kayak and the taller the paddler, the longer you’ll want the paddles to be.
|Models||Activity||Your height||Boat width||Paddle length|
|recreation||172 – 185 cm/ 5’8″ – 6’1″|
172 – 185 cm/ 5’8″ – 6’1″
> 185 cm/ 6’1″
|53 – 58 cm/ 21″ – 23″|
58 – 66 cm/ 23″ – 26″
> 64 cm/ 25″
|205 – 215 cm|
215 – 220 cm
220 – 225 cm
|Colt||recreation||< 165 cm/ 5’5″||185 cm|
|whitewater||157 – 175 cm/ 5’2 – 5’9″|
172 – 185 cm/ 5’8 – 6’1″
>185 cm/ 6’1″
|< 65 cm/ 26″|
< 65 cm/ 26″
> 67 cm / 26.4″
|Vision||touring||157 – 172 cm / 5’2 – 5’8″|
168 – 185 cm / 5’6 – 6’1″
> 178 cm/ 5’10”
|< 58 cm / 23″|
53 – 58 cm / 21″ – 23″
> 56 cm/ 22″
Choosing a paddle shaft
Aluminium shafts are cost effective and durable but have the downside of being slightly heavier than other materials and can feel a little cold. They often have a plastic wrap for a good grip.
Glass fibre shafts are durable, flexible and lightweight and feel warmer in your hands than aluminium. Some glass fibre paddle shafts are ribbed whilst others are ground to a smooth finish. The ground finish is a bit more comfortable to use and doesn’t need a plastic wrap for grip.
Carbon and glass fibre mixed shafts are strong, stiff and light for rewarding and efficient paddle strokes and they are also warm and comfortable on your hands. Entirely carbon fibre shafts are often the least flexible, but they are very light and responsive.
What is a breakdown paddle for?
A breakdown, sometimes called a split paddle, is a great way to make your paddle easy to transport. A two or four-piece paddle takes up much less space, they fit neatly in your car boot or in the stow hatch of your kayak.
Breakdown paddles often allow you to change the blade angle too to find an offset that suits you.
It’s wise when kayaking on the sea to carry a spare set of paddles. Sea kayakers often carry a set easily accessible under the front deck lines of their kayak. For whitewater paddlers, four-piece paddles fit out of the way in the back of the kayak. Having a spare paddle can save a lot of trouble in case someone in your group breaks or loses theirs.
Now let’s go paddling!
Did we miss something? Let us know your questions in the comments over on YouTube.