Length– typical paddle lengths range from 220cm to 255cm
- Paddling style - Typically there are two types of paddling styles: those who paddle more vertically and those who paddle more horizontal.
- Wider Boat – once you better understand your paddling style it’s time to consider the width of your boat. Typically you want the shortest length paddle that allows you to comfortably paddle your kayak. It’s important to have a paddle that is long enough so that you are not straining or hitting the side of your boat during strokes. So to state the obvious, the wider the kayak the wider the paddle that may be required.
Blade Shape and Size
- Larger Surface Area
- Paddles with a large surface area (more symmetrical) are great for making power Strokes
- These paddles will have more surface area at the tip of the paddle
- More suited for White water paddling and surfing conditions that require that you make a more powerful burst of acceleration.
- These types of paddles will required more upper body strength
- Are typically used for a more vertical style of paddling.
- Smaller Surface Area
- Paddles with a smaller surface area (more asymmetrical) are better suited for long touring
- These paddles will have less surface at the tip and more at the base of the paddle
- Require less upper body strength as they are more efficient and better suited for repetitious paddling.
- Better suited for a more horizontal style of paddling
- Cupped Blades – These blades are curved much like the head of a spoon and help the blade remain stable as you paddle.
- Dihedral Bladed – These blades have an angle and helps water flow smoothly and evenly over both blade halves, preventing fluttering and twisting.
- Wood transmits the feel of the water well, helping achieve a smooth stroke. It retains warmth to keep hands comfortable in cold conditions. Some upkeep is required to maintain its appearance. Many wood paddles are covered with a layer of fiberglass and/or have a tip guard to improve durability.
- Paddles with aluminum shafts and plastic blades are durable and economical, but heavier than paddles made from other materials. Also, aluminum can feel cold in cool weather. They make great spare paddles, and can be a good choice for beginners or recreational kayakers. Blades are made from a variety of plastics, including polyethylene, polypropylene, thermoplastic and ABS.
- These paddles are lightweight, durable and virtually maintenance-free. The nature of fiberglass allows for more complex blade shapes. In the middle of the price range, these are by far the most popular choice for whitewater and sea kayaking alike.
- Carbon Fiber
- Carbon fiber paddles are among the lightest available. The high-tech material and manufacturing process produces durable paddles with extremely light weights. They cost more, but are worth it if weight is a concern, such as when you expect to be paddling long hours or on multi-day trips. Carbon fiber is slightly less durable than fiberglass.
A few other Considerations:
- Feathering – a non-feathered blade means that the two blades are aligned parallel to one another. Feathered blades usually range from 45- to 65 degrees but can go up to 90 degrees. Typically the lesser feathered angles are easier on the wrist but more dramatic angles are more efficient for paddling.
- Shafts – most shafts come in one or two piece shafts. Typically a solid shaft is stronger and generally used more for whitewater due to the abuse that they take. A large number of touring paddles come as two piece shafts.