Types of kayaks

Type of kayak Paddles

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Kayak paddles are mostly distinguished by the shaft length, blade shape, and size, shaft shape, feathering, and shaft piece. The paddle can also be distinguished for the material used to manufacture.

Why Choose the right paddle

By choosing an incorrectly sized paddle for your kayak, you risk losing the following.

  • Comfort: Your comfort is essential for a successful kayak trip. A large part of that comfort depends on the way you handle your paddles. If your paddles are too long, you might find yourself unable to lift and move them easily. Kayak paddles that are too short can lead to sore hands and knuckles from rubbing against the boat or back pain from having to lean too far over to reach the water.
  • Control: If you can’t use your kayak paddles correctly, you could end up stuck on the water. Navigation, turning and directing your kayak all depend on correct paddle usage.
  • Usability: Several factors come into play when sizing kayak paddles, including angling and experience level. If you choose a paddle intended for active boaters or deep-sea kayaking while you are a beginner preparing for your first casual trip on the lake, you are probably going to run into some difficulty.

Paddle Length

Figuring out the right size (length) of paddle is surprisingly straightforward. The wider your boat is, the longer your paddle needs to be. Your height is also a factor, especially for a narrower boat: Taller paddlers need longer paddles. So, paddle makers size according to those two factors (the paddles are sized in centimeters even though the boats are measured in inches).

How to find the right length for your paddle

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Factors to consider for right paddle length

  • width of your kayak
  • your body height
  • if you are high- or low-angle paddle

If you are 5 feet 5 inches or shorter and your kayak is...

  • 23 inches wide or smaller: Try a paddle that is 210 centimeters long.
  • 24 to 32 inches wide: Try a paddle that is 220 centimeters long.
  • 29 to 33 inches wide: Try a paddle that is 230 centimeters long.
  • 34 inches or wider: Try a paddle that is 240 centimeters long.

If you are between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 11 inches tall and your kayak is…

  • 23 inches wide or smaller: Try a paddle that is 230 centimeters long.
  • 24 to 32 inches wide: Try a paddle that is 240 centimeters long.
  • 29 to 33 inches wide: Try a paddle that is 250 centimeters long.
  • 34 inches or wider: Try a paddle that is 260 centimeters long.

If you are 6 foot or taller and your kayak is…

  • 23 inches wide or smaller: Try a paddle that is 220 centimeters long.
  • 24 to 32 inches wide: Try a paddle that is 230 centimeters long.
  • 29 to 33 inches wide: Try a paddle that is 250 centimeters long.
  • 34 inches or wider: Try a paddle that is 260 centimeters long.

LOW- VS. HIGH-ANGLE PADDLES

low angle paddlers in general requires longer shaft with little less wide blade. High angle paddler requires short shaft and more wide blade.

Paddle material

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Commonly used shaft material: The shaft of your paddle is the middle rod that connects your paddle blades and is where you place your hands when angling your paddle. Sometimes, a shaft will have a different material from the blade. Other times, the makeup will be consistent across the paddle. Shafts are either straight, or have a curve where your hands rest to promote wrist dexterity and ease the strain on your hands. Experiment with different blade and shaft makeups to see what feels best in your grip. A comfortable shaft is crucial if you want to minimize stress on your hands and arms, especially during long kayak tours.

  • Fiberglass: Fiberglass is a favorite among kayakers because it is both lightweight and incredibly durable, but at a more affordable price compared to other materials.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum is one of the best paddle materials for beginning kayakers because it is very cost-efficient. However, aluminum paddles tend to be quite heavy, making them difficult to handle for some.
  • Carbon fiber: Carbon fiber or graphite paddles are more costly than other paddles and are a bit harder to find, but they are among the most lightweight paddles available.
  • Wood: Wooden paddles are excellent for their style, strength and durability, but are often more expensive than other paddle types.
  • Plastic: Plastic is another beginner-friendly paddle material. Although it is usually not as attractive as other paddle types, it is affordable and generally very lightweight.

Blade design

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  • Blade width: Wider blades are perfect for high-angle paddlers because they create a lot more resistance as they move through the water than narrower blades do. This resistance is also what makes wider blades more physically taxing. Narrow blades are not as high-performance, but offer much less resistance, making them easier to use for long periods.
  • Asymmetric blades: While canoe paddle blades tend to be more squared, many kayak blades are asymmetrical, with the height of a blade being at the top and tapering slightly toward the bottom.
  • Feathering: “Feathering” refers to the offset twist of your paddle blades. Feathered paddles have rotated blades that slice through the water at a side angle, rather than straight down. Some paddles let you manually personalize the degree of feathering. Unfeathered blades are not rotated and have no offset. Some kayakers prefer a feathered paddle because of its ability to cut through the wind. Others prefer unfeathered because it is simpler to use and does not strain the wrist as much.
  • Wing paddles: Racers and competitive kayakers almost exclusively use wing paddles because they provide a powerful forward stroke. However, for everyday recreational use, wing paddles are not usually the best choice.
  • Dihedral blades: Dihedral paddle blades have a raised core, or spine, down the center that helps distribute water flow evenly over each side of the blade. While this creates less resistance, it also creates less stability. Navigation is a bit trickier with dihedral blades.