In part two of our ultimate kayak paddle guide we look at paddle types and blade angles.
Part two: Kayak paddle types
Without wanting to do them a disservice, recreational paddles are usually the lowest common denominator. We suggest avoiding, or upgrade at your earliest convenience. Typified by (usually) a super soft shaft flex with plenty of blade flutter (wobbling when pulled through the water), they have their place but really are just a fill in.
Surf/wave riding paddles
If you’re planning on spending prolonged time in the surf then a high angle blade is usually the choice. Paddling through white water and catching swells ensures you’ll be getting the heart rate up with a high cadence stroke rate. As such, surfers need something that’s pretty aggressive, can cope with sudden directional changes, deliver efficient strokes and take knocks and scrapes whilst remaining light and agile. Surf blades also tend to be a little wider.
This type of paddle is usually the norm for sit on top kayakers. Generally a touring paddle has a lower angle of attack to help prolong sessions – although still have enough power on tap for putting the hammer down. A narrow blade allows the paddler to keep a steady rhythm and is typical of a touring paddle.
White water paddles
White water paddles are similar to surf orientated types – in fact there’s usually little difference. Designed with a high cadence stroke rate in mind they’re all about putting the peddle to the metal and short sharp bursts of power.
The Anglesey (or Greenland) stick is an increasingly popular choice. Looking like a wooden oar, rather than technical paddle, it’s really an artisan product designed with good looks in mind as much as performance. No blades as such, with only a narrow width to move water, these are beautifully crafted niche items which have their fans. The Greenland stick is especially easy going on the body helps reduce injury.
A plethora of paddle are on the market, applicable to the many and varied disciplines within kayaking, such as fishing paddles. While any one of these could be a great fit, it’s best to try before you buy, this way you should find your perfect paddling partner.
Kayak blade angles
High angle kayak blades
If you’re going to plump for a high angle blade paddle then chances are you’re into quick bursts of activity with a high cadence stroke rate. As such you’ll be working much harder and need a suitably apt tool for the job. The downside to high angle blades is when you feel like easing off the gas a little they don’t really perform as efficiently.
Low angle kayak blades
Lower angle blades are far easier going than their high angle cousins. A lower angle means you can cruise over distances without exhausting yourself and not having to punch high through each stroke. Touring paddles are typically lower angled and sit on to kayakers will generally prefer these. They’re no slouch though when you require that sudden burst of speed.
Paddles that cover both
Over the years paddle designs have changed a great deal and it’s now not uncommon to see paddles covering both high and low angle paddling preferences. A number of brands, such as Adventure Technology, produce a crossover type – check out their Oracle and Odyssey line for evidence of this.