Paddles are arguably the most important part of your sit on top kayaking equipment. Obviously you need a boat but without a good paddle sessions will almost certainly be running half empty. When we started planning a paddle guide we got so much feedback that we realised that a single article wasn’t going to come close to covering it. As a result here is part one of what is set to become the ultimate paddle guide.

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Ignorance is bliss, especially when it comes to paddles. Having never tried more efficient types it’s impossible to communicate the benefits of a better ‘engine’. Once you make that switch, however, the question will be: ‘Why didn’t I swap sooner?’

What benefits does a better kayak paddle give?

Efficiency through the water

That floppy/bendy aluminium paddle you own, with its spongy plastic blades, is simply not cutting it – literally, through the water. Propelling a kayak should be an efficient process with maximum forward thrust whilst remaining comfortable and delivering a pleasurable experience.

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Less bodily wear and tear

Paddling a kayak is a strenuous activity – this part is clear. What isn’t so glaring is the amount of wear and tear placed on the body as a result. Over time, if a lesser quality paddle is being used, the stresses and strains on joints, muscles and tendons will take their toll. It isn’t unheard of to develop niggly twinges and tweaks that are exacerbated every time you put in – these can then be hard to shift. An improved design and ergonomically efficient ‘engine’ will reduce any damage being done.

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A more pleasurable experience

Higher quality paddles will do your kayaking no end of good and make sessions more enjoyable. Lightweight and efficient paddles are a joy to use, prolong time afloat and deliver increased sit on kayaking pleasure.

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Paddle longer, further and harder (if you want)

Ever noticed paddle fatigue creeping in? If so, this could be the direct result of using a low quality product. Swapping your trusted for something new, higher quality and better engineered will not only reinvigorate your sit on kayaking, it’ll also do wonders for increasing the amount of float time you can clock up.

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Basic kayak paddle buying tips

Adjustable feather

Some paddlers have a specific feather angle they prefer while others change it depending on the inclement weather – ie if it gets windy – or other factors. This isn’t the sole purpose of blade feathering though (see elsewhere for a more in depth description) and having the ability to adjust it could be a key requirement.

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Shaft diameter

When choosing a new paddle you’ll be faced with a myriad of blades, colours, types and manufacturing materials. Having decided which type to purchase it’s often easy to overlook shaft diameter. Narrow shafts are preferred by some as they can fend off fatigue while others are happy to go chunkier. Certain brands also utilise certain shaft design traits such as V-grip or oval types. Trying as many as possible will give a better understanding of what works for you and what doesn’t.

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Other considerations

Paddles are complex and possibly daunting for newcomers. All paddles offer different levels of shaft stiffness, choices of blade material and lay up. Others offer constant flex with no seam where blade and shaft meet. Dihedral (the spine that runs through some blades – front and/or back), foam cores (to help with buoyancy and lift) and ergo grips (sometimes referred to as bent or crank shafts) are also worthy of consideration. All these features will impact your paddling in some way – where possible, demo different models to get a more accurate idea of what suits your style.

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More on paddles

The subject of paddles is extensive, this is just the tip of the iceberg and we’ll be adding further parts to this series over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for –