How to choose a paddle
Choosing the right kayak paddle is crucial to enhance your kayaking experience, especially if you plan on spending long hours on the water. There are a few factors to consider when selecting a paddle, such as paddle length, blade size and shape, material, and weight. A paddle that is too long or too short can cause discomfort and pain, while a heavy paddle can cause fatigue and strain on your arms and shoulders. Additionally, blade shape and size can affect your paddling efficiency and speed. It's important to choose a paddle that feels comfortable in your hands and suits your paddling style and preferences.
Ask yourself these 3 questions
To help decide how much you should spend on a paddle?
How Often do you plan on paddling
Are your planning on paddling a few times a year or a few times a week? You only pay for the paddle once, monetarily. The more you use it the cheaper per use it is. However the heavier the paddle is, the more you pay for it physically every time.
How far do you plan on paddling
The average paddler lift the paddle approximately 1000 times per mile. If you are a relaxed paddler that is floating about for an hour those extra ounces will have little effect. If you plan to spend an entire day out on the water or travel significant distances the difference will be noticeable.
into what age do you plan on paddling
Do you have any issues with your wrists, shoulders, or rotator cuffs? Do you have arthritis or tendinitis. Are you getting weaker as you age? A lighter and stiffer paddle with significantly reduce the strain paddling will put on your body allowing you to stay out longer and go farther.
The 4 Main Things to Consider in a Double-bladed Paddle
When you paddle, it is important that your blade is fully submerged in the water. If it isn't, your paddle is too small and you should consider getting a longer one. On the other hand, if your blade goes too far into the water and a significant portion of the shaft is also submerged, then your paddle is too long and you should opt for a shorter one.
However, a paddle that is too short can make paddling inefficient, as it doesn't allow for efficient energy transfer. This means that even though you may be putting in the work, you won't be able to paddle as far as you would with a properly sized paddle. Conversely, a paddle that is too long can be heavy and cause fatigue in your muscles over time.
Each manufacturer has a slightly different paddle-sizing table. Typically they provide suggested paddle lengths for a paddler in a touring boat, given different blade styles, boat widths, and body heights. However, these tables should be seen as a baseline; and should be adjusted based on the type of vessel you are in, the paddling you intend to do, and your height off the water.
kayak blades are usually crafted in an asymmetrical design. This means that they are narrow and shorter on one side to allow the blade to be more uniform as it pushes through the water.
A paddle with a low angle is going to have a narrower blade providing a more relaxing, recreational experience at slower speeds. A higher-angled paddle will have a wider and shorter blade that is designed to generate greater propulsion but will also require greater effort.
Some blades are designed with a Dihedral shape. This is a rib down the center of a blade that allows water to flow smoothly and evenly over both halves of the blade. This reduces what we call blade flutter, allowing your blade to travel more efficiently through the water.
Choose a paddle constructed with the lightest materials you can afford. Swing weight is a term that describes how heavy the blades feel in your hands when making the paddling motion. The lower the swing weight, the better the experience and unfortunately the higher the price tag. When you are selecting a paddle, focus principally on swing weight.
Hold a full water bottle next to your chest and lift it up and down. Now take the same water bottle and perform the same movements with your arm outstretched. The heavier a paddle is at its ends the more effort it is going to take to lift out of the water. After taking the average of 1,000 strokes to travel a mile, would you prefer your next stroke to feel like lifting a full water bottle or an empty one? A few ounces may not seem like a lot but, the lighter the paddle, the more comfortable, and efficient, your paddling experience will be, and the longer you can stay out on the water.
The shaft is the part of the paddle that connects to your body so, a comfortable shaft is critical and somewhat subjective. Lower-quality shafts tend to be made from aluminum while higher-quality shafts are constructed with carbon fiber. The weight of this still matters but less so than the weight of the blades. The texture of the shaft can be smooth or textured. The shape can be round, oval, symmetrical, or asymmetrical. When one section of the shaft is shaped differently than the rest, it is known as indexing and helps you determine your blade angle without having to look at it. Most paddles are constructed with the ability to be taken apart. This attachment point is known as the ferrule. There are many different technologies from simple metal buttons to latches. The ease and adjustability of these vary depending on the design, your hand strength, and dexterity. This is also where the paddle's ability to feather or offset comes from. There are pros and cons to all of these differences and the only way to know what works best for you is to handle them. If possible take a paddle out in the boat you plan to use it in. If that's not doable, at least feel how all the above traits come together in each paddle. Take them apart, make the paddling motion, and rotate the shaft in your hands.
When it comes to a Hornbeck boat, they were designed to be uses with a low-angle double-bladed paddle. The boat itself is fitted to the person. Different Profile sizes allow for those with shorter torsos to paddle more comfortably without hitting the sides of the vessel. That means the defining factor that determines the ideal paddle length has to do with the width of the boat, where the user is paddling, more than the size of the person
Straight shafts versus bent shafts
Many paddles are available with either a straight shaft or a slight kink to improve the position of your hands. Bent shafts position your wrist at a more comfortable angle during the propulsive portion of your stroke. This allows you to keep your fingers firmly on the shaft as you move through your stroke. The result is a more comfortable and efficient stroke with less joint fatigue. This is only offered on certain lengths and a hefty price increase. If you don’t have any wrist issues and/or trying to race with your paddle it is not necessarily worth the increased price.
Matched vs Feathered Paddles
Matched, or un-feathered, paddles are constructed with blades aligned with one another. In other words, the angle of the blade at one end of the shaft is the same as the angle of the blade at the other end.
Feathered blades are offset at an angle to one another. If you look straight down the paddle shaft, one blade will be horizontal and the other blade will be at some angle between 15-90 degrees.
There are a few reasons for this:
When you take a stroke with an un-feathered paddle, your in-water blade faces the same direction as the out-of-water blade. While the bottom blade is moving water, the top blade is creating wind drag by pushing against oncoming air. This is especially pronounced on windy days. Feathering the blade reduces the wind drag by reducing the surface area of the out-of-water blade.
Feathering is also about the efficiency of the stroke. As you move through the various wrist positions throughout a stroke, you’ll notice that the higher your paddle angle, the more blade offset, or feathering, is needed to keep your joints in alignment; thus making your paddling efficient and your joints healthy. Most paddles allow for custom feathering angles to adjust the amount of offset to your natural paddle angle. The amount of angles available and at what increments varies by company.
Right-hand versus left-hand control refers to which hand is responsible for rotating the shaft during a stroke with feathered blades. You can set up most paddles for either left or right-hand control.
Hi Angle vs Low Angle Paddles
There are many different kayak paddle designs produced to work best for certain body and boat types. At a basic level, the question is “Does a low angle or high angle paddling style suit you best?”
The distinction between paddle styles is determined in relationship to the paddle shaft’s angle. Low angle strokes have the paddle shaft at a flatter angle; high angle strokes see the paddle shaft more vertical. This results in differently shaped blades and overall length to maximize performance in each style.
Low Angle Paddling is best for:
Those that own wider boats, making a vertical paddle stroke difficult to perform.
Paddlers looking for a leisurely paddling day and not in a big hurry.
Doing a longer trip over multiple days.Low angle paddling style is less fatiguing.
Newer paddlers often prefer the ease of a low angle paddle stroke. Less moving parts make control of the boat seem easier.
Paddlers with existing issues. Low angle paddling puts less stress on smaller muscles and shoulders joints
High Angle Paddling is best for:
Those who own narrower boats, which allows the paddler to perform a higher angle stroke more easily.
Paddlers looking exercise. A higher angle stroke has a higher energy output, but increases speed also.
Paddling racers looking to cover as much distance in the shortest time possible.
Paddlers looking to improve their technical paddling skills. Mastering high angle paddle strokes allows you to use a wider variety of dynamic strokes.
All Hornbeck Boats perform best using a low angle paddle technique