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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?

The 4 Main Things to Consider in a Double-bladed Paddle

Hornbeck Boats
Paddle Length
Chart

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

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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

Watch Werner’s video for a description of Low Angle Vs High Angle Paddling

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