Choosing Kayak Paddles

How important is choosing the right a kayak paddle? Well consider the obvious, aside from “You” your paddle is the engine that actually makes the boat go. Need we say more? Purchasing the best paddle(s) you can afford is a wise investment for both your on water efficiency and your health.

Confused by the sizes, shapes, materials and jargon? Don’t be. Remember Frontenac Outfitters makes choosing your paddle(s) easy by inviting you to have fun and test paddle and compare. Heck we’ll even supply the boats! Until then, we will discuss the different types of kayak paddles and the frequently asked questions that surround them to help narrow down your choices.

The Four Basic Types

There are four basic types of kayak paddles, and each caters towards a specific use. Different models exist within each category and all have varying price points. A simple rule of thumb to help you pick the right one is to choose the basic type which best fits your needs. As your skill progresses, your needs may change, so it is wise to keep in mind future requirements. 

General Recreation Paddles

Quality recreational paddles will generally have a metal shaft and some type of plastic blade. Price point will determine if the paddle is one or two piece, if drip rings are included, and if the blades are cupped. Recreational kayak paddles are shorter, heavier and of course less expensive than other Flatwater paddles. This type is suitable for the leisurely paddler who goes out for no more than a couple of hours at a time. 

Sea / Touring Paddles

Sea / Touring paddles are longer than other kayak paddles and are designed for steady, rhythmic strokes over longer periods of time. Quality sea / touring paddles can be made from a variety of materials from laminated hardwoods with epoxy tips to a combination of fibreglass, Kevlar and carbon. Basically the stronger and lighter the paddle, the more expensive.

Considering you will swing the paddle thousands of times during a paddling day, weight is extremely important. Quality blades have a cupped power face and an asymmetrical leading edge for greater efficiency. This type of paddle is ideal for those who with be doing extended camping adventures or participate in half / full day paddling trips. 

Racing Paddles

These paddles look like sea / touring paddles except for dramatically cupped blades, ultra lightweights, and ultra high prices. This type of paddle is designed for fitness buffs and competitive paddlers. 

Whitewater Paddles

Whitewater kayak paddles have big wide blades to pull lots of water with reinforced tips to withstand bashing on rocks. Single shafts and shorter lengths are more common with whitewater paddles. Materials vary radically from hardwood laminates with epoxy tips, to plastic, aluminum, Kevlar, carbon or a combination of the above. This type of paddle is made for the rapid riding enthusiast. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Size a Kayak Paddle?

Kayak paddles are sized in centimeters (common sizes are 220, 230 & 240-cm). Paddle length varies with the beam of your kayak, your height, your arm length, the depth of your kayak and the type of paddling you chose to do. At Frontenac Outfitters we suggest you select a few different models and then paddle with them.

What’s the Collar around the Paddle Shaft?

It’s called a drip ring. They’re designed to stop most of the water from running down the shaft and onto your hands and down your sleeve.

One Piece or Two?

Two-piece paddles enable the paddler to set the paddle blades at different angles – called “feathering the blades”. Off setting or feathering the blades when paddling up wind enables the top blade to carve through the wind more efficiently. When paddling down wind the paddle blades can be set parallel to take advantage of the wind like a sail.

One piece paddles although less versatile have a more solid feel, as they have fewer moving parts.

What About Price?

Prices vary drastically from less than $100 to over $600 each. Which paddle is best for you? It depends on your skills and the type of paddling you want to do. We invite you to paddle and make your decisions on the water!

Is There a Perfect Kayak Paddle?

Of course not! Every paddle purchase is a compromise of three factors: Weight, durability, and price! As previously stated, it’s important to find a paddle that suits your individual needs.  

The best way to determine what type of paddle is best for you is to try them out! At Frontenac Outfitters we provide one of the best selections of flat-water kayak paddles and offer free test paddling six days a week.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email [email protected]

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