The paddle is not only the tool you’ll use to move your boat around on the water. It is also the tool your going to use to stop you flipping over and if you do flip to roll back upright.
There are many different types of paddle available for paddling. They come in a variety of different lengths and sizes. They are also made from a range of different materials. Choosing the right paddle is important as it will ensure that you are getting the best performance out on the water.
How to choose and hold a paddle
1. Choosing the correct length paddle
You want to get a paddle that is the right size for you so you have enough length to control and move your kayak.
a. Hold onto the paddle and put it on your head. you are looking for a nice L 90 degree angle at your elbows.
b. Place it vertical and see if you can reach the top of the paddle. You want to be reaching and able to hold the top of the paddle.
c. Check if it is right or left handed.
d. Generally if your are just starting out or river running you will want a slightly longer paddle so you can get more leverage and control. If you are play boating you may want a slightly shorter paddle so that you can move it around the boat more easily.
2. Choosing the correct material paddle
Paddles can be made from a variety of different materials including carbon, glass, plastic or wood. The paddle will have an number of different qualities depending on the type material they may be made from. They may be stronger, light weight, heavier, durable, flexible, stiff, cheap or expensive. Have a chat with your local store staff or look online at the manufacturers guidelines to find out about the different strengths of each type of material.
3. Choosing the right paddle shaft style.
Most paddles have a straight shaft. However some have a cranked / bent shaft. These are designed to take the pressure of your elbows and shoulder and are a popular choice if you are kayaking regularly as they can help prevent tendonitis and other overuse injuries.
4. Choosing the right paddle shaft size
Paddle shafts also come in a number of different sizes. Generally if you have smaller hands you should go for a smaller shaft and if you have bigger hands you should go for a larger shaft width. That said go for what feels comfy and right for you.
5. Choosing the paddle blade shape
Paddle blades come in a variety of shapes. Each shape is designed to give you the right amount of power and control needed for the different types of paddling situations. Check out the manufactures guidelines to find the right paddle style to match the type of paddling you will be doing.
6. The different paddle angles / feather
Paddle blades rarely come straight with both paddles blades attached at the ends in a perfect line. The offset (difference in angle) between the two paddle blades is called the feather / angle. Paddles are designed this way for a number of different reasons. One reason is that it allows the inactive paddle blade to pass through the air with as little resistance as possible. Generally paddles come at 30 degrees or 45 degrees angle. However, it is possible to get your paddles custom made to any angle / feather.
6. How to hold your paddle
a. Hold onto the paddle and place it onto of your head. Place your hands along the paddle shaft so your elbows are at a nice L (90 degree angle) at your elbows.
b. Check to see that the distance at each end of the paddle shaft is the same from each hand to the paddle blade.
c. Hold onto the paddle with your control hand (if you are right handed this will be your right hand) and align your finger knuckles with the back of the blade.
d. Use your control hand to control the movement of our paddle. You control hands wants to stay in contact with the paddle shaft. This hand does not move on the shaft when you paddle. Your other hand wants to hold the paddle more loosely so the shaft can move within it. This will allow you to adjust your paddle shaft so you can move it into the positions you need to perform each paddle stroke.
You will notice the paddles blades are at different angles this is called the feather of the blade and allows the paddle to slice through the air between each paddle stoke.
Ask advice and if possible try out different paddles to find one the right size and that feel good for you.
Make sure your paddles are long enough so that you can hold them with your elbows at 90 degree. That way you can utilise all the stronger muscles in your body when performing paddles strokes and will keep your shoulders strong and safe.