Second, to perhaps the kayak itself, a paddle is a non-negotiable item of paddling gear that will make a massive difference in your paddling experience.
Here are a few of the variables to consider when shopping for your next whitewater paddle:
The material of the blade and shaft is one of the significant factors that will affect the feel and performance of the paddle. The main differences are the blades weight, stiffness, and durability. The material and construction you choose will vary depending on the price point.
· plastic: is heavier but durable and flexible
· fiberglass: light, stiff, and durable
· carbon: lightest, stiffest, best performance but least durable
The construction that fits your paddling will largely depend on your price point and desired feel. A lighter and stiffer paddle will deliver more power and reduce fatigue; however, if you do a lot of low-volume water, a fiberglass paddle may be a better option than carbon for durability while retaining the weight and stiffness advantage.
2. Paddle Length
Paddle length will depend mostly on your height, your strength, and your personal preference. A longer paddle has more leverage and delivers more power, but you will fatigue faster, apply more force through your shoulders, and potentially be more likely to sustain an injury. My advice would be: go for the shorter end of the spectrum for your height to prolong your energy and days on the river! Playboaters/freestyle paddlers often also go for shorter paddles for increased maneuverability.
Height and Paddle Length:
· 5'3" and 5'8” = 192-196 cm paddle
· 5'8" and 6'1" = 196-200 cm paddle
· Taller than 6'1" = 200-205 cm paddle
Blade size and shape are usually by the type of paddler rather than different sizes.
· Paddle Size: a larger blade will be more powerful and require more strength. For example, in the Werner lineup: The Sherpa is a smaller blade for mid-sized and entry-level paddlers, whereas the Powerhouse is a large blade designed for large or fit/well-conditioned paddlers.
· Blade shape: River running paddles (such as the Werner Powerhouse) will have a larger surface area at the top of the blade for an enhanced forward stroke. Its playboating counterpart (the Werner Surge) has a larger surface area on the bottom for increased maneuverability.
Offset refers to the difference in angles between the blades.
· Racing/Forward Paddling: 65-90° offset to allow the out-of-water blade to travel efficiently through the air through the stroke. However, it requires high repetitive twisting of the wrist. A lower offset may be easier on the wrists and more maneuverable for beginners.
· Whitewater Paddling: 30-45° offsets. Some playboating paddles are even at 0° for maximum trick-ability!
There seems to be an argument for and against straight and bent shafts – but put simply it's best to go with whichever one is most comfortable for you. However, there are a couple of things to consider:
· Bent/crankshafts: provide a more ergonomic grip and put the wrists at a better angle to put force on the blade. There are helpful for people with wrist or repetitive strain issues or advanced paddlers kayaking for a profession.
· Straight shaft: if you don’t have any wrist or forearm problems or spend most days on the water, a straight shaft will be fine, provided proper paddling technique is applied.
Last but not least is shaft width! Some companies offer different shaft sizes for different-sized hands. The correct shaft size will help keep your grip relaxed on the paddle. Small hands = Small shaft.
There you have it, folks! The top factors that influence what type of whitewater paddle is right for you and what to think about when buying one to suit your paddling lifestyle.
5 Things to Consider When Buying a Whitewater Paddle
1. Construction: different materials can affect durability and weight.
2. Paddle Length: length of the paddle should be chosen based on height.
3. Blades: blade size and type depend on experience and activity.
4. Offset: racing paddles have a larger offset than whitewater paddles for increased efficiency.
5. Shaft: shaft size and shape should be chosen based on comfort.
If this captured your interest, you might like this blog too: How to Buy Your First PFD.