Everything You Need To Know About Paddles
by Brian Long
There are a number of options to consider when shopping for paddles. In this article we'll look at all the features that make up a paddle and help you find the right paddle for your application and your budget.
The first thing to look at in a paddle is the blade shape. Some cheaper paddles will have a symmetrical blade shape which would be most efficient entering the water straight down, such as in a canoe. A more ideal shape for a kayak paddle is an asymmetrical shape, where the top part of the blade extends further than the bottom. Since the blade enters the water at an angle in a kayak, this asymmetrical shape equalizes the amount of water pressure on the top and bottom halves of the blade and results in a more efficient and less fatiguing paddle stroke.
On top of just an asymmetrical shape, most high end paddles have broken it down into which asymmetrical shape is best suited for your individual paddle stroke. Werner Paddles offers two blade shapes that we'll look at, the Corryvrekken and the Kalliste (or Camano, same shape). The Corryvrekken blade is much wider and shorter while the Kalliste's blade is long and narrow, but both are still asymmetrical. This has to do with the particular angle at which the blade enters the water. If your hands are high up in the air as you're paddling you are what's known as a "high angle" paddler. If they're low you'd be a "low angle" paddler. For high angle paddlers a wide, short blade is more efficient while the longer, narrower blade is for low angle paddle strokes. This has to do with the angle of the blade entering the water.
|Werner Corryvrekken||Werner Kalliste||Crack of Dawn Tsunami|
Along with high angle and low angle paddle strokes comes the shaft length. In general a high angle paddler would be better off with a shorter blade to keep from sinking the blade completely underwater on each paddle stroke, and a low angle paddler would need a longer shaft to reach the water more easily. This will apply to 90% of the situations out there, but things like extra wide kayaks, extra wide people, and some other factors may play a role in this decision. For the sake of kayak fishing we recommend high angler paddlers use a 230cm shaft length and low angle paddlers use a 240cm shaft length.
Straight shaft paddles are usually the norm for kayak fishermen as opposed to bent shaft paddles. Bent shaft paddles keep your wrists aligned a little straighter in your stroke so that it reduces fatigue on your wrists and is a little more ergonomic. Most kayak fishermen prefer a straight shaft so that they don't have to think about hand placement each time they pick up the paddle. If wrist or hand fatigue is a problem, a bent shaft may solve that issue.
Perhaps the most expensive feature of any paddle is the materials used to make it. Lower end paddles are usually made out of an aluminum shaft with plastic blades attached with some type of rivet or screw. These are not the lightest materials but they are very durable. Many of these paddles will see years of service with few problems but the weight factor can be very fatiguing, especially for kayak fishermen covering a lot of water or distance paddlers. Eventually most people upgrade to something a little lighter. The next step up would be a composite paddle such as the Werner Skagit or Tybee. These are fiberglass shafts with fiberglass or carbon reinforced nylon blades. It is a small step down in weight but a more noticeable difference comes from the continuous weave fiberglass construction of the Camano or Corryvrekken. And of course, the ultimate in lightweight paddles would be carbon fiber. The price of a paddle has mostly to do with the materials but a carbon fiber paddle compared to a lower end paddle is well worth the money after just a few trips. The fatigue factor is night and day with a lightweight paddle and if you're considering a Werner there's a couple more features that make them even less fatiguing.
In referencing weight, the overall weight of the paddle is certainly something to consider, but a more important factor is called the swing weight. This is how heavy the paddle feels as your actually paddling. To test the swing weight of a paddle, grip the paddle with one hand in the center of the shaft and hold it out away from your body. Rotate your wrist and this is the swing weight. Werner Paddles are known for their very light swing weight as well as their light overall weight.
One additional feature that Werner Paddles have on their continuous weave fiberglass and carbon fiber paddles is a layer of floatation foam in the blades. The carbon fiber paddles have a whole layer of this foam while the fiberglass paddles have a rib down the middle. This makes the blade want to pop right out of the water and into your next stroke, so it almost lifts the blade for you.
The last feature of any paddle is the feathering system. Feathering is when the blades are offset so that while your forward stroke is coming through the air, your blade will slice through the air sideways instead of plowing through the air straight. This can make a big difference in windy conditions. Most paddles will have at least three positions for feathering. The fiberglass and carbon Werners have an adjustable ferrel system which allows for feathering your blades to individual degrees, left and right.
We recommend doing the most research possible before stepping into a big purchase like a high end paddle.
Click here for a vast selection of paddles we offer. If you have any other questions regarding paddles or any other accessories please call us at (866) 587-2990. We'd be happy to help.