Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why You Should Invest in a Good Kayak Paddle

"Kayaking with a good paddle versus a clunker is like jogging in lightweight running shoes versus hiking boots."
--Ray Wirth on www.touringkayaks.com
I've been putting off writing about our new paddles because I thought I had just fallen for the marketing pitch and they couldn't possibly be that wonderful. But after several excursions on the water, I'm a believer!

I wrote in Paddle Envy about some things to consider before buying a paddle and then described our Werner paddles a little in Gearing Up. Now I'm going to talk about some of the features and why they make a difference.

Old (Flaire) Paddle: Heavy Aluminum shaft
New (Werner) Paddle: Lightweight carbon shaft
Difference: We never realized to what extent heavier paddles can cause arm and shoulder fatigue. We try to paddle with our larger torso muscles, but you still have to lift your paddle hundreds of times each hour. Lightweight means you don't get tired as easily and can paddle longer.

Old: Large blade
New: Smaller tapered blade
Difference: It's about water resistance. It takes more effort to move a wide blade through the water than it does a thinner blade. One manufacturer claims that small-sized blades are gentler on your joints. Again, it just makes paddling easier.

Old: You can adjust the angle of the blades, but with only two options.
New: We have many more options for "feathering" the blades. When you feather your paddle, one blade is flat and the other is at an angle.
Difference: I think the main purpose is to improve control of your boat in certain situations. But it also allows you to paddle with one hand dominant, relegating the other hand to a supporting role. This happens to be important to Doug because he had polio as a kid and as a result, his right side is stronger. It may help you, too, if you have carpal tunnel or other conditions that limit mobility on one side.

My point for sharing all of this is that we had no clue what to look for when we bought our starter paddles. But after three years on the water, we now realize it makes perfect sense to invest in the best quality paddle you can afford -- in our case, about $250 a piece. Wish we had done it sooner! Here's an excellent article on Choosing a Paddle by Ray Wirth if you want to learn more.


joncravefit said...

Funny how important a real nice paddle is, the first time i ever experienced kayaking i was completely spoiled with the kayak i was allowed to borrow, a nice wilderness systems tsunami 165 WITH a rudder. the paddles on the other hand not so hot, i was missing the protector on it and didnt realize the difference until my buddy allowed me to borrow his, so that i could get a feel for the difference, we had a laugh over it then he took off on me as i soaked myself with the cheap paddle, now i am sure since i purchased my own that i have nice DRY paddles with the proper accessories. Kayaking is truly a relaxation for me, i now own my own wilderness systems kayak and can do anything with it from touring to fishing.

Lucie said...

I'm still a novice. What's a protector on a paddle and what do you mean by DRY paddles? Hope you check back in and enlighten me.
I agree that kayaking is true relaxation. And the right equipment can make it even better!

joncravefit said...

there are small rubber stoppers that act as a protector from the water. These stoppers are very important especially when buying paddles because your entire arm does not get soaked and the water is not flying into the kayak as you paddle, it kind of just runs down to the stopper and runs off the paddle never touching your arms and body. I learned that the hard way, thats why it was so important purchase them, they made my kayaking experience much more pleasurable. Do you enjoy kayaking check out my site i have some kayaking gear click around, a lot of it has some good information and reviews pertaining to kayaks, rudders and other equipment that serves as major comfort in your journeys. thanks
hope to hear back.

JayDPiii said...

I did a lot of research 6 years ago when we started kayaking, and rented a year, before we purchased our Wilderness tsunami 140's (my wife and I). At the time, for plastic, it was the best design, first time for new process multi-extrusion, allowing for both good primary and good secondary stability - until then not possible.
Of course being new, I knew nothing about paddles or that it made a difference, and just accepted the aquabound basic padles that came with the kayak purchase as part of the package.
After 4 years of paddling,and a couple of years paddling with other folks through NH-AMC Paddlers, I realized that there might be differences in paddles.
So, I started the same dilligent research that I had put into the kayak purchase.
I found Werner and their paddles. After dragging my wife to a couple of local stores, and their limited selection, and after she held our old paddles and then held the lighter Carbon shaft - she was not at all convinced we needed to spend the money.
So, on a NH-AMC paddling trip, a fellow paddler offered to let her use his new Carbon paddle - similar to the one I was considering for my wife.
After only TWO stokes, she was convinced!
I also learned, in my research, the difference between high angle paddling and low angle paddling.

Lucie said...

Hi Jay,
Thanks for writing. Sounds like you discovered the same thing we did -- Werner paddles are amazing! Yes, they're pricey, but worth it.

How would you like to write a post on high angle paddling and low angle paddling? I'm not sure I know what they are.
E-mail me at lbryar1154@hotmail.com if you're interested.