"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.