What Paddle?

By Jim on Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paddles are the single most important part of paddling, the one thing that is given the least attention. When you hear people talk about paddling all they talk about is what boat they will use, how fast it goes and how good it looks.

Have you ever been around anyone talking about paddles?

Not often I bet.

The thing is you shouldn't just use any sort of paddle, there are so many types of paddles and like kayaks and ocean skis there are paddles for learners to Olympians.

So what is right for you?

Paddles come in a variety of shapes and now a big option is the split shaft.The thing with the split shaft is that it is very convient and easy to manage, also for the blokes it can cut down on a whidge from the wife or partner about the paddle been left in the car. Also the big factor to think about is that if you travel on flights alot of airlines don't take full length paddles. In saying that I love my equipment to have no rooom for error.

If you are just starting out in the sport you need to have a look at your back ground, meaning are you are strong person or are you someone paddling to help build up your strength.

If you are just starting out in the sport you need a small bladed paddle, this is one with not as much surface area. WHY?

If you are not a strong person you find it to hard to pull through the water properly, this leading to an incorrect stroke and an injury.

If you are a stronger person but still just starting out in the sport you can use a medium size blade, this will have a slightly larger size surface area.

You do not need a paddle size that the top paddlers in your area are using; they will have been paddling for sometime and have built up the muscle for the use of this paddle.


The thing that is most important with all of this I believe is to have the right shaft attached to the blade. If you have a full carbon stiff shaft you will have no give in the paddle. Then if you get tired the first thing to go will be your technique.

So picture this, 20km race with a strong shaft big blade, you race off at the start at a million mile an hour (which we all do), 30 mins into the race you get tired. You then end up doing half a strokes for the next 30 mins and then do a quarter of a stroke for another 30 mins. All up you do 2/3rds of a 1:30mins race with bad technique.

What say you use a softer shaft and find you pull less power on each stroke but you don't get as tired so you can do more good strokes then bad strokes? You would then maybe have an hour of good racing and only dye in the last part due to fitness.


When I raced a had a lot of paddles, the blade size stayed the same but the shaft changed, here is what I had.


I used to have a K1 training paddle 100% glass shaft

The reason for this is I do more paddling at training then any other area of my paddling, so if you think about it I was paddling 180-200km a week, you only imagine how many strokes i was doing. So if I could do more good then bad I was always going to be a winner.

K1 race paddle 3/4 carbon 1/4 glass.

So I added the stiffness here because I only had to paddle for between 3:38-4mins, so I could have it stiffer but still with a bit of give for the end part of my race.

K4 training paddle 1/2 carbon 1/2 glass

This paddle was like this because I had to be strong enough in my position as front seat paddle but not over do it so I would tire and lose composure at the front of the boat.

K4 racing 100% carbon.

This being the fastest most aggressive racing, I had done the strength and paddle work to handle this paddle for a short period of time. I had to be 100% for every stroke with this paddle, it offers not room for error. I raced this paddle for under 3 mins only, I would not make it any further.

The reason I had these paddles was so that I could always get the most amount of right strokes done, the more good strokes you do the faster you have to go.


Now in the surf I use a medium size blade with a 100% carbon shaft 211cm in size, the reason I use this blade and shaft is I need something that allows me to be strong for only a couple of strokes so I can pull onto a swell quickly. The reason I use a full carbon is because I feel I'm still strong enough to use this, all though I find the first thing that goes when I get tried is my stroke and my blade does not do what it should because I'm to tired to pull it through the water effectively.


Like choosing a ski, think about your purchase don't just use it cause someone gave it to you.