How to Choose the Right Kayak Paddle

The choice of a kayak paddle is based on three criteria: the width of the boat, your size and your type of navigation.

Choosing the right paddle for your kayak

The first thing to consider when choosing a kayak paddle is the type of boat and especially its width. In fact, the wider the kayak, the longer your paddle should be for optimal water intake. There are generally two types of widths: if your kayak is less than 60 cm wide, choose an average paddle; if it is more than 60 cm wide, choose a paddle about 5 cm longer.

Your choice of paddle will also depend on the type of kayak you use: for an inflatable or rigid kayak, opt for a double paddle, which will ensure a good rowing frequency, for a canoe, opt instead for a single paddle, which is easier to use in a kneeling or high-sitting position.

Like the kayak, the choice of paddle is closely linked to the morphology of the kayaker, precisely to his or her size. To choose a good paddle size, as a general rule, the arm is raised above the head and the standing paddle should be at wrist height.

There is also another method that consists of adding 25 centimeters to the kayaker’s height to obtain the ideal paddle span. The choice of this tool also depends on the width of the kayak. When you take three kayaks of the same length, the narrowest will be 5 centimeters less than the medium, which will be less than the widest. Note that the narrowest (small) are between 48 and 55 centimeters, the mediums are between 56 and 63 centimeters, and the widest (wide) starts at 65 centimeters. Medium kayaks are those that meet the length criteria defined above.

Choosing your paddle according to your size

One of the most important elements in choosing your paddle is certainly your size. The taller you are, the more you will need a long paddle to paddle comfortably. You should also know that there are two types of paddle: fixed paddles, which do not vary in length, and adjustable paddles, generally called “vario paddles”, which can vary in length by about ten centimeters.

Note that the vario paddles also allow you to adjust the blade crossing angle. This is generally 60° for a touring kayak paddle, but the vario paddle allows you to choose an infinite crossing angle.

Choose your paddle according to the type of navigation

The last element to consider when choosing your paddle is your navigation program and more specifically your paddling style. The most common type of navigation is hiking, which can be practiced in the sea as well as in rivers. For this type of program, choose a normal size paddle by referring to the size chart. For whitewater practice, you will need a shorter paddle for more power and control. Decrease the length of your paddle by about 20 cm. For canoeing, choose a single paddle or a rowing paddle. This type of paddle is generally reserved for racing in competition.

As a general rule, the wider the blades of your paddle, the more power you will have when paddling. Conversely, narrower blades will allow you to paddle more easily and for longer periods of time without forcing.

The different types of kayak paddles

While most kayak paddles are made of aluminum, there are also carbon or fiberglass paddles, such as the BIC Adventure paddle. These paddles are lighter and stronger than aluminum paddles. Most kayak paddles are also removable for easy storage and transport. You will find paddles in 2, 3 or 4 parts. For example, the Ryde K-Hobby Pro 220 paddle, made in France, is 220 cm long but more than 25 cm when dismantled (double paddle that can be dismantled into 4 parts).

Choice of material

The paddles are made of fibreglass, aluminium, wood or carbon. Each paddle is adapted to a type of use according to its characteristics.

  1. Aluminium paddles are heavier, shock resistant and much more economical. They are ideal when you plan to make occasional outings with your kayak.
  2. Fiberglass paddles are ideal for regular use. They offer more performance at a good price.
  3. We have carbon paddles. They are intended for intensive use and are the most expensive, the stiffest but at the same time the lightest. They are very strong and very performant. Finally, wooden paddles are used when you want to reduce the fatigue in your joints. They are ideal for long trips.

Blade size and shape

They also vary according to the use of the paddle. Wide blades allow for more powerful strokes while narrower ones propel the kayak less and expend energy.

In short, the greater the surface area offered by the blade, the more powerful the paddle stroke. There are also profiled (curved) blades that are adapted to high-performance kayakers and dihedral blades that require less paddling effort. Note that most paddles on the market have asymmetrical blades.

The Sleeve

It can be straight, asymmetrical or ergonomic. The straight sleeves are resistant and very affordable. The ergonomic handles are unfortunately heavier and less resistant than the previous ones but they are designed to allow a more natural position of the hands.

Finally, the asymmetrical handles have two types of sections: a circular one and an oval one, the oval one being at the approach of the blades. This allows you to be more comfortable with your paddle and to recognize the orientation of your paddle when your eyes are closed. Some shafts may have a bulge in the handle that guides the positioning of the hands.

In addition to all this, it is important to know that certain types of handles are adjustable, offering a variety of sizes that can be adapted according to the circumstances.