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Rosehill Industrial Estate, Ballinacurra, Midleton, Co. Cork.

A Guide to Choosing Your Kayak Paddle

From Advanced Elements:

Next to the kayak itself, your paddle has the biggest impact on your performance on the water. While many features in a kayak paddle can come down to personal preference, you should at least consider a few basics:


Your boat width and your height determine your paddle length. In most cases, Inflatable Kayaks are typically wider than hard-shell kayaks so, they require a longer paddle length. In our experience, a paddle length of at least 230cm works well for paddlers 5’2” up to at least 6’6” in height when paddling our kayaks. This is why nearly all of our paddles are set at a length of 230cm. If you feel that you may need a longer paddle, you’ll want to consider our Orbit 4-Part adjustable length paddle.

Materials and how they affect performance and price:

Lightweight materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber improve performance by reducing fatigue but also add to a paddle’s price. Additionally, both materials tend to be more rigid which reduces flutter and translates into better energy transfer.

Here are some material considerations:

  • Plastic/Glass-filled Nylon Blades: Budget friendly material that is also the most durable. Glass-filled Nylon blades are the heaviest compared to fiberglass or carbon-fiber.
  • Aluminum Shaft: Very durable and typically weighs more than other shaft materials. Aluminum can tend to build up corrosion in salty or brackish water and should be rinsed with fresh water after each use. Aluminum can heat up fast in warm weather and be cold to touch in cold weather. Best if price-point is a concern.
  • Fiberglass Blades and Shaft: A durable, rigid, and fairly maintenance-free material that typically weighs more than carbon-fiber but is lighter than Glass-filled Nylon/Aluminum combinations. Fiberglass is a good mid-price option and does not really corrode in salt water nor does it get too hot or cold in varying temperatures.
  • Carbon-Fiber Blades and Shaft: Very durable, extremely rigid, and the lightest in weight. This material will also not corrode in salt water and maintains a comfortable feel in-hand when temperatures reach extremes. The old adage “you get what you pay for” really applies here as you are getting the best weight and rigidity for your money with carbon-fiber.

Blade choice:

A paddle’s blade size and shape affect its overall efficiency in the water. Our approach has been to design paddle blades that strike a balance between producing a fair amount of push in the water while also minimizing the fatigue caused by wind and weight. Most of our paddle blades are very similar in size and shape and have been designed to strike a balance in paddling efficiency by using an asymmetrical-dihedral shape. The resulting design provides a paddle that guides the water flow across the surface of the blade, reducing flutter in the paddle by directing that flow along the face to the outer edge. Additionally, an asymmetric blade will “catch” the water sooner on the entry phase of a stroke thereby increasing the efficiency of the paddle.

Shaft choice:

Aside from the material concerns mentioned earlier, the option to “Feather” a paddle is an important one to consider. Matched, or unfeathered, paddle blades are even along the central axis of the paddle while feathered blades are not. Instead, feathered blades are offset at an angle to each other which improves a paddle’s effectiveness by reducing wind resistance. Nearly all our paddles are featherable so you can use the paddle either “Matched”, “Left-hand Feathered”, or “Right-hand Feathered”.

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