In purchasing equipment for the outdoors, I always use the same thought process. How often am I going to upgrade my equipment based on the new radical improvements that
the manufacturer will come out with? How long before my existing equipment will become obsolete and I will have to replace it? How long will it be before I have a disadvantage with my existing equipment? When the time came to choose a kayak paddle, I decided that I would choose the best kayak paddle that I could afford based on the use of the paddle.
There is a fine balance between efficiency and comfort choosing a touring paddle. The paddle should allow the kayak to go fast and far if needed and at the same time doesn't waste any energy of the paddler. There are a lot of choices of kayak paddles and your first paddle ends up usually being your spare paddle.
1, 2 or 3 piece paddles
Most paddles are 2 piece, but you can also choose a 1 piece or a 3 piece paddle. By having the paddles in sections, it allows the paddles to be stored in smaller areas (especially as a spare paddle on the kayak deck). You should start with a 2 section paddle.
There are many blade shapes - narrow, wide, symmetrical, asymmetrical, etc. Each shape allows the paddler to paddle differently. A wide blade will be harder to paddle, use more energy and at the same time move the kayak faster through the water. A narrow blade will be easier to paddle and require more strokes to move the kayak the same distance as a wider blade. Less energy will be required with a narrow blade.
The paddle can be made from fiberglass, carbon fiber, graphite and wood. Each material has its own characteristic. Wood paddles are usually a one piece paddle and are referred to as Greenland paddles.
If you are an average size person in your own kayak, a 210cm - 220cm should be the correct length. The length of the paddle also depends on the shape and design of your kayak. Never purchase a paddle before deciding on the kayak. If you are paddling in a tandem kayak, you might want a little longer paddle of 230cm. Depending on the type of paddle stroke you use (low, high) and the cadence (strokes per minute), the length and the blade type might be different.
There are a few types of shafts available depending on the size of your hands. Oval shafts are a little more comfortable to hold than round shafts. Make sure the shaft is not too big for your hands as your hands will become tired and possibly cramped. There is also a double-crank shaft available for longer distance paddling. The shaft can be constructed with aluminum, wood, fiberglass, etc. Some shafts are colder and not as strong. Based on the paddle blade, a certain shaft will be available.
Feathered or non-feathered
The discussion of which paddle is better (feathered or non-feathered) will always be debated. A feathered paddle has the right and left blade at an angle to each other (normally 60 degrees) and an
non-feathered paddle has both the right and left blade parallel to each other. Most paddles allow the blades to be in the feathered or non-feathered set up. You should try each position to see which set up you prefer. A feathered blade will not be affected by the wind as much as a non-feathered blade. Some people's wrists might be affected paddling a feathered paddle. Whatever blade works for you is the correct blade. When you learn different kayaking strokes such as bracing, sculling and rolling, there will be a difference with the techniques based on the type of paddle and blade set up. Keep that in mind when choosing a paddle. A feathered paddle is either a right-handed or a left-handed paddle. Make sure you choose a paddle that matches your paddling stroke.
Always choose a paddle that has the lightest weight that you can afford as lighter weight paddles are the most expensive paddles. Every once heavier will require a lot more energy over the course of the day that requires thousands of strokes. Saving energy is a bonus when paddling.
Wooden paddles are beautiful, light, usually have a small blade and usually are non-feathered. Paddling with a wooden paddle is completely a difference experience from paddling with all other types of paddles. The people who paddle with wood (Greenland) paddles have a tough time switching to conventional paddles.
Wing paddles are usually use for racing and are shaped like an airplane wing. It is a very fast paddle and it is very difficult to do the normal kayaking strokes such as bracing, sculling, etc.
Don't forget to learn how to maintain your kayak paddles correctly because incorrect methods might damage your kayak paddles and choose your kayak paddles wisely.