Get the right paddle for spending hours on the water.
This Month's Gear Guru Question:by Backcountry Bob
Q: How do I choose the correct kayaking paddle?
Tim from Ohio
A: For whitewater and surf kayaking, a short shaft like the Werner's Double Diamond is ideal as it maneuvers well and provides speed and power. Whitewater paddles range in length from about 200-230cm. Stay on the short side for small paddlers or hard shell kayaks, go with a paddle around 220cm for sit-on-tops, and go long for inflatable whitewater kayaks.
Touring and sea kayakers generally prefer a shaft around 220-250cm like the Werner's Camano 2. The long shaft makes for efficient and powerful strokes. Take into account weight and feel as these paddles will be in your hands for long hours. Many beginners opt for a slightly longer shaft, while experienced touring kayakers tend to use a shorter paddle.
As far as blades go, asymmetrical ones like those on the Werner's Seven2 Vapor are usually preferred because they enter and exit the water easily and reduce mid-stroke torque. Most experienced paddlers use feathered blades, meaning they’re offset by up to 90 degrees. This allows one blade to propel your boat while the other slices the air. However, feathered blades require more wrist-turning than unfeathered blades, and many beginners find this uncomfortable. Starting off with an unfeathered or low-angle blade like the Werner's Skagit Tour may be a good idea. Many paddles such as the Werner's Ikelos have feather angles that can be adjusted to accommodate skill level.
What makes two paddles with nearly identical sizes and shapes so very different? Material. If you’re planning on creeking the Numbers and durability is paramount, your best bet is to stick to a fiberglass blade and shaft. For a ridiculously long fly-fishing tour around Vancouver Island, carbon shafts like Werner's Kalliste feel great in your hands and their light weight reduces fatigue. Hardcore kayakers will pay more for foam-filled blades, such as the Werner's Cyprus's. Relaxed, recreational paddlers can easily get away with a cheaper, heavier paddle such as the Werner's Prijon Rim Ardeche.