Choosing a paddle

Paddles can be expensive and are very much a personal choice. There are many makes and types and you should aim to have a look or feel of as many as possible before buying. There are a number of differences between paddles and these are some of the things you should look for.

Weight – the weight of carbon fibre paddles can vary significantly a lighter paddle requires less effort to lift and move and can be less tiring although some people prefer a weightier feel. Lighter paddles can take a bit of getting use to particularly the recovery in high winds.

Grip type – The top hand grip can be different on different makes of paddles (some even give you an option) most types are based on either the traditional T piece or the more sculpted palm grip. Have a feel of both and think which you think would suit you best.

Shaft Style – Paddles will come with either a round or oval shaft. Some people prefer the round shaft and find it fits easier in the hand. Personally I like an oval shaft as I can feel the orientation of my paddle through the bottom hand.

Stiffness or flex – This is difficult to measure without actually paddling. With a stiffer paddle you are less likely to feel flex in the shaft when the paddle is under load. However a stiffer paddle often weighs more (this is not always true however). Some people find a stiffer paddle less forgiving on the body others find a paddle shaft flexing disconcerting.

Resilience – Paddles are expensive pieces of kit and you want them to last. It does seem however that there is a big difference in the amount of abuse a paddle can take before becoming damaged. Some paddles will “hole” quite easily (from a clash of paddles for example). The best way to find how long lasting a paddle maybe is to speak to current users. Don’t panic though most minor damage can be repaired quite easily.

Length – Length isn’t really a factor. Nearly all paddles will arrive with you at full length with the handle not attached. You then chop the shaft down to the correct height and glue the handle. What is the correct height I hear you ask – well again it is very much down to personal preference. Typically a longer paddle will allow you to gear higher and work harder and is more likely to suit strong paddlers. The main decision will be made however based on your body size, your range of motion and most importantly what feels confortable to you. Most people will know whether they are a “red” or “blue” paddler and can use this as the basis for your decision. I would urge you at least to begin with to err on the side of being too long (you can always take a little more off). If you initially glue with hot melt glue then if necessary the handle can be removed using a hair drier. Alternatively some paddles have a screw adjustment letting you select your own paddle length. If you are nervous about gluing your own paddle then ask around people in the club (myself included) will be happy to help.

Finally if you decide on a paddle you think you may be interested in then please do speak to someone who owns one and ask to borrow for a piece during a paddling session and check it’s what you expect.

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