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Making a paddle high viz?

Looking at the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray carbon... the blades are black. Would ideally like something with high viz / bright colours on the blades as half my paddle time is in a lake with plenty of cottages and boaters.
Without effecting the paddles ability to enter the water smoothly and not effect the dihedral, how can I add a yellow stripe or something to it?
Outdoor vinyl... or?

Too bad they don’t offer more than just black... good old Henry Ford way of thinking....


  • SOLAS reflective strip or patch. Can get it online or from many marine stores. No it does not affect the paddle's performance. And even if someone can prove it does, it still beats the heck out of getting run over by a motor boat.

  • Second SOLAS tape. Not cheap, but much more reflective than just about anything else out there.

  • In dark, reflective tape is best. But was that what the OP asked about?

    In daylight, the reflectiveness is worth nothing (unless the oncoming boat happens to have the sun exactly at the rear). You need visible colours instead.

  • i put some high reflective vinyl that i had around just near the blades-just to try it

  • I (and others) disagree that reflective material is worth nothing in daylight. I have seen the flash from other paddler's reflective strips during the day from hundreds of feet away. The paddle is moving so at some point it will catch the right angle. For reference, the Great Hudson River Paddle specifies reflective tape on PFD's and paddles, I think boats too, from participants. They only travel during the day and are on a heavily trafficked river with pleasure boats and commercial traffic.

    I have seen few lake boaters with the alertness to always see a kayak, let alone strips of color small enough to fit on a paddle blade. A bright boat, hat or PFD does better if it is a non-reflective. They are bigger.

  • Bright mirrored reflectors work even better than a wetted paddle in daylight. Operation Boat Safe (I seem to recall) had some promotional ovals but I found the same sort by Suspenz. If you have a careful hand you could try some metallic furnace tape and hit it with a buffing wheel once applied to the blade. I’d be more inclined to just get the ready made.


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  • For paddles with black (carbon fiber) blades, I paint the blades fluorescent orange (over a white base coat or white stick-on vinyl). I then add sections of prismatic reflective tape on the blades for daytime visibility and wrap strips of SOLAS tape around the shaft at the base of the blades for nighttime visibility.

  • edited January 27

    Used SOLAS tape on my Cyprus blades for one summer. My experience was that It's not very effective during daylight hours, but very reflective at night when a light shines on it, I think it's the same principal as the reflective piping on drysuits, which is easily seen at night under lighting but not noticeable during the day.

    Since I paddle during daylight hours, I removed the SOLAS last winter and replaced it with a mirrored reflector on the back face of one paddle (had two stickers but only one would stick). A chevron of Duck prisim tape is on each power face. That reflector oval is very noticeable as a few times I saw power boats change course once they saw me. Reflectivity also confirmed by other paddlers. Only once did I have to wave my paddle and that was at a couple of lake lice drivers doing donuts too close to me.

    Thanks for the link, Marshall. Had been looking in craft stores for an adhesive sheet of mirrored reflector to add to the other blade.

    FWIW, I'll notice white blades flashing in the distance from a mile away - long before I'll see the paddler or kayak.

  • Maybe too late now but I would think an orange boat, PFD, and/or hat would help visibility.

  • I painted my black blades with white epoxy spray paint. Took a few days to cure but is still there after a few years.

  • edited January 27

    @Celia said:
    I (and others) disagree that reflective material is worth nothing in daylight. I have seen the flash from other paddler's reflective strips during the day from hundreds of feet away. The paddle is moving so at some point it will catch the right angle

    The angle of the retroreflective surface has nothing to do with it. Retroreflective tape (as in SOLAS tape, which is what is discussed here) will send the light back in the direction in came from. The angle of the retroreflective tape will only change that a little. That is what separates retroreflective tape from a mirror. A mirror will send the light back at an angle which is equal to the entrance angle, but "mirrored".

    So I repeat what I wrote in my last post: In daylight you will only see the reflection if you are lucky to have the sun behind you. Because in that situation, the retroreflective tape will send send the reflection in your direction.

    This is the reason that you can see retroreflective tape at such a long distance, if you have a lamp with you. Only a very small amount of light from your lamp will hit the retroreflective surface far away. But almost all that light will be returned in your direction, instead of being wasted in other directions.

    Edit: The proper English word describing the properties of SOLAS tape is "retroreflective". I have updated the text to reflect this.

  • @Marshall said:
    If you have a careful hand you could try some metallic furnace tape

    Such tape works like a mirror. Not like SOLAS tape. The way these two surfaces work are fundamentally different.

  • edited January 27

    Reflective tape or mirrors are great if someone is actively searching for you, but I don't see that they would be very effective in preventing one from getting run over during routine navigation - in day OR night.. At night, a boater would need to be shining a bright light in their direction of travel which is not normal, right? Why leave that to chance? Much better IMO to generate your own light (e.g., with a light lashed to your PFD which keeps it elevated and with you even if you end up out of your boat for some reason. I assume btw that the aforementioned paddle reflectors that reflect sunlight don't work on cloudy days. I agree that bright clothing is helpful and that motion (e.g., of a paddle going up and down) is something that very effectively draws the attention of our brains. I believe that the up and down of a distant paddle is almost always the first thing I see when coming across another kayaker.

  • I wonder how many people in this thread regularly paddle in areas like inland waterways or lakes with a lot of tourist motor boat traffic vs open water like ocean bays with a lot of working boats. There seem to be a lot of complaints about reflective tape that have not been so in my experience inland. (Or apparently the Great Hudson River Paddle folks.) And a lot of emphasis on the specifics of tape or reflective material vs the bigger visibility items, like a moving paddle and bright colored boat/clothing.

    It is feeling a bit like winter.

  • 99 % of my paddling is inland lakes and rivers. I paddle SC coastal islands a couple of times a year, on the bay side.

  • I don't think anyone is complaining about SOLAS, just discussing its best use. I live on an inland lake with plenty of wave boats, jet skis, and power boats. I removed my SOLAS because the very reflective mirror-type patch and prism tape on my paddle are more easily seen in daylight. I figure if the little mirror in my PFD does the trick for the required USCG signaling device, the mirroring tape acts as a signal on my paddle. I do like bnystrom's mention of placing SOLAS strips around the paddle shaft in case I'm late getting off the water.

    While my Prana sure isn't brightly colored, my hat, PFD, and rashguards are. But power boats plane when they're moving fast and unless the driver has a lookout or is standing, their line of vision isn't all that great for paddlers since we're so low on the water. The more paddle flash, the better. When I use my Greenland, sometimes I do have to wave it since it's just unadorned red cedar.

    Here's what 3MScotchlite has to say about their retroflective materials:

    "- Requires light source
    "- Dawn & dusk benefits
    "- Great nighttime benefits-poor daytime"


    Use some of both and you're covered for day and night.

  • Https://www.aliexpress.com/item/bicycle-car-reflective-tape-5cmx3m-reflective-bicycle-stickers-adhesive-tape-for-bike-safety-white-red-yellow/32954302080.html?spm=2114.search0104.3.80.6ad718fa3v6kzr&ws_ab_test=searchweb0_0,searchweb201602_4_10065_10068_10130_10890_10547_319_10546_317_10548_10545_10696_453_10084_454_10083_433_10618_431_10307_537_536_10902_10059_10884_10887_100031_321_322_10103,searchweb201603_51,ppcswitch_0&algo_expid=923341aa-cdb9-4add-bccc-7b6e1b6f716a-10&algo_pvid=923341aa-cdb9-4add-bccc-7b6e1b6f716a

    I put blaze lime green tape all over my paddle and boat and have been told by the harbor patrol I'm easy to see. The AliExpress stuff is 1/8 the cost of 3M tape and works 90+% as well. I picked up like 80ft for $20.

    I covered the front face on both blades with the reflective tape plus have over 40' on the bow, middle, and stern of my boat.

    In addition, i wear a blaze green long sleve shirt and have reflectors on the back of my pfd.

    My regular waters are the SoCal pacific ocean, so can report good results in large conditions (6'+ waves)

    If you hit me, you're blind or drunk!

  • @MCImes said:
    blind or drunk!

    (or both)

    Yup, that describes a good proportion of the recreational boaters I've met.

  • @Celia said:
    And a lot of emphasis on the specifics of tape or reflective material vs the bigger visibility items, like a moving paddle and bright colored boat/clothing.

    If that comment was directed towards me, I can only say that I was very specific, because very specific advice was given, and depending on the circumstances, that advice might be very wrong.

    So once again: SOLAS tape is for night use. If anyone think they are more visible with SOLAS tape at day, they need to do a test so they understand what SOLAS tape does and doesn't do.

  • I use red duct tape on my Werner Kalliste.

  • Some great info here everyone, thanks. Some stuff worth looking into. If I do end up with black blades, I was thinking of some orange or yellow edging to help with daytime visibility for passing motor boats etc. By Yak is Half Yellow, Half Dark Blue - PFD is a bright blue... but anything helps.

  • Some of the most visible blades I have seen are the glass Werner blades. They are semi translucent and in quite bright colours. Those are often the first I see when a kayak emerges far away. But they are of course not carbon...

  • @Allan Olesen , I agree... The Werner Camano in Citrus would be my ideal paddle... but I'm not sure I can swallow the $405 (after tax) price point on it. I think i'm good for a $250-$300 paddle.

  • edited January 30

    The US Coast Guard offers free "Paddle Responsibilty" Paddle Tip Reflector Kit. I picked them up at my local Coast Guard Station, The kit includes 4 mirror reflective stickers (4 inches in size) and it also comes with a safety check list sticker that you add your name and phone number should your kayak drift away and they find it but not you. I use my wife cell number on the label because she doesn't paddle with me. You can also get Vessel ID sticker for canoe, kayak or row boat to affix for free. For ALL stickers they stated do not use a magic marker as it wears off, They suggested using a "PAINT PEN".
    For more info go to the CG website they may offer them for free by mail. (Click Link) uscgboating.org/ .

    I have my paddle blade fronts painted with diagonal blaze orange stripes plus the mirrored dot. I asked the Coast Guard when I picked up the reflective dots if the reflective dots could possibly be mistaken for an emergency signal mirror and was told it is better to be noticed with the occasion flash of the dot, have a boater come close to verify your safe vs. having no reflectivity and visibility

    I ordered several 2x4 orange "custom plastic tags" with a hole in it with my name, contact info, Emergency Contact Info and my VHF Radio MMSI # from (Click Link) https://customsigns.com/design/engraved-sign-horizontal-2-x-4 and put key ring onto it to attach to my yak and put one in my pocket attached to my pfd. It was inexpensive, very visible and easily attached.

  • @Celia I paddle year round in heavy boat traffic areas (high and low speed ferries, fishing boats, and tourist) I live on Martha’s Vineyard 10 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. Just for that reason I do everything I can to be visible. I play in some big waves at times can get lost in the trough of waves so visiblity is a must. I don’t like the look of a kayak flag on my yak like you see on kids bikes but it is a thought for a future purchase. My blue Pfd is due in a year for replacement and hope to get the same one in yellow or red because I like all the pockets.

  • Unless the island has drifted farther offshore recently, it's less than 4 miles of paddling from the Vineyard to Woods Hole. ;)

    Kayak flags are a terrible idea, as they reduce the stability of the boat in crosswinds and make it difficult or impossible to roll.

  • I have been told by motor boaters, other kayakers and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary that they spotted my Solas taped paddles well before they saw my 14' Hurricane Phoenix in bright yellow or my safety flag or my orange hat. Granted, at night you need a light.

  • I have the 3m tape that is used on street signs on the back of my paddle blades. Works great and can be seen in any low light.

  • edited January 31

    @bnystrom said:
    Unless the island has drifted farther offshore recently, it's less than 4 miles of paddling from the Vineyard to Woods Hole. ;)

    Kayak flags are a terrible idea, as they reduce the stability of the boat in crosswinds and make it difficult or impossible to roll.

    From Vineyard Haven Harbor to Woods Hole Harbor is actually 8.4 miles I stand corrected on the 10 miles it was a give or take. Technically its 4 miles point to point measurement from the outcrop of Nobaska Point to West Chop Point and we are talking harbor to harbor because that the only way on/off the island.
    I wish the island was 4 miles away (Harbor to Harbor) because it wouldn’t take so long to get to and from America, our ferry ride time would be cut in half.

  • Lobster buoy paint from Hamilton Marine (Maine) is high viz and durable with several colors available. I’ve had many boaters comment how far away they could see my moving paddle blades

  • Get a reflector on your paddle, I prefer putting a reflective decal on the paddle faces. Doing this prevented a power boat ripping into a side channel where our party of 11 kayaks were taking a break from paddling. He was coming for the channel and constant waving and flashing of those decals finally got his attention and he sheared just seconds before what could have been a real mess. I have had competent professional tug pilots tell me that even bright kayaks can be hard to see. I think the flash is as important as the color. During our little incident, we were in the low sun's glare. Color might not have helped.

    Do what you can in a pro active way to make for your own safety. A lot of those behind the throttle can barely manage their own boats, and a kayak or canoe is kind of down the list sometimes.

  • @amjretired@gmail.com , that brings up another good question... night light.
    Should I or another paddler on this thread get coming back from a paddle at dusk or dark, what would everyone recommend? A suction cup strobe? A headband with strobe function?
    Would like to know what People have.

  • A strobe is a distress signal for emergency use only. Here's info on the type of light you need:


  • I use an ACR LED Firefly strobe (it has a constant-on function in addition to the strobe) attached to the back of my PFD. It sits up reasonably high, is plenty bright, would stay with me in case I ended up in the water, and because it's behind me it doesn't interfere with my night vision. I also small but powerful and waterproof light made by Pelican. In my deck bag, I have a elastic headband with a sleeve that the light can slight into if I were wanting to keep the light on my head pointing out in front. I recently purchased a Luci light which I want to take with me on my next outing that will extend into the evening. It charges during the day with solar cells (or a USB) and seems pretty bright. It weighs next to nothing and compresses flat but inflates to something about the size and shape of a 28-oz can of tomatoes when used. I would attach it to my rear deck (there's a little strap sort of thing so it could easily be secured to a deck bungee for example). REI sells them as do other places I'm sure for about $30 if memory serves.

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