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Paddle differences?

So what is the difference between a 'whitewater' paddle, and an 'ocean/touring' paddle? (I'll assume 'recreational' is just another way to say entry level paddle)

Ive seen paddles listed as intended for 'recreational', 'ocean/touring' and 'whitewater' use, but I don't see the difference in the paddles themselves. Both can be found in different materials and construction, length and paddle design and shape and surfaces areas.

I can understand differences in touring and a whitewater boat shapes - but do paddles really differ also?



  • Tell me you're kidding
  • I don't think you are kidding,but did
    you see my last answer?
    Case in point: I started paddling a 12' Acadia with a wide bladed rec paddle. No problem. I bought a 17' sea kayak and after one trip thought my arms were almost out of the sockets.that paddle got traded that day for narrower blades.
    Swing weight. It is one thing to go puddle hopping with an aluminum shaft, poly blade paddle that weighs 5 lbs. Do that for 20 miles in a wind and it will make a man out of you or wreck your shoulders.
    I'd rather have a boat from Dick's and a good paddle than vice versa.
  • GA Yak - mouth
    More unconstructive comments from the Yakker himself.

    Why does he even bother to read the message boards since he is so advanced?
  • In GK's defense
    the guy claims to be an intermediate and not a beginner. This would be something they would know if they weren't a beginner. I just choose to ignore personally.
  • Big differences
    White H2o paddles are usually shorter, under 200cm vs. flat H2o/touring paddles which probably average 220cm. White H2o blades are usually differently shaped and sized, being larger surface area on the whole, for a much bigger plant and bite. They are uasually built much tougher also, to endure far more impacting on rocks and much harder forces on shafts and blades. Flat H2o/touring blades are usually longer and narrower in comparison. Have tried using whiteH2o paddles as a storm paddle in high winds figuring IF I had to roll, the job would be much easier. Problem was the larger blades caught so much more wind, I was fighting a paddle that wanted to act like a kite. Stickman recommends just getting a stick paddle (G.P.) and forget about the rest, as long as your hull width will accomodate one?
  • Options
    why no straight answers? nm
  • You can be an intermediate paddler
    and have beginner gear and lack of knowledge of difference of paddle types. Not all experienced paddlers have local access to or need for expensive gear nor do they all hang out on P.net and other paddling web sites where the high end gear is promoted.

    Kind of a narrow minded way to evaluate someone's skill level, don't you think?
  • Are you having a bad day?
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-08 6:09 PM EST --

    It doesn't take much research to answer that question either on the internet or a paddle shop?

    Get off the attitude and answer his question if you want to do something constructive or waste some time and do a profile. I'm not the shy one and I put myself on the limb. You're awfully thin skinned to take offense to a simple question.

  • Options
    Totally irrelevant, but...
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-08 2:14 PM EST --

    ...this is a good opportunity. I see (NM) quite a bit beside comments. What does that mean?

    Is that something I should know. If so, I apologize to GK in advance. :)

    As for the difference in paddles, I would suggest referring to websites, e.g., Werner, Aquabound, Carlisle. Most of the sites compare and contrast their designs with others and should offer good info.


  • straight answer
    Ok, I will give this one a shot.

    Let's think about it more so based on the purpose of each category.

    Recreational paddling: Mostly just poking around on flat water and marshes etc ...not for too long in somewhat wide boats (28 inches). For that most people will use a low angle stroke and would not care too much about weight, accelerating quickly or making precise moves quickly. So for this you will see fairly straight forward flat blades with long shafts that weight more but are cheap.

    Touring sea kayaking: Typically you are going to be covering a lot of distance in a somewhat narrower boat. You also want a somewhat strong paddle in case if it snaps out there you are not stuck. So you want a paddle thats light but strong and is easy on your shoulders and joints (not too much bite). So you get a paddle that has a better blade (cleaner entry and exit from the water etc.), is light, and whose length can vary based on whether you pick low angle or high angle stroke.

    White water : Here the paddler would have potential for hitting lots of rocks. Additionally the would want lots of acceleration quickly and would want a paddle that would be more precise for certain strokes (draws, braces, rolls etc). So they want a strongly built paddle with a big face to it and potentially a shape that aids in those strokes. You will notice that ww boats can get as narrow as sea kayaks but the length of the paddles used will actually be a lot shorter (sometimes 20 cm + shorter) than sea kayak paddles. This is because the paddler does not need the extra length to maneuver the boat (which is much shorter) . Additionally a longer paddle will actually hinder one from maneuvering through tight sections of a river and could potentially get caught in things (right side up or upside down). This typically results at times in a much shorter stroke length for ww.

    hope that helps.
  • Thank you
    to those that helped (this IS an 'Advise, Suggestions and Help' forum).

    And to those who's time I must have wasted by posting such an elementary question, sorry. I prefer to believe you just didn't know the answer anyway.

    Actually, I spent alot of time both online and in a few retail shops researching paddle design theory. But the simple fact is that experience always outweighs theory, and this forum provides experienced views.

    The basis for my original question was that most manufacturers now offer different paddle models, both with similar specs, i.e.: 900gram 230cm, 7"+ wide asymmetrical blades, in everything from aluminum shaft/plastic blade to carbon/carbon. However, they will market two or more paddles of similar specs, calling one a 'WW' paddle, and another a 'touring' paddle. A bit confusing, and likely just marketing coverage (why does GM market the same vehicle under 4 names type of thing)

    What I was looking for was that elusive little detail that I thought MUST have separated the two different uses, but I'm getting the idea that unless your at one end of the paddle specifications spectrum or the other, there is little difference.
  • Options
    it means "no more"
    So you can tell just by scanning the subject line that you don't need to read the body of the message.

    Or maybe it means "no message." You'll also see "eom" for "end of message."

    -- Mark
  • Sorry for your bad experience.
    Some folks here are very helpful and some are very snooty, snobbish or smart ass.

    If you hang around long, you'll learn which is which.

    Happy paddling.
  • Wasn't a smartass answer
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-08 6:01 PM EST --

    You asked a question that was ananswered in simple tense by "stickman" and "jarra".

    Your profile says that you are an intermediate paddler and then you state that you spend time in paddle shops so what was answered should not have been beneficial.

    Assuming that you knew this much a more defined answer could only come from either the designer or the marketing department as many items on the modern day market are gimick motivated.

    Re-read your original post and you will find the question wasn't well written as you simply asked for the difference between a whitewater paddle and an ocean touring paddle. Which is like asking the difference between a bicycle and a car.

    You stated
    "Ive seen paddles listed as intended for 'recreational', 'ocean/touring' and 'whitewater' use, but I don't see the difference in the paddles themselves. Both can be found in different materials and construction, length and paddle design and shape and surfaces areas."
    so all you have to do is get a brochure from the manufacturer and read it. Marketing departments spend a lot of time writing this information...some read it and some don't.

    I don't understand how you can ask that question in that manner when you say, Quoted "Actually, I spent alot of time both online and in a few retail shops researching paddle design theory."
    This leads me to believe you want answers that only a marketing director or department can give.

    Now if you want to know how difficult it is to use a whitewater or a recreational paddle for ocean touring which is a strain on many joints then I recommend taking one with you on your next paddle and give it a try. I have tried many-many paddles. The problem is not all paddlers are alike and some (like me) like doing things the hard way. I use an AquaBound Manta Ray 230cm alum shaft and paddle 8-12 hours a day with it. Experience is the best teacher so give one (or several different ones)a try and then when you can give advice and it won't be "someone said" third party.

    BTW (BY-the-way) Recreational is neither whitewater nor ocean touring.

  • I know who and what you mean TD
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-08 5:09 PM EST --

    These paddles are just renamed with a different description on them. You *CAN* deal with or use anything but the best stuff for each situation sometimes is out on the fringes. Ex. Wing paddles are used for downriver racing but not commonly used for all other aspects of WW use.

    There area couple surf specific designs that are horrible for 'regular' paddling but some folks like them anyway for waves AND paddling to them.

    If you had to pick only one. IMO I would really take a look @ what your percentages of use are and bias the paddle towards the higher one.

    WW paddles tend towards lower aspect profiles, and flatter powerfaces, beefier constructions.
    and as mentioned above, < 200cm lengths

    Reverse all that for Touring .....

    Mix both for Specialized cross over paddles and bias towards the bulk of your intended use.

  • Dayum..... I thought my ww paddling
    was recreational. Now what do I do?
  • GK, your first answer was smart ass.
  • It wasn't intended to be as
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-08 6:18 PM EST --

    inflamatory as you took it. I was offended by the post. C'mon re-read his post and answer the question.

    Read his 2nd post and then re-read the original post.

  • Attempt at an answer
    -- Last Updated: Feb-01-08 1:35 PM EST --

    I wasn't going to weigh in on this one but there seems to be a lot of non-answer above except for a couple like the H2o one.
    Later add- assad's is a great answer. I didn't catch it before. But my non-expert opinin was:

    WW paddles just about have to have plastic or similarly tough blades because of the hitting rocks factor. And the shafts also have to be rugged as hell.
    However, in a long boat touring paddle you are going to be lifting over a number of hours a super light swing weight gets very appealing. Plastic blades work fine too, but are often abandoned for carbon and foam-core once someone tries out their friend's foam-core paddle.

    WW blades tend to have a big surface to get lots of water because of the need to move very aggressively. They may often have different shapes than touring paddle blades to facilitate this too, like rectangular.
    Touring paddles can also have fairly large blade surfaces, but you can as well go a good bit smaller than you'd want to in WW.

    Those are the big ones to me.

  • Now read his 2nd post
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-08 10:10 PM EST --

    This guy isn't a newbie. Don't you think he already knew this. Elementary research yields this info.

  • Some of the best and most-prized WW
    paddles are made entirely of wood. I have a classic "New World" 206 cm kayak paddle made by Backlund. Learned to roll with it. The blades are faced with fiberglass, but are thick enough that they would hold up on their own.

    Light carbon shafts and pure carbon blades can handle the strongest paddler effort, until they encounter rocks. Then, small patches of damage can cause catastrophic failure. Wood paddles will always have a place in the hearts of WW paddlers. The only deterrent is price. You can't make a low-cost, strong, durable wood whitewater paddle.
  • Wood, and GK
    -- Last Updated: Feb-01-08 3:32 PM EST --

    I know of paddlers who still have their original wooden WW paddles from many years ago. I don't know where they stand in swing weight compared to the newer materials, but 20 years and a good number of rocks later the paddles are fine. In fact I got my first roll with one of them. I just don't know anything about who is making such paddles now.

    And as to GK's response here... I did read the guy's post as well as his profile and, if there is any actual WW experience in there, it could have only been surmised via ESP. I would have been similarly confused before doing rocky or surfy stuff myself, let alone WW on a river. It's a perfectly reasonable question and the only reason I can see to get "offended" by it (quote) is if you woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

  • Options
    Paddle Design 101
    -- Last Updated: Feb-01-08 6:24 PM EST --

    Euro style paddles are optimized for various purposes along these lines:
    White water (WW) paddles are optimized for high-angle, high effort, maximum acceleration, maximum durability. Touring paddles are optimized for low to mid angle, lower effort, maximum efficiency, minimal weight. Recreational paddles are optimized for affordability and patterned after mid angle touring paddles.

    Aspect Ratio = length (from shoulder to tip) / width (bottom to top). High Aspect ratio means long and narrow (similar to a glider wing). Low Aspect ration means short and wide (similar to a jet fighter).

    Touring paddles tend to have higher aspect ratios to maximize efficiency (output vs effort) but sacrificing maximum power. White water paddles tend to have lower aspect ratios to maximize power (work vs effort) and acceleration but sacrificing maximum efficiency.

    Spoon = curvature (concave form) of the power-face of the blade. Flat = no spoon, curved = spooned.

    Touring paddles tend to have spooned blades, White water paddles tend to be flatter or may have a bit of spoon but not as much as touring paddles. I can't tell you why exactly, but I believe it is related to efficiency vs power.

    Length = The optimal length of the paddle is dependent on the angle of the loom (paddle shaft) during the stroke. Since the paddle blade would optimally be placed just beneath the surface of the water but no deeper - a more vertical stroke (as in WW) would indicate a shorter paddle length. While a less vertical stroke (as in touring) would require a longer paddle length (assuming paddlers of the same height).

    Material = paddles that will contact lots of rock (as for WW or surf) need to be thicker, heavier and better able to tolerate abuse. For extra durability these heavy duty paddles may have ribs to stiffen the blade and enhance durability. Paddles that will only contact soft water (touring or deep water paddles) can be made lighter since they should see much less stress and abuse. Carbon is a common material for high-end touring paddles. Fiberglass and fiberglass reinforced plastics are common materials for WW and surf paddles.

    Symmetry vs Asymmetrical = the surface area of the paddle blades are designed such that when the paddle is held at the design angle and pulled through the water, the paddle will not "twist" in the hand. Since WW paddle blades are designed for higher angles, they tend to be more symmetric and square (actually a shallow angled parallelogram). Since Touring paddles are designed for lower angles they will have more pronounced asymmetry and the blades may look more like a parallelogram.

    Longer / higher aspect ratio / fragile / lighter paddles are appropriate for - low effort and/or high mileage paddling (high performance touring paddles).
    Shorter / lower aspect ratio / more durable / heavier are appropriate for - high effort and/or low mileage paddling (high performance WW / Surf paddles).
    Longer / mid aspect ratio / durable / heavier paddles are appropriate for paddlers on a budget - low effort and low mileage paddling (recreational paddles).

    Note: They above makes lots of generalizations in an attempt to answer the OP's question. In addition, I didn't even try to explain the physics involved (since I am not an engineer) nor did I explain the design of GP style paddles.



  • Ga yak mouth
    Does yak_mouth just cruise the boards to show how superior he is?
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