Bang For The Buck Paddle

This is my second year kayaking and much of what I read emphasizes the importance of a good paddle.

When I purchased my kayak I bought a very inexpensive, entry level, aluminum paddle. My goal was to buy this paddle as a starting point, know full well that if and when I upgraded, this would be a good spare paddle or a loaner for friends.

Two questions:

Is it worth the expense to upgrade to either a fiberglass or carbon paddle, and if so, what are some choices that offer a good bang for the buck.

My past life experiences teach me that there are better quality items than the very bottom level, however there is usually a point of diminishing returns for dollars spent.

I am using this with a SIK and will be dome flat river paddling, some creek paddling, and some creek and river fishing.

Any advice and opinions of brands and models are appreciated.

Hard to make specific recommendations
There are so many variables that go into kayak paddles, many of which are matters of individual preference.

These include blade offset versus no offset, degree of blade offset, blade size and shape, take-apart or one piece, Greenland design vs traditional “Euro” blades, and materials.

Check out Foxworx and Aqua Bound. Both make quality paddles at a competitive price.

Really hard to make specific recommendations here. The best thing you can do is make lots of paddling friends and try their gear when you go out. Easier said than done.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of the Werner Tybee. YMMV.

Throw weight
You want to minimize blade weight, because that can be a load at the far ends of a long stick. The farther from your body the weigh concentrates the harder you work for each stroke, the issue being the high blade weight, not the one in the water.

Towards that end wood or fiberglass shafts will suffice, a carbon shaft will minimize weight but increase price significantly.

You’ll probably find fiberglass or glassed wood blades will be acceptably lightweight. Blades made of injected molded plastic are usually nicely shaped but way heavy.

The best paddles are carbon with foam cored blades and bent shafts. They run around 18-20 oz. and cost over $500. Everything else is on a descending scale with price telling you quite a bit, the only vcaveat is paying for a carbon shaft with injection molded blades.

on what you are paddling… if it is something narrow with decent glide and acceleration, consider eskimo stick for flat water - very user-friendly when it comes to fatigue. Not use in whitewater though, let alone creeking.

Be sure to check this one.
You can do a lot of looking, but you’re going to have a tough time finding a better bang for your buck paddle than a Carlisle Expedition. It might not be the easiest paddle to find, but believe me it is worth the search.

Best Bang for the Buck are Onno
Patrick makes very good light paddles that are affordable.

Don’t skimp on a paddle, a light efficient paddle is more important than the boat.

check out Aquabound
Very light weight for the price.

Love my Foxworx canoe paddles, but have not tried.their kayak paddles.

I have and use Werner and Lendal highend carbon kayak paddles, but I also have an Aquaboumd carbon that cost half the price that I often use when I am in oysters, rock or trees. My paddling partner uses Onno carbon an they are nice.

Light paddles are worth the cost
Many boats have come and gone, but I’m always happy when I pick up the very light carbon crankshaft paddle I bought (for what seemed like too much money) when I was starting out years ago.

I have never regretted paying the price, except that when my wife goes paddling with me, she uses it and I’m relegated to using something else. Well, it’s not that bad, as I have a nice light WRC GP that is pretty sweet.

Consider a DIY
Yes, you can readily DIY a great Greenland Paddle (GP) or with a bit more effort an Aleut Paddle (AP). Both are highly functional, light in weight and strong - depending upon the wood chosen.

Plenty of instructions on the web. You do not need power tools to do this, BTW.

Aqua Bound Sting Ray Hybrid
Paid $140 at local paddle shop.Best investment I have made in gear since I started. I used to use a Carlisle Magic and was a little skeptical of the smaller blades on the Sting Ray but I can go just as fast further and more easily. My wife tried a couple cheaper paddles over the last two years and would have either a sore wrist, elbow or shoulder from a 10 mile paddle. Her first paddle with the AquaBound was 25 miles and a 10 mile the next day, no problem at all.

There may be better paddles available but I won’t be shopping for one anytime soon, I am completely happy with these.

Pnet Reviews

Paddle Guides
My guess is you are probably in a short wide recreation kayak or a sit on top kayak. If so you don’t want to go really high end on a new paddle but need to get off what you have.

For someone getting started the guides on picking a paddle on the Aqua-Bound and Werner pages have a lot of good information (I like the Aqua-Bound way or presenting the info better):

I consider something like the Werner Skagit ($130) to be as cheap as you want to go on a paddle. The Werner Camano ($275 straight) is a big step up and where I would view the sweet spot for recreational paddling. The paddles get much nicer after that but also come with a higher price tag. I am sure Aqua-Bound has similar models and both Werner and Aqua-Bound should be pretty easy to find at paddling or even stores like REI and EMS.

When I go on mellow paddles with friends who rent (usually big fat Old Town Loons are in most rental fleets around here), many of them hate it and get tired out quickly. If I switch them off the big heavy paddle, like you have, on to even a paddle like a Skagit they almost all start enjoying it more and are able to keep up. They are even happier with a lighter paddle like the Camano. I can’t tell you how many times I get stuck with the crappy paddle while my paddles are with my friends. If you enjoy kayaking with what you have now, you will like it so much more if you upgrade to a lighter paddle.

I second the ONNO for the
“Best bang for the buck”

They are the sweetest and lightest paddle and for the price they will be $100 lower than any equal brand.

We have six, (wings and touring) of his kayak ones in the family, and I don’t even consider any other make any more.

Jack L

Thanks So Much
For these excellent tips. I am taking them one by one and doing the research you’ve offered.

Actually I am in a 13’ x 26.5" Conduit so although not a streamlined speedster, it doesn’t feel to me like a pig either.

Am considering stepping up to a bit longer and narrower kayak for my trips up and down the Ohio River or other longer distance paddling excursions (but that will be more questions) and using my current kayak for meandering creeks, fishing, etc.

Again folks, I truly enjoy this site, have learned a ton, and much appreciate all of the help and info I receive here.

A DIY Greenland Paddle
has actually crossed my mind, Bartc and I have looked at some of the plans and videos online.

My woodworking skills are at the low range which is one of the reasons I have swayed from this direction, but perhaps with patience I could accomplish this task.

What is a good wood choice that is readily available?

Thanks Bartc for the reminder.

Paddle weight thoughts
I guide locally and there are more than few trips where clients are looking at buying their first boat. They usually have a budget for the boat, but neglect thinking of the paddle, or I as refer to it, the motor. Typically they are using a rental blade - inexpensive and heavy.

I suggest to them to think of spending more on a lighter paddle and think about a paddle that is say just 4 oz lighter. Every complete stroke, left and right side, means you moved 1/2 pound less than the heavier blade. So on a 500 stoke paddle you have NOT moved 250 lbs. That extra paddle weight adds up over a long trip and the lighter blade will give you more endurance.

For A Greenland Style Paddle
What are the recommendations for length?

Some of my research indicates using a paddle the same length as a regular paddle. Some research suggests a longer paddle with thinner and narrower blades?

On that note, I have read several opinions suggesting smaller blade sizes for all around use to reduce fatigue over long paddles, except in situations where each stroke needs to really move a lot of water.

I am upgrading my paddle for sure (and perhaps my kayak) this season and looking for opinions based on better info and experience than I now possess.

If I upgrade the kayak, it will also be another sit in but would be a bit longer and a bit narrower so hopefully the paddle I either make or purchase will be fine for either of my kayaks.

Again thanks.

GP paddle sizing
For Greenland Paddles loom length is probably more important than length overall.

Here is how one Greenland paddle maker recommends sizing:

I prefer smaller bladed paddles, such as
the Epic Relaxed Tour or the Swift Wind Swift are a couple that are small enough for me.

Larger bladed paddles are too hard on my joints and wear me out quicker.