Black paddles and safety

Hello, I just purchased my first carbon (touring) kayak paddles after many years of paddling with brightly colored fiberglass paddles. Does anyone have any suggestions for stickers or any other means to increase visibility on the water? Yakers (even in brightly colored boats and clothing) seem to disappear in the waves and blend into the horizon when paddling with black paddles. Dark colors in motion or bright colors without motion do not seem to register upon the strange brain of the motor boating public.

Any creative suggestions (the less tacky, the better) would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Retro-reflective tape
such as SOLAS.


We get
Reflective turtle decals here in Maui and apply them (power face on one side, back side on the other)to all of our paddles regardless of blade color. Do the same with our paddles on the mainland. Haven’t been run down yet, but had some close calls.

The cheap & easy solution
Spray paint. I have several friends with carbon paddles that spray paint their blades neon colors. Doesn’t hurt the paddle, and doesn’t add significant weight or change the paddle’s characteristics.

One even did green on the left and red on the right to look more nautically studious.


on maui turrtles…what sticker do you
have for the mainland???

sorry had to ask…

what part of Maui???spent a good amount of time in Kula upcountry…


Here ya go

Check out the Bumble Bee. But I do like the idea of bright green on one side and red on the other!

A little tacky is good
There is nothing like trying to make sure you retrieved YOUR black paddle from a pile of them along the shore at a paddling event or at the end of a group paddle, in the dusk… and the majority of people have used the same basic reflective squares from West Marine or whatever…

What about
…the folks looking from the other direction? Are the blade colors reversed on the other side to stay correct? :wink:

Hey Wayne - are you still interested in the Thames-to-the-Sea paddle from Norwich to Bluff Point this year?


use reflective tapes
I’ve done it for years on various black paddle blades and shafts and can vouch for you being seen faster than without. One paddle I took extra care on applying the tapes and it looked like it came from the factory that way and enhanced the overall look. But that’s not my style and my other sticks look like a first grader slapped tape on them and it’s all good.

Seconding SOLAS tape
I’ve wrapped it around the shafts of my paddles at the ends (before the blades.) One friend did a neat design of her initials in SOLAS on the blades of her paddle.

second the paint.
I used yellow outdoor spray paint, which has held up fine. Putting down a layer of white or light primer first will make whatever color you use brighter.

I have wrapped about six inches of the shaft right above the blade with solas tape. Even during the day you can see the flash of light from a moving padddle from quite some distance.


Paddle reflectors
I use these. They are great. Don’t pay more than $10.

My buddy and I both use Epic wings
and even though they are black carbon, in the daylight, the first thing I see at a distance is the sun reflecting off the wet blades. The blades are also the first thing I see at a distance in the moonlight, with the moonlight reflecting of the blades in the same fashion. Not saying reflective tape won’t help, just saying the black blades stand out much more than you may think, much more so with a clear or resin coat. Likewise, on a ‘flat’ light day, even reflective tape won’t do much without some form of light present. Heck… stop signs are reflective, but only from the right angle, and only in the presence of directly reflecting light.

Got a date in mind? It’s one of those paddles you just have to do. Fortunately, it’s also an easy shuttle.

You should post it on the ConnYak BB, I’d bet you’d get a good number of takers.


reflective tape limitations
SOLAS tape and similar materials are RETROreflective. They will only reflect light back to the source. If the light source and viewer aren’t on the same axis you won’t see much.

There are some glitter and mirror tapes that do well at general reflection – try an auto body store for those. But too much reflection can be really annoying for the folks paddling near you who have to look at your blade.

Here’s a good source for tapes if you can’t find them locally:

The turtles
travel well, all our paddling friends on the mainland are envious :slight_smile:

We hang out in S. Maui, Kihei.

alooha :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t
worry about it.

People crash into yellow & red cars just as often as black & grey ones.

People even crash into Police cars with full on strobes flashing (ever see an episode of COPS?)

Lots of folks paddle in all black boats & gear (see Freya Hoffmiester) & don’t get run over by Yatchs or Waverunners.

Paddle away & enjoy. Wear & paddle what makes you comfortable. It’s a fact that when you look good & feel good about it, you perform better.

My observation is that when the
water gets choppy, kayaks disappear and the only thing a power boater can often see is the moving paddle. I painted my CF blades with white refrigerator enamel and tipped them with dayglo yellow.

I put reflective vinyl from a sign shop on my CF paddles. Mostly for other kayakers to see me.

Having been a power-boater most of my life I find it funny that most kayakers are so afraid of them (powerboats). When piloting a powerboat you are often scouting for things like mostly submerged logs and other debris that could cause very costly repairs to props/shafts/rudders/out-drives or whatever.

Keep in mind also that their view of thew water is much better than ours, they can see farther and judge distances better from up there. Think about the view out the window of a sportscar vs the view out of a truck or bus.

Even if a power-boater doesn’t see you, you must be sleeping at the paddle to sit still and let them run you down. Now jet-skis can be a different problem … Watch them very carefully. Probably a good thing they are annoyingly noisy, makes them easier to dodge!