Broke a paddle 1 mi off shore

I was paddling a couple nights ago out on the ocean. The wind was ~10-15mph and produced very nice 1-2 foot short period wind chop, with small ground swell under it. As usual, I paddled out until a boat was coming in between 6 and 10mph, then rode their wake into the harbor. I did this twice and paddled back out a 3rd time.

I saw a boat on the horizion and kept paddling towards it. It was one of my favorite boats to surf behind - a 60ish foot charter fishing boat that does about 10mph. Perfect. Later I looked at my GPS and see I was about 1.25 miles off shore when I turned to catch its wave.

I timed my approach perfectly and slid in right on its last side wave just a few feet from its left stern corner. The initial side wave was gnarly, about 2.5ft high, steep, and breaking. I rode over it, taking a chest-high crash of water in the process, then started to sprint to catch the first stern wave to surf. I got about 3 full strokes in then BAM.

The shaft broke about 4" above the right blade. The blade went flying backwards as if I threw it with all my might (I basically did). I almost went for a swim because I paddle an advanced 18" surfski, and I was loaded under full sprint power. Your paddle stroke IS your stability, so a catastrophic unloading is a good way to swim. Anyways I immediately realized what was going on, and looked over to the half mile buoy. It was barely visible. Hmm. Not great.

Several guys had gathered at the back of the boat to watch me surf and I was still close enough to see them point at me somewhat worried, as they could see what just happened. I did a 2 second assessment and decided didnt need or want a rescue, so I re positioned my hands and started sprinting with the left blade only. By this time I had fallen back to the 3rd or 4th wave (this all happened in just a few seconds), but the wave was so good I was staying with it.

I started sprinting harder and actually started surfing the apex between the stern wave and side wave, and managed to stay with the boat for 3/4 mile just slowly losing ground to it. The wind chop plus the boat wave made for perfect surfing conditions. I really wish I had my other blade!

Anyways, I was pretty stoked on the ride back in spite of breaking a carbon paddle. I later looked at my GPS and my last mile split was the 2nd fastest of the night!

I was quite tired from paddling 15 minutes on one side, and with a wing blade the normal, extremely fluid figure-8 (or infinity sign) motion becomes a much less fluid motion, closer to a modified canoe stroke. Also it was pretty tough not having a right side brace when the ground swell tries to broach you to that side! I didnt swim, but came close a couple times as waves overtook me from behind.

In the end the boat never stopped (which was my preference), although I think they slowed down at the harbor mouth and maintained line-of-sight to me until I entered the harbor mouth a couple minutes behind them. That was a nice gesture that I appreciate.

The paddle is an AliExpress knock off, but I dont necessarily fault its chinese-ness as the cause of the break. My working theroy is, I wear wrist hooks because I have bum joints. They had worn through the outer clear coat on the shaft in this area, and started to abrade the carbon ever so slightly. I think when I sprinted, the corner of the hook created a localized pressure point that exceeded the carbon’s ultimate strength, and when carbon fails, it fails spectacularly and instantly. Thus, my flying paddle!

Its probably a good thing overall, because we are approaching an El Nino year in the pacific, and I will certainly (hopefully) be out raging in 10’+ swell this winter during storms. Better to start the big season with a fresh paddle.

My other paddle broke after about 3-4 years also, that one at the blade-shaft joint, but showed no signs of degradation in the area prior to failure. I think my new Modus Operandi will be to replace my big-days paddle every 2-3 years, or as wear becomes apparent.

A friend commented they have had their Jantex 13 years, so my $220 chinese paddle might be more expensive than their $580 long lasting paddle, but like I said I have a unique case with hardware that may have caused the failure, and I dont know that a $600 european wing paddle would fare any better with repeated abrasion. I guess when I get my new paddle in a week or 2 I will immediately add heavy duty 20mil PVC tape to the abrasion (grip) area to see if that helps extend its life.

Surfskiers never carry a spare paddle (no room on the boat), but it did make me wonder about carrying the big paddle-gloves when going far off shore. Or maybe my shorty racing canoe paddle? I tried that once and it worked acceptably in a pinch. Whats the smallest emergency paddle I could carry?

Anyways, it was a great paddle session. Now I just have to hope no big wind days happen before the replacement arrives!


Nice report. It’s an “adventure” when things go awry but you make it back in. It’s an “incident” otherwise. Glad you got an adventure!!!


To me it’s not about pricing math of my three 200 dollar paddles out lasting one 600 dollar paddle. It’s what could happen if it does fail.

I would never go in the ocean without a spare paddle. I don’t go in the ocean alone either. I haven’t paddled with anyone in a few + years.

When it gets cold I take a spare paddle. I don’t have one but I think a short one piece GP paddle would be the best for emergencies mo assembly required boom you’re using it in an instant.

My bay paddling the worst that could happen is I blow to a shore somewhere or swim it. So in fair weather temps i just bring one Euro paddle.

Good you made it back. I doubt you caused the break.


Ohhhhhh, you are so lucky that you had the skills to take advantage of the wake in returning. I’ve been practicing one-sided paddling, but never more than 5 strokes per side before I switch. Fifteen minutes of that would feel like a lot more to me!

I’ve often wondered if WW paddling “mitt hands” could serve as a spare paddle, sort of. They have fiberglass stiffeners inside them to keep the finger area splayed for more catch. I guess the next thing to practice will be hand-paddling, if it’s at all doable while sitting on a ski. Need chimpanzee arms…

That question of what to do when carrying a spare paddle is not doable does not seem to have been seriously addressed yet.

P.S. If you determine that your wrist hooks did NOT cause the paddle failure, consider checking out your friend’s Jantex. I got the Gamma in Small-Minus size and absolutely love it. Worth the $$$.

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I just used a Gama Rio Small a week ago and liked it a lot. But it was on a lake so I’d like to try it in messy ocean conditions.

One thing I like about my aliexpress model and something I decided I like in all wing paddles, is a thick leading edge to the airfoil.

I feel the thicker/deeper/more blunt leading edge translates to more lateral stability during the stroke in highly confused water, which is one of my top priorities in a paddle design.

The One thing I did not like is the feather marks didn’t go below 45*! Don’t those euros know you don’t need a 60* feather?! (I find ~37° works best for me)

And I’m fairly sure it was my wrist hook. The shaft broke right where one edge would likely be. I’m thinking heavy duty PVC tape should mitigate the additional abrasion they cause if my hands can tolerate it

Even short paddles always have a spare with me

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Glad you got back in safely… and with style no less.

Like PaddleDog52 said, maybe a short Greenland storm paddle would fit somewhere on your ski? You’d definitely need to practice with ur a bit though if you’re not used to a GP because it’s my understanding that the technique is a bit different from your wing paddle.

I broke a paddle in April or early May while I was out on the lake. I was about 3-1/2 miles from my truck when it happened. I had a “Marsh Paddle” along as a spare, but I learned it was NOT the correct paddle to go into a wind for over 3 miles. It reminded me of those “doenut” spare tires that come with some cars. Better then nothing, but not a lot better.
The Marsh Paddle is a copy of one that is in a Museum on the Kenai Peninsula (the exhibit sigh says it came from the coastal area farther south, not from the Kenai area) that may Nephew sent me pictures and a drawing of. It’ was an odd design and only 57" long. It’s got a rib down one side and looks like 2 lollipops. It has a round disk carved into the tip of each blade. Odd to be sure, so I wanted to see how well it would work. It stows very nicely on the foredeck. But it’s not a very good emergency paddle. I cans see how it may be handy for hunting ducks in shallow water where you’d lay back and use it some at a push pole as well as a paddle.
So I bought a 4 piece Aqua Bound Hybrid Eagle Ray. I leave it assembled as a 2 piece and use it as my spare when paddling alone and on trips where there are 3-6 paddlers I break it down and stow it inside a compartment. The 4 piece design is VERY nice to have along for that kind of trip. Aqua Bound discontinued the Eagle Rays, and they were selling them cheap for a while. My friend Thor loved it so he bought one too, and so did 2 other friends, Rich and Tom. All of us think getting a full carbon shaft with Hybrid blades for under $130 delivered is a great deal. Now I think they are all gone, at least those they were selling for $117 to $122 are.

But I see the wisdom in having a spare that is good enough to complete a long trip and never feel short changed again. I went about 3.5 miles with a poor tool for the job. I went on a few trips this year that were 40 -50 miles, and one that was over 140 miles. If such a thing happened on a long trip it would have been a major problem without a GOOD extra paddle along.

The lesson was learned. I will never go out again with at least 1 GOOD extra paddle for each 3 kayaks.
My collection of paddles is large but other then my Greenland and Aleut wood paddles all but 3 of my paddles are cheepies, picked up as part of the deals I made buying used kayaks in the last 3 years or so. These days I usually have either the Eagle Ray or one of my good wood paddles along, but for most of this season I have been using a Werner Kalliste. I have come to like this paddle as well as my best GL and Alaskan paddles. (THANK YOU JOHN!!!) So I intend to give away some of the lower and mid range paddles to friends who are just getting into kayaking just to “thin the heard” some, and give them a better margin of safety. A strong aluminum shaft and plastic blade paddle may not be what you’d want as your tool to get back, but is sure beats a half paddle, so I’ll give them to people who have only 1.
Breaking a metal shaft paddle is rare, but I have done it once. I known 2 people that lost paddles too. Myself, I have twice had a paddle “get away from me” and found I could not catch it using my hands. At times like that, even a Walmart kids paddle is a god-send. I used them to paddle over to the one that was floating away from me. A 6-7 foot “Kids paddle” is good enough to get the kayak over to the one that’s floating off, if the wind is under 30 MPH.

But I think for multi-day trips you really should have a 2nd paddle that is as good as the 1st one.


I might Velcro a cheap paddle inside my kayak because I don’t like loose stuff clinking around.

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Coast Guard Inshore rules say that all vessels, that includes kayaks and canoes, must have two source of drive. That means you can get a ticket if you don’t carry a spare.

Please make it a habit to always have a spare paddle, and brush up those Coast Guard rules, they can save your life as well as experience can.

I broke a paddle in a race. It was one of those Bracha knockoffs from a few years and I was on my way to my first state championship. Missed it by just a couple of points, so I carry a spare now, a good, name brand one.Knockoffs are not safe.


When you say “clinking around” are you talking about inside the cockpit, a compartment or on the deck?

I rigged my decks with a few extra bungees so the things I put up there don’t move at all.

And to keep things inside my compartments from moving I use Yoga balls. Even if I am only going out for 2-3 hours I always carry a bit of emergency gear and I inflate a few yoga balls to hold them all down to the hull’s bottom or against a bulkhead. Even when rolling the things I have in my kayak don’t shift. I inflate them about 1/2 or 2/3 of the way and if they are not holding tightly enough I simply blow in a few more breaths when they are in place. To remove I pull the plug and in 2-3 seconds they are limp enough to remove easily so I can access the gear I want.

The Inuit’s often made bone or ivory “deck beads” for their rigging, so they can slip a paddle under the lines from the seated position. I use practice (hollow) golf balls. I drill a hole through them and string them onto the bungees so I can easily slip my paddles under them despite the fact the lines are fairly tight. Easy, cheap and very effective.
One other way I have rigged to carry a spare paddle is to use 1-1/4", 1-3/8" or 1-1/2 plastic tubing or PVC pipe pieces. (depending on the diameter of your paddle shaft) I cut off a section of pipe about 2" long. They will be like an elongated ring. Drill a 3/8" hole through it and then another about 1" away. Think of looking through the ring and the holes are at the 5:00 and the 7:00. In that way when strung on a bungee they stand upright on the deck. Make a knot in the bungee on both sides of the rings so they don’t slip up and down the line. Remember that the cord will be inside the ring at the 6:00 position so you’ll need to factor that in so your paddle shaft will still go through.
Tie them on to the deck rigging side to side with a bungee, so they are standing up on the front deck and when seated you are looking through them.
Now, take a 2 piece paddle and slip the shaft ends through those rings and the blades under the deck bungees around the area of where your shins are. They don’t rattle around, and are super easy to get off and on to the kayak when you need them. Like “paddle pants” but in my opinion they are better and do not bulk-up the deck like paddle pants or deck bags do.

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I was looking on this site for rules about surf skis and racing boats because they race a lot in my home town of GH.

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1890 ^^ beat me to it, but I was also going to suggest a 72" Greenland storm paddle. I’m not that familiar with the layout of skis but I would think you could stash a narrow 6’ skinny stick on the stern deck somehow. I often carry my GP-SP under the stern bungees, not just as a backup paddle but as a “beater” to spare my valuable cedar and carbon paddles in situations like extricating myself from gravel bars or prying off rocky launch areas. I find it lies so flush on the deck that it does not get in the way for cowboy remounting, unlike when I used to carry a standard blade breakdown paddle there. Plus, it is so easy to reach around and just pull a SP out of the straps and not have to assemble it, as was necessary with the break down paddles. Mine was carved from a tight-grained 2 by 4 and has several coats of spar varnish. Came with a used skin on frame boat I bought many years ago.

And if I ever get stranded on an island, I figure I could use it as a mast to rig a sail with my bloomers…

Not gonna give you the power of the wing, but the sliding style of using a short GP at high angle is easy on the wrists. Unlike the SP the guy in this demo is using, mine is un-shouldered, which is my preference in GP’s, though the shoulders do give you a little more blade area when using a GP as a rudder.



I didnt realize that coast guard rule, and that applies to inland waterways?

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I’m saying that I’m working on bracing and rolling skills with my new boat and I do not want a lot of crap on deck nor do I want it banging around.

If I do crossings of course I would take an extra paddle.

I like your ideas. I was thinking hot glue gun some Velcro to the bottom of the top deck and put a lightweight plastic paddle there.

Because I’m not that handy and neither is my husband.

And I’ll say it: I’m not that thrilled about having all that stuff in images because I’m into photography.

There isn’t that much room so it’s needs to go inside.

There is a nice concavity but I think it is for strength.
Also my hatch is higher than the concavity.

If I’m crossing to Vashon island back home (~3 miles?) I’d probably take the Solstice and have redundancy.

Check my post a few above yours on carrying a 6’ wooden Greenland storm paddle. Doesn’t clutter the deck like standard blade breakdown paddles. GPs, even the short storm ones, are good for rolling and balance bracing.

There are folks who make and sell them on eBay and Etsy. Link below of comprehensive list of retail vendors (though some may have closed up shop since this was compiled). ValkyrieCraft in Ireland is one of makers of GPs (trivia bit: they built some boats and paddles for the “Game of Thrones” series.)


In spite of my experience and common sense recommendations for a backup, I’m not sure a full size paddle is practical to carry on a ski. I have seen thousands of skis over the years and not a single backup paddle.

In general, surfski is just a minimalist sport that accepts elevated levels of adventure, risk, and minimal gear, but also requires higher skill and preparation to deal with stuff when it happens. Not saying carrying a full backup cant be done, just saying it would be an extreeeeeeeme outlier in the sport.

Basically, I dont think a full size paddle is practical, thus my interest in a collapsible or hand paddle. In terms of using a Greenland or 5 piece Euro, I dont really want to assemble a 3+ piece paddle in rough conditions, and I am not sure how effective I would be using a Greenland or euro blade. Plus I dont really want to spend $200 on something I will likely never use. Something like a super short adjustable length SUP paddle is what Im envisioning.

Honestly paddling back in with 1 blade was tough, but not that bad. In huge conditions it could have been very tough, but in general I never paddle with the wind blowing offshore, so I always have wind and waves pushing me to shore. All I need to do is hit the harbor mouth on a big day (because 4’+ surf and ultralight boats dont mix).

So without question, my risk tolerance is higher than the standard advice on here (but rough water skills are also higher than average too). Also my local mitigating wind, wave, and water temp factors that lead me to believe I will survive without assisted rescue or catastrophic boat loss with standard surfski gear (wet suit, paddle, boat leash, paddle leash, cell phone), even when things go somewhat to very wrong.


Yup. There is what is “generally recommended” and “advisable.” Then there are the individual experience, skills, knowledge and conditioning that go into making discrete decisions about how and when to go out, and the “chances” that one is willing to take.

You just have to be willing to take full responsibility and to live or (possibly) die by that decision.



Self reliance and having skills commensurate to the conditions is a hard mantra in Surfski. No one can help you but you in most conditions.

For example, a friend came out of her boat at the Gorge Champs this year during a non-race run. Wind was about 20mph. Whitecapped waves were rolling and breaking down the Columbia river west of hood river. She capsized, lost her boat, leg leash broke, and by luck and quick thinking, she had just installed a super bomber paddle leash attached to the boat. She death gripped the paddle and managed to stay with the boat as it was pulled by a crumbling wave.

My other friend was nearby in an OC1. He approached her, but the conditions were rough enough there was nothing he could do to directly help rescue her. He stayed nearby and provided emotional support until she composed herself and managed to remount. He stayed with her the rest of the run since she was now unleashed and she made it back fine, so this may have been of some help if she came out again and got separated.

Point being, he could have called for rescue, but they don’t rescue your boat so that’s a last resort. He provided calming support, but there is no such thing as an assisted surfski rescue really. Also, the conditions that led to your first swim are likely to result in another. A bombproof leash and remount is your only savior 99% of the time.

This is one reason I abandoned plastic leashes. A friend makes cottage Rip-your-leg-off bomber leashes out of 2000lb test Dyneema rope. If Im ever separated from my boat, its because my leg was torn off or my footplate was ripped from the boat.

So to reinforce your point, you literally live or die by your decisions on a big downwind. Bad judgement is a harsh critic in my world. 2 friends in my group died a few years ago when one was separated from their boat due to a broken leash on a downwind 8 miles from shore (on a lake) in cold November water, so the consequences of cold water and gear failures loom large behind our fun.

None the less, prepare, train, send it. Be smart, but live your best life fearlessly.