Carbon fiber vs river rocks

I finaly got my hands on an ultra light weight (under 30 oz)carbon fiber paddle. Works well on the lake but I’m a bit reluctant to use it on river trips. Most rivers in my area are shallow and rocky. The blades are very thin and seem quite fragile. This paddle was not cheap so I would hate to damage it but I want to get some use from it also. The question is, are carbon blades strong enough to withstand some contact with rocks without chipping or cracking?

Carbon fiber vs river rocks
Carbon fiber is tough stuff but the paddle you describe, like most carbon fiber paddles has thin delicate edges and can be chipped if hit hard on rocks. I wouldn’t hesitate to use a cabon fiber paddle on lakes and slow moving streams that are not too rocky but for rocky streams I’d choose a wood paddle with epoxy or better yet dynel edges and tip.

Marc Ornstein

mine has taken some abuse
I’ve had my carbon wing paddle for only two and a half months now, and I’ve whacked it on a rock three times, fairly hard. They were longitudinal strikes (the end of the paddle hit a flat rock as I was plunging the blade in at the start of a stroke), which is presumably the direction in which the paddle is strongest. The damage each time was tiny. No material was lost, and a little fold or deviation was created, maybe three millimeters wide along the edge of the blade and two millimeters deep along the axis of the blade.

All three times, I was initially convinced that I could feel the difference in the catch on the damaged side. All three times, I eventually decided I was dreaming.

Nonetheless, I’m paddling a little further from shore now.

This is a Bracsa IV paddle, all carbon.

In the old days, carbon had a reputation for taking a lot of damage without complaint, then shattering into a bazillion pieces without warning. I’d be interested in whether that is true with current technology.

– Mark

werner cyprus on the river
I have a werner cyprus crank shaft in carbon.

Its an awesome paddle.

The shape is great, and it lighter than any crank shaft on the market.

But very delicate.

1st one in the mail was broken on arrival.

I took the 2nd one on the Maumee river, and put 2 nice dents in it in 1 paddle. They where small but penetrated the carbon and left the foam core subject to moisture. At this rate the paddle would not last a season. A fast brace on anything can break this paddle.

I repaired the spots with a 1" square of glass and a few coats of epoxy and light sanding between coats. I like the way the bruses look. It has no effect on the quality of the paddle. I guess a new buyer may not like it.

Its delicate nature is due mainly to being light and foam core. I think carbon fiber can be as tough as fiberglass. It is a little lighter so when you get an altra light paddle it will be delicate in any material.

I have a crank shaft lendle in carbon. The blades are tough as anything I have used. Cany take abuse. I would call the material crp ( carbon reinforced plastic ). They are very heavy. More heavy than my fiberglass paddle, but will take an amazing amount of abuse. After dozens of trips on the river, the blandes gain personality.

I guess a nice middle ground is the non foam core paddles that are not crp. I would call them solid carbon fibre. Werner and Lendle have this type. They are very nice. If weight and shape are the only consideration go for foam core. I love mine. I think they are the best for open water. Bt keep foam core away from the rocks.

No problem with the right paddle
Carbon fiber WW paddles are designed for use on rocky rivers. Carbon fiber sea kayak paddles are not.

I have Double Dutch carbon blades on
a “DoubleTorque” bent shaft kayak paddle. The carbon blades are relatively thick, and therefore not that light. They have chipped sligtly at the periphery but otherwise have held together very well. The tips have aluminum inserts.

Later designs by Werner and others seem to be adequately sturdy for the paddling environments targeted by the designer.

I have to add that my wood core Mitchell and Clinch River canoe paddles, with either glass or carbon faces, have stood up to abuse as well or better than pure carbon or foam core/carbon covered paddles I have seen. But swing weight can be so prized for kayak paddles that designers cut the amount of material too much.

Got a whitewater partner who
snapped two different carbon paddles. This convinced me to stick with wood for the rocks.

Carbon Blades
A buddy gave me a good idea for Carbon paddles. Go to an autoparts store and purchase that flexible rubber/plastic edging that you can use for the edge of your car door and some silicone caulking. I think I purchased 4 lengths of it for under $5. It comes in black which perfectly matches the paddle. The edging is “u” shaped and fits perfectly over and around the tip of the paddle.

The edging has a bit of stickiness already but lay a good bead of the caulk in the channel and then fit the edging, goop and all around the tip of your paddle blade. I used some duct tape to hold it in place over night. My Werner Shunna has endured river rocks, beaches, surfing, launching and landings. After two seasons, I’ve had minimal upkeep, just peel off the edging and lay in some more of the caulk and you’re set.

It adds minimal weight and it keeps the tip of my paddle from getting dinged.


It’s the carbon itself
that makes it prone to sudden failure. Nothing you can do to change that if it isn’t in a layup that’s designed to absorb impact.

There is a tradeoff you are forced to make between stiffness and resiliency — the stiffer a given material is, in general, the more brittle it will be. Has to do with the crystalline structure of the material, and how it is different for different strengths of the same fiber.

New or old fiber technology doesn’t change that property enough to make a difference in this application. What does change it is the other materials in the layup, ie: kevlar, dynel, glass, resin, etc, and the placement and orientation of each in the matrix.

Myself, I wouldn’t use a carbon paddle in whitewater, or rock gardening in a sea kayak. I prefer wood with an edge guard, or high-strength plastic. I have an old Werner WW paddle with resin blades, and it has proven to be nearly bombproof.

Depends on the layup
Its hard to get a lightweight rock-beater paddle. My most recent paddle, an ONNO FAST tour, I had Patrick give it a slightly heavier layup so I could use it in rivers. I’m still careful with it though. Generally, I’ll take my Aquabound on the rocky, whitewater spots. Its just about indestructible, but heavy.

Cyprus is a touring paddle not WW
and I have used a 205 Small Shaft Cyprus in the surf off and on for a couple of years without problem.

I wouldn’t call the paddle fragile at all, but it might be good to use the right tool for the job. If you are working on rocky rivers maybe you should get a whitewater paddle.

You said ‘A fast brace against anything can break this paddle’. Other than water what are your bracing on? And shouldn’t you only brace on water? Otherwise it seems like you are ‘poling’ not bracing. My Cyprus has had some pretty had impacts with the bottom in the surf and has survived just fine.

Which Aquabound?

Which Aquabound do you have? We ended up buying an Aquabound carbon fiber paddle with fiberglass blades (Sting Ray) that is 31 oz if I remember right. Compared to the aluminum shaft models with plastic blades, it feels pretty lightweight. I’m sure CF/CF cuts a few more oz from the blades.

I think the Sting Ray worked well for my wife, but I found myself wanting a little more power at times, so I may look into the Manta Ray for my LL Manta Ray.

Just Curious,


If you don’t believe me…try it but then it will be too late. Keep it for the deep water paddling it was made for.

lots of carbon ww paddles
used in whitewater - what they were made for.

They aren’t the same

– Last Updated: Dec-01-07 8:47 PM EST –

although they are made from the same products mdloon100's paddle blade is thin and fragile which I am assuming he also means pliable and he isn't a ww paddler. Maybe he will post the mfg.

replying to you not him
his question was “The question is, are carbon blades strong enough to withstand some contact with rocks without chipping or cracking?”

Your answer was “No - If you don’t believe me…try it but then it will be too late. Keep it for the deep water paddling it was made for.”

My assumption was that you were stating “No, carbon blades are not strong enough to withstand some contact with rocks without chipping or cracking”.

To which I replied “lots of carbon WW paddles…” Implying carbon blades are strong enough, just not all of them (including the one mdloon100 owns).

But it seems like your answer was “No, Mdloon100, your blades are (obviously) not strong enough to to withstand some contact with rocks…”

To sum up… we agree.

I agree
My words and thoughts don’t always agree. Glad you could see what I meant.

I guess I should have said, Yes …but not the one you have.

Anyhow, we agree.

Yes and no.
I have a full carbon wing that has quite a bit of experience with rocks. It has a good deal of nicks, dings and chips from some hard hits. I figure I bought the paddle to use it, and use it I do, with well over 1,100 statute miles a year on it. Short of running it over with my van, I’ve done just about everything else destructive to it that you can do to a paddle and, while it certainly does not look too great, it has held up just fine.


I have a Seaclude and a Seaquel. Older models with, if I remember correctly, aluminum shafts ant plastic blades. I gave the Seaclude to my niece to go with her first boat.