Carrying a spare paddle

How many of you carry an extra paddle in the group with you, for a day outing? If you do carry, what method of attachment have you found to be the most secure ?

Always carry a spare
Full size, Werner Skagit 2 piece on my foredeck under the bungies.

In the kayak a two piece one under rear bungees.

In the canoe one attached to paddle clamps specifically made for holding it.



It Ain’t a Spare.

– Last Updated: May-22-09 6:11 AM EST –

It's another gear. One paddle has significantly less surface area than the other for going into the wind or current. I keep the 'gear' I'm not using under the bungies on the foredeck, tucked way to one side. Greenland paddles... they don't scratch the gelcoat.

Good morning Jack! I'm off work today!

Under bungies on front deck, if the Euros also use the pipe sections I have threaded into the bungies.

I always carry a spare…
…which in my case is a Greenland “storm” paddle under the foredeck. When I was leading/assisting on trips, I would also carry a spare Euro paddle on the aft deck to lend to other people.

greenland storm
on the foredeck.

I swap occasionally just to work different muscles.


– Last Updated: May-22-09 8:28 AM EST –

If I'm using a GP then I usually have Euro splits on the foredeck under bungees. If I'm using Euros I either have a storm paddle under the foredeck bungees, Euro splits under the foredeck bungees, or a full length GP under the aft deck bungees.

I usually try to keep the aft deck clear in case of rescues or towing.,

It is nice if everyone carries two
paddles. Right now I am trying out the NorthWater Paddle Britches.

GP Storm on the foredeck. I was
surprised when I realized that the storm cost me nothing in terms of speed/performance. I actually prefer to use it when I need to give my muscles a change during a longer trip. It is almost like stretching. Initially, I carried it to provide a way up should I lose my paddle while knocked over (euro’s do not really provide this benefit, esp when carried on the back deck), now I like it just for the variety.


as a beginner it looks unnecessary

– Last Updated: May-22-09 9:23 AM EST –

It seems unnecessary when you are beginning to learn about kayaking to have each person carry a spare paddle. Over the years I have even gotten complacent about this at times!

I have had two paddles break in the last 5 years, one top of the line paddle and another a Greenland paddle. The Euro paddle came apart at the joint holding the shaft together, very unnerving get off the stormy water several miles home. The GP broke during a roll!

If one is ocean paddling getting close to the edge of safety margins happens often, so it prevents us from getting complacent. Inland, one can lose sight of what will I do in the middle of Lake George when my paddle breaks or I lose it and the wind picks up to 25K? The one other group person with the spare may be 400 yards off trying not to capsize, or they may have lost their paddle too!

Paddles break at the worst moment, like when conditions get rough or you have to brace or roll. That is when we stress them the most. Actually, Werner Paddles found that the main reason paddles fail is that we use them incorrectly, i.e., getting into and out of kayaks we SIT on the shaft, a no no for carbon shafts and blades.

Being an educator and helping professional I know that humans have a hard time with the concept that infrequent (low probability events) even if they can be lethal (one time and you are cooked permanently) are psychologically viewed as events that are zero probability, i.e., they will never happen, I do not need a spare paddle.

The statistical truth is that the probability of an infrequent event happening is 100%. It will happen, eventually, just not often!

So, yes, bring a different paddle, i.e., smaller blade face, GP etc. But make sure to practice with it so that the only time you use it is not in a storm when you are freaked out! For me, since I don't currently practice with a GP I keep a carbon copy of my Werner Ikelos but with a 210 shaft with my regular one being 215.

if paddling alone
yes. A smaller blade fg paddle that is adjustable to suit me or the waters.

if with a group, we do a ratio of 1 spare per 2 or 3 paddlers. If on the Great Lakes more people would

carry their own spare.

securing them for real
make sure to test your spare paddle rig so you can:

get at them in an emergency without capsizing

put them back in same conditions

secure them so they do not come off in capsize, roll, surf, waves or assisted rescue

review pluses and minuses of paddle leash, there are both pluses and minuses, make your own choice with awareness of how to handle the downside of having or not having one.

My lesson learned
Paddle alone? Always carry a spare. Paddle with others? Always carry a spare. You will see most in our ADK Tuesday/Wednesday night group do not carry a spare. They don’t know it, but they are relying on people like wilsoj2, celia, me, and others who always carry a spare. Why rely on a good samaritan when you can easily provide a backup for yourself?

When I started kayaking a few years ago I didn’t carry a spare. Rather funny since I always carried a spare canoe paddle from day one in the early 70s (canoe paddles seem easier to loose when you capsize). One day during my second year of kayaking I carried a spare. As luck would have it, I broke the carbon shaft of my primary paddle that day and had to use my spare for the remainder of the trip. Been one under the bungies ever since.

Some people drive their cars around without a spare tire. Not me. Same for the paddle.

Why do most carry the spare on their foredeck? A couple of reasons: 1.) you can better keep an eye on it there, so half of it doesn’t slip off the deck and disappear, 2.) it’s easier to reach it on the foredeck if you’re upright or upside down.

I regularly practice capsizing without my paddle, then grabbing half of the split off the foredeck and rolling up. Sometimes I’ll even assemble the paddle under water before rolling up. You never know when you might need this skill.

If you don’t have room on the foredeck or aftdeck (i.e. short recreational kayak) you can get a four piece spare to store in the cockpit or hatch.

You don’t have to have an expensive paddle for a spare. Any decent paddle will do. A used one is fine, or maybe you’ll want to upgrade you primary paddle and keep your current paddle for use as a spare.

As a good samaritan, I would always loan my better paddle if needed and then I would be paddling with my spare.



It’s not just about breakage. If you capsize and get separated from your paddle it’s going to be a memorable experience. Many Euro users carry a spare home made small GP so it doesn’t have to get costly to do that.

thank you
for these thoughtful posts. It’s certainly making me rethink my own preparation. Esp. like the idea of

a shorter Greenland paddle (not necessarily a storm size, something 80" or so sized for me). Be a great

reason to get aquainted w. traditional style.

Off to a 3 day weekend symposium in Michigan - everybody have a wonderful Memorial Day, and

pause a few minutes remembering why we call

it Memorial Day.

Shorter GP
I think you’ll really like it. Going straight into a stiff breeze it’s nice to have a ‘lower gear’ to switch to. When rolling, the GP is much easier to manipulate while upside down.

I carry a short canoe paddle. Probably not a good option if you paddle “big” water a lot or are not with a group that can bail your butt out of any embarrassing situations.

I don’t usually paddle big water or extreme conditions, but I don’t think that excuses me. However, a short cheap-o canoe paddle is very useful in some situations commonly found in NJ pine barrens streams. Using it to pole off of gravel and sand bars, or to use in those very narrow sections where the brush on either side does not allow you to swing a double blade is very convenient.

Also, while exploring the edges of some lakes at low speeds I find that the canoe paddle is easier to use during the frequent sculling and draw strokes required.

I store it on the rear deck under the bungees.

Almost alaways
carry a spare… in a group in flat water sometimes keep it in a hatch… the only time I don’t carry is when I’m practicing rolling on the edge of a pond or going a short distance in a calm area… and even then I’ll have a VHF…

So yes pretty much always…

ever try a 1/2 euro paddle sweep roll?
(just busting your chops!)