Chicken or the egg?

While looking at new paddles I realised that have more money wrapped up in paddles and PFDs than I paid for my first boat.

In hindsight I would have saved myself a lot of money and frustration by trying out as many padddles and PFDs as I tried out boats.

I have been able to trade and sell boats very easily, and very few people want to buy a used $100 pfd that smells like “river sweat”.

I have 15 years in kayaks, only 3 of them seriously, so I consider myself pretty new to the sport. People ask me advice on entering the sport, and I have learned only that I still have a lot to learn. I wish that more people would have advised me to not just look at the pretty boats, the motor and protection for the motor are, just as, if not more important.

I really have not had very much professional experience, but I would assume that the boat comes first, and a paddle does not have to be very expensive, unless you are a pro. A PFD should work, but I don’t see why it should have to be very expensive, either.

This is just my opinion, I feel that the boat is most important.

You get out of rec boat land, I would rank paddle above boat.

I have a $100 PDF and a $40 one. I prefer the more expensive one, but they both are fine.

Ryan L.

I see the reverse, at least for paddle
"I have been able to trade and sell boats very easily, and very few people want to buy a used $100 pfd that smells like “river sweat”."

That maybe true of PFD. But GOOD used paddles fetch the same percentage as used boats.

My first purchase was a good paddle, long before my first boat. It took me only a couple try to get the right paddle. But quite a few more try to get the right boat. That’s why I bought a paddle about 2 years before I bought my own boat.

It’s much easier to try out paddles than boats. It doesn’t need outfitting. All I have to do is 5 minutes with a paddle of anyone else in the group. I either like it or not (or indifferent). PFD is even easier, just slip it on. It either fits well, or fits poorly. It’s not like I’d find something wrong after a couple hours of paddling.

Boat? I can LOVE a boat for certain condition, then HATE it for a different condition. Trying the find the right COMPROMISE takes a lot of seat time, in different conditions. No easy way to do besides buying one and paddle it for a while for find out.

When I got my own boat and looking for a second paddle, it took a very long time. It’s rare to even see a used paddle on the classified. To hit on the right one at the right price, I waited like almost a year!

Yes, for many of us, paddle is as important, perhaps even MORE important, than the boat. But the process is different and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

I’d say other way around
Within the same category of boat (ie, not comparing a 10 foot rec kayak to a 17 foot sea kayak), I don’t mind paddling any loaner kayak that I fit in. But I’m much choosier about a paddle.

I tell new kayakers to spend money on a good paddle first, and find the right kayak as the right deal comes along. The wrong paddle seriously impedes learning a good stroke, and can even contribute to strains and injuries.

yup, a good paddle is key
Personally, I’d rather paddle a mediocre kayak with a great paddle than vice versa. The paddle is essentially your “transmission” for powering the boat.

BTW, You can refresh your PFD’s for storage and for sale by doing what I do: lay the vest on a tarp out in the yard, hose it down til it is soaked and then squirt liquid dish soap on it (the sink-washing kind, not the kind you pour in the dishwasher). Scrub the vest all over with a stiff plastic brush til it is well sudsed and any stains are faded. Then hose it off thoroughly with high pressure hose until no more suds appear. Hang it in the sun to dry. If it still smells slightly funk-o, throw it in the dryer on low heat for about 15 minutes with a damp towel and a scented dryer sheet (Snuggle vanilla almond is nice).

Since I often paddle rivers with water that can get pretty smelly when it sits on the gear, I have taken to stopping at the coin-op drivethrough car washed on the way back from outings. Throw the paddles and PFDs and sprayskirts against the wall in the booth and then hose down the gear and the boats (which are still on the car) with that high-pressure soap and then high pressure rinse. Takes just a few minutes and a dozen quarters. Well worth the funk protection.

Relative price
Making a poor choice in boats is a lot more expensive than choosing badly in paddle or PFD.

I’ve been through lots of PFDs and still am not satisfied with any. However, it amuses me that the one I like best so far is a kid’s PFD that only cost $50!

Fit matters a LOT, whether in boat, paddle, or PFD.

PFDs don’t have to get smelly. Rinse them out after every use and they’ll stay clean. It’s been easy for me to sell them.

Were did you guys get to try out paddles? I couldnt find a place that had loaner paddles unless your talking about the cheap ones. When I wanted to try out a bent shaft I could only find places that sold them not let you take out there carbon fiber paddles for a spin. I went through buying several including a bent shaft and now use a geenland paddle. BUT i had to buy or make (greenland) every one of those. I suppose if you have a large group you go out with you could ask to try other peoples paddles assuming they have one in the length you want to try. I went to several demo days, lots of boats to try but just cheapy paddles.

Iam now sold on greenland paddles and will only use those now but it took me a while to figure this out.

I also would put my money in the
paddle. Same with the PFD IF you are going to wear it. A good paddle is a joy to use.

Like you…
I didn’t give a lot of consideration to the first paddle. Like most novices, I assumed the paddle Jeff suggested would be as good as any other. In many respects, he did a pretty good job, but if I were to do it over again, I would not buy the paddle at the same time as I did the boat.

What I would do now is take the boat out with a variety of rented paddles until I found the one that was the right length/blade size for my personal use. Being aware that as your skill improves, so do your desires in a boat and/or paddle, it would still be a better approach. Since the water/paddle interface is what makes the boat move, it is probably as worthy of special consideration as the boat itself since it is the most integral part of the paddling system (at least for long distance touring).


I plunged in and bought
I bought a Werner 220cm ___. Can’t remember the name of it but it’s basically a cheaper (heavier) version of the Camano.

It was too long for me but since I first had a rec kayak it was OK. Arm paddling and all. When I borrowed a 215cm, I immediately preferred that. Ditto when I later tried a 205cm. This happened over a 5-yr period.

Renting has been a mixed bag, but since the Shuna and Cyprus came out, I haven’t had trouble renting one of those–as long as I ask in advance.

For me, size is more of a problem. Sometimes I’ve received expensive, lightweight paddles to use but they are simply sized for an “average man”, not me.

I prefer a lighter paddle as it can make
a difference by the end of a day long paddle. I have heavier paddles (up to 40 oz.) but those are used by friends who may borrow a boat. No way will I let them use my $300-400 paddles (16-24oz.) unless I know they’re skilled kayakers who understand the correct way to use them and what they cost. Selfish? No. Just being smart with my hard earned money.

I have various lengths, for use, depending on the length and width of each specific boat in our fleet.