How to Choose a Paddle—Beginner with Rec Kayak
After reviewing my desires, requirements, budget, etc, etc, I decided I would chase after an Emotion Glide kayak. My main goals were to get out on the water, enjoy the local lake close to work on lunch hour, and maybe plunk a fishing line in now and again. I have been in a rental kayak once before, and I did fine. I loved the experience. It was a longer/faster kayak (no rudder), but I seemed to get along (no clue what brand it was at this point).
I am 5’ 8”, 145 pounds, in shape (I’m a swimmer). I scored a used Glide off of craigslist, and I’ve hit the lake a couple of times for test paddles. It came with an inexpensive Caviness 7.0 (213 cm) paddle from Cabelas. I am, so far, not horrifically impressed with the whole setup. The boat seems ok. It tracks pretty well, glides ok. Both outings have been in flat water. I am wondering if upgrading the paddle will have a dramatic positive effect. (I am also thinking a spray skirt would inspire a bit more confidence (can lean more without worry of filling the cockpit with water)—am I wrong here?)
So, here are my paddle questions:
-How much difference is there in paddles with respect to boat stability, speed, effectiveness of paddling? I know that with the shorter paddle, I am having to move the paddle more side to side with each stroke to get the blade into the water. And, I do not feel like I am going that fast. With a rec kayak, I don’t expect blazing speed, but something better than I have. If I get a higher performance paddle, will I say, “wow, what a difference?”
-How do you go about choosing another paddle to try? I have read every (and I do mean every) review on paddling.net, and there is a myriad of choices. I do not want to break the bank. I also don’t want to shell out good cash only to determine the new paddle only marginally makes for a better experience.
Please lend me your thoughts!
How to Choose a Paddle—Beginner with Rec Kayak
You could spend more on a paddle than your boat. A paddle will not improve your kayak performance, so it would be silly to try too. However, a better paddle will improve your enjoyment.
I would recommend a bb or aquabound aluminum shaft, light enough for your needs and really a good design. One will cost you about $100 and should make you feel better.
A sprayskirt could improve your confidence, but that will mostly just come with experience. A skirt in that kayak would just keep you dry from drips. If you lean too far you are probably just going to roll over and not skirt can stop that. Seals sneak skirt is what I would recommend. Hope this helps.
Apples and oranges
As a general statement, a lighter weight paddle with a quite efficient blade can make night and day difference in your paddling experience. That said, the terribly nice carbon foam core paddles run over $400 new. It’s more like a couple hundred for lighter weight paddles that still have a nice swing with plastic blades and lighter weight shafts.
But there are some confusions in your post to start with. A paddle has nothing whatsoever to do with the basic stability of the kayak. That’s in the hull design and the match of your weight to its intended load.
You mention that a shorter paddle seems to swing more sideways in the stroke. That is partly due to your paddling form, and the boat’s width at 28 inches could be a contributor here too. Full out sea kayaks run 6 inches narrower than your boat and the transitional ones in the 13-14 foot range are typically 4 inches narrower. You are supposed to be rotating your torso for a good stroke, but honestly with a boat that wide even torso rotation may not get you the more vertical angle for entry into the water that is often considered to be more effective.
Many who paddle rec boats aren’t so concerned about speed, it sounds like you are.
You may be best off getting some advice on your paddling stroke, especially if you are doing this for fitness, before springing for the paddle.
As to the boat’s speed overall - rec boats start plowing water sooner than narrower, longer boats. But how much of this is the boat and how much may have been your expectations isn’t easy to tell.
Join a paddle club / group
The only thing that truly sticks in the brain is
actually trying stuff out for yourself.
Take a Kayak Class - Learn ““before”” you buy gear
Paddle often with others better than yourself
- ask questions and see touch feel try
DEMO other boats and gear from paddle shops
In your case, the only thing a better
paddle will do is make paddling a little easier on your self.
You won’t see a significient difference in speed or stability.
A suggestion: if the paddle you have now is an el cheapo heavy weight job, stop in different paddle shops or big box stores and pick up different ones to feel their weight.
If you find one that is a lot lighter then the one you have now and won’t break the bank, buy it. It will make your paddling experience a little more enjoyable then it is now.
My first boat was a rec kayak with a big heavy, cheap paddle, and that got me going. Later I bought a “next grade” up paddle and that made the experience better. Then I upgraded to a sea kayak and along with it got a much better middle of the line paddle, and that is when I noticed a difference in speed, but it was also the fact that I had become a better paddler.
Eventually I got a top of the line paddle along with a top of the line kayak and the experience has been wonderful
Good luck, and I hope your progression follows similiarly.
Stick with the paddle you have.
At least for a while stick with the paddle you have. I really do not see the need for a fragile expensive light weight paddle for short rec boat rides. For years I never saw the need. Only when I’m paddling more than 15 miles do I truly appreciate the lighter weight paddle with a better design.
Join a club and ask to try a lot of others paddles and boats. Bring cookies! It helps!
Save your paddle money for a forward stroke class.
Thanks to everyone’s contribution
to this thread. Very helpful to me. Great stuff to consider.
Ryan, thanks for the thoughts. The Sneak was one on my list to check out. Emotion makes a skirt, then Seals has the Sneak and Adventurer that will fit. I was thinking for the Seattle area winter months a neoprene may be a good option (warmer for the paddler perhaps?), but I have not found one in a size to fit. I’m a year around water skier, so I know what 38 degree water is like. But, I suspect those already mentioned will do the job. And, the price point is easier to handle, too!
Celia, my comments regarding paddle and stability in the boat stemmed from me messing around with the boat up on one edge or another. I rolled it up a bit, then a bit more. It would have gone over if not for a paddle stroke on that side and a weight shift. My thought at the time was if a more efficient paddle would help me (maybe more mentally than anything?) to catch a bad situation sooner than a clunky short paddle would.
I forgot to mention in my original post that most “sizing charts” I have found recommend a 230 cm paddle based on the Glide’s width and my height. So, I am giving up 17 cm to begin with.
Willi H2O—Good advice! Would love to get my hands on several different sticks to try.
Jack L, ditto.
Frank, love the cookies comment! Great idea!
Again, thanks to all that took the time to lend your thoughts.
Sent you some email. I get what you mean I think.