Kayak Paddle Choice

OK, after mulling everyone’s advice, etc. here:

http://www.paddling.net/message/showThread.html?fid=advice&tid=1810482#1811006, I pulled the trigger on a used Dagger Alchemy. I can’t actually have it until October, so I have time to get the other accessories I need. I just got a PFD; next step: a paddle. The Werner Skagit and the Aqua Bound Stingray are at similar price points, both the carbon and non-carbon versions. I don’t think I need anything “higher end” than these. Any thoughts?

Also, I’m 5’9", so 230 cm length?


My Alchemy Likes It
when I use a Greenland paddle.

Try some shorter paddles before you
buy. You will wallow side to side with a 230.

Aquabound/Bending Branches/Werner
They all make good paddles. I prefer the feel of the Werner shafts - they seem smoother, but that’s just my opinion.

I am 5’8" and usually paddle with a 210 cm. Sometimes I think it is too long and wish I had a 205. I began paddling with 230’s, moved to 220’s, then 215’s and now 210’s and shorter (adjustable wing paddle from 205-210).

The Skagit is fine if you paddle low angle, but I would try to go to a high angle paddle with the Alchemy. It is a very maneuverable boat and a longer paddle will increase side to side movement with each stroke. IMO the Tybee would be a better choice in the Werner line.

Personal preference

I don’t think anyone is going to be able to tell you what you’ll like. It’s a matter of personal preference. Try as many as you can. For example, I had a very nice Werner Corryvrecken. I liked it. Then, I picked up a spruce and walnut Quessy 4020 on a lark. It’s far heavier ( and prettier ), but I like it better, and am faster with it. No one else who has tried both prefers the Quessy… but that doesn’t matter to me at all, and it shouldn’t to you.

I agree…
…with those who say try before you buy.

I am 6’0" and started with a 230 Aquabound Stingray in a 28" wide rec boat. But my paddling style has become much more high angle and I now use a 210 Werner Cyprus in a 24" wide boat.

To me, the Werner shaft is also smoother and more comfortable than the Aquabound - I used to wear gloves with the latter but I don’t use any now.

They’re both excellent paddles though.

Too long
I’m 5’9". I prefer a 205 for touring and a 195 for whitewater.

A paddle that’s too long makes paddling straight more difficult.

Best paddle for your bucks
It sounds like you are looking at paddles that are in the moderate price range. I still think the Carlisle Expedition tops that category.

Thanks to all
As usual, good advice. Some of the posts got me to think about my paddling angle: long before I even knew how to spell “kayak” – as a young kid – I put in a LOT of miles canoeing. So my kayak paddling style stems from that: generally steep angle.

in that case, you want a shorter paddle
Narrower boat, upright angle = shorter shaft.

IMO a shorter shaft makes it easier to quickly apply corrective strokes.

how short?
210 cm?

best to demo

– Last Updated: Aug-04-15 6:41 PM EST –

I use a 210 but moved down to it incrementally. I paddle more high-angle but 210 is just long enough to drop my stroke down in wind. I just prefer what a shorter shaft lets me do including keeping a quick cadence. But the boat I began in didn't really allow me to use a high-angle stroke.

Agreed on demoing first.
I use a 210 with the same width boat as yours, and I’m 3" taller than you. But it’s not just a simple function of height as body length, arm length, and how high the seat is in the boat also come into it.

Try a 210 and a 205… As long as the blade is fully immersed and you’re not banging the paddle against the sides of the boat then you’re fine. There is no advantage that I’m aware of in having a paddle any longer than it needs to be.

I’m with Kudzu -
best thing I have done in my kayaking journey is to go with a greenland paddle. The moment I got it in my hands I knew I had made the right decision. It is a wonderful organic way to move a kayak along.

Further Thoughts

– Last Updated: Aug-07-15 11:38 AM EST –

after a few days thinking about kayak paddles:

1. Although my roots are in canoeing, I don't exclusively use a high angle stroke. Three weeks ago, on a small up-county lake, meandering along the shore looking for "wildlife" (turtles, heron, deer), I was using a low angle stroke. In open water, in waves or current, or when I want to just book it to the dock, I'll use a high angle stroke. So, I think the best paddle for me would be versatile, not one that is narrowly optimized for just high or low angle strokes.

2. Last night while (what else?) reading paddle reviews on an iPad -- it dawned on me that I was starting to succumb to "mission creep". For any one model of paddle, there is always another that is "better", lighter, more high-tech, and more expensive. As this will be my first paddle, on my first (owned) kayak, I've decided to set my paddle budget limit at $200. At that level, if I use it a dozen or so times and decide I want/need something different, it's not a great financial loss.

3. I'm not inclined to artisanal or organic -- at least with respect to paddles. I do like organic yogurt, however, and am a big fan of craft beer. :)

Thoughts, comments welcome!

How to avoid committment…
Since I use my wing/Euro paddles with multiple kayaks, I prefer paddles that are adjustable for length. Some brands, including, ONNO and Epic have a “lever lock” that allows you to change paddle length on-the-fly. Not only is this good for making changes due to conditions, but it helps you avoid the commitment of picking a single paddle length. My wings are all 205-215cm adjustable.

Yes, these are relatively expensive paddles, but you won’t have to discard it as you change your length preference. Some people take a long time to transition to shorter paddle lengths (sometimes collecting an entire closet full of paddles in the process).

As others have said, also consider a Greenland Paddle. If you like DIY wood projects, you can make your own very inexpensively. Qajaq USA contains links and a forum to help you through the process: http://www.qajaqusa.org/Equipment/paddles.html#tabs-2 .

Greg Stamer

adjustable length

– Last Updated: Aug-07-15 3:05 PM EST –

Greg -- thanks. I didn't know there were paddles that could be adjusted for length. Epic has two paddles the MSRPs of which are "only" $279: Relaxed Touring (RT) and Active Touring (AT). They would break my budget, but your point is a good one that I'd get more use out of it if/when my needs evolve.

To anyone -- What are the features (besides length) that distinguish a low angle paddle from a high angle paddle? Blade area? The Epic RT, which is a low angle paddle, has an area of 625 CM2; the AT (high angle) has an area of 685. Compare that to these Werner paddles, all stated to be high angle: Shuna = 615; Cyprus = 610; Tybee = 608. Note that all are less than the low-angle Epic RT.


This Guy Will Build You Custom…
for about $200. I keep telling him he’s undercharging but he won’t listen.


I use my Epic Relaxed Tour high angle.
I actually have two - a 205cm to 215cm for kayaks and a 215cm to 225cm for solo canoes. It’s the relatively small blade area that I like - actually, my shoulders and elbows like it. I can’t handle large bladed or aggressive paddles.

The full carbon Epics are definitely more pleasurable to use than the hybrid construction for me. A very obviously different feel between the two constructions. Full carbon also cost almost twice as much. I was patient and got mine used for about 1/2 price.

Marketing oversimplification
"Low angle" and “high angle” are relatively recent marketing terms. Arguing which is better is a bit like arguing which bicycle gear is best. Like many things, it simply depends, and a good kayaker will learn many more stroke variations than just high and low.

Even a Greenland paddle, which has a long, skinny blade, works fine with low angle or high angle, depending on the length of the paddle and width/foredeck height of the kayak used. And, just to add to the confusion, I have used wide Greenland paddles with more surface area than so-called “high-angle” blades.

At the risk of oversimplifying myself:

A “high angle” design often is marketed as a shorter, fatter blade for “aggressive/performance” paddling. Since a vertical stroke is used, the paddle shaft is relatively short, otherwise the blade would bury too deep. The narrower your kayak, the shorter the paddle needed.

“Low angle” paddles are often longer overall with a longer, skinnier blade for “more relaxed” paddling and for long distance. Usually designed for use with a more horizontal stroke, the overall paddle length is longer to ensure that the blade goes deep enough at the catch.

Blade area depends on your strength, specific use and preferences. As mentioned, you can find examples of “low-angle” blades that have more surface area than a “high-angle” blade, so take all the classifications with a grain of salt. My advice is generally to use the smallest blade that gets the job done (and the job will differ greatly for sprinting versus long distance cruising, etc).

In addition to just surface area, blade shape makes a huge difference as well. Greenland blades, spoon blades, dihedral spoons, parallel wings, teardrop wings, modified teardrop wings, etc, etc, etc, all have different characteristics. Often you just have to demo a design to learn it’s features.

Given all the mind-numbing variations it’s no wonder that manufacturers sought to (over) simplify this by lumping paddles into two camps.

Greg Stamer