Paddle Float

Anyone have an opinion on a good paddle float? Any to stay away from? Are they all pretty much the same?

Just ordered an NRS from Altrec. They have a deal where you get a free year of National Geographic Adventure magazine with a purchase.

Foam type
Everyone has a preference. I prefer the non-inflatable ones for a number of reasons. When you’re already in the water, you don’t have to play around getting it blown up before you can use it. You can use it for a cushion or pillow when you stop for a picnic. Some prefer the inflatable ones for similar reasons. They take up less space when packing a load, for instance. I went the other route altogether and made my own out of closed cell foam, rope and bungee cords. I’ve done a number of Paddle float re-entries and it works like a charm!

I have both
a Northwater rigid float and a Gaia Inflatable float. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

The rigid float is great for very cold water. I understand that in Washington, it gets cold enough that your lips have trouble sealing around inflation tubes of inflatables.

The rigid is much faster to use but provides less buoyency than the inflatable. It also works better for rolling and bracing practice.

However, storage can be a problem with them and the inflatable is much better for that. The buoyance is also much greater, so if your technique needs work, the inflatable can be a better crutch until you learn how to use them correctly.

IMHO, both of these brands are first class and I would recommend either to anyone.

I dress for immersion
have big lungs and would buy a gaia if the money and need were there. Should not take you more than fifteen seconds to inflate a gaia sufficiently. Otherwise seattle sports should be fine Slower valves though). Double chambered is a must!!! Manufacturers who produce a songle chambered inflatable paddle float should be sunk. Are you listening Harmony.

Foam floats are often difficult for beginners because they enforce proper form due to their lesser floatation. I like clean decks and don’t know where to put the thing. I do own one though. Guess I should sell it or provide it for use at skills sessions. Plenty of good paddlers prefer them so…

I agree that storage is a problem
with the foam floats. If I don’t carry a spare paddle, I can put it on my back deck and still get into the day hatch.

On the front deck, it would just splash water up into my face.

In your neck of the woods, it might be good for winter paddling. Here in Southern CA, I use it only for skills practice as our air and water temps don’t get much below 45-50.

Wayne H was the one who told me about lips getting so cold that they couldn’t seal around an inflation tube.

Your climate may just be cold enough for that to happen. If your roll is not 100%, I’d definitely recommend it in the Winter.

Started with a Voyageur,
Graduated to a Gaia. The Gaia’s push-pull valves are MUCH easier to operate than the twist-types, and the fabric looks to be more durable. Of course, the price is higher as well.


Foam Appealed To Me However…
I’ve since learned an advantage of the inflatable that no one has mentioned so far. The inflatable is a good tool for learning to roll. My instructors taught me to place the float on my paddle and use it as “training wheels” for rolling practice. As the roll becomes successful, let some air out. You become increasingly dependant on your hips to make the roll work until the float is no longer needed. Can’t do this with foam.

If I decide to get serious aboout getting my roll back, I think I may get an inflatable as well.


I here ya on the cold lips thing

– Last Updated: Aug-10-04 1:28 PM EST –

but as said I do dress for immersion. Here in New england, especially in the winter, you better.

I have certainly been cold enough on a dive where sealing the regulator wtih my teeth was hard, but I've never been so cold from a swim. Thermoclines, inexperience, and committment to the group contributed to that cold dive.

Something to think about but I could always leave a half inflated float clipped to a bungie and under a couple more, if things get really nasty. Still, someething to think about. Thanks.

practice wit it
I don’t think it matters much,the spring loaded valves don’t deflate very quickly,all the inflatable one will suffer wear over time.

Foam makes a LOT of sense in very cold water but so does learning how to roll.

I’m with the idea of partially inflating one if you really think you’ll need it and stuffing it behind the seat if there’s room.

By the time you get proficient in it’s use, you should have other self-rescue options and skills.

Play with it a lot to get familiar with manipulating it, retreivale and storage.

A short tether and plastic clip is a good idea.

Storing pumps/paddle floats on deck isn’t optimum, if you can configure a way to store them under the foredeck you’ll always have them accessible while sitting in the cockpit,which is a good thing.

diffferent strokes

– Last Updated: Aug-10-04 3:54 PM EST –

A foam float will also work well for that type of introduction to rolling. Offers a narrower profile for a more natural stroke. and has about 1/3 the buoyancy of a full pallde float.

The nice thing about an inflateable is that you can control the amount of lift it has reducing it as needed.

So another take on the use of a paddle float for introduction to rolling.

IMHO, the foam float works better
for learning to roll. The paddle feels much more like a normal paddle with the foam float than with the inflatable.

But It’s All Or Nothing…
You really can’t wean yourself off of it, you have to go “cold turkey”. I do see your point though. I’m sure with diligence either way would work eventually.


Nice to see a variety of opinion
displayed with respect.

I like inflatables…
… but I’ve had problems in the past, even with the dual chambered models, if the have not had reinforced wear points. The pressure melded models dont use any stitching and they’re basically just heat-bonded at the seams. I use a Spirit Line float now (had it for the past 4 years, and it has stitched and glued reinforced 400 denier nylon all around. Also, it’s triangular in shape and grips the paddle blade well enough when inflated that there’s no need for a buckle or a snap to secure it. That’s a time saver. They’re made by a little shop in Anacortes, WA. (Sorry, that’s all the info I have).