Paddles for Women

I recently just bought a Necky sea kayak and I’m looking for recommendations for a paddle. I have only used European paddles, but am curious about the Greenland paddles everyone raves about. While I am in fairly good shape and can easily paddle 10 miles in the ocean, my hands and fingers are first to tire (so frustrating!!!). I prefer to go on 3-4+ day trips along the coast and want to find a paddle that is a good match. My concern with the Greenland paddle is that it may be too heavy for long trips. Any advice from women paddlers, or men who kayak with women, about what they use, prefer, or to stay away from would be wonderful. Thanks!

Forget about gender
Maybe your hands don’t match the paddle’s shaft diameter well. You might want to try a smaller diameter, which is available on some models.

OTOH, maybe your hands and fingers are tired because you are using a death grip.

Most GP users carve their own, so size is customized. Check out the site for lots of info on GPs.

Paddle suggestion
I highly recommend the ONNO paddle, not only for women, but for any paddler looking for an excellent, reasonably priced paddle. Pat’s willingness to share his expertise and put together the perfect paddle is unmatched. My ONNO is probably the best kayaking decision I’ve made.

What are you paddling now?
Easier to recommend with something to reference.

The comment on hand/shaft size is good. Smaller shafts will work for some, but aren’t automatically good for everyone with small hands - and some folks with larger hands like them. For a guy I have small hands (just bought a pair of S/M womens fitness gloves [lycra with rubbery dots on palm and cout of fingers - $10]to try for paddling), but I prefer a “normal” size shaft over smaller. To me the smaller the shaft - the tighter your hand is closed and the harder it is to maintain a relaxed grip.

I use a GP for touring now. The grip has my hands mostly on the blade roots (only thumb and forefinger around loom inboard of shoulders), which are a good bit fatter than a standard paddle shaft. My hands are in a very relaxed position - about what most peoples hands go to when limp and empty (same shape as curved finger neoprene gloves).

Not all GPs are heavy. A lot of popular standard paddles are as heavy as a wood GP. I have a carbon GP that only weight 24oz. Light as a racing wing paddle. The other thing to consider with a GP is that it floats - and you have half of it in the water most of the time. That bouyancy reduces the effective weight.

more info…
While I am a female, I have really long fingers. I’ve borrowed my boyfriend’s Werner and loved it for its’ lightness but the shaft is too small in diameter - I usually put sponges in each hand and paddle - that way my fingers are not curled over as much.

Good point about the death grip - learned that one REAL QUICK - so no, that is not as issue anymore…

Carbon GP
How much do carbon GPs cost generally? And is the benefit of carbon vs. wood, weight?

My wife and I both paddle with the same.
paddle. The only difference is mine is a 220 and hers is sometimes 220 and other times 215.

You just need to get a light weight carbon fibre paddle.

They cost, but they are well worth the money.

My wife had the same problem as you until she got the lighter weight one, and now she is a happy padler.



Carbon cost/benefit
There is only one commercial source for a carbon GP: Superior Kayaks

Price: $340. Expensive, but so are ALL high end carbon paddles.

Benefits: Weight, uniformity, weight, strength*, weight, appearance**, and weight.

Light weight is not a luxury (assuming someone who paddles not just piddles)- it impacts everything you do with the paddle.

Then there are all the benefits of any GP. But you have to discover those overtime. Reading about them peaks interest, doesn’t begin to explain it. QajaqUSA archives have PLENTY to read on the subject.

Is a carbon GP worth it? For me and many others - YES! One of my absolute favorite pieces of gear. Good for everyone? Certainly not. Some like to carve as much as paddle. Some like the feel of wood. Some roll more than they do distance and don’t need the lighter weight and/or like thicker blades, flatter edges, etc.

A recent thread here with related comments:

    • Anything can break - ask Greg Stamer over at QajaqUSA! (ask about the paddle over their while you’re at it. Many fans, even among the “nature boys”) A composite GP has no grain or natural flaws. Mine does not get babied and shows only surface scuffs - visible only when dry.

      ** - Wood is arguably prettier, but the carbon paddle is very nice looking.

Small paddle

– Last Updated: Apr-12-04 8:59 PM EST –

My wife, who is quite small, uses a Werner Little Dipper with the small-shaft option and has been very happy with it. I also made her a cedar GP sized for her hands.

In that case (long fingers)
You seem to need something more to hold onto than a thin pole.

You may really like a GP. Very different impact on the hands due to them being more open.

You also may feel better with gloves - maybe even thickly padded ones to open the grip more.

I prefer barehand. GP is good either way - had to be by design.

Never had fingers tire paddling. Have had hands hand and forearm cramps - but only when pushing (speed or condidtions) and not staying relaxed on the grip thing.

Werner Rec Tour (Blem) $99 ($175 List)

Check this out - I couldn’t resist. (34 oz.) 220 cm and 230 cm for $99.00 + $1.99 S/H or $5.99 3 day delivery… you can’t beat that.

Werner Carbon Fiber Crankshaft
I use the Werner carbon fiber crankshaft Kuaui small diameter. Unlike some, I find the small diameter easier to maintain a loose grip on. I have less contact with the circumference of the shaft, so even with long fingers, I’m not griping so tightly. I can make a complete closed circle with my thumb and middle finger and still be loose around the shaft. If I gripped too tight, my fingers would be overlapping! This is a good index for me. I have had much less finger (arthritis) pain since I switched to the small shaft. Love the light weight of the carbon paddle as well. I use a 215 length paddle for a 22" beam kayak. I’m 5’6" tall.


Good Indexing
helps. I find that my hands get more tired using paddles that lack really defined indexing. It’s like I was unconsciously searching for where to hold and end up holding tighter.

I like my GP because the awareness of blade orientation is always due to the paddle’s shape. I love my Big Spoon for white water because the indexing is very defined and on both sides of the shaft. I also like a lot Onno’s indexing. It’s among the more defined one’s with touring paddles I have seen. Since it’s custom, I am sure Patrick may be willing to index both sides if someone so chooses.


"Swift"ly Paddlin’
I use a Swift paddle and I love it! (My husband bought one after he tried mine!) The shaft is lightweight and then there is that light weight blade of fabric and fiberglass… so nice (not to mention the neat fabric patterns to choose from). I have used it for two years now. However, my hands were tiring at first, also (I have no strength there). So, I got out my cheap Bell bicycling gloves, with a mesh top, open fingers, and a leather palm. They work great! The padding in the palm is slightly angled and it is just enough to let me paddle my kayak with ease. And that’s what I want… ease and enjoyment… though I do like to really give it some speed every once in a while! I can paddle for hours now. Kayak gloves that I had previously tried were way too bulky, and my fingers weren’t strong enough to flex the spandex in them. By the way, Wally World sells Bell gloves! (My only Bell glove advice is to prewash to get out the dye, otherwise go for it!)

Paddle Wax
Something my wife does to help with hand fatigue is she uses Dr.Zogs wax on the paddle grip areas. It increases the tackiness and makes for a more positive contact with the paddle shaft, especially when wet. Use everything to your advantage.


Reading these comments, I realized that I never really “grip” my paddle during my normal forward touring stroke. My upper hand is loose – all the pressure is at the base of the thumb and across the palm, so the fingers aren’t doing anything. My lower hand is also fairly loose – the fingers are making a hook, but there’s no need for the palm to be tight to the shaft.

A loose grip makes a huge difference in minimizing hand and arm fatigue.

It’s pretty easy to add an indexing ridge to a paddle with a piece of wire and waterproof tape.

Angstrom - Exactly!
Angstrom - what you said about your loose grip, I agree! That’s why I find the small diameter shaft better. I can stay loose easier around the small shaft than around a larger.

You’d think it would work the opposite way, but with the smaller shaft it’s easier to stay loose.


Anyone Else Get
Aroused by this post? :slight_smile:

Smaller blades for my wife
She doesn’t have the strength that I have so she prefers smaller blades. This requires her to paddle at a higher RPM but she exerts less force per stroke than me. We stay close to each other so this works for us. We have paddled up to 25 miles in a day. She does have big hands so grip is not an issue. I believe some paddles have smaller grip diameters so that may make a difference.