PFD and paddle length

Update: We now have a Necky Santa Cruz and Crescent Splash*. We are using on a man made lake…only “waves” from boat wake and wind. Water speed varies due to dam control but is always slow moving. Both came with paddles but I wanted more advice on length and appropriate types for the lake. I’m 5”4 and husband is 5’11. We also need pfd advice. Currently only have regular life jackets for the boat. I’d also appreciate any other advice on preferred accessories for casual paddling . We won’t be taking long trips on these. *The Splash has a molded in seat which I don’t love, but the price was great. Any thoughts on how to add a seat or cushioning? Thanks!

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Perception makes good boats and both get good reviews . Comes down to fit for the paddler and condition of the boat.
The other 2 don’t belong in the same paragraph.

Several of our friends paddle using regular US Coast Guard approved Life Jackets as you’d see used on power boats. They are not as convenient as some PFDs made specifically for paddlers, but very few have been a real problem.
High back kayak seats can interfere with the back padding of a few of them, but that is more a matter of the size of the paddler and the type of seat in the specific kayak.

One of our friends is a very busty lady (E to F cup) and she is the only person I have seen so far that really needed to try a lot of PFDs to get one to fit her because “regular” ones were just not very usable. She got some advice from a few paddling shops and ordered one. It was not right for her and she returned it for a trade. That 2nd one was better but still not ideal so back it went too, and on the 3rd try she got one that fits and is comfortable.

But our other lady paddler friends (who are not at all “small” on top) seem to have no problem with most of the PFDs they have tried. In our little group of kayakers we have 7 women and 6 just bought something that looked ok to them and felt good when they put it on. So PFDs are mostly just a matter of what you like.
I would recommend getting one cut to give clearance in front of and under the arms, but there are many that are just fine for 98% of the people out there. Comfort is needed for all-day wear, so that will vary from person to person. For open large cockpits on rec kayaks I have not yet seen a lot of pressing need to get anything super special.

I have 2 for myself. One is a “regular power boat type” and the other is one made specifically for kayaking. I like the 2nd one better, but only because of it’s pockets. I can’t say it’s any better for wet exits or even for comfort in 8-14 hour days. I am 5’ 6" and 187 pounds.
My brother Clay is a bit over 6 feet tall and my good friend Thor is 6’ 5" tall. Clay is athletic and weighs 180. Thor is also very athletic and he weighs 278. (his name fits him pretty well)
Both wear “regular” PFDs and have no issues with them.

I don’t respond to the question of the 2 kayaks because I am 100% ignorant of them both.

Maybe someone else can fill in those blanks for you.

A PFD you see repeatedly recommended here is the Astral V8. I’ve had one for at least 3 years and it is comfortable and as cool as most you will find.
There are various ways of sizing paddles but it comes down to paddler size , stroke ,and boat size. Aquabound makes good paddles of different compositions at reasonable prices. For beginners I recommend a carbon shaft and nylon blades.
Welcome to the seemingly endless search.


Great info. Thank you!

As a female with medium chest and small rib cage I still find a PFD cut for women to feel better. I like Stohlquist, specifically the older model of the Cruiser. My spouse has an Astral V-8 which he likes. Feels OK to me but I much prefer mine.

Paddle length is subjective. If you have any possibility to try out different paddles that helps a lot. But your preference will also probably change over time.


Not necessarily! Ive bought around 10 kayaks in my journey (and sold quite a few), and paid roughly the same for my fiberglass kayaks as I did for the plastic ones. You just have to be patient and persistent.

But give your current situation you could likely buy any reasonably priced recreational kayak, paddle it, see how much you like kayaking, and then if you ever want to upgrade, you can usually sell for the same amount you paid, or only a bit less.

I’d recommend a boat with sealed bulkheads though, if you’re getting a sit-in.


That’s kinda where I am right now. I know I can sell them if I decide to do more than just casually paddle around the lake.

Where in the country are you? Which state?

Middle Georgia.

I’ve been through the middle of Georgia on the way to Florida. All iI saw were pine trees.

You must have had your eyes closed😂. We do indeed have pine forests. We also. Have a wide variety of oaks, hickory, maples, gum trees, dogwood, palms, magnolias and more.

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And heat , just like SC.

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Considering you are paddling inland in SC, the Astral V8 would be my PFD recommendation too. Super comfortable and well ventilated – hardly aware I am wearing it even on the most sultry days.

If you regularly search for them on the web, Astral often discounts the past season colors and styles when they change them a bit. I have owned 4 different Astral styles and their V8 and Abba are my two favorite PFDs.

If you need to stick with a budget, the Onyx brand PFD’s are not bad and often under $50. Cheaper construction so not as durable over the long term as the pricier brands but fit is good and they are safe buoyancy,

There are numerous good pfd’s for paddlers, and I’d recommend getting one designed for paddling. The most important thing is fit. Get to a true paddling shop and make sure you’re fit properly. That’s major!

On paddles; many good brands. What I find as a long time instructor is that most people use paddles that are too long. I’m 5’9” and my boat is 21” wide. I use a 205cm paddle. The important thing here is that when seated in your boat and have made the catch to begin the stroke; the paddle blade should be completely submerged; but only the blade. Of course your paddling style will influence that.

I saw someone recommend a carbon shaft with glass blades. I disagree. The “swingweight” of the paddle is what most iinfluences one’s perception of a paddles weight. The heavier the blades the greater is the sensation of weight of the paddle. The blades are what should be carbon/graphite not particularly the shaft. We want the weight of the paddle to be closest to the paddler not at the end of a 3’-4’ lever.


Thank you. The Necky I got came with a Harmony paddle. I’m pretty sure it had “Warrior” on the blade. It worked quite well for me but I don’t see that model listed anywhere. Do you know what might be comparable?

@jrp001 agree that swing weight is more critical. Aqua Bound use essentially the same shaft, with the weigh savings in the blade where the most “felt difference” is noticed.

Also agree that a shorter High Angle paddle significantly reduces the swing arc. You pointed out that it does depend on paddling style, such as Low Angle. I paddle very low with a fixed paddler box to isolate and protect my left shoulder. I’ve compared the 240 cm and 250 cm Kalliste and found no advantage or disadvantage regarding speed. The 250 cm allows me to open up breathing and change how I distribute the load on muscle groups. While paddling with another forum member, we exchanged the 240 cm and 250 cm. We both agreed that the 240 cm provided far better control, however, I own both sizes and still prefer the long.

My wife also uses the Stohlquist Cruiser and she is very, very happy with the fit of this PFD.

I’m not familiar with the Harmony line of paddles so I can’t comment on something that might be similar. There certainly are companies making paddles that are less costly than the full carbon models by Werner, Lendal N.A. etc. All I can really say to your question is that weight and price are inversely proportional. Weight down, price up. An unfortunate fact. In whatever you determine to be your price range, look for lower weights and if at all possible carbon or graphite blades. Remember that the longer the paddle the more it’ll weigh, so go to the shortest that’ll work for you. Also, longer paddles are just a longer lever arm and as such increase the load on your elbows and shoulders. As I’d said, I use a 205 cm paddle. Good technique is vital. I could suggest you look intro Greenland style paddles. There are both wood and carbon versions made and are usually quite light and with the narrow blades typically present less load on your body. One style isn’t better than the other; they’re just different. Don’t hesitate to ask for more info. I’ll help as much as I can.

Aqua Bound is currently offering a sale price of $132 on its hybrid Manta Rays (31.75 oz) and Sting Rays (30.5 oz) - that’s a good price to weight ratio, IMO.