Seeking paddle advice/recs

This past year I bought my first kayak - an advanced elements ultralight inflatable, and I had a fantastic first season. I loved the inflatable for ease of transport, but was ready to upgrade to get some improved speed and tracking, and I just purchased a new Eddyline Rio. Can’t wait for water temps to get to a point where I can use it safely!

I currently have the the following paddle - [Cannon Paddles Wave FX] - 230cm, weighs 34 oz.

It worked pretty well for me - didn’t have any complaints, but I don’t have much to compare it to. I am just under 5 feet tall, and the AE boat is quite wide, at 32 inches. I am thinking that given my height and smaller width of the Rio - 24 inches - it might be advisable to go a bit shorter, but was hoping to get some input here. I spent about $100 on the Cannon. I was thinking I could keep the Cannon as my spare paddle (never carried a spare this past year, seems like it is an advisable piece of equipment to have) - and perhaps upgrade a bit for my new paddle. Willing to spend a bit more, but not too much more - maybe around $150? My knowledge about paddles is pretty limited - mostly I just know that lighter is better, and would be interested in knowing if there are other things spending more could achieve. I live in the DC area and my paddling mostly consists of the slower moving rivers/inlets of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and area reservoirs/lakes.

I would appreciate any advice - thanks!

I think you can definitely go for a shorter paddle. How short depends on a few factors - do you know the difference between high angle and low angle paddling, and which one you prefer? The higher angle you paddle, the shorter your paddle can be. There is no right or wrong on this and I emphasize not trying to force your body mechanics to do something that is not comfortable. If you paddle low angle you might want to look at a 220 cm; high angle 215 or maybe 210. I find sometimes that shorter paddlers with short torsos and arms sometimes need a bit longer paddle to help reach past the sides of the kayak.

That said I’m not sure you’re going to find anything significantly lighter or stiffer for $50 more. Some of the Aquabound models might be good as they have some lower priced fiberglass or carbon models but durability can suffer a bit. Werner (the brand I am most familiar with) has a paddle (Tybee CF) that is about $180 but a real step up in weight reduction and stiffness isn’t seen until you get into their Shuna/Camano line at $270.

I’m sure there will be some suggestions for a Greenland paddle - this could be a good option as well but I strongly recommend trying one for a while before buying. Some people swear by them and others swear at them. I tried one for several months but just could not get comfortable with it and went to a smaller bladed euro paddle (Werner Athena) which has alleviated 95% of the shoulder issues I was experiencing (I paddle a lot!)

Good luck and congrats on your new kayak - the Rio is a great little boat, I know several people with one and they love theirs.

The Aquabound Sting Ray is a popular paddle for low angle paddling with smallish blades suitable for smaller paddlers. It has nylon blades filled with either fiberglass or carbon and runs $150-200. The Cannon Nokomis looks quite similar and is cheaper. But those paddles aren’t significantly lighter than the 34 oz. you have now. If you’re patient, you might find a better fiberglass or even full carbon paddle for $150 or so used, but that of course is hit or miss.

If you’re near Ohio or Maine, I might be able to offer you a used paddle as an option.

1 Like

Hi Susan,

Congrats on the Rio. A sweet, well made kayak and easy to care for (and lift). Your 230 cm paddle is too long for that boat given your height. Too long of a paddle will make proper torso rotation difficult and you’ll wind up arm paddling. Do you use a high angle or low angle stroke?

I’m 5’4", two of my kayaks are 21" wide and I use a 210 cm paddle.

If you paddle around 3 mph, you’ll be taking 1,000 strokes per mile, so the lighter the paddle the better. Lighter costs more, but the trade-off is worth it in the long run (your shoulders).

Here’s an article which you might find helpful:

1 Like

I would spend a bit more and a buy a really good paddle, lightweight, that you can use for years. With the Rio at 24 inches, even if you changed to a 21-22 inches boat, probably you could keep the same paddle.

If money is short, consider a used paddle. Used paddles are harder to find than used boats, but take a look on Craigslist. Check the blades for fissures and the ferrule.

1 Like

The basic advice is to buy the lightest paddle you can afford. For a 10 mile average day trip many sources say you will use about 10,000 paddle strokes. For every extra ounce or weight you are throwing about 3/8 of a ton of extra weight.

The overwhelming number of paddlers use a low angle style. This uses the muscles that most average paddlers use the most often and are naturally most comfortable with and are conditioned to. Competitive paddlers use a high angle style because it is most efficient, and that’s what they train for. Many regular paddlers that use high angle paddles often still use them in a low angle style. I use a high angle paddle, and unless I pay attention, I often find myself falling back to a low angle style.

For paddle length I think a 230 paddle is probably too long. The best way to judge is to try one out. It will depend on your height, seat height, and boat width. The proper paddle length is one that with a proper forward stroke, for the majority of the stroke the entire blade of the paddle is fully in the water, no more and no less for maximal efficiency, and you are not hitting the side of the boat. Try and borrow several paddles of different lengths or buy from a company that will let you exchange it if you find the length is not right for you. Places like REI and most outfitters will allow this.

Thanks for the responses - not really sure if I am a low angle or high angle paddler, but I assume low angle. Although I have tried reading a bit about different blade shapes, etc. I don’t think I fully understand the differences and how they would affect me specifically. Oddly enough, I hadn’t actually thought about the possibility of trying them out and being able to exchange them. I was thinking of buying online, but I think I will wait til the season starts and I can try some out at a local shop. I have a funny feeling I will end up spending more… :slight_smile:

That’s pretty much what always happens. I borrowed someone else’s lightweight paddle for one trip, and suddenly the cost seemed much more reasonable!

1 Like

REI has great “how to” articles. This one on choosing the right paddle, might be worth a read: