Small Paddler's Paddle Choices? (kayak)

-- Last Updated: Aug-29-11 2:20 PM EST --

Any small ladies (5 footers) have suggestions on their favorite paddle? I spoke to two shops regarding paddles, one suggested a white water paddle and the other a kids paddle (Werner Sprite). I've found lots of info on how to select for length, feather, bent or straight shaft. Not a lot on blade surface area for paddler weight.

I see Werner makes one a little smaller called a Little Dipper. If anyone has suggestions we'd love to hear them. I assume she would be a high angle paddler in her narrow 21" wide boat. (Yellow Tsunami SP on order).

Before I found this site I ordered two Lavika Poseidon paddles from Costco without thinking of shaft diameter or blade size, just that I would cut them down to fit. Now I see there are a few more variables...

My paddle of choice is a Beale
Greenland Paddle which is not for everyone. If you are looking for the euro style, a nice one is an Aquabound Spindrift (their smallest blade) which i have the same version originally by Bending Branches with an adjustable ferrule from 215-230 i believe. The Werner looks good but check re the shaft diameter as Werners can run a little large for small hands - they make a small shaft also.

second on the GP
I’m 5’ 5" but am longlegged and short in the upper body and arms so paddling wise I am functionally closer to 5’ 2" or 5’ 3" – the kayaks I use most often are 21" and 22.5". I prefer a 213 cm (84") cedar Greenland paddle. One advantage, having a short reach, is that I can draw the narrower paddle closer along the hull. Also it is easier to stash under the deck rigging. Plus I was able to get it made with a diameter that fits my smallish hands exactly. I can keep up with nearly anyone using a standard blade paddle.

YOu really should wait until she gets the boat to decide paddle length. Take it to a rental area or shop with demos where she can borrow several lengths and try them. Paddle length is highly personal. It isn’t a fixed thing for an individual either – I have paddles from 185 cm to 240 cm, all get used in differing conditions and with different boats. In fact I always carry a backup paddle and it is always a different length than the primary one I am using.

If a Euro paddle
Go for at most the medium size blade in a given series. Somewhere in there is a sweet spot where the blade is not so huge that a smaller paddler can increase their cadence to make speed without hurting themselves, but is still big enough blade that they can get a good effect from it. Most of the better manufacturers have essentially a smallest, medium and large version of a given blade. The Cyprus by Werner, for example is the smaller person’s alternative to the Ikelos and I think there is a smaller blade than that.

You can call many of the manufacturers and talk to them. Kayaking is still loaded with small companies staffed by folks who know what they are doing and care about their customers.

Onno makes a paddle he calls Feather. I got one for kids to use and small women (my wife). I wish I had got a 2 piece adjustable. The next one will be, need to get the granddaughters outfitted.

It’s very light.

Scroll down to it…

… such as ONNO : )
Until recently we were married to a 5’ er and have done extensive ’ testing ’ of and on this subject in all conditions.

The paddle length should be matched to the person and boat. The blades should not only be matched as above but personal preferences, even expectations : ) should be considered as well as factoring in conditions and distances.

Just 'cause the brochure or website says so does not make it the end all.

Like everything else, you will get the best thing for you after researching, talking to real world, experienced people ( not just those who have the website / brochure memorized and quote it back to you ) and trying things out.

Yes we are looking to start with Euro style paddles. The GP’s do look like fun project to build though. We were just hoping another petite lady would pipe up and say “This blah blah blah model fit me like a glove”. I found that exact quote on here from a woman her size on the Tsunami SP.

The reason I we asked is that she is drastically stronger than the kids and was paddling the Poseidon well canoe style off the side of our inflatable. But I’m sure it’s a lot different sitting in the kayak right on the water and turns with stroke input. I guess I can just cut up one of the Poseidons to the 550 sq cm’s of the Little dipper as a test piece.

3 years testing so far for da’ keiki
Paddles for kids all based off the Feather but WAY shorter.

Which of your models would you suggest for a petite 4’ 11" sub 100lb’er. We are beginners, she is athletic, the boat is a WS Tsunmai SP at 21 inches wide. I should not have said high angle paddle at the top because I’m sure we will be going at a relaxed pace.

Go Onno …
Give Pat a call and he will set you up with a paddle you will love.

Big and Small … emailed some info.

Like Celia said…

– Last Updated: Aug-29-11 6:44 PM EST –

Don't go above the "medium" blades offered. I am just under 5'3" and use Werner Shuna and Cyprus, which they call "medium." I really, really like these blades with my sea kayaks but feel that the corresponding WW "medium" blade (the Sherpa, I think it's called) is a tad too big for me in my kid-sized WW boat. I am using it but suspect it would work better if it were just a little smaller blade.

If she has small hands or short fingers, a smaller-diameter shaft might be in order. I found I preferred the standard diameter but I have long fingers.

If you can rent, see if she can also try the long, narrow low-angle blades such as Nimbus's Vesper/Zephyr. Those were what I used for the first few years of paddling and they worked well and were easy on the body.

BTW, my Shuna and Cyprus are 205cm long. This is the shortest stock size but you can custom-order shorter shafts, at least from Werner.

by Eddyline, Small blades, easy on shoulders,Kids use it, Myfavorite paddle

What weather…
I cut down one of the Poseidons down to 210cm for her to try for a start. We took the SOT’s down to the lake, it was sunny and 17C when we left. At 6 feet the SOT’s are not good to judge with. Unless she used a very high angle stroke the boat just turned one way or the other with minimum forward movement. I think we will have to wait as suggested until the boat gets here to get a better idea. When we left it was pouring rain, waves rolling in, lightning and 10C, now it’s hailing.

Thank you for the suggestions and thank you to Onnopaddle, it’s not often you see customer service these days.

Consider a GP
Greenland paddles are now my exclusive choice - light, very effective, easy on the body, and best of all, they are absolutely bug-simple to make. $15 for a nice straight-grained red cedar 2x6 at Home Depot, a few hours of very pleasant, simple work with hand tools, and voila - your custom-made GP, exactly the length, blade shape, weight and feel you (or your wife) wants. If the first one isn’t perfect, repeat the process 'til it is…

There’s a tonne and a half of info on the net about GP designs and paddle-making techniques. This link’ll get you started…

If I was going to get a Euro, OnnoPaddles have an excellent rep for design, construction, features, service and cost-effectiveness. Real nice to see a very small outfit with a great attitude and solid products…

Small Shaft Werner
I am 5’ 3" with a boat about 22 inches wide. I like my Werner Shuna with the small shaft. It works well for high-angle power paddling as well as a “relaxed pace.” If you have an opportunity to test paddle a paddle, it might give you a better feel. The differences between paddles aren’t always easy to tell until you’ve been on the water an hour or so.

Epic Relaxed Tour full carbon with
burgundy shaft and adjustable length.

Relatively small blade, light and some flex result in easy on the joints.

The Swift Windswift suggested by Tsunamichuck and the Werner Athena are also good options.

My 5’ wife has a small-shaft Little Dipper and likes it a lot. It’s a fine choice for a low-angle stroke. If you like a high angle the shortest stock length–210–may be too long.

At 5’9", I’ve paddled my 22" sea kayak with my 196 whitewater paddle. I like the short length for play but not so much for distance. The negatives for whitewater paddles are that they’re usually a bit heavier than touring paddles, and one-piece paddles are difficult to store on a boat. Also note that a “small” whitewater blade may be as big as a mid-sized touring blade.

Lots of good advice here
Even some of the strongest pro expedition paddlers choose small surface area blades for efficiency and endurance over the miles.

Weight and strength are the balance act. An ultra light paddle may not be a great expedition choice but would be perfect for most paddlers. Modern manufacturing techniques can reduce weight and increase strength to a point.

thank you all for the suggestions. I made one more adjustment down to Celia’s size of 205cm for a starting point. But at 4" shorter we’ll see come spring.