Spare paddle placement

I watch too much YouTube! And have a hypervigilance disorder where I fixate on small usually irrelevant details :slight_smile:

What’s the point of having one half of your spare paddle on the foredeck and the other half on the aftdeck?

Just watched footage from a symposium and noticed that about half the participants were carrying their paddles this way. Is this a regional thing? I always thought carrying them up front left the back deck clear for re-entry procedures.

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I just watched a video they all had them on the foredeck. No clue how they’d reach them if they were alone without leaving the cockpit.

FWIW. I have my breakdown spare paddle (usually a Gearlab GP) on the back deck. I don’t like the spare paddle up front because it interferes with my compass (or view of it). Got caught in the fog once without my compass. Never again after that. I practice retrieving half of the spare paddle off the back deck, while upside down, and rolling back up. My preferred self rescue is do a re-entry and roll (with a paddle float to act as an outrigger). But, the spare paddle (usually a Gearlab GP) is pretty unobtrusive and doesn’t intefere with a standard paddle float re-entry. Rear “cowboy scramble” is out for me.


Here’s an example. Looking at it as a still image, maybe it’s because having both sections up front obstructs the map.

I carry it on the rear deck one one boat, and on the fore deck on the other. The one I carry in front is because it doesn’t fit well on the rear deck, blocks my day hatch cover, and sits above the deck high enough that it could either wash off in beam seas, or be blown off by wind. It hugs the foredeck, so that’s where I carry it.

I used to carry a GP as a spare for a long time, but I later realized that if I needed to give it to someone else because they lost theirs, it would only benefit Greenland style paddlers. Anybody can use the one I carry now.

I’m a front-decker. This allows me easy access to the “spare” which is also carried as a “lower gear” if I have the desire for a change. Access and stowage is easy for me. It also keeps the back deck clear for self rescues or if helping others. The way I stow the shafts never interferes with my view of a deck compass.

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I do currently usually carry one front and one back. Not wedded to this - I have carried both halves on front and both halves on back at other times, and it has worked fine.

My currently half and half spreads out the paddles which leaves me some space on front deck should I need to put something under the bungees (generally trash I pick up). On a boat with a day hatch, a half paddle doesn’t block it where having both halves on back likely would. Nice to have one on front that should you be flipped and have lost your paddle, you can pull a half off and try to roll with that (though not sure I could do a half paddle roll any more). And having half and half means a paddle shaft would run over each of the main hatches on the boat, providing a little extra insurance from implosion or popping off.

On whether they could be accessed from back deck when seated in a kayak, caught on video a time where I did need to access them and I had them on my back deck. You just reach around back and pull forward. Comedy of Errors - Dropped Paddle on Disney Pourover - YouTube

On self rescuing over paddle blades on back deck - that is something each person needs to figure out for themselves. I can (and have) self rescue right over 2 paddles on back deck, half paddle, or no paddle. But not everyone can, so they may want half or whole paddle up front.

If you use the North Water Paddle Britches, Paddle Scabbard, or similar, you will be putting your spare on the front deck, as that is how they are made.

If the paddles halves are long, or the boat short, they may only fit on one end or the other. People with one piece Greenland paddles (even the short storm paddles) generally carry them on the front and they often stick out a bit from the bow.


I carry my spare on the back deck of my Everglades Challenge boat because of the sail and deck bag on the front (so much stuff!). Also like that it helps keep the fiberglass hatch cover more secure. It’s a bit of a stretch to reach it but I can do it.

Last year I borrowed a North Water scabbard and used it on the back deck. I found it a little too big and I needed to buy one of my own so just ordered the smaller version last week. I’ll try to remember to post pics when I get it installed.

In another forum/medium someone responded to my question saying that two paddles together on the foredeck increases the likelihood that they’ll move if hit by a wave, more so than one up front, one in the rear.

Here’s another seen on social media (by a reputable coach): paddle britches can get in the way of self rescues because they can obstruct access to the perimeter lines and can also catch waves/wind and add drag.

As Sing said, the split front and back thing came up as an alternative for folks who had the presence of mind to grab just one half and use it to roll up if needed. Often if to was a re-enter and roll. So that leaves the foredeck a little clearer of clutter while preserving the safety aspect.

My pump has to live on the back deck given my cockpit size, so better for me if both paddles are up front.

I don’t understand the issue with not being able to pull the paddle off the front deck while staying in the cockpit. Done it tons of times to share a paddle with someone in a group.

I spent a lot of time in rescue classes with the paddle britches, granted some of them close to shore so we ditched the spare paddles just to leave less to have to pick up. As long as the deck lines are loose enough to get a hand under, the paddle britches never created an issue. I have the older ones, which have to be strung into the deck line.

Circling back to contribute some thoughts based on recent experiences.

The foredeck of my boat is long. Putting the paddles in britches means that they are just out of comfortable reach from the cockpit. I’d have to take feet off the pegs, slide forward in the seat and stretch to reach them. Easier to grab off the back deck.

This past weekend I was doing rescue practice and realized that with spares up front, things got a bit crowded when I needed to stow my paddle and the swimmer’s paddle as I helped him get back in his boat. All those paddles ( 2 halves, and 2 complete paddles) made it difficult for him to reach across to grab my deck lines. This, of course, is the benefit of practicing…I wouldn’t have thought of this without having had to stow the two paddles during the practice.

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Yes. This is true for me as well. If you use/have a greenland paddle, the full length will work on the front deck and allow easy accessibility. But likely one end of the paddle will extend beyond the deck. It probably is not affected, but as kayak surfer, I hate watching a breaking wave catching that extended paddle blade. Even though it likely won’t do anything, I find myself getting distracted to the paddle and not focusing on what is happening with the wave.



Assuming a T-rescue, you could try laying the full paddles across your lap, rather than stow under bungees. This seems to keep them out of the way.

From an article in California Kayaker Magazine (PDF of article), it says:

The Lift and Drain
An upright bow also makes the next step, dragging the bow across your lap, a little easier. First, make sure your paddle is stowed securely so it doesn’t float away while you’re focused on the rescue, a common mistake. I prefer to stow mine across my lap, using my tow belt to anchor it. Others like to slip it under a bungee, which works fine in calmer conditions, but I’ve seen problems with the paddle getting loose or tangling under the hull in rough seas.

I find you don’t need to place under tow belt for this to work. Just place across your lap and pull the boat up on your deck so these paddles are laying between you and boat.

The pictures on that same page (page 11) show the paddles being done that way.

My spare is a hefty wooden 70" Greenland storm paddle whether my primary paddle is a GP or Euro. Came with the SOF I bought 12 years ago – not sure which wood the builder used but it is tough and seems to have multiple coats of spar varnish. I think he used a piece of Doug fir that had too many grain flaws for the pretty laminated paddles he also made and sold. Fits flush and neatly under the stern bungees without being in the way at all and is easy to grab and slide out. It functions as my "beater"as well, to spare my good wood and carbon GP’s for actions like prying off of rocks, docks and gravel bars.

A short sturdy GP is also handy to act as a bridge across paralleled kayaks to stabilize while they have to use both hands to do something or to offer a paddler in the water some extra support in assisted rescue. A useful tool that I don’t fret about scuffing up or even potentially breaking. I’ve also pounded it into the ground with a rock when forced on shore due to rain to use as a tent pole to rig a poncho shelter. And if I lose my primary paddle I can use the storm with a sliding stroke to get where I need to go. On one occasion a fellow paddler broke their own paddle and had no spare so I loaned them my primary and used the storm til we got back ashore.

Paddle softly and carry a medium sized stick…

Although it’s akin to the rudder vs skeg and feathered vs unfeathered battles, I’ve been using a paddle leash for well over 20 years with no issues. In performing or teaching rescues I can just toss my paddle on the opposite side of my kayak for it to be out of the way and free up both hands quickly.

Unless the water is really rough, many people put the paddle of the person being rescued between the two boats. It’s usually secure enough there.

Of course, if you’re paddling with a group, other people can help with paddles and round up other loose gear.

So true. Different experiences lead to different opinions. Right vs wrong absolutes are rare.