Your Guide to Buying a Kayak Paddle

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Your Guide to Buying a Kayak Paddle

Kayaking is an immensely popular pastime with broad appeal. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie who lives for the thrill of whitewater races, a creative paddler showcasing your free-styling talent at the SAS Hurley Classic, a fisherman reeling in your catch, or a weekend enthusiast satisfied with a scenic tour down the River Thames, kayaking has fun, exercise, challenge, and adventure galore for all. Whatever activity you fancy, you need a kayak paddle that works with your body and paddling style, for it is the paddle that connects you to the water and moves, turns, flips, and steers the kayak in response to your direction. The right choice saves you buckets of misery.

With all the different aspects that affect the effectiveness of the paddle, shopping for a kayak paddle can be a confusing muddle. A bit of knowledge about how to select the right kayak paddle by considering the material, length, weight, blade shape, and shaft style clears all that away. While trips to the sports stores and kayaking clubs might get you information on the type of paddle to use, the wide variety available on eBay ensures you can find the paddle that is best suited to your needs.

The Kayak and its Paddle

A kayak is a small, lightweight boat, usually for one person who propels it using a double-bladed paddle. The person moving the kayak, known as the paddler, serves as the kayak's engine, using their strength to move the kayak along; the paddle acts as the transmission.

The Inuit people originally developed kayaks, which they used for hunting and transportation, by stitching skins of seals and other animals over wood or whalebone frames to make them as lightweight and watertight as possible. The mass production of kayaks using modern material like fibreglass and plastic has turned this simple hunting boat into a popular hobby boat, for sport, fun, and fishing.

Kayak Paddle Features

The kayak paddle is the most important piece of equipment in kayaking, and a worthwhile paddle offers maximum manoeuvrability, a comfortable fit, performance, and durability. The material used to make the paddle, the weight, length, and even paddle blade shape and feather affects the performance of the paddle. Personal judgement still features heavily when selecting kayak paddles, so choose whatever feels good to you after considering the factors below and trying out different lengths and styles at a local paddle outfitter.

Material

There are many materials from which paddles are made, including aluminium, reinforced nylon, fibreglass, and plastic. The type of material affects not just the price but the paddle's weight, durability, and performance. The table below shows the most common type of material used in making kayak paddles, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Type of Paddle Material

Advantages

Disadvantages

Aluminium

Inexpensive, used in basic paddles

Absorbs the cold

Fibreglass

Light, durable, affordable

Durable

Carbon Fibre

Very lightweight, composite material

Not very durable, requires care, expensive

Aluminium is the most inexpensive material. It is also the heaviest material and, because of thermal conductivity, gets rather cold when paddling in cold water or cool weather. Most manufacturers make simple paddle shapes for novice or recreational kayakers with aluminium shafts and plastic blades.

Kayak paddles made from lightweight fibreglass are more durable than are those made from aluminium, and their price ranges midway between the aluminium and the carbon fibre. Carbon fibre paddles, the most expensive kayak paddles, are extremely lightweight and are made from composite materials. They are not as durable as fibreglass paddles and require more maintenance.

Length

With kayak paddles, size does matter. The proper length for your paddle depends on your height, the type of kayaking activity you are doing, and your paddling style. With a paddle of the right length, you will experience less fatigue and enhanced performance on the water.

Paddler's Height

Your height determines the length of kayak paddle you use: the wider the kayak, the longer the paddle you need. Tall large-framed paddlers find comfort in a 240-cm paddle, while shorter, small-framed people should opt for a 210-cm paddle.

Type of Activity

Since paddles are designed with a specific purpose in mind, the type of activity determines the type of paddle you use. Kayak paddles fall under four distinct activity types: recreational, fitness, touring, and racing. Kayak paddles for recreational and touring activities are longer, at around 230 cm, because of the relaxed style of paddling. Shorter paddle lengths of 210 cm to 220 cm are ideal for more aggressive and faster paddling, for example in whitewater races, because they help to reduce the kayak's tendency to zigzag.

Paddling Style

There are two styles of paddling: high-angle and low-angle. High-angle paddling means the paddle cuts through the water at a high angle, raising the upper arm in each stroke. Low angle paddling is the converse, with the paddle cutting through the water at a shallow angle and lowered upper arm. Paddling style determines the length required for comfortable paddling. Paddlers with low-angle technique need longer kayak paddles, while those with a high-angle paddling technique opt for a shorter kayak paddle for effective and efficient paddling.

Blade Shape

The part of the paddle that enters the water and moves the kayak is the paddle blade. The shape of the blade affects the degree of entry into the water and thus how easily you paddle and how much force the stroke produces. Paddles can be narrow-face or broad-face.

Narrow-face paddle blades are ideal for recreation over slow-moving water. They allow the paddler to make many strokes without tiring the muscles and joints. Broad-face paddle blades, on the other hand, feel right at home on the river because the large size allows more powerful strokes. Since the kayaker tires more easily with this blade shape, they are suitable for short trips and races.

Shaft

The shaft is the long part of the kayak paddle that you clasp with your hands. There are two types of paddle shafts, the bent shaft and the straight shaft.

The bent shaft paddle's alignment is neutral, balancing out the paddle's shaft and blade with the hand grip and creating a stable point of leverage during strokes. A bent shaft aligns wrists naturally, easing stress on the wrist joints with better hand control. They offer a better comfort level than straight shafts.

The straight shaft is lightweight and both more common and less expensive than the bent shaft. The straight shape puts more stress on the joints than does the bent shaft. Those looking for recreational or general kayaking generally find this simple design adequate for their needs.

Weight

The overall weight of the paddle and how it is distributed is an important consideration, so buy the lightest paddle that meets your requirements and is within your budget. When considering the weight of the kayak paddle, it is not how the paddle feels in your hand the first few minutes of use that matters, but the strain on your arm after paddling for at least half an hour. Lightweight paddles tend to cost more than the heavier ones.

Angle

With great paddling experience comes the great feathered paddle, one that has blades angled with respect to each other. Skilled paddlers use the feathered paddle because it gives a smaller surface area to the wind and reduces wrist misalignment. The particular technique required for manoeuvring the feathered paddle it is too complex for beginners, who happily settle for square paddle blades.

Personal Safety Tips While Kayaking

Always use a PFD, or personal flotation device, whenever kayaking to insulate your body against the cold and, most importantly, keep it above the water. If you are a novice, learn the proper paddling techniques first before venturing out on your own. Carry a whistle and follow the boating rules of whatever area you are paddling through and check your paddle often for chips and cracks. Finally, follow all safety regulations regarding your outfit, kayak, and any other equipment. They are there to ensure that your time on the water is fun, pleasant, and accident-free.

Buying a Kayak Paddle on eBay

The cluster of kayak paddles on eBay ranges from the short to the long in every conceivable material and blade shape, to suit every paddler and kayaking activity. A quick search for 'kayak paddle' confirms this; if your search yields too many results, you can narrow down the results to your specific requirements. Take your time going through the listings; read up the item descriptions and have a long look at the photos provided by the seller. Check for signs of wear in used paddles such as twisted blades, cracks in the shafts, dents, and sharp edges, because nothing but a smooth paddle works for kayaking.

Once you find a good paddle that is effective for your choice of activity, purchase the item using eBay's fast, secure payment system, PayPal. Within minutes, your kayak paddle can be on its way to you. Once it arrives, try it out on the water to ensure that it is the perfect fit for your needs.

Conclusion

Anyone who wants to enjoy kayaking must invest in a decent kayak paddle. One should go for the strongest, lightest, and most efficient that their money can buy, as a good paddle makes a good kayak. Seasoned paddlers maintain that the selection of a good kayak paddle is even more important than that of the kayak itself, comparing the paddle to the transmission of a car with the paddler's body as the engine: both integral to successful kayaking.

Consumers shopping for quality kayak paddles must consider a slew of factors, including the length of the paddle, its weight, the shape of the blade, and even whether the shaft is bent or straight, all of which affect the effectiveness and efficiency of both the paddle and the paddler. A poorly constructed paddle takes the fun out of paddling, brewing frustration and increasing the risk of injury. With a great variety of quality kayak paddles at reasonable prices are in abundance on eBay, no self-respecting paddler should settle for less than the best.

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