How to Select a Good Whitewater Kayak Paddle

How to Select a Good Whitewater Kayak Paddle
Choosing the right paddle for whitewater kayaking is nearly as important as choosing the kayak itself. Just as whitewater boats are made to complement different paddling styles, like freestyle, river running or creeking, paddle designs vary to accommodate paddling style, as well as personal preferences. Different materials, blade shapes, shaft designs and stiffness levels give each type of paddle a distinctive feel, so it is best to consider several paddles before making a purchase.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Decide what style of paddling you plan to do most often. Freestylers usually want a smaller blade and shorter shaft. Creek boaters most often opt for a large blade and longer shaft for more power. River runners aim for an "all around" paddle, which would have a midrange blade and shaft.
Step 2
Explore material types. Different materials have a different feel while paddling, and what feels best is up to you as a paddler. Fiberglass and carbon fiber tend to be stiff, giving a strong but steady pull through your paddle strokes. Plastics are the cheapest but are a bit more flimsy and can break more easily on rocks and other obstacles. Wooden paddles can be easier to break but are very flexible, which can add extra snap to the end of your strokes and thus give a power boost to each stroke.
Step 3
Choose an appropriate length. A good rule of thumb is to hold the paddle as you would when paddling. With your hands in the proper position, your arms at the elbows should form 90 degree angles. With that being said, personal preference again comes into play. Many freestyle kayakers like a shorter paddle, and many creekers like a bit more length.
Step 4
Choose a comfortable offset. Offset refers to the angle at which the paddle blades are displaced from each other, which requires a rotation of your control hand when paddling to ensure each blade enters the water with the power face at the correct angle. Most paddles come with 0, 30 or 45 degree offsets, but with wooden paddles and some higher-end composite paddles, custom offsets can be ordered.
Step 5
Decide whether you want a bent shaft. Bent shafts are more comfortable on the wrists of many paddlers and were designed to be more ergonomic in that area. They are also more expensive, so it is a personal choice as to whether it is worth the cost.

Article Written By Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams has spent over 11 years working in the information technology, health care and outdoor recreation fields. He has over seven years of technical and educational writing experience, and has brought strong skills and passion to the Demand Studios team in articles for eHow and Trails in 2009.

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