Many paddlers feel that the paddle is as important as the kayak. Over the years the quality and selection of paddles have greatly improved. You need both a main and spare paddles. The main paddle should be the highest quality and must match you, the kayak, and condition you paddle in. The spare paddle needs to be functional and reliable, but can be a less expensive paddle. Many paddlers carry two high quality paddles of different designs for different conditions.
Paddle lengths have become shorter in the past few years. Most Atlantic Kayak Tours staff are using paddles between 205 and 215cm. These lengths will be correct for average paddlers in 23" or narrower kayaks, when paddling in our area. The cadence will vary with different length paddles. While it is easier to perform 3 Star strokes with a shorter paddle, the cadence is high and on long trips the upper end of this length range make sense. Very tall paddlers might need an extra 5cm, but almost no paddler should go above 220cm. Longer lengths are appropriate for wide recreational kayaks and doubles.
The best advice is to try as many different paddles in as many different conditions as possible. Take the opportunity on trips to trade paddles with someone else. Even if you don't like the other paddle, you will start to learn what fits your needs. Remember that it will take some time to get comfortable with a different paddle. Don't cast judgement too soon. While on trips, ask staff members why they chose the paddles they are using.
Watch the Flash Lesson above for a visual lesson on paddle blades shapes.
The Werner Paddles website has good information on design and construction of paddles.
Atlantic Kayak Tours, Expert Center
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