Be it kayaking or paddleboarding, there’s a few main variables you’ll want to consider when choosing a paddle; materials, length, breakdown, and paddle angle. Here’s a run down of what options you’ll encounter and what boaters usually choose based on a recreational approach or a high-performance perspective.
Materials: Carbon vs. Aluminum
Recreational boaters often choose aluminum or fiberglass built shafts with nylon reinforced with fiberglass blades, or similar materials. Aluminum, fiberglass, and nylon tend to be the less expensive options, though they can be slightly heavier than their carbon counterparts. If your paddling style is more focused on quality time with the family, fishing, or casual paddles, paddles composed of these materials will suit you fine.
Performance or touring focused boaters tend to gravitate to carbon built paddles. Just like a bike frame or other carbon build sporting equipment, a light material will help you preserve energy for the endurance of a longer paddle trip. Carbon-blend paddles can be a good intermediate between price and weight.
Length: Fixed vs. Adjustable
Whether you’re a recreation or performance boater, an adjustable paddle is useful when many different sized individuals will be paddling a vessel. Mom, Dad, kids, guests – the adjustable paddle is ideal at a vacation home on a lake or for a family with many differently sized members. Adjustable paddles can span 230cm, perhaps for the smallest paddler, up to 255cm, for the largest paddler.
Fixed length paddles tend to be cut to fit one paddler or one vessel. For paddleboarding, the length of the paddle shaft is dependent on the height of the paddler. In kayaking, length is dependent on the width of the boat.
For SUPs, a good way to approximate paddle length is by adding 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm) to your height. If you have an adjustable SUP paddle, you can determine length by standing with your arm straight up, and adjusting the paddle to the height of your wrist. All Aquaglide SUP Paddles are adjustable via the patented Leverlock® system.
For kayaks, 240cm is a popular size for most recreational inflatable boats. Aquaglide paddles this length or adjustable to this length include the Aries 2-piece and 4-piece, Crux, and Orion. For a performance boater, a 230cm paddle is a little lighter and suits a more aggressive vertical paddle stroke. Aquaglide paddles this length include the Aries 2-piece and Orion. This style of stroke is taught in whitewater kayaking and slalom kayaking. Longer paddles tend to suit a more horizontal and casual stroke. For those going ultralight, a 220cm paddle such as the Crux can help shave precious ounces, and will still be long enough for most paddlers.
Paddles fit into two categories – static and breakdown. Breakdown paddles can be anywhere from two to four pieces. Space and gear transport needs will help determine which type is best for you.
For most recreational kayakers, a two or three piece breakdown paddle is sufficient – these can include the Aries 2-piece kayak paddle, and the Wayfinder and Focus 3-piece SUP paddles. A four piece breakdown is also a great option for most paddlers, but particularly for those who are ultralight or have tight space constraints. This feature can also be useful for folks transporting equipment via hybrid sedan or motor bike. The Aries, Orion, and Crux are all 4-piece paddles.
High-Angle vs. Low-Angle
Kayak paddle angles are generally categorized as low- or high-angle. This refers to the angle of the paddle against your chest as you perform a stroke.
Low angle kayaking is typically what inflatable kayaks are designed for. This is a somewhat leisurely paced paddle stroke where in the angle of the paddle shaft across your chest never flies above the shoulders. To contrast, in touring or whitewater paddling, which oftentimes requires precision and urgency, the blade on the paddle is a bit more shaped to scoop water and in each stroke, the shaft lifts above the shoulder.
The high-angle technique becomes significant as a person progresses to kayaking moving water, down river, riffles and eventually running rapids.
Feathering is where the blade angles are offset instead of aligned at the same angle. It is sometimes used to reduce effort when paddling into strong winds, as well as to reduce wrist strain. All AG kayak paddles have a feathering capabilities to various degrees. Feathering angle is a strongly personal preference, and we encourage trying out various feather angles to find what works best for your paddling style.
AG Orion paddle feathering is infinitely adjustable using Leverlock, while all other AG models have preset feathering angles at +/- 60 degrees. These paddles use 3 offset holes found near the center of the shaft. Without feathering, the paddle is assembled in the center hole. With feathering, the paddle is assembled in the forward (+60 degrees) hole, or the backward (- 60 degrees) hole.
These factors will help narrow down the many paddle choices and determine which is just right for you. More questions about Aquaglide specific kayak paddles? Check out the video below or explore each kayak paddle or SUP paddle for more information.