A Good Paddle
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Whatís more important than a good kayak? A good paddle.
Whatís the use in buying a great kayak if you canít paddle it for long without wearing yourself out? My non-paddling friends always thought it strange that I got so excited about getting a new paddle, much more excited than when I bought my last kayak. It doesnít matter how great of a kayaker and how great your kayak, a poor paddle will hold you back.
What do you look for in a paddle? Weight is somewhat obvious, to paddle efficiently you need to have the paddle out in front of you, holding the paddle with your shoulders, and weight will cause you to want to drop the arms to carry the weight more with your arms but breaking the straight line of your arms. Lets get more specific about weight, and not be fooled here. Swing weight is more important than overall weight. That means light blades on your paddle. When you are in the store, swing the paddle and see if it feels light or if the paddle feels like the paddle builds momentum and is hard to stop it to swing the other way. A neat little trick some manufactures have done is thin out the shaft of the paddle, making the paddle feel real light in the store. That is much more cost effective than using better materials in the blades so the blades are stiffer, thinner and lighter. People then are surprised when they go to use their lightweight paddle and it feels heavy when they use it. Of course they are also surprised when their paddle shaft breaks, hopefully when they are not in a bad area where they really need their paddle like for the rest of the trip back to the car.
Blade balance. This is something I should have listed first but since you cannot feel this in the store decided to mention it after weight. To have anything close to a decent stroke, you cannot have a deathgrip on the paddle shaft. This is where blade stability comes in. A blade that is stable will not twist or flutter when you are using the paddle. Twisting and fluttering causes paddlers to have to tighten up their grips, causing them to flex the muscles in their forearm, arm, chest, back and shoulders. Make a tight fist and see what I am talking about, your body tenses up, so when paddling this causes you to use muscle against muscle wearing yourself out. Not to mention what it does to your wrists and elbows. You can get into some long term cronic issues from that.
Strength. Aluminum shafts are not strong. Non- reinforced plastic blades are also not strong. Taking a stroke a second comes to 3600 strokes an hour /2 since you have 2 blades means you are taking 1800 strokes an hour on each blade. A blade made out of plastic that is not reinforced with fiberglass or carbon fiber just will not last very long with much use.