Selecting a Touring Paddle

Why Shape, Length, and Size Matter.

Blade Shape
Your paddling style is the most important factor in paddle selection. Most kayakers have a relaxed style, hands low and the shaft nearly horizontal for which a long, narrow blade is best.
 
If you're more aggressive and use a variety of strokes, a high angle paddle with short, wide blades is ideal. This versatile style requires superior arm, shoulder, and torso agility.
 
Paddle Length
Low-angle paddlers:  Start at 230cm.
 
High-angle paddlers:  Start at 220cm.
 
Adjust by 5 or 10cm according to your height, and also if you use a tandem, inflatable, or extra wide or narrow kayak.
 
Blade Asymmetry
Asymmetrical blades reduce paddle twist, require less gripping force, and are less fatiguing.
 
Carbon vs. Fiberglass
To strike a balance between weight, durability, and price, most premium paddles are made of fiberglass and epoxy resins. Carbon fiber construction reduces swing weight and increases performance. A 12-15% reduction in weight multiplied by thousands of strokes equals a significant decrease in fatigue and strain. If your outings are more than a couple of hours long, consider investing in carbon.
                                                       
Blade Size
Large paddle blades move the boat farther per stroke than smaller blades, but are more difficult to pull through water and generally too tiring for recreational boating. They're great for racing, surfing, and working out.

Most kayakers prefer medium blades for a balance between physical demand and quick acceleration.
 
Small blades require the least energy to maneuver (but more strokes), and are great for petite paddlers.  They're also easier to use when racing, surfing, or on rough water.


Feather Angle
A feathered paddle has blades that are offset relative to each other. This feature points the edge of the upper blade (sticking out of the water) forward.  An unfeathered paddle will force you to push the entire surface area of the blade against the wind.
 
Feather angles are generally between 45-60 degrees.
 
Beginning paddlers without aspirations of venturing into long reaches of unsheltered water may find unfeathered paddles easier to use. But the first time you encounter a stiff headwind, you'll wish you had gone feathered.
 
Dihedral Angle
During a forward stroke, water pushes against the blade's face, causing the paddle to flutter. A dihedral angle curves the face so water flows smoothly off the paddle, reducing flutter and the gripping effort required.
 
Straight vs. Bent Shaft
There are two main benefits to bent shafts:
 
1)         Neutral hand position, reducing wrist strain
2)         Lighter grip required, reducing fatigue
 
The disadvantage is about a 10% increase in weight.