Paddles suited for rafting trips and paddlesports rentals are extremely durable and will endure a lifetime of use. They are available in different lengths.
High performance paddles are as light as a feather to make long trips enjoyable and to enable racers or petite paddlers to make the best use of their power. You are not likely to encounter these unless you are an experienced paddler going on an expedition or want to by your own paddle.
The flat part of the paddle that is used to propel the craft is called the blade.
Kayak Paddles. The shaft connects to the two blades in a kayak paddle. Paddle blades vary in width depending on the type of paddling you will do. Whitewater blades are broad, to get power out of each stroke. Whitewater paddles vary in length from 188-205 cm (74-81 inches).
Kayak paddles designed for lake and open water paddling and inflatable kayaks and packrafts are longer. Thin blades make it easy to paddle for extended periods, from an afternoon of cruising to a multiple day expedition.
Lengths range from 210-250 cm (82-98 inches). They often feature ‘drip rings’ on the paddle shaft which catch some of the water that slides from the blade onto the paddle shaft during each stroke, keeping it out of the boat and off your lap.
You should be able to place the paddle just to the side of your boat where your feet are: lengths range from 188 – 215 cm (74-84 inches.) You won’t have to worry too much about these technicalities if you are going on a trip with an outfitter.
Paddles are often with ‘zero degree offset’ blades. This means the blades are lined up in the same plane, making it easy to become familiar with propelling and steering a kayak.
You may use a kayak paddles with ‘offset’ blades, whose blades are are instead set to an angle from one another.
This angle can be as many as 90 degrees, perpendicular to one another. Large offsets are preferred for paddling in strong wind; intermediary offsets are preferred for paddling for long periods or when a lot of power is needed, to reduce torque on wrists. For casual paddlers, zero degree offset paddles are preferred because they are just plain easy to use!
‘Bent shaft’ kayak paddles are used to extend the beginning of your stroke and to dramatically reduce wrist fatigue for people who paddle with great intensity.
Multiple-piece or ‘break down’paddles. These provide a convenient way to always carry a spare. Manufacturers offer select blade designs in two, three or four-part versions.
Canoe and Raft Paddles. The shaft connects one blade to a handle or ‘t-grip’ for canoe and SUP paddles. Offered in aluminum, plastic, wood and composite materials. Lengths offered for straight shaft paddles: 48-60 inches.
Stand Up Paddleboard(SUP) Paddles. Long canoe-type paddles with specialized blade shapes. Lengths run from 59-90 inches.
Canoe or SUP paddles whose blades are canted or ‘bent’ from the plane of the shaft are preferred by paddlers who want extra power from each stroke, such as long distance paddlers or racers.
Oars. Used on rafts, catarafts, and dories, oars are the powerful levers that propel and turn large craft, often carrying tremendous weight in powerful water. They are therefore strong and flexible, manufactured in wood or composite, 7-10 ft in length.
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