Next to the kayak itself, paddles are the most important item when you set out for a day on the water. They are what provide forward motion that makes your trip down the river or across the pond possible. Even the shortest trips involve thousands of paddle strokes, so picking the right paddle for you will make your time more enjoyable. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a paddle.

Size Matters

Length will vary depending on your size and arm reach. Pelican

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Choosing the right length paddle is pretty straightforward. Simply put, the wider the kayak, the longer the paddle. They have to clear the width of the boat for a clean stroke, and undersized paddles will make you lean over to do so. This upsets balance, and makes you work much harder than you should. In most situations, a 220- or 230-centimeter paddle is ideal, but you’ll need a longer paddle if you’re tall as there’s greater distance between you and the water.

Fishing Ready

Plastic or nylon blades are inexpensive but can easily break. Pelican

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The material that the paddle’s blades are made from determines its strength—and price. Lightweight materials make for easier paddling, but are more prone to breakage and are pricey. Carbon fiber blades are the lightest, but are the most expensive. Fiberglass blades are heavier than carbon fiber, but lighter than plastic. Plastic or nylon are the heaviest, but they are the most resistant to breaking. They’re also the least expensive.

Durable and Affordable

Carbon fiber models are the lightest and strongest, but they’re also typically the most expensive. OCEANBROAD

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Paddle shafts are made from aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. The fiberglass or carbon shafts are the lightest, but are considerably more expensive thanks to the complexities involved in laying up composite tubes. They are also disposed to the same durability issues that plague blades made from those materials. For those reasons, most paddle shafts are constructed of aluminum because it’s both durable and affordable. For most folks, a nylon-bladed paddle with an aluminum shaft makes the most sense.