Kayak paddles come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and price ranges. But the decision to buy one doesn't need to be a hard one. For casual paddling, any paddle that is durable enough to stand up to the abuse you'll undoubtedly subject it to will usually be adequate. With that said, there are some real benefits to choosing a good quality paddle.
Better paddles are lighter and more durable, making paddling more comfortable and more enjoyable. Of course, this only becomes a real issue as your outings get longer. Let's take a quick look at the options that are out there.
Kayak paddles have three main parts to them. You've got the shaft, the power face, and the back face.
The power face is the side of the paddle blade that catches the water when you take a forward stroke. From tip to tip paddles vary in length from seven to eight feet, and the blades come in different sizes as well.
As a general rule, a smaller paddler should use a shorter paddle with smaller blades while a stronger paddler should use a longer paddle with larger blades.
Paddles also come in a variety of materials, although for recreational kayaking, the blades are made of plastic or fiberglass while the shaft is often made of aluminum or fiberglass. These materials offer a great combination of performance, durability, and affordability.
The final decision you'll need to make has to do with the feather or offset of your blades. The feather is the amount of twist between the blades of the paddle. The advantage of having blades that are offset is that in a head wind the top blade slices through the air with minimal air resistance.
On the other hand, a paddle with no offset is much more intuitive to use, and the best option for most paddlers.
A neat piece of gear that you might consider is called the paddle leash. A paddle leash attaches your paddle to you or your boat, so if you drop it, you don't need to worry about losing it. Leashes are great if you like to take photos from your kayak, fish, or go for swims off your sit on top.