Are you considering upgrading to a high-end paddle? I believe that getting a high-end paddle will change your paddling. I don't mean getting the most expensive one. But getting the lightest, best possible paddle in your hand will change the way you paddle. Here are some things to consider if you're thinking of upgrading.
Considerations when upgrading to a high-end paddle
Doug asked a really great question, and I think if we generalize it can help others that might be in a similar situation. Doug right now has an average Euro-blade paddle and he's looking to upgrade to a high-end paddle. He doesn't know if he should go with a high-end Euro-blade, or a high-end Greenland paddle.
I believe that getting a high-end paddle will change your paddling. I don't mean getting the most expensive one, what I mean is getting the lightest, best possible paddle in your hand will change the way you paddle. When my wife and I started we had aluminum shaft paddles with plastic blades and they were fine for what we were doing. But when we switched over to carbon paddles all of a sudden it was just so much easier to paddle all day. If you're putting in thousands of strokes on a trip, on a daily paddle, that amount of energy that you're saving for every stroke for the paddle being so much lighter will be returned in terms of endurance, how much you're enjoying yourself, not getting tired, getting to a camp spot and being able to enjoy the rest of the time rather than swinging around a heavy paddle.
While we may think that the difference in weight is not very significant, if you multiply that by the amount of times you take a stroke, it makes a huge difference. The caveat for me is that it does not have to be the most expensive paddle out there.
My wife and I upgraded from our entry-level paddles to top of the line sea kayaking carbon fiber blades and shafts for very little money. The instructors we were working with at the time were upgrading their equipment depending on either testing gear, or gear that was with their fleet – they always had used equipment that they would let go. We ended up coincidentally lining up with our instructors in body sizes. We bought these used paddles from them for I think it was either half or a third of the price of a new paddle, and they felt brand new. They were fantastic, and they've held up just fine through all the years. My wife still uses the same paddle because she loves it, and mine – even though I abused it way more – it still holds up.
So, there might be opportunities for you to upgrade to a much better paddle without having to think about spending a lot of money on them. Don't get me wrong, if you've been saving for a particular one and you want a brand new paddle, by all means, go for it but. However, if you are having doubts about whether or not you should upgrade your paddle you don't need a lot of money to do so and it will help your paddling a lot.
Now, to Doug's point, he's debating if he should get a paddle in a style he already owns and knows, or goes for a new style. I would say in that situation, if you can, usually go for the upgrade first. The main reason is that if you're really comfortable with a specific style of paddle, getting the same type of paddle upgraded (as long as it you well and it's the right one for the style of paddling that you're doing) will help with your paddling.
On the other hand, I know of many cases – friends, people I've come across or met at events that have gotten a high-end paddle that was in a new style to try it out and then they ended up not liking it. They usually purchased the paddle because of maybe really good reviews, people around them, or their friends really liked the paddle. But after testing it out they realized it wasn't for them. So my advice if possible is to not go for a high-end paddle that you've never tried before or are unsure if you will like it. If you can try to find a buddy, or go to a store or event, see if you can test one out and if you get the chance don't just test it for five minutes, test it for longer.
For example, with my group, everyone had different styles – different things they liked. Bigger blades, smaller blades, bent shafts, straight shafts, and every so often we would switch paddles around or if someone bought something new we'd always share it around the group so that everyone could get a feel for it. A lot of times you might like something that someone else doesn't.
Similarly, when I dove into Greenland paddling I had several paddling buddies that had made their own paddles and swore by them. So I took the opportunity to test and try lots of other people's Greenland paddles before I decided that I wanted to get a high-end, carbon two-piece because I knew I was going to like it I had tried it. Then I was also absolutely sold once I tried one during a pool rolling session. I knew that was going to be for me, so I went for it, but there have been many cases where I've been told by people “hey, I recently got this new paddle, I don't really like it or I don't know what the fuss was all about. It just didn't work out for me”
So, if possible, when trying a new style like a Greenland paddle see if anyone around you has something similar to what you're looking for and test that out first. Secondly, I’d say make sure that if you're going to get something high-end, that it is indeed fitted for you. That it's the right length, it's the right size, it's the right weight, the right materials.
I hope the main takeaways around upgrading to a high-end paddle are these:
- A lighter or better paddle can improve your paddling – you will have a better time on the water. Just make sure that the type of paddle and materials are suited for the type of paddling you're going to be doing.
- You don't have to spend a lot of money to upgrade to a great paddle. Friends, instructors, outfitters nearby, they might be trying to sell used equipment that is in good condition and that way you can get something that's fantastic for not a lot of money.
- If possible, talk to someone knowledgeable that can help you make sure that a paddle is fitted to your body, kayak and style of paddling you're going to be doing – as well as the right materials.
- Lastly, I would recommend not spending a lot of money on a style of paddle that you've never paddled before. If you can, test it out in advance. If you're thinking of getting into Greenland paddling, maybe you can give carving a paddle a shot – or maybe one of your buddies that knows how to work with wood can help you carve one.