How To Choose The Right Paddle

By Kim Hawkins

Is the paddle you’re using the right one for you?

When you select a paddle, we recommend that you get the lightest, most efficient one that your budget will allow for.

Your paddle can be more important than your board, it’s what propels you forward, and ensures you have good form, and are engaging your core.

If you have wrist, shoulder, or back issues, there are paddles and features that are important for you to know: e.g., Werner’s bent shaft is designed for these issues, and a light paddle sized to fit you, will make a huge difference, e.g., Quickblade’s VDrive or Trifecta.

Our preferred paddle manufacturers are:

Quickblade

Is owned and run by Jim Terrell, known as the ‘mad scientist’ for his innovative ideas.  Jim is a three time Olympic Champion in Canoe Sprint Racing. We have found Quickblade paddles to be super light, attractive, efficient, and the customer service is exceptional.  Jim has visited Downunder several times to lead clinics, and we have been to his factory in CA, to see first-hand how the paddles are designed and manufactured.

Werner

One of the first paddle companies, Werner specialized in kayak and canoe paddles. Now they’re moved onto paddleboarding and outrigger paddles. Werner has a great reputation and also have excellent customer service. Their designs vary some from Quickblade, but you will learn that each company has a reason behind what they are doing, and it comes down to your personal preference. One paddle in particular Werner makes that I like, and use, is the Bent Shaft.  The image shows how the paddle is ergonomically designed to take the stress of your wrists and back.  The bend allows you to reach with little effort.

Kialoa

Kialoa started in Hawaii with outrigger canoe paddles, then moved to the Oregon mountains where they make paddles for all waterways, and activities. Also design motivated, Kialoa are renowned for not cutting corners, and making a high quality product. We particularly like their Keiki, a small paddle designed for kids that is light, made of fiberglass, with a fiberglass and plastic blend blade that will survive the beating kids can provide!

Sawyer – Paddles and Oars

American Craftsmanship since 1967 (with the Smoker™ Brand going back to the 1930’s)

In business since 1967 Sawyer offers a full line of modern and traditional products for oarsmen, canoeists, kayakers, surfers and paddlers of all genres. They design and handcraft every product in Talent, Oregon USA (sensing a theme here…) We love their wooden paddles – they’re beautiful, in include Douglas fir, Ponderosa Pine and Walnut racing stripes.

There are many great paddle companies out there, and most SUP companies make their own. At Downunder, we only have space for a few, and we don’t want to confuse our customers.

Here’s what we look for in our paddles:

  1. Materials:
  • Carbon fiber is the lightest material used in construction paddles, and boards. It’s also the most fragile, so you want to treat this paddle carefully, and consider a paddle bag, or a blade cover. An uncut paddle is going to be the lightest, not having the adjustable feature, there is less weight, also – there are less things to break or lose. Carbon fiber is black, and has a weave going through it.
  • Fiberglass is light, and strong. Many paddles have a combination of both. The handle and shaft might be carbon, but the blade, which takes the brunt of paddling (hitting the board, the ground etc,) may be fiberglass. You can tell something is fiberglass, because it’s all black, or colored, and doesn’t have the weave. The label on the product should tell you as well.
  • Aluminum – unless you are really strong, and paddling in good conditions, we do not recommend aluminum. It is heavy, and most often will sink if dropped in the water.  It is also more conductive than the other materials, so if you are in a lightning storm, you are at the greatest risk.
  1. Paddle Features
  • Shape of the shaft – oval or round, tapered or not. Quickblade’s V-Drive and Trifecta come in a round or oval construction. The oval can help you to know where the paddle is facing. They also have the option of a tapered shaft, meaning that the top of the shaft is smaller than the bottom.  The V-Drive has a double dihedral on its back face (or power side,) which allows the water to peel off quickly. This paddle has a fast cadence, particularly if you get a good catch.  The Trifecta has more of a rectangular shape vs the V-Drive teardrop, this gives it more power in the middle of the stroke.  Both are excellent racing paddles, or paddles for the person that wants to expend the least amount of effort with the greatest return.
    • Werner has a bent shaft, available in a variety of constructions, but that has to be sized at the factory. This shaft allows you to get a greater reach without having to extend your arm as far, taking the stress out of your wrist, arm, shoulder and back.
  • Dimensions of the blade. The surface area of the blade is important to note so that you don’t get a blade that is too large or small for the paddler.  83” and less is ideal for your lighter paddler 150lbs and less.  66” and less for children.  Paddles over 90” are for larger strong paddlers that want to move a lot of water.  I actually like a larger blade, as I prefer to have a slower cadence and move more water per stroke.  Blades come in a variety of shapes.  Quickblade tends to favor the teardrop which gives you a clean catch.  Werner a longer blade, more like the Trifecta, giving you more power in the middle of the stroke. Kialoa and Sawyer lean more towards the teardrop as well.

Every paddle company has its own engineering genius, and they have a reason behind every design feature you see in their paddles.  Going to their website and reading about the company and the features of the paddles, will help you to understand where they are coming from, get a feel for the personality and history of the company, and make an educated decision.

If there is anything that we can do to help, just stop in or give us a shout.

Happy and safe paddling!