One piece of equipment that every kayaker needs to have is a decent kayaking paddle. There are so many types of kayak paddles available on the market that the choices can be overwhelming. However, a few guiding principles can make finding the best paddle a breeze.
Two of the major types of kayak paddles are the European style paddle and the Greenland paddle. The European style paddle is the one most commonly seen in use today, and has a long cylindrical shaft and two roughly oval-shaped flat blades, one at each end of the shaft. The blades may be aligned with each other in the same plane, or they may be tilted with respect to each other. For example, one paddle blade may be tilted 45 degrees relative to the other blade.
This is called “feathering”, and reduces the effect of wind blowing on the paddle blade that is in the air while the other blade is being stroked through the water. Since the blades are not lined up in the same plane, the paddle blade in the air is not facing into the wind, but cuts through it sideways. Many European style paddles are adjustable so that the amount of feather can be changed. Popular paddle manufacturers such as Werner, for example, make paddles that can adjust in small degree increments for up to 60 degrees of feathering.
Another feature of the European type kayak paddle is the drip ring. Each kayak paddle has two of these rubbery rings that are positioned around the shaft near where the blades are attached. The drip rings prevent water on the paddle blades from dripping down the shaft to the kayaker’s hands during paddling. This keeps the kayaker’s hands much drier and more comfortable. Even though the paddler’s hands will probably still get wet, at least they are not constantly being soaked by cold water. The drip rings should ideally never enter the water, so that only the part of the paddle that is past the drip rings, which includes only the blade and a small part of the shaft, gets wet.
The Greenland paddle looks quite different from a European style paddle and is less often seen in use today. They are harder to find in stores as well, and are more of a specialty item sought out by kayakers who prefer them over the European paddles. A Greenland paddle has a shaft that is blended into the blades. Actually, it can be difficult at first glance to distinguish which part of the Greenland paddle is the blade and which is the shaft.
The paddle looks more like a long shaft that has been flattened at the ends. Many kayakers prefer the different paddling style that this design affords, and the paddle is well suited to performing rolls since it can be grasped anywhere along its length. Even though Greenland paddles are harder to find for sale, you can still find online retailers that carry them. You can also have the pleasure of trying out this unique paddle.
Larry Kang is a writer on outdoor recreation topics such as hiking, kayaking, and nature photography. Learn more about kayak paddles at Kayaks and Kayaking..
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