Kayak paddle blades come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Kayak paddle blade shapes are referred to as asymmetrical, symmetrical, feathered, unfeathered, narrow, wide, long, and short. Each grouping of features will increase performance in a certain area.
A kayak paddle blade with a wider surface area will generate more friction against the water, but the paddle blade will also allow for faster acceleration. This means that you will exert more energy while using a wider, larger kayak paddle blade; but enjoy better performance. This is good to keep in mind, since someone who does more touring kayaking will need more endurance over speed. A slimmer, longer paddle blade will provide less resistance; however, it will require you to pull your kayak paddle more often. All together, you will be less drained on longer paddling trips with a narrow, longer kayak paddle blade.
Types of Kayak Paddle Blades
Kayak paddle blades come in two different blade angles. Feathered kayak paddle blades are angled away from one another, while unfeathered kayak paddle blades, also known as non-feathered, are aligned parallel to one another.
Feathered paddle blades are setup to generate less wind and water resistance. The paddle blade that is out of the water is parallel to the wind currents making it aerodynamic and creating less resistance. Many kayakers who are used to commonly unfeathered paddle blades may find them uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Many companies that manufacture kayak paddles have a remedy. Two piece, and even three piece paddles are adjustable between feathered and unfeathered paddle blade positions; and some multi-piece paddles even allow for different feathering positions, such as 45 degree or 60 degree paddle blade feathering. Another feature of multi-piece paddles is their increased portability. They fold up into smaller sizes to fit where ordinary paddles won’t, which makes them ideal for the kayaker on the move.
Kayak paddle blades are symmetrical or asymmetrical. Normally, touring kayak paddle blades are symmetrical. Touring kayak paddle blades are also longer and slimmer than average kayak paddle blades. Some paddlers find that asymmetrical paddle blades are easier to paddle due to the amount of water on each of the submerged paddle blades being evened out, reducing the amount of wrenching felt in the kayak paddle’s shaft.
A kayak paddle blade featuring a spooned blade face provides increased power in your stroke due to the cupping of the paddle blade. Another style, dihedral kayak paddle blades, causes less strain due to the center of the paddle blade being tapered. This allows water to be directed around the paddle blade, thus reducing friction. The inherit downside to a dihedral kayak paddle blade is reduced strength of your stroke. However, the endurance of your kayaking abilities may prove to be more valuable than the ability to speed up quickly, depending on the type of kayaking you do.
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Written by James Stalker
James Stalker is a licensed kayak teacher and field guide with over 20 years of experience. James fell in love with adventure sports after facing a bout of cancer at a young age. He can be found traveling in some of the corners of the continent almost untouched by nearly anyone else. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.