How to Choose a Paddle
If the paddle is for your use only it should be cut to suit your height and arm length. If the paddle is for the whole family, an adjustable paddle is your best option. A paddle sized for a 6’2″ person will be very awkward for a 5’3″ person to use. Too long of a paddle has been attributed to shoulder strain and injury.
Carbon Fibre or Fibreglass? Carbon fibre paddles are lighter, stiffer and are usually more expensive. Fibreglass paddles are more flexible, a little heavier and typically more affordable.
Recommendations: I would recommend a fibreglass paddle to somebody with shoulder issues. It’s flex is forgiving and helps absorb energy, taking away strain from the shoulder. I would recommend a carbon fibre Paddle to somebody that likes the lightness and stiffer action that it offers.
Why? The Myth is that a carbon fibre paddle is stronger. Yes and No. Carbon fibre has higher tensile strength than fibreglass, but fibreglass has higher shear strength than carbon fibre. What does that mean? A carbon fibre paddle’s shaft will be the first to snap in half under pressure. It has little flex. But, if you hit a carbon fibre blade with a hammer, it will be less affected than a fibreglass blade. It has more flat impact strength.
Shape of the Blade, Shaft and Handle
Blade A paddle blade with a slight dihedral is very important. Dihedral is like a V or spine that tapers down toward the tip of the blade giving the water a direction to release. A flat paddle will flutter under pressure because it gives the water no direction to move and no clean release.
Shaft I prefer an oval shaft. It tends to grip rather than roll or slide across the fingers.
Handle I like a contoured handle over a tee handle. It spreads out pressure and fits the palm and fingers.