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Hey everyone,

I just recently got a kayak and I'm looking for a good paddle. I've kayaked before, but never had my own gear. I've read that the fiberglass paddles are supposed to be pretty good, but I don't know any brands or well...anything about it. I will mostly be kayaking mellow areas.
Any suggestions?

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Hi Melissa,
I like werner paddles: they last a long time and don't seem to develop problems at the joint. The progression is aluminum, fiberglass, carbon, and carbon foam core (top of line). I was delighted for years with a my fiberglass Werner shuna blade paddle...still have & use it with my wider boats. Then when I bought my first touring kayak, I upgraded to a Werner Cypress foam core. Now my fiberglass feels heavy. Paddle selection depends on what you are willing to spend, whether you are a high or low angle paddler, on width of boat, blade and shaft size preference...and if you are into matching your boat & paddle color. Some of the sites that sell paddles have tools to assist you with selection.
A paddle is a great investment. My paddles tend to stick around longer than my boats! Diane explained the general progression of materials well, although there is an argument to made for fiberglass over carbon fiber, in that it has more flex and an actually have a very nice feel in the water. Good quality wood paddles can be nice too, thought they tend to be a bit heavy.

As far as brands, i'm a pretty loyal Werner guy. Strong, well built, well balanced. They aren't the cheapest, but treated well it'll be a paddle you use for many, many, many years.

A good shop will likely have some demo paddles, so try a few out before you buy, if you can. If not, see if there is a local club paddle you could go on, and ask some other paddlers if you could swap with them for a few minutes. Paddle choice is a personal choice, and it's best to try a few and see what fits.
One of the best equipment finds I made when I started kayaking was Onno Paddles. They cost a lot less than the most expensive brands but are very well designed, very light, very strong, and are custom made for you. Patrick who makes the paddles runs the business with just the help of his wife, so there is very little overhead. You can talk to Pat and he will make a paddle to suit you. It takes a little bit of time, but the end product is really worth it. You can get a custom carbon paddle that is fairly affordable, and Pat will give you the best advice going from his experience. I visited Pat's shop a few times when he lived here in San Diego, he has moved to the Big Island, but still makes and sells quality paddles at a decent price.

http://www.onnopaddles.com/
Thanks for all of the advice, I really appreciate it!
Just my two cents:
As suggested already, do test drive first as paddles are a very personal item; as to what is best it is very subjective.
A lot depends on how much paddling you will do. A two mile afternoon splash around once or twice a month, and it can be pretty tough to really justify spending a lot more money to shave off a couple of ounces of weight. On the other hand, after a hundred miles or so, I would be pretty much willing to pay any difference to save even an ounce or two of weight, or to have just a slightly smoother and more efficient stroke.
Glass paddles are often cited as being the "best overall" in terms of quality/cost comparisons. They are relatively light, and quite strong, and of moderate cost. Carbon fiber is a bit lighter, a bit less durable, and a lot more expensive, but they do have a more positive bite on the water due to their stiffness. Both materials are well suited to high quality, long term paddling pleasure.
At this point in time, I would have to say that I would agree with Geoff on Werner paddles... really nice paddles.
JB
Thanks for the great suggestion of test drivig a few first...I did go on the Werner site and they had a helpful paddle match tool. Has anyone tried the bent paddles and if so how do they compare to the straight...are they comfortable?
Hey Melissa,
Bent shaft paddles are quite "comfortable", as they are designed more ergonomically correct for your arms and wrists to paddle with. As far as comparison, they offer a slight increase in stroke efficiency and less wear and tear on your joints. They also are not as inherently strong, and thus need to be beefed up a bit (a slight weight increase). My humble opinion on them is that while I buy nothing but bent shaft paddles, they are probably not worth it for most casual paddlers. They make a ton of sense if you:
-paddle a LOT (in which case you'll find that any ergonomic gain is worthwhile)
-are looking at long expeditions
-more serious paddling, such as racing or freestyle... etc
-have any existing joint issues, bad shoulders or wrists, inflammation etc...
-or if you're just really picky : )
At the very least, they are worth playing around with so that you can compare how they feel to you... then you can decide weather or not they make sense.
JB
I think this illustrates why testing a few is a great idea. I love bent shaft paddles for touring and sea kayaking, but have never gotten used to the feel of them for WW. I'm sure if I just bought one and used it for a few trips I'd get used to it, but I love my straight shaft WW paddles. And so far, with the amount and type of paddling I do I've avoided any join issues.

that said, if I was ordering a sea kayak paddle today, it'd be bent.
I've been a big fan of werner paddles. From a quality standpoint they are excellent. From a marketing standpoint they kind of have a corner on the market so they are readily available. You paddling style determines length and blade style. I tend to be a high-angle paddler, so my paddles are shorter 210-215 cm and my body can carry a larger paddle face which pushes a lot of water. Most big box stores only carry long 235+ cm paddles, so most beginning paddlers start with these timber-long, shoulder munching, leverage monsters. Longer paddles tend to cater to paddlers with a lower angle stroke. I also feel that the shorter paddles force the user to use more of their torso for rotation and less arms.

I've also had some good experiences with Lendal paddles. Their interesting locking mechanism allows you to swap out various blades. You can go from various size touring, wing and racing blades with one turn of the lock. Paddles are super solid. They are typically pricer than the Werners, but you can use one shaft and multiple blades, so you get a 3-1 deal instead of buying multiple paddle.

I'm a big fan of spending a few extra dollars on paddles. You body will thank you at the end of the day. You can have a dog for a boat, but dipping a paddle a ten's of thousands of times in an outing will impart the most abuse on your body.

Werner and Lendal tend to be higher end cost paddles, but Aquabound, and Harmony also produce medium priced but heavier paddles. Carlsile has also been producing a ligher fiberglass/carbon paddle that is cost effective and light. A friend purchased one of these paddles online at a clearance price of $160.

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