I know there are a lot of inexpensive recreational kayaks and cheap stand-up paddleboards being sold that include a paddle. That’s such a shame because the people receiving these kayaks and SUPs are really being short-changed. You want to have the best paddle you can possibly afford – even if it costs more than your boat/board. For many recreational kayakers, their paddle will cost more than their kayaks because you should plan to spend no less than $200 and if possible, more like $300-400. Lighter is better. Kayakers will take upwards of 800-1000 strokes for each mile paddled. Every extra ounce adds up. At a minimum, you may be lifting an extra 60 lbs per mile. More likely, you are hoisting an unnecessary extra 200-400 lbs per mile with your cheaper, heavier paddle.
Some cheap paddles are fairly light, but that may be because they are made of very flimsy aluminum and plastic. Thin, plastic blades that flex are inefficient and waste the effort that you are putting into your stroke. In other words, you are taking extra strokes to cover a mile when compared with a well-built and well-designed paddle.
Ideally, you want a carbon paddle, but if that is too cost-prohibitive, look at good fiberglass paddles. Werner Paddles makes several very good paddles suitable for recreational, sea, and whitewater kayaking as well as carbon and fiberglass SUP paddles. Don’t worry about durability. Carbon fiber paddles are very durable. I, and most of my paddling companions, have used carbon for years with no breakage or damage beyond your basic scratches and dings. You can check out a few of my paddle recommendations on the Amazon.com Local Associates Page for Fox River Paddle Sports.
I’m sure that many of you reading this are thinking, “No way a paddle makes that much difference.” If you don’t believe me, find someone who has a really good paddle and ask to take it out for a quick 100 strokes and see what you think. I have lots of experience teaching all kinds of paddlers, and I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t immediately feel the advantage of a good paddle. If you have someone who is looking to spend a bit more for a nice Christmas present for you, now is the time to start dropping some hints about that carbon fiber paddle you really want. 🙂