Choosing the right paddle
As is my attitude with most pieces of equipment, if you feel good, it’s probably right for you. As a friend of mine always says, it’s like someone setting you up with someone on a date, everyone tells you how great a match you are etc so you go in with great expectations to find that you really don’t match. Suggestions on equipment are great to guide in the right directions but you may need to try a few before you find that perfect match. Just like dating.
The main things to know about paddles to guide your selection is the size, length and angle of your blades and shaft. My recommendations are:
- Start out with an adjustable paddle, as you become more in touch with your paddling and feel on the water, you will be able to make tiny changes which could make a world of difference to your training. Everyone has their own preference for angles. For example mine is 63.5 degrees. A weird number I know but I like it so all my paddles are now set at that.
- Length. The general rule of thumb is, the taller the paddler the long the paddle. But to give you some numbers. Women usually paddle between 206cm-208cm Men between 212cm and 214cm. Plenty of paddlers however may paddle significantly shorter or longer.
- When setting up your paddle, place your hands evenly on the paddle with your elbows bent to 90degrees. Best to hold paddle above your head as seen in photo below. Measure the distance between your hands. This should then equal the distance from hand to end of blade. If it’s longer the paddle needs to be shortened. If shorter the paddle needs to be lengthened then hands readjusted. You should be able to break the measurement and hand placement into 3rds. A third from blade tip to index finger, then a third between hands then a third from index finger to tip of other blade.
- Blade angle, this is very much a personal preference. Things to take note however are…. if you are slipping through the water and out to the sit too much, your angle is too small. If you are lifting water at the back of your stroke and feel like your paddle twists at the back of your stroke your angle is probably too big. For those paddlers who like numbers – most common angles are between 60-70degrees. So have a play around, see what works for you. As long as you are moving the blade through the water as mentioned in the paddle stroke tutorial you should get a feel of what angle works pretty quickly.
- Blade size!! This is something I believe is very important, a lot of newer paddlers believe that the stronger you are or the faster you want to go the bigger blade you should have. This is not the case. Skis are fairly heavy or at least cause a lot of resistance through the water due to chop, and plenty of surface area dragging through the water you have to overcome this resistance while you paddle. You also need to keep moving forward so our rating is fairly high. If you have a large blade, your stroke rate is slower for one which is the opposite to what we want to achieve. Two – the more power you are going to have to pull through each stroke to keep moving forward, this load is transferred into your shoulders, lats and core which sounds great, your gonna get an fabulous 6 pack and massive biceps! Buuuutttt this aggressive load over and over while tire you out as well as start to take a toll on your shoulders increasing the chance of injury. Shoulders can handle a lot but why not make it easier on your body while also helping you to improve your performance. A smaller blade means faster rating, more contact with the water, easier to get going after taking a wave on the nose rather than trying to slug the big blade through the water while also not using as Much energy – sounds like the reasonable argument
- Lastly blade shape – This is very personal. Most commonly people use a tear drop paddle for surf ski as it helps you increase your rating easier as it assists with the exit of your paddle stroke while emphasizing the power on the catch. Please try out different shapes, a lot of retailers will have trial blades and will be more than happy for you to take them out for a spin. There is also a neutral shape, similar to the original Lettman Nordic, this blade allows you to move it how you would like it in the water without forcing you in certain directions like the tear drop shaped blades do. However this means you need to be careful and very aware of your paddling path being careful not to pull it back too far in the water as it is a bit more forgiving than a tear drop blade which will often twist and throw you off if you bring it back too far.