Kayaking can be a lot of money when you have to get all of the stuff in the beginning, BUT a lot of folks will point out that you’ll get a lot of miles out of all that stuff. When you stop and add it all up years down the road, it’s pretty small change for the amount of enjoyment you’ll get from it. Some items just seem so pricey though, I see a lot of eyes roll when the flip the price tag over on a new foam core, carbon bent shaft, auto rolling, turbo powered paddle for example. Do I really need the $400 paddle, and is it that much better than the $200 paddle???
A fairly standard question, without a standard answer I’m afraid. On one hand, YES, that $400 paddle is at least twice as good as that $200 one. On the other hand, NO that fancy paddle will NOT make you go faster or roll your kayak easier… what will make a difference is how you use that paddle (old beat up clunker, or fancy smooth new one). Here is how I see it: if you take a $200-$300 paddle and use it to it’s fullest you are going to get a lot more out of it than if you were to buy a $400-$500 one and barely dip tip in the water… In many ways it IS so simple, plant the full paddle in the water and you’ll get way more power from it…. DUH! Oh, but you’d be surprised just how many paddlers out there don’t take full advantage of that simple concept (or full advantage of that $$$$ new paddle). You might even be surprised to realize how many dollars you’ve wasted on your paddle even! Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and if you’re blissful in your paddling maybe you don’t really want to read any further….
Ok, if you’re still curious let’s take a look at your paddling and see how much of that paddle you’re actually using… and how much of it is being wasted nearly every time you use it.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The best way to see is to have a friend take video of you paddling towards them, then you can watch that video in slow motion and take a look at two main things: how much of the paddle blade is visible, and how much splash is being generated by the paddle. With respect to both of these strive for the phillosophy that LESS IS MORE. In the absence of a video camera (or if you ruined it by splashing too much water all over it), you can rely on the purely subjective critique of a good friend (or better yet a NOT so good friend). When looking at the paddle blade, it’s really the backside of the blade that will be most visible if the paddle isn’t planted all the way in the water (you’ll have a hard time seeing it while you’re paddling). Often times the power face will be covered with water even when not fully planted, this is because of the tendency of the paddle to splash water up against the face of the blade as it’s pulled through a stroke. This does have a major negative impact in how much “oomph” you’ll get out of a stroke, so it’s worth checking it out and working on getting a more efficient stroke. I’ll bet you discovered that you weren’t getting the full dollar value of your paddle on all of your strokes. In teaching beginning classes I’ve seen that pretty much 100% of all first timers don’t get the full blade in the water, and probably only 50% or so of intermediate level paddlers get the “full pull” on all strokes. So here are a couple of things to get more bang for your buck on each and every stroke: -WInd up. Turn your torso so that your muscles are wound up and stretched to build some power up for your stroke. -Plant. Yep stick that expensive stick in the water, ALL the way in the water until you cannot see any paddle blade above water. -Release. With your body wound up and the paddle firmly planted, push your feet past the paddle releasing all that tension built up in your torso. The key to all the above is the specific order of events that is all happening in a short window of time. Often these get kind of blurred together, and put to use a bit out of sequence. For example, one of the most common issues is that the paddler will be already starting to pull the paddle through the stroke before it’s been completely planted; this causes the paddle blade to essentially skip along the surface of the water, but never really lock in a solid position in the water. This is of course not a complete detailed look at each and every stroke and how to make it work, but the very basic 3 point order of events will stay roughly the same. Oh yeah, and back to that original question about weather or not that $400 paddle is that much better than the $200 paddle? Yes, absolutely… but only if you use it to it’s fullest capabilities!!! -JB…