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How to choose your paddle

wooden paddles

Battling sore shoulders and wrists

One of the reasons I make my own paddles is that I want to avoid injures when on the water.

I have spent years adjusting and perfecting the design. I want my paddles to feel like a natural extension of my arms and feet, and not like a heavy and cumbersome piece of equipment that requires unnatural twists to handle. It is when my paddle and my body unite into one that I truly sense and enjoy the solitude of nature and notice all the different fragrances and sounds.

These are the moments when I feel the greatest love for paddling.

Some of the advantages of choosing a Greenland paddle are that it puts less strain on your body. This is partly due to its long and narrow blade design. The blades are also unfeathered, which means that they are positioned in line with each other. Furthermore, the shaft is oval and made of wood. All of this combined will spare you body for unnatural twists as well as your hands for getting cold on a chilly autumn day.

Sea kayak

How to choose the perfect paddle?

— a question that cannot be answered

One of the most common questions my customers ask me is how to choose the right sized kayak paddle. But it is also one of the most difficult questions to answer properly.

The right sized paddle may depend on factors such as your fitness level, your height and what type of paddle you want to use. A Greenland paddle, for instance, is usually longer than the Euro-blade paddle you normally go for. And even when you take into account all of the different factors, you may still have to feel your way to the perfect paddle.

That is why you should not spend too much time on trying to find a magical formula that can reveal to you the exact size of your next paddle. Because such a formula does not exist.

But not to leave you in the lurch, I have put together a couple of pointers which I believe will best guide you in the right direction when choosing a paddle.

Kayak paddle size

You may have heard a rule of thumb stating the following: you determine your paddle size by standing up with your arms stretched above your head. Your paddle size should then equal the distance from the floor to the tip of your fingers. This rule, however, should be taken with a grain of salt as you usually paddle while sitting down – and this makes your leg length less important.

Instead, I recommend that you measure your torso as this help determine how much you will have to stretch your upper body when paddling. Measure your torso by sitting up straight on a flat chair. Then measure the distance from the surface of the chair to the top of your shoulders. This will typically mean the following paddle sizes:

Torso Paddle
55 cm 220 cm
65 cm 222 cm
70 cm 225 cm

Your level of fitness also has a role to play when choosing a paddle:

More athletic paddlers will often choose a longer paddle, while smaller paddlers may choose a shorter one. Women, who generally have less muscle mass than men, will often benefit from choosing a slightly shorter paddle.

Paddlers with wrists or shoulder issues may also benefit from choosing a shorter paddle as a paddle size of 210-215 cm has shown to put little or no strain on wrists and shoulders.

But, as mentioned earlier, these guidelines are only meant to set you off in the right direction. And in the end, I don’t think you should worry too much about the perfect paddle size.

To give an example: should you choose a paddle with an extra 4 cm in length, it only equals an extra 16 cm in area – and this should be compared to the blades total area of 650 cm2.

Kayak paddle

Kayak paddle weight

I recommend a paddle weight between 700 and 1,100 grams.

A paddle which weighs less than 700 grams gets difficult to control when you cannot feel it properly in your hands.

On the other hand, if a paddle exceeds 1,100 grams in weight, it increases the weight you have to move with every stroke – this becomes obvious after a couple of hours on the water.

Kayak blade design

I offer two types of blades among my Greenland paddles:

  • Blade 1, which has two dihedral sides
  • Blade 2, which has one dihedral and one flat side

You will find an illustration of the two different blade designs at the bottom of this page.

No matter which type of blade you choose for your Gram Kajak paddle, the blades will be unfeathered. This means that you won’t have to twist your wrists and shoulders while paddling. It also allows a quieter catch and more effortless exit of the stroke as the blades will always be put in the water in the ideal angle.
Perhaps this is why the Greenland paddle has earned its good reputation as several paddlers with elbow, shoulders and wrists issues have experienced less or no pain having replaced their old paddle with a Greenland paddle.

Greenland stick in wood

Choosing the right blade design?

A distinct quality about Blade 2 is the options it gives you to choose from two different paddling experiences. The flat side provides extra horsepower whereas the dihedral side lets you slow down and take in the natural surroundings. In other words, choosing a paddle with two different sides provides you with two gears and more flexibility.

The distinct blade design, however, can make it harder for new paddlers to control. I therefore mostly recommend this paddle to experienced paddlers. For, even though it may be tempting to choose a paddle that allows a better catch and brings you forward more efficiently, it not only requires more strength with every stroke. It also necessitates the mastering of a proper paddling technique to keep the paddle from wobbling.

Having said that, the proper paddling technique can be learned. As long as you are able to concentrate and maintain a focus on each paddling stroke and as long as the will is there, I am sure you will succeed.

You can find all my paddles here

Gram Kajak

Præstekravevej 28
Studstrup
8541 Skødstrup
Danmark

Tlf: +45  40 26 83 29
E-mail: gram@gramkajak.dk

CVR: 32002285