The top 5 myths about paddles:
1. “The stiffer the better”.
A shaft that’s too stiff for your biomechanics is very likely to cause shoulder injury, especially if combined with a less than perfect paddle stroke. At the elite end of the game, the shaft stiffness, flex and blade angle is fine tuned to the individual elite paddler so they get the maximum power from the paddle through the power phase of the stroke, and so that the potential energy stored in the flex of the shaft is released at the end of the power phase as the paddler reduces power. Obviously, we can’t all have paddles designed to our individual biomechanics, but we shouldn’t be deceived into thinking that stiffer is better!
2. “of course it floats, it’s a paddle”.
Not always true sadly. Whether paddle floats or not depends on a number of things
How air tight the paddle shaft is. A one piece piece paddle should be fully airtight, and that should mean that the entrapped air provide enough buoyancy for the paddle to float, irrespective of what it’s made of. A two or three piece paddle is more likely to let water in at the connections, and as the air is replaced by water, what the paddle is made of becomes more important. At the top of of paddle quality, a 100% carbon paddle with air or foam core blade will probably float, even if it’s two or three piece. At the bottom of the performance spectrum, an alloy shaft paddle with a plastic blade is almost certainly going to sink fairly rapidly. In the middle of the range, lower percentage carbon or fibreglass shafts with plastic blades are likely to float for a period until they become waterlogged, and that floating period is likely to get shorter over time as the connections deteriorate and take on water.
3. “A bigger blade will make me go faster”
A bigger blade with the same attack angle, same dihedral, same shaft, paddled at the same cadence might generate more speed than a smaller blade, but that also massively depends on the paddler’s ability to maintain a good stroke rate and paddle form, which is difficult if the blade is oversized. The trend in racing is for smaller blades, and we think this is a good thing; we know lots of beginner paddlers who have developed shoulder injuries because of poorly sized blades. and we know lots of larger, very experienced paddlers who have decided smaller blades is right for them. And we’re not going to disagree!
4. “It must be a good paddle because it says it’s carbon”
Low quality carbon is used as marketing by lots of brands. Some brands are even bundling low quality, very low percentage carbon shaft, plastic blade paddles with their packages and calling them carbon paddles. A 10% carbon shaft on a cheap bendy plastic blade is definitely not a good paddle even if it contains the magic word. Even at the higher % carbon, some carbon tubes are better quality than others.
And as the saying goes, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. So just because you can buy a ‘carbon’ paddle for under £100, it doesn’t mean that you should!
5. I can turn my SUP paddle into a kayak paddle/conversion kit
SUP paddle blades are far too big to have on both ends of a double bladed paddle. And any SUP brand that is happy to risk significant customer rotator cuff injury just so they can sell a few more boards, deserves the ire of paddlers. If you’re seriously interested in sitting down paddling, you need to ensure that you buy a board or boat with a knee or foot brace (paddling sat flat without something to brace against is agony for most people), and then but a cheap kayak paddle alongside your SUP paddle. That gives you some redundancy in case of your SUP paddle breaking, and the cheap kayak paddle will have the right sized blades, and not threaten your shoulder.
But we think the whole kayak conversion thing is a marketing gimmick anyway. How many people do you ever see using their SUP as a kayak? We regularly recommend customers not to buy the UP Seat to use with our 12’8 Go Explore board. We’re 99% sure that those customers who haven’t heeded our advice, have never used the SUP seat… but please prove us wrong!
What’s your favourite fallacy about paddles? Tell us in the comments below!
Buy a carbon paddle
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