Canoe paddles are a crucial yet overlooked item of canoeing gear. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much to them. There’s a grip, a shaft, and a blade. 20 years ago that might have been all there was to a paddle, with today’s advances in materials and manufacturing that simply is no longer so. Here are some things to consider with regard to a canoe paddle’s performance as it relates to materials.
Canoe Paddle Performance FeaturesThe material a canoe paddle is made of affects the weight of the paddle, the price of the paddle, the flex or rigidity of the canoe paddle, and the durability of the canoe paddle. And of course, paddle performance affects the overall paddling efficiency.
- Heavier vs. Lighter: A heavier paddle will begin to wear on a canoeist during a long day of canoeing.
- Flexible vs. Rigid: A paddle that flexes is less responsive but will absorb more shock. A rigid paddle is more responsive and allows the paddler to feel the water better during stroke, offering more control.
- Durability: The durability of a paddle will determine if it can take a beating while banging rocks, can be thrown on the ground, or how likely it is to be damaged in storage or transport.
- Price: Price obviously affects the performance of the canoe paddle in that a less expensive paddle is generally a lower performance paddle also. There are creative ways to get a better paddle for your money though. Look online for deals once you know the paddle you want. Also, check to see if anyone is selling one used. As long as they took care of the canoe paddle, there is no problem with buying a used one.
Aluminum Canoe Paddles with Plastic BladesAn aluminum canoe paddle is both durable and economical which make them great spare paddles or good choices for the occasional paddler or the person who plans on leaving their gear outside exposed to the elements. They can be, however, heavier due to the polyethylene (plastic) blade of the paddle. They are also less responsive in feeling the water due to the changing materials from blade to shaft to grip and due to the dampening affect the plastic blade has.
Wood Canoe Paddles
While wood paddles do offer some flex, they are mainly a rigid paddle. Wood paddles do require some maintenance such as sanding and varnishing to ensure they don’t get damaged. They also often have another material of their tip to protecting against banging the paddle on rocks. There are also varying opinions on whether to buy a wooden canoe paddle made of hardwoods or laminates which combine both hard and softwoods and the benefits of each.
Wooden canoe paddles are often viewed as works of art and there is something elegant about paddling with them. For this reason there are shapers and makers that specialize in making custom wood canoe paddles. If you are interested in a wooden canoe paddle it is a good idea to speak with a canoeing outfitter that can further explain the nuances with wooden canoe paddles.