Paddles for kayaks and packrafts – Shovel or spade?

Updated spring 2016

shovelorspadepad-abmrLike most beginners I started my IK-ing with a super cheap 3-piece TNP shovel. After picking up a much better used 2-piece Lendal Archipelago, (which seized up and got recycled), for Shark Bay in 2006 I decided to splash out on a decent light, rigid paddle which at £230 cost more than the Sunny itself: a bent-shaft, adjustable low angle 2-piece, 230cm Werner Camano.
I haven’t tried many paddles but to me bent shafts and an indexed, ovalised grip make ergonomic sense for steady, all-day paddles rather than pulling moves in rapids. It’s just more comfortable for the non-rectilinear human form. I did notice that when I swapped back to the slightly heavier straight Lendal (before it seized up) there was noticeably less flex, but nine years later, the Camano is still in great shape and is still my favourite for kayaking rather than packrafting.
highangleThe Camano is a low-angle paddle, but I think my style, such as it is, is high angle, and in fact I read that high angle is the right way to do it. I find that wide, high-sided and relatively unresponsive IKs encourage or require an energetic ‘digging’ style compared to an easy-gliding hardshell.

What is a packrafting paddle?
Search me. I looked around on the Alpacka forum once but found not real answers. The way I see it, more so than some IKs, a packraft has high and fat sides and you sit low down inside. So that ought to mean a long paddle to get over all that plastic and into the water. Paddling in Scotland with the 220cm, big-faced Aquabound paddle, I didn’t really notice any issues other than squeaking as I rubbed the sides occasionally. Longer would not have made much difference.
paddles3At 2.6kg my latest packraft is an extremely light boat, but it’s not an efficient shape for gliding through water. However, once on the water with me in it, the total weight is nearly the same as a more glidey IK, so it boils down to the need to drag the hull along using a paddle with a large surface area. Some might say a bigger face will mean more yawing, but I figure you just dig less hard and anyway, with practice and a touring load on the bow, yawing is much reduced. Providing you have the strength, a bigger face ought also to give the speed a packraft and IK are short on. There are times (mostly at sea) when speed and power can mean safety.
In the US one time I got myself a  Aqua Bound Manta Ray 4-piece high angle in carbon (below, 220cm) for $180. Weighing under 900g this one feels more flexy than the Camano, but of course fits right in the bag which the others don’t, and so makes a great packrafting or back up paddle – apaddleinyourpack, so to speak. Mine has the plain two-option offset or feather which I run at 45°. Newer ones have the more varied TLC ‘knurled ring’ feathering lock.
mantaray1The compact and light Aqua Bound (70cm longest section, left) is ideal on short day trips with public transport and with no load to haul on the water. It has been fine for packrafting in Scotland and of course makes a great packstaff. I used it again in Australia for sea kayaking as well as packrafting and it was fine for that too. For the price you pay this is a great paddle – so good I sold it to my mate there and bought another. I’ve never seen a 4-part Manta for sale in the UK, but in Germany the Packrafting Store sells TLC Mantas and many other four-parters.
paddles1Not all of my 92kg is belly so, as I have the shoulders to work it, I got a straight, glass-blade Werner Corrywrecken for £200. It’s the biggest paddle Werner do in 210cm+ 2-piece touring paddles, and anyway it’s only got 0.7m2 blades compared to the Camaro’s 0.65m2. At 220cm (same as the Manta Ray) I’ve also gone as short as I dare to get over sides of the Alpacka.
paddles2There’s no indexing on the straight carbon Corry, just a little ovalisation as on the AB. The Corry’s face is a tad bigger than the Manta Ray (right and above) but the whole stick is more rigid (it’s 2-piece of course). It’s 7% lighter than the AB and 17% lighter than the stiffer Camano. I attempted to compare my Corry and Camano in my Incept sea kayak here.
Weights & Measures According to the kitchen scales the weights of these paddles are:

  • Werner Camano 230,  2-piece – 988g – stiffest
  • Werner Corry 220, 2-piece – 816g
  • Aqua Bound Manta Ray 220, 4-piece – 880g – least stiff but still fine

So now I have a long, comfy low-angle Camano for long, loaded IK sea trips; a straight, rigid, light, shorter big-faced Corry for packboating and guests (the Mrs likes it for her IK), and a compact, 4-piece Aqua Bound Manta for travelling.

This entry was posted in Cheap PVC 'slackrafts', Gear, Inflatable Kayaks, Packrafting, Sunny IK, Tech and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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