The size of your whitewater kayak paddle is a key factor in choosing the one that will perform the best for you. There are a few things that affect that choice…
(Photo courtesy of Kate Wright)
First, what makes a whitewater kayak paddle different from a recreational or touring paddle?
The key difference is prioritizing durability over weight. For touring, the lighter the paddle the better for hours or days on the water. Even for rec kayaking, we always suggest going as light as your budget allows (lighter materials are higher quality, and therefore cost more).
But for whitewater, durability is paramount, with quick cadence and efficiency not far behind. Whitewater paddle shafts are somewhat thicker to provide the extra strength needed to stand up to the rugged conditions of whitewater use. The blades need to be tough and responsive.
To correctly size a whitewater kayak paddle there are a few things to think about.
How Tall Are You?
For whitewater, the boat’s width isn’t as important as it is with touring and rec kayaking. Instead, your height plays a more critical role in your size decision.
Here’s a chart for reference:
What Type of Whitewater?
Many paddlers prefer a shorter paddle for playboating or freestyling. These are fairly interchangeable terms that describe the “artsy” side of whitewater kayaking—surfing the big whitewater waves or using a river’s features for tricks.
If this is the type of whitewater you love, consider a paddle slightly shorter than shown on the above chart. A shorter paddle is easier to maneuver during spins and flips.
A longer paddle is better for river running and creeking. Running a big and fast river or a narrower and more technical creek also involves a high degree of skill and experience. A paddle that’s a few centimeters longer makes it easier to keep your kayak in line and moving in the direction you want it moving.
No matter what style kayak you have and where you fit on the above chart, it’s always a good idea to try out a few paddle sizes and types before you commit.
On-water demos held by retailers are always a good way to try before you buy. Or get with a local whitewater club and see if a few of the members will let you borrow their paddles to check them out.
NOTE: Kayak paddles, as tough as they are, aren’t immune to breaking under the right conditions. Experienced whitewater kayakers always keep an extra paddle stowed inside their kayak. Be prepared for the unexpected with one of our 4-piece whitewater paddles you can use as a backup.
Aqua Bound’s Whitewater Kayak Paddles
We have two families of whitewater kayak paddles: our Shred and our brand-new, award-winning Aerial.
The Shred family is a high-quality line that’s mid-range in price. It includes:
- Shred Fiberglass 1-piece or 4-piece with fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades and a fiberglass shaft. Sunset Red blades.
- Shred Hybrid 1-piece or 4-piece with fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades and a carbon shaft. White blades.
- Shred Carbon 1-piece or 4-piece with carbon-reinforced nylon blades and a carbon shaft. Black blades.
- Shred Apart is a dual-purpose whitewater paddle that can be used as one kayak paddle or taken apart to be used as two canoe paddles with the included grips. It features carbon-reinforced nylon blades and a carbon shaft. Black blades.
Aqua Bound’s Shred Hybrid whitewater paddle
The Aerial is our premier whitewater paddle, new for 2024. We’re thrilled that Aerial Carbon just received the 2024 Best Paddle award from Paddling Magazine at the time of this writing (11/23).
Aerial is a large family with two major branches: Major and Minor (describing the blade shape).
Kayakers who are larger in stature, in excellent paddling shape or require extra surface area for highly responsive and aggressive maneuvers will gravitate to the Major models.
The Minor models are designed for small-to-medium-stature kayakers or those who look for maximum efficiency.
Both Major and Minor include these options:
- Aerial Fiberglass Straight Shaft 1-piece with aramid-reinforced fiberglass blades we call Lam-Lok and a straight carbon shaft.
- Aerial Fiberglass Versa-Lok™ Straight Shaft 2-piece or 4-piece with aramid-reinforced fiberglass blades and a straight carbon shaft. The Versa-LokTM ferrule system allows for up to 5 cm of length adjustability.
- Aerial Fiberglass Crank Shaft 1-piece with aramid-reinforced fiberglass blades and a crank (bent) carbon shaft.
- Aerial Fiberglass Versa-Lok™ Crank Shaft 2-piece or 4-piece with aramid-reinforced fiberglass blades, a straight carbon shaft and our Versa-LokTM ferrule system.
- Aerial Carbon Straight Shaft 1-piece with aramid-reinforced carbon blades and a straight carbon shaft. Black blades.
- Aerial Carbon Versa-Lok™ Straight Shaft 2-piece or 4-piece with aramid-reinforced carbon blades, a straight carbon shaft and our Versa-LokTM ferrule system. Black blades.
- Aerial Carbon Crank Shaft 1-piece with aramid-reinforced carbon blades and a crank (bent) carbon shaft. Black blades.
- Aerial Carbon Versa-Lok™ Crank Shaft 2-piece or 4-piece with aramid-reinforced carbon blades, a straight carbon shaft and our Versa-LokTM ferrule system. Black blades.
Aqua Bound’s Aerial Fiberglass whitewater paddle (photo courtesy of Mac Sandberg)