Month: December 2010

PADDLE TO THE PEOPLE

 


If you are not in the alternative mode of propulsion crowd, like the Hobies or Ocean Kayak Torques, to make your kayak move you are going to need a paddle. Though it seems like a very simple item there is a huge disparity between a cheap and a high end paddle. These differences can mean paddling all day in comfort or feeling like you are swinging a log and wearing yourself out. We’re going to look at the different paddle options out there, and how to choose the right one for your style of kayak fishing.

 First let’s break down the main components of a paddle, which are the shaft and the blades. The shaft, for the most part will be made from fiber glass, carbon fiber, or aluminum, can be one or more pieces and come in a variety of lengths. The joint where the segments of a two piece paddle connect is called the ferrule. At the most basic the ferrule will allow you to use the paddle in a straight or feathered orientation. (Feathering a paddle is the ability to offset the angle of the blades to help the blade slice through the wind) On higher end paddles the ferrule will be adjustable allowing you to fine-tune the feathering of the paddle to match your paddling style, and in some models even allow you to adjust the length of the paddle by several centimeters. In the higher end paddles you can also get a paddle with a crank or bent shaft, which much like the curling bar at the gym allows you to hold the paddle in a more ergonomic manner. I personally use a crank shaft paddle and have found that it has relieved the tendonitis I was suffering in my elbows. The Paddle I use is a Werner Kaliste you can learn more about this great paddle here

The blade, consists of the power face which is the side of the paddle blade that catches water when you take a forward stroke, and the back face which is the side of the paddle that gets used for reverse strokes. The blades can be constructed from plastic, fiberglass or carbon fiber. The blades come in a variety of shapes and sizes for different paddling styles and can be symmetrical (square) or asymmetrical (angled) at the ends. The large square blade will catch more water and give more power while an asymmetric blade will allow the paddler to use a much lighter grip, thus causing less fatigue and strain on your body over a long day of paddling. Just remember when using an asymmetric paddle the shorter end of the paddle goes on the bottom not the top. I can’t tell you how many people I see paddling around with their paddle upside down.
In kayaking there are two common, yet very different, paddling styles, Low Angle and High Angle. These styles correlate to the angle of the shaft in relation to the surface of the water. Determining your style of paddling will guide you in selecting the right paddle for you.

Low Angle is the most common paddling style. It is a more relaxed touring style with a slower cadence, much like you will find you are doing while slow trolling your baits. Paddles for low angle paddlers will have longer and narrower blades designed to pull through each stroke with the right amount of surface area for good power while maintaining a smooth forward stroke. This style of paddle will cause the least amount of stress on the body during long days of paddling. Because of the low angle of your stroke you will be able to take long easy strokes and will generally use a paddle from 220 to 240 centimeters.
High Angle paddling is typically a more aggressive powerful style of paddling with a faster cadence than you will use as a low angle paddler. This style of paddling is more typical for kayak surfers where short bursts of power are the norm unlike the constant easy paddling of a distance paddler, which is really what most kayak anglers are doing.

 High angle paddles have short wide blades for a more powerful stroke and will be used in shorter lengths, 205cm – 220cm, to assist in the higher stroke cadence used in this style of paddling.

When it comes to paddle length, you need to take into consideration not only your paddling style but your height and the kayak you will be paddling. You will need a much longer paddle if you are on a high dry super stable sit on top then you will need if you are fishing out of a sit inside kayak.

 The biggest factors dictating the quality and price of a paddle are the materials used in its construction, and the added features such as the adjustable ferrule or bent shaft. The most common paddles are made from fiberglass and plastic/nylon, because they’re durable, they’re affordable, and they perform reasonably well. The highest end paddles are made with carbon fiber. They’re extremely light, strong, and stiff, and they feel great to paddle with. Of course you pay for them.

Blade shape and size is a really a personal preference. Obviously, the bigger the blades, the more powerful your strokes will be, but the more energy it will take out of you and the more stress you will have on your joints.

 So there you have the basics of choosing a paddle. The truth of the matter is that you can get by with pretty much any paddle, as long as it makes your kayak move and will hold up to the abuse. With that said, better paddles are lighter, they’re stronger, they let you get more from each stroke, and they really do feel a lot better in your hands. So once you start paddling more, you’re probably going to want to upgrade to a better paddle. Will a high end paddle make you a better kayak fisherman, NO, but I guarantee if you get one you will be able to paddle longer, farther and in more comfort, particularly when you want to get out on the water for several days in a row.

 It is very difficult to pick out a paddle just by grabbing it off a rack and holding it in your hand. I would suggest getting your paddle from a shop that allows you to demo the paddle on the water, and make sure you demo the paddle on the same kayak you will be using so you get the best feel of how your paddle will match up to your kayak. A good paddling shop will also be able to advise you on the correct paddle for you by critiquing your paddle stroke.

 You can also get some help picking out your paddle on the Werner Paddles web site Paddle Fit guide.  Just answer the questions and it will point you to a recommended paddle. As a note, the fit guide is geared more for sit inside paddlers so you will likely want to bump up the paddle length by about 10 cm over what is recommended. Once you get that good paddle I highly recommend taking a paddling class to ensure you get the most out of your investment.

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Getting your Kayak to the water

Yakima Kayak Trailer in action

A question that comes up often with people investigating entering the sport of kayak fishing is “How do I get my kayak to the beach”?  The answer can vary depending on your vehicle, the length and model of your kayak, the number of kayaks you want to carry and your physical ability to lift your kayak overhead. Thankfully there are several rack manufactures that can address any situation you will run into. One of the top rack manufactures that you will want to look into for your kayak carrying solutions is Yakima.
For those driving a vehicle that has a factory roof rack, the solution can be as simple as putting the kayak upside down on that rack and securing with quality tie down straps with cam buckles. I mention these straps because I have seen way to many people either struggling with ropes and bungees or using straps with ratchets that can cause damage to your kayak or rack because they can be easily over tightened. When you secure your kayak the straps should be snug but not cranked down to the point of distorting the hull of your kayak. Particularly for longer trips an added bow and stern line can be added as extra insurance against a fly away kayak.

If your vehicle does not have a roof rack, the rack you have is not rated for the weight of your kayaks, is too low to carry your kayak upside down or, as is the case on many factory racks, is too narrow to carry more than one kayak you will want to add a cross bar rack system. The nice thing about these rack systems is that you can add accessory mounts so you can carry not only your kayaks but add bikes carriers, luggage pods and more. You can also add saddles, for carrying your kayaks upright, which is more common with glass kayaks, or kayak stackers which allow you to carry your kayaks on edge so that you can carry more kayaks on the rack.

I often hear from people that what is keeping them from getting a kayak is their inability to lift the kayak onto the roof of their car. Thankfully this problem has been addressed by most of the rack manufacturers.  Solutions like the Showboat from Yakima  allow even the smallest person to load their kayak single handedly. The Showboat is an ingenious boat load-assist roller which slides out over the rear of the vehicle for easier access and vehicle protection.  With this system you need only lift one end of the kayak at a time, propping one end on the roller then simply sliding the kayak into position on the rack. These assist type of racks will add a little cost to rack system  but if it gets you using your kayak and not dreading the loading and unloading process it is worth it.

If you are like me a truck is your kayak carrier of choice and thankfully there are many choices for kayak carriers for us truck lovers. For the person that only has one or two 10 foot kayaks, it can be as simple as tossing the kayak in the bed of the truck. The problem arises when we get into shorter bed trucks and longer kayaks. For instance my kayak is just shy of sixteen feet but the bed of my truck is 8 feet, which is a lot of overhang. A great solution for this can be found at Yakima with either The Dry Dock,  a rack that slips into the hitch receiver on your truck or the Outdoorsman.  This easily-installed truck rack system clamps onto truck bed rails without any drilling and gives you an above bed rack keeping the bed clear for other gear. Because I do have to carry multiple kayaks and a lot of gear in the bed of my truck this is the system I prefer. You can add accessory attachments to the cross bars to carry multiple kayaks as is the case on my truck or other items like bikes or cargo pods.  As a side note I also have a spray in liner in my truck to keep rust at bay. I have also added a false bed to my truck so I can slide my rods and paddles underneath and pile my other gear into the bed.

The last solution to kayak transport I will touch on briefly is trailers. Trailers can be an excellent way to carry your kayak and gear. The positives being the ability to keep your kayak fully rigged on the trailer ready to go, no overhead lifting, the ability to carry multiple kayaks without needing a truck to do it. The negatives would be, the need to register the trailer, having to deal with wiring the trailer lights with your tow vehicle and the tight parking situations we run into at the beach.  For many people the positives far outweigh the negatives and you can find some very nice kayak trailers premade by Yakima.  They do come at a premium price starting at $1900 and going up as you add accessories. This is quite a bit more than the other rack solutions mentioned in this article, but they are light enough to be pulled by a small vehicle, equipped with a trailer hitch, and can easily carry multiple kayaks with the right accessories added.  The trailers are prewired and easy to tear down for storage if you don’t want to leave it rigged up and as mentioned before no more overhead lifting of your kayaks.

Here are a couple tips on strapping down your kayak.

  • Use good quality straps with cam buckles only.  DO NOT USE straps with ratchets
  • Loop the strap around the cross-bar of the rack then bring both ends over the kayak and loop around the cross-bar on the other side and cinch down snuggly. The idea here is to pull the kayak straight down onto the rack. The strap should not be wrapped completely around the kayak this will make it tougher to get a snug fit on the rack, and you should never run the straps through the scupper holes of the kayak, this can damage the most vulnerable part of your boat.
  • Replace your straps when they get any nicks or frays in them, begin to feel dried out or when the buckles stop functioning properly. Strap failure could do much worse than destroy your kayak, flying off your roof while running down the freeway could cause a serious problem for the person driving behind you, and you would be responsible.
  • When making long trips, particularly when running down rough roads, make a habit if stopping periodically and checking to be sure your straps have not loosened up.

I hope this gives you some ideas on the different options from transporting your kayak. I am sure one of your local kayak dealers can help you much more in getting the right rack for your needs.