Recently, I have been reminded of something that I always made it a point to say to my customers when I was selling kayaks, as well as to my kayaking students. That is, always get the best paddle you can afford. If you have to save money when buying a kayak, don’t look to do it by getting the cheap paddle. My first exposure to the sport of kayaking was back in 1988. I was a canoeist, but my husband talked me into taking a 3-hour kayaking course. Believe it or not, at the end of that class, I was not in the least bit interested in switching over to kayaking. Why? Well, in hindsight, it was the equipment I was given to use, especially the paddle. The students in this class were given what I now know to be the cheapest, heaviest, clumsiest aluminum and plastic paddle available. It was the kind that looks like two cheap canoe paddles on each end of an aluminum shaft and currently costs about $40. It was heavy and awkward and completely inefficient at moving a kayak. At the end of a mere three hour class in which we probably only paddled about 1.5 hours, my arms and shoulders were tired and sore. I politely told my husband that I would be sticking to my canoe. Fast forward 7 months. My husband came home with a brand new Current Designs Solstice SS and a beautiful, lightweight fiberglass paddle to go along with it. As long as it was sitting there on the shore, I naturally decided to give it a try. My reaction to kayaking was completly different. The paddle, besides being light, was well balanced and designed for efficient movement in the water. I bought my first kayak that summer. That first plastic sea kayak only cost me about $600, but the fiberglass paddle I bought to go with it was close to $200 even back in 1989. I knew better than to skimp on the paddle. Back then, I put my kayak in storage for the winter. My paddling muscles would get a bit flabby before the next spring. One year in March, we took a trip to California and spent a day kayaking on Monterey Bay. I was given a Werner Little Dipper paddle to use with my rented kayak. After several hours on the water, it occurred to me that I wasn’t feeling the usual soreness in my neck and shoulders that typically accompanied my first kayaking trips of the season. Once again, it was the paddle that was making the difference. As soon as I got back to Wisconsin, I ordered a Werner Little Dipper. I still have that paddle, although I’ve had to do some repair work on it after driving over it in the garage. I hadn’t used it for several years when I grabbed it hastily this spring for a quick paddle on Wind Lake. As I paddled effortlessly on a sunny spring afternoon, I remembered why I bought this paddle so many years ago and reaffirmed my commitment to tell everyone how important it is to buy the best, lightest, and most efficient paddles they can afford. Unfortunately, the design of my Little Dipper paddle is not the same as the current version of the Little Dipper, so I guess I’m going to have to be more careful with it. As they say in the A-1 Steak Sauce commercials, “It’s that important.”
Time to go paddling!