If you’re a beginner at kayaking, one of the big questions that occur to you may be whether kayak paddles float or not. It’s a good question because paddles are probably the most important tool you have while on the water. So, do kayak paddles float?
Most kayak paddles available on the market today are buoyant and float in water. However, there are several factors that can affect a paddle’s buoyancy, such as its material, weight, and shape. Additionally, disturbances in the water can also affect how well a paddle floats on water.
In this article, I’ll provide you with more information about how kayak paddles float. I’ll also let you know what factors affect their buoyancy.
Factors That Affect a Paddle’s Buoyancy
Paddles are essential tools that every kayaker should use for propelling the boat. In the past, they were usually made of materials that weren’t so buoyant. However, almost all paddles float today. That said, there are different degrees of how well a paddle will float.
There are several factors that affect a paddle’s buoyancy. These include:
The weight and overall density of a paddle can have a significant impact on how much it floats. Generally, cheaper and more budget-friendly paddles weigh more. Kayak paddles typically weigh between 1.5 to 4 pounds (0.68 to 1.81 kg).
If a paddle weighs more than 2 pounds (0.91 kg), it’s considered heavy.
Swing weight is another significant factor besides the actual weight of kayak paddles. It’s the weight you feel when you use a paddle to propel your kayak. Factors that affect swing weight include water resistance, gravity, surface area, and up/downswing.
As a result, two paddles with the same weight may have different swing weights, especially if the paddles also vary in size and shape. For example, a bigger blade can move more water in one stroke, which causes more swing weight.
So, what does a paddle weight have to do with its floating?
The answer is simple – the heavier a paddle, the more gravity works on it.
When it comes to the swing weight, floating depends on the setting. For instance, it may take more strength to row if there is greater water resistance, but it also likely means that the paddle floats well.
Another vital factor affecting the floating of a kayak’s paddle is the material it’s made of. In the past, paddles were made of wood because wood floats well. Today, however, manufacturers build kayak paddles out of materials such as aluminum, fiberglass, plastic, or a combination of different materials.
Some paddles feature aluminum in their shaft in the form of hollow tubes of various thicknesses and filled with cork or foam. These tubes prevent water infiltration and help the paddle float. Such paddles usually have plastic blades that allow them to float, as well.
They’re pretty low in price, but their buoyancy may disappoint you. They’re not too light, and the plastic blades may come off, too, leaving you helpless in water – sounds frustrating, right?
Fiberglass is another common material used in paddles. Although it’s robust and durable, it’s not much lighter than aluminum. Like the aluminum ones, such paddles also have plastic blades – however, they float better than the aluminum options.
That said, while they can float for a while, they’ll gradually get waterlogged and sink. This issue worsens over time, and as the connections weaken, water gets in faster. However, they’re budget-friendly and can be a decent starter option for beginners.
Some fiberglass paddle shafts feature carbon blades which are super light and still very durable. Such a combination may get higher in price, but performance and buoyancy increase too.
The best of all paddle materials is carbon fiber. It’s incredibly light and durable. Although the paddles made of carbon fiber are more expensive than others, they’re worth the price, especially if you spend a long time on the water or have shoulder or wrist problems.
Some carbon shaft paddles come with plastic blades, but those made of solid carbon are the lightest paddles that exist. Professional kayakers are willing to invest in them because they know how a lightweight paddle can benefit them.
Carbon paddles float well and won’t sink if you leave them on their own. When you spend a long time in water paddling, you’ll get tired and need to rest for a while now and then. A carbon paddle allows you to stop rowing without worrying about them sinking.
If you’re looking for carbon fiber paddles, I recommend the YVLEEN Paddle. These paddles can be separated freely, are height adjustable, and have an ergonomic design so that you’re comfortable while using them.
The shape of kayak paddles is another crucial factor to consider if buoyancy matters to you – specifically, the shape of blades.
Today, paddles come in a variety of shapes, each of which is meant for different users and different goals. The bigger the paddle’s blade, the more surface area it has, and the better it floats as a result.
While the symmetrical design of basic paddles, like the ones used in canoeing, makes them float better, such a shape isn’t optimal for kayaking. So, most kayak paddles are asymmetrical in their blades.
They’re narrower at the bottom, allowing them to cut better through the water surface and offer a more even push.
While such a design of paddle blades enhances their performance, losing symmetry may reduce buoyancy. This is a problem even in some high-end kayak paddles and can lead to them sinking. However, this will take a while, and you should have enough time to prevent this and save your paddle.
Feathering also plays a role in how well a kayak paddle floats. Feathering refers to which angle each of the paddle blades faces.
A paddle can have matched or feathered blades. Paddles are feathered if the blades are placed at opposite angles, leading to less wind resistance when you paddle. You can do it yourself – most kayak paddles can be feathered for about 15 to 60 degrees.
While feathering can promote your performance, it’s not the optimal choice regarding the paddle’s buoyancy. If two blades of a kayak paddle face the same direction (matched), the surface area increases, and it floats better.
However, if they’re feathered and each has a different angle, this surface area is lower, and it may go under the water a bit.
Paddles that float allow kayakers to rest for a while and don’t worry about losing their paddles. However, not all paddles float, and those that do, float in different manners. The buoyancy of a kayak paddle depends on its weight, material, blades’ shape, and angles. So, do your research well before purchasing a kayak paddle, and make sure it floats well.