Sea Kayak Paddles vs. River Kayak Paddles

Sea kayak paddles differ from river kayak paddles. River kayaking and sea kayaking are different in how the kayak is maneuvered through the water. There are some paddles that will work in both situations, but the one specifically designed for your activity will function the best. River paddles are stronger, heavier and more durable than sea paddles. River paddles can be used in sea touring, but sea touring paddles would not do well in river waters. The three basic types of sea kayak paddles are: European, Greenland and Wing. The three basic distinctions between river kayak paddles are: material, feather and shaft.

Basic Sea and River Paddle Differences

Sea kayak paddles are longer than river paddles by about four centimeters. Sea kayak paddles are used to move the craft forward, while river kayak paddles must maneuver the vessel through waves. The longer the length of the paddle, the further forward the kayak can move in one stroke. However, the longer the paddle, the more effort required by the arms and torso to push the paddle through the air as the kayak moves forward. Windy conditions require more effort from the arms.

European Sea Kayak Paddles

European sea kayak paddles have spoon-shaped blades at both ends of the middle shaft. This type of paddle assists with quick acceleration and maneuvering. Materials they are made of include wood, plastic, aluminum and carbon-fiber. The end blades are set at ergonomically correct angles, allowing one blade to move forward through the air while the other moves backward through the water.

Greenland Sea Kayak Paddles

Greenland sea kayak paddles have narrow, rounded blades. Often, these paddles are not feathered. Short Greenland sea kayak paddles are called storm paddles. They are used with sliding strokes, particularly for windy conditions. There short dimensions prevent the blade from catching any wind.

Wing Sea Kayak Paddles

The Wing paddle blade is shaped like a bird's wing. It produces a lift as it moves through water. This allows the paddler to move forward better than with any other paddle. The technique used with these paddles is quite different than those of the Greenland and European paddles. The Wing paddle is often used for races and sometimes for touring and recreational boating. 

River Kayak Paddle Material

Due to advances in technology, the river kayak paddle shafts are now made of carbon fiber and blades now consist of foam and carbon fiber. Light plastic paddles with rubber grips are also available.

River Kayak Paddle Twist

River kayak paddle blades have a twist of zero to forty-five degrees. These blades are ideal for situations where both blades need to be moved at the same time. There are maneuvers that require a quick movement from one blade to the other without twisting. Long distances on flat water where the wind affects the blade resistance are rare in river kayaking.

River Kayak Paddle Shafts

The blades measure around two hundred centimeters. Bent shafts are also available to prevent stress on the wrists. Rubber grips ease the hold of the paddler and indicate where the hands should be located on the shaft. Smaller shafts are also manufactured to meet the needs of smaller paddlers.