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Choosing a spare paddle

Dan Foster

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I'm upgrading some of my paddling gear, and would like to hear the criteria you've used when selecting a spare paddle. I currently use a 215 cm bent-shaft Werner Ikelos, and my spare is a low-end, generic low-angle paddle that was purchased for my wife's use on flat water.

While I welcome specific recommendations for me, I'm more interested in the questions or criteria you used to select your spare.

For example:

A smaller blade might cause less strain at the end of the day.

A cheaper, stronger paddle can be the primary paddle in surf and rocks, and for rescue practice.

A one-piece Greenland paddle may be quicker to deploy in an emergency than a two-piece Euro paddle, and opens up new tricks at the summer Walden sessions.

What other considerations am I missing?

Some general questions:

Is your spare the same length as your primary paddle?

Is your spare the same type (high-angle, low-angle, Greenland) as your primary? Why or why not?

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#1 rule for me is that the spare is something you will happily use instead of your primary paddle. That longer heavier paddle might seem like a good spare but when you break your nice carbon paddle on day 2 of a week long trip and you're stuck using it you'll rethink that logic. Trust me on this one ;-)

Having said that you can certainly have different spares, the fiberglass version of your paddle for longer trips, a smaller blade for a windy trip, a bigger blade for surf and rough water, a toksook to defend yourself with, etc....

Some folks use greenland paddles as spares but I could never paddle at a decent speed with one.

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My primary blade is a 215 cm bent-shaft Ikelos, and my spare a 215 bent-shaft Cyprus. I use the latter as primary early in the season, with loaded boats, and when paddling into a headwind. An alternate might be to get a variable-length shaft, and just shorten up for conditions above, but I find this pair suits me very well.

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There really is a method to my madness...

If it's a rock, surf or rough water day I carry 2 Ikelos blades with me or replace one of them with a Lendal Storm.

Long trips, Ikelos and Greenland

Calm conditions, Lendal Storm and Greenland

Also on very long trips I have the luxury of stowing an extra euro in the rear hatch of my Cetus and bring the Ikelos, Storm and Greenland.

On the ocean I use a carbon fiber Greenland exclusively and enjoy Western Red cedar Greenland paddles in fresh water.

But that's just me. Each to his own but I would never get a shorter euro or cheap heavy one for a spare. One day you will need to use it or it may need to replace a broken main paddle permanently. That happens to me on an average of once per year.


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I moved from a Cyprus 215 to a Cyprus 205 in the past few years since I found the shorter length a better fit for me. Since I carry the spare just for emergency purposes, it was a simple solution to turn my 215 into my spare. While it isn't as comfortable for me, it would get me home if I needed it to.

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I have standardized on a 215 Ikelos as my paddle and my spare. Moving from my normal to the spare won't change my paddling. If I was to break a paddle your only breaking a 1/2 of the paddle. Thus if you break your spare too, you might break the other half and still end up with a full working paddle. (Odds are 50/50 but murphy's law tells you it will be the same side broken on the two). In the future I am looking at picking up the 4 piece Ikelos to make traveling by air easier. Having a pair of 4 piece paddles will allow for even more flexibility/redundancy for longer trips.

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