As the west coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island gets battered by the remnants of Typhoon Songda I know this might seem like an odd time to talk about sea kayaking. But, if I can’t be paddling, why not think and talk about it right? In July of 2015 I purchased a Werner Cyprus paddle from Comox Valley Kayaks for about $600.00 and I must say, though expensive this was a sound investment. I was skeptical too but the right paddle truly does matter and makes a huge difference, especially for multi day expeditions. Below is a guideline that can be used when choosing the paddle you want and need:
How to Choose
Kayak paddles range from about 210 cm to 260 cm in length. The correct size for you depends on your paddling style, your height and the width of your boat.
Low-angle paddling uses a relaxed style with a slower cadence. It offers efficiency on long trips. The flatter (more horizontal) angle of the blade into the water means that low-angle paddles feature slim blades and are slightly longer than high-angle paddles.
High-angle paddling describes a more aggressive style and a faster cadence. This is preferred in moving water where acceleration and maneuverability are important. It requires ample force for each stroke; it’s also a great choice for fitness.
Height and Boat Width
The taller the paddler, the longer the paddle you will need. For example, a 6’2″ paddler with a 26″ wide boat would want a 230cm long paddle for low-angle paddling; a 5′ tall paddler with the same-width boat would be happier with a 220cm paddle. Boat width is important, too, so see the charts below (courtesy of Werner Paddles) for general guidelines.
Low-Angle Kayak Paddle Length Sizing (paddler height x boat width)
|Under 23″||23″ to 28″||28″ to 32″||Over 32″|
|Under 5′ tall||210cm||220cm||230cm||240cm|
|5′ to 5’6″ tall||215cm||220cm||230cm||240cm|
|5’6″ to 6′ tall||220cm||220cm||230cm||250cm|
|Over 6′ tall||220cm||230cm||240cm||250cm|
High-Angle Kayak Paddle Length Sizing (paddler height x boat width)
|Under 26″||Over 26″|
|Under 5’1″ tall||200cm||220cm|
|5’1″ to 5’4″ tall||205cm||220cm|
|5’4″ to 6′ tall||210cm||220cm|
|Over 6′ tall||220cm||230cm|
It’s true that the lighter the weight, the easier the paddling. However, the best paddles offer a balance of light weight and strength. Weight is most relevant for touring paddles, especially on long trips.
In the middle of the price range, these are popular for touring and recreational use, and for good reason. They are relatively light weight and offer excellent durability. Plus, they come in a wide range of colors.
With its light weight and distinctive look, carbon fiber is the high-performance choice. It costs more, but if you’re headed out on a multiday trip you will appreciate the reduced weight over thousands of paddle strokes.
These paddles are affordable, durable and require minimal care. They make great spare paddles and can be a good choice for beginners or recreational kayakers. Downsides: They are relatively heavy, and aluminum can feel cold in cool weather.
Blades are either feathered or nonfeathered. Nonfeathered blades are positioned in line with each other. Feathered blades are not on the same plane; they are offset at an angle to each other. The main benefit of feathering is that it reduces wind resistance and wrist fatigue. As one blade strokes through the water, the other slices through the air. Typical feathered blade angles vary from 30° to 45°. Smaller angles are easier on the wrists; larger angles offer greater efficiency when paddling.Blades are feathered in such a way that one hand always maintains control of the paddle. This “control hand” rotates the shaft with each stroke so the blades enter the water at the most efficient angle. Most touring paddles have take-apart shafts that let you change the feather angle and the control hand. The control hand is a matter of personal preference, and is not necessarily determined by whether you are right- or left-handed.
Most paddle blades these days feature a asymmetrical dihedral shape Unlike older symmetrical blades, asymmetrical designs are relatively narrow and tolerate a more horizontal stroke, which requires less energy on your part. The dihedral shape creates a built-in angle, similar to an airplane wing. This allows water to flow smoothly and evenly over both halves of the blade.
Most kayak paddles have simple straight shafts. Bent-shaft paddles have a “kinked” section that positions hands at a more comfortable angle during the power portion of a stroke, which minimizes discomfort and fatigue, especially if you have joint or shoulder injuries.Two-piece shafts break down for easy storage; 4-piece shafts break down even smaller making them a great choice for inflatables or as a backup paddle.Small-diameter shafts offer a less fatiguing grip for women or any paddler with smaller hands.Shafts come in 2 shapes: oval and round. Oval shafts offer a more comfortable grip than the traditional round shape. Some round shafts feature oval hand sections for a better grip. This is called oval indexing.
Carry a Spare
If your paddle breaks in the middle of an open water crossing, or if you lose it on the second day of a week long sea kayaking trip, what will you do? Without a spare, you might literally find yourself up a creek without a paddle. (This has happened to me.) A take-apart paddle makes an inexpensive spare that could save you serious time and grief should the unexpected happen. They are easy to stash and stand up to rigorous use.
A fence line in the fog – created just north of Sparwood, BC. I’m really happy with this image! I almost passed it by but something told me to go back. I knew it was going to be captivating. The true essence of photography is being able to express the ordinary as extraordinary.
I continue to be amazed with the power of Lightroom. Equally as impressive is the new Lightroom Mobile App which allows for RAW image capture and processing on iOS 10.This in itself is a potential game changer and a sign of things to come.
A friend of mine asked me to touch up some recent images taken of her daughter. Unfortunately the photographer didn’t save the RAW image files so all I had to work with was the JPEG’s. You be the judge, but the spot removal tool and adjustment brush worked wonders in the areas around the eyes.
I’m spending this week in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford pursuing the Elk during their annual rut. These animals are extremely dangerous during this time, especially the bulls! So far I’ve only come across one herd. They were quite skittish which is in contrast to the Elk I’ve seen in the National Parks, which unfortunately are quite habituated.
It’s been said that once you enter a natural environment, that it takes up to half an hour for nature to begin to restore itself and allow for one’s presence. As with any highly interconnected ecosystem and unbeknownst to us this is all subject to our limited understanding of the natural events that may already be transpiring.
Photographing wildlife in this natural environment is challenging to say the least. There’s always surprises but far many more disappointments.
My techniques associated with my pursuit of the Mountain Lion (Cougar) are evolving in hopes that I will one day get to capture this incredibly beautiful and elusive creature in it’s environment, just as it is and just as I am.
My patience and perseverance will persist.
Okay, I could name names and provide visual references to surely justify this rant but out of respect for others I wont. Increasingly I am seeing images that are so heavily processed it’s utterly distasteful. Do manufactured sunbursts, stitched in skies and so forth really have a place in nature photography? I don’t think so! It’s a disservice to our natural environment and those that view these images.
Sure, I use lightroom and photoshop too, these applications should be used for subtle editing but not complete fabrication.
One of the worst things that I think can happen, is for someone to see an image of a particular place, become inspired to visit the location but only to discover upon arrival that it’s nothing like what they saw.
Are we falling victim to what we think might sell? I believe this may be the case. If it’s an artistic expression one is attempting to accomplish, why not learn how to understand in camera settings, how light works, etc. Anyone can watch YouTube and learn how to “design an image” with these applications.
In closing, I ask those that photograph the natural world to respect the beauty in front of your lens and not alter it altogether while sitting at home in front of a computer.
The only word that I have is despicable. This Bear and so many others have been lost for no reason, certainly a tragedy and as much as we would like, we can’t bring them back. What we can do is continue to petition against the Bear hunt and not allow people such as this imbecile to continue to commit these crimes.
Fairy Lake is a BC Forest Service campground located five km northeast of Port Renfrew. It is accessed from Port Renfrew via Harris Main, a dirt and gravel logging road. The area of the lake is 82.3 acres and it has an approximate depth of 16 feet. There are hiking trails in the area as well as trail bike riding, and other outdoor activities.
It’s a very tranquil setting. Once you set out on the water, it offers a sense of mystery. What many people don’t realize is that this lake is ocean fed by the San Juan River.
The tree in the lake is quite remarkable. It has over the years become a little bonsai fir tree clinging for dear life in the middle of the water. Where there’s a will, there is a way.
The reason for my visit was to photograph the tree for a friend. I thought the best perspective would be from the water and I was right. I set out at about 5:30 am to take advantage of the calm conditions. At times there was barely a ripple on the entire lake which made for some great reflections.
I do plan to return and explore more of the San Juan River. I’m told that there’s a pack of Wolves that are frequently sighted along the edges of the river and of course the ever so elusive Mountain Lion is never too far away either, just hard to find.
Much thanks to Campground host Diane Callbreath for a great sense of hospitality and for spotting me the $15.00 camping fee (because I didn’t bring any cash.)
Campground host Diane Callbreath and her friend Emmett. An honorable mention goes out to camera shy photographer Agnes. Thank you Agnes.
I’ve recently partnered with Wolf Awareness Inc. to pursue an initiative later this year to help raise funds. I’m very proud to be associated with this foundation and to stand alongside their efforts.
Earlier this week I explored the area north of Elkford, BC. Located within the western ranges of the southern Rocky Mountains, Elk Lakes Provincial Park is an easily accessible wilderness park characterized by outstanding sub-alpine landscapes, remnant glaciers, rugged peaks and productive lakes. Elk Lakes Provincial Park is located in southeastern BC, about 104 kilometers north of Sparwood. Turn off Highway 3 at Sparwood and go north on Highway 43 until you reach the community of Elkford, a distance of 35 kilometers. From here, travel the gravel road on the west side of the Elk River. Approximately 47 kilometers north of Elkford the road crosses the Elk River and joins the Kananaskis Power Line Road. It is 5.8 kilometers from the crossing to the Cadorna Creek trailhead; the Elk Lakes trailhead is a further 16.1 kilometers. This is truly some extraordinary landscape. Don’t forget your Bear spray! I didn’t see any Bears but a big black Moose did cross the road in front of me as I was driving along. It was timid and disappeared beyond the treeline before I could get a picture but it was a thrill to see nonetheless.