Noyo Pacific Kayaking

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What Kind of Paddle Should I Purchase New or Used?
Kayaking - Kayaking Equipment

What Kind of Paddle Should I Purchase New or Used?

A used paddle will be less expensive than a new one of the same brand and model. If one for sale is suitable for your use, is sized correctly, and looks to be in good shape, buy it. Sea kayak paddles seldom take much abuse, so I wouldn't worry too much about lost strength if you are contemplating a paddle for either of those disciplines. Do check the joint system on any breakdown kayak paddle (sea or white water) for wear, indicated by looseness or movement. I wouldn't dismiss such a paddle, but an excessive amount means less life is available, as joint systems are often the first to go on breakdowns. There are just too many "moving parts."

White water paddles can take lots of abuse, and most used ones will look it. Some will look like they were the target on a bombing range. They'll still probably work, however. I would avoid a breakdown as a primary white water paddle unless the price and condition are both so good you can't pass it up. You can always use it as a spare, later on.

I recommend contacting (and joining) a local paddling club. Members often have used equipment for sale listed in their newsletters. Some will be slightly used, and some will probably be very well used. Most paddlers don't mind talking equipment, so expect to get your ear numbed a bit after dialing the phone. You can get either good or bad advice, so I'd try to get several recommendations on what you should look for in a paddle for your use before spending lots of money. Clubs are a good inexpensive source for instruction, too. Take advantage of membership in any club by participating all you can. You can learn a lot, and much more quickly than with little, or no help at all.

As a general rule, paddlers are very honest when selling their unneeded equipment off. They'll be very fair about price, and knowledgeable paddlers will probably refuse to sell the thing to you if they don't think it's what you need -- even if you beg them for it. It's the unknowledgeable ones you have to watch out for. How to tell? Ask around for other opinions, and hope that the consensus is right.

Paddle Costs
It's harder to go wrong with a new paddle, except that it will cost you more. You do get the satisfaction of knowing you are the first owner. Again, just make sure you are getting the right paddle for the use to which you intend to put it. If your budget only allows a lower priced paddle at first you can always buy a good one later, and either sell the lower quality one, or relegate it to use as a serviceable spare.

Paddles vary a lot in price. A new kayak paddle can be purchased for as little as $30. You can also spend $500 or more for a custom, hand carved beauty. One, in my opinion, that is too pretty for anything except hanging above the mantel. Any used paddle will be less money. Of course, like a car, you can spend more money for a good used paddle than for a new one of lesser quality.

I separate paddles into approximate price range categories for comparison. In kayak paddles, an entry level price would be up to about $50, a low price would be up to about $100, a medium price would be up to about $135, and "the good stuff" is mostly priced above that. Like any kind of merchandise, some paddle brands or models may be under or over priced, and not fit exactly into the above ranges.

Knowledgeable paddlers will spend a minimum of 10% of the cost of their boat for a primary paddle. Most will spend quite a bit more. 20-25% is not at all uncommon, and real aficionados will even go up to about 35%. Buying a good boat and saving money on an inexpensive paddle is like ordering a new Mercedes with retread tires on it. Sure, they'll work, but your contact with the road is not a good place to save money.

A new paddler can often tell the performance difference between paddles more easily than he or she can differences between boats. In fact, most knowledgeable dealers will insist that a beginning paddler use a good quality paddle when test paddling new boats. They know it is easier to paddle with a good paddle, and you'll be much more likely to buy a boat from them -- any boat, and maybe even the good paddle! (An experienced paddler who wants to test new boats will usually take their own paddle with them, one that they are familiar with to do the testing to reduce the number of equipment variables as much as possible.)