I build paddles of all different shapes and styles. One of the most important features of the paddle are the “shoulders”, where the loom transitions to the blade. Full shoulders, no shoulders, and what I term “soft shoulders”. Some paddlers prefer a full shoulder, which strongly indexes the hands and the blade. Others prefer no shoulder at all, which is great for extended paddle moves and playing in the surf.
A few smaller women asked me to build them powerful touring paddles that were sized for them. What I settled on is a long, narrow, thin, sharp edged paddle with very soft shoulders, pictured above. The long, narrow shape gives the paddle plenty of power and is easy to control, even in strong winds. Soft shoulders permit easily sliding or extending the paddle. Thin allows for less weight. Typically, these paddles are about 26 oz, about the same as a similarly sized carbon paddle. The sharp edges are very efficient, but do demand proper technique and “cant” of the paddle. Most of these paddles have had the smallest dimensions I’m comfortable with in the looms- about 1.2 x 1.5 inches. They are somewhat flexible to absorb shock, so they are very comfortable for long distances. These have become by far my most popular paddles, amongst paddlers of all shapes and sizes.
Like all things, there is no free lunch. The sharp edges are not suitable for banging into rocks, and the thin loom can be broken by a larger person improperly bracing or rolling. However, they are by far the most efficient touring paddle I’ve ever used. Christopher Crowhurst reviewed one of these in his blog, QajaqRolls.com.
A paddle used mostly for surf, rolling, or for teaching rolling wants to be more robust than a touring paddle. At the request of some rolling instructors, I have made a few dedicated rolling paddles. They have lots of floatation, which makes a good cheat for learning some rolls 😉
If your brain is melting thinking about all of this, don’t worry! Us paddle builder types obsess over this stuff. If you let us know about your size & shape, and how you want to use your paddle, we can build one to fit.