It’s been 4 years
since my last survey of dragon boat paddles available to athletes the world round. With the growing popularity of dragon boat, changes in IDBF paddle dimension allowances, and improvements in manufacturing processes, some brands have flourished and others have faded away. New philosophies in paddling performance and function have lead to many innovative products.
I’ve scoured the internet to find published prices and updated information on each paddle model from the manufacturer whenever possible. If there is a major brand I’ve left out, please let me know and I’ll look into it!
Without further ado, here is the 2013 Dragon Boat Paddle Comparison List!
…you never go back (to a wood paddle, that is).
At least that’s been a common trend for paddlers following the rise in popularity of carbon fiber paddles hitting the market. Paddlers will often find themselves in the dilemma of choosing an “advanced” paddle as soon as they feel they are getting “advanced” but what are the pros and cons of different paddle materials?
IMO, you can’t beat the look of a brand-new Grey Owl “high-performance” wood paddle is a thing of beauty. Shiny lacquer over carefully joined pieces of ash and basswood give a great look that holds up to years of use.
Despite a claimed weight of 570g (at 51″), many top dragon boat teams and excellent athletes utilize this type of paddle with good results. It’s also a steal at less than $60.
Wood paddles are generally the first type of paddle that dragon boaters utilize when learning the sport, because it’s so economical for clubs to stock them and they are VERY resilient to clacks/dings.
Essentially, a high performance wood paddle can be tough, cheap, and perform great. If you’ve never tried a carbon paddle, you’ll never know how the wood paddle compares, so stop reading, buy a high performance paddle and be done with it.
Oh but whataboutacarbonpaddle?
The future is here! No jet packs, but laminate paddles made of carbon fiber and occasionally Kevlar weave. The IDBF regs allowing paddles “made from any materials” fitting the controlled dimensions and design restrictions is a real game-changer.
Despite the lack of objective 3rd party comparisons, all carbon paddle designs generally aim to cut weight and increase rigidity compared to the traditional wood design. The “cutting edge” nature of composites (despite being around for almost 100 years) keeps prices significantly higher than wood paddles.
For a carbon paddle that can be 55% lighter, supposedly stiffer, and almost 5x more expensive than a wood paddle, is it worth it? It’s all subjective, really. Here are my thoughts.
Carbon paddles are often touted as being for the most hardcore of paddlers, but let’s compare this to the carbon bicycle market. Sure, pro’s use carbon and other high-tech material bikes, but it’s the average Joe (who has $1-20k) that makes the market go round. Same goes for dragon boat paddles. Pro’s choose ’em, Joe’s use ’em.
I’ve heard folks mention a possible disadvantage to using a carbon paddle is that it is “too stiff” for a novice paddler and can result in increased risk of injury. I personally don’t think this makes sense. First, stiffness is the resistance of a material to deformation in response to an applied force. It is the paddler that applies the force. That force a paddler exerts doesn’t change based on what the paddle is made of.
Most injuries that are atraumatic (in large scale) occur from repetition of faulty mechanics. A paddler that is not fit enough to paddle with good mechanics is likely to develop injuries regardless of their equipment. Heck, it would probably happen if they air-paddled for hours on end without a paddle.
The advantages of a paddle that is stiffer is that there should be higher efficiency of force transmission to the water, meaning less energy is wasted flexing the paddle and more is put towards shoving the boat forward. There should be a net energy savings for the paddler here.
A lighter paddle also means less energy spent through recovery and may reduce the strain associated with using a heavier paddle at the same given stroke rate for any length of time.
All together, I’d say using a carbon paddle is less likely to cause an injury than some may think.
Stiffness can most definitely affect “feel” and carbon paddles are also notorious for having wildly different weight distributions between blade, shaft, and handle brand to brand as compared to wood paddles. Each of these aspects will affect how the paddle feels on recovery and through the pull.
For those who are on the fence about wood vs carbon, Kialoa makes a hybrid wood and carbon paddle so you can supposedly get the best of both ebony and ivory worlds.
The choice is yours! Best of luck to making the change to carbon OR changing back.