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As a beginner, you might wonder if kayak paddles float, and it’s a valid concern because losing a paddle can be frustrating and even dangerous.
The short answer is yes, they mostly do, but there’s a few caveats to think about!
In this article, we’ll dive into the topic of kayak paddle buoyancy and answer your burning question.
We’ll also discuss the factors that affect paddle buoyancy and share tips to prevent your paddle from sinking. Let’s get started!
So, Do Kayak Paddles Float?
The good news is, yes. Most kayak paddles float.
Depending on the materials, some kayak paddles may float better than others but generally, they are all designed to float to an extent.
But how much a paddle will float will depend on whether you are paddling on flat water or not, as well as the types of materials used in the blades and shaft.
Paddle weight is also likely to be a factor in how quickly your paddles float, as the lighter the paddle, the higher the chance that it should float.
Do The Materials Of Kayak Paddles Affect Buoyancy?
As you are probably aware, not all kayak paddles are made of the same materials. The materials used in the construction of the paddle are generally what causes the vast price differences.
Almost all types of kayak paddles float, even wooden paddles and heavy aluminum paddles float. Though, these may not float as readily as some of the lighter weight paddles. And there is no guarantee that all paddles will float in all circumstances.
Most aluminum paddles feature a hollow aluminum shaft with sturdy plastic blades. The shaft is basically a hollow tube that has air trapped inside, which is what provides the buoyancy.
Most plastic blades will automatically float, especially if the blades have a large surface area and the face of the blade is parallel with the water. If the blades enter the water edge first, the lower surface area on entering the water means the blade is generally less likely to float.
Lightweight materials can improve the buoyancy of your kayak paddle. For example, carbon fiber kayak paddles that have carbon fiber shafts may float more easily than heavier materials.
Similarly, fiberglass paddles should also float because this tends to be a more buoyant material than aluminum, for example.
Some paddles are made with reinforced plastic and feature foam plugs inside the shaft to increase the overall buoyancy. Paddles with foam plugs can be found on many types of paddles, including both high end paddles and budget paddles.
Even adjustable paddles can often be found with foam plugs inside the shaft to help increase buoyancy while preventing water from getting into the tube when it’s fully connected.
Two-piece kayak paddles with foam inside the shafts should technically float even when they are two separate pieces.
Do Kayak Paddles Float When Feathered?
Kayak paddles float whether they have feathered kayak blades or not. However, setting your blades at a fixed angle so that you have symmetrical blades can usually mean your kayak paddle is less likely to sink than some feathered paddles.
If you have matched paddle blades at the same fixed angles, the faces of each blade will be facing the same direction. So if you put the kayak paddle in the water with the blades facing towards the sky, the blades are more likely to float together.
If your blades were feathered, an edge of one of your blades would be more likely to enter the water despite the opposite blade being face up. This could cause the kayak paddle to slowly sink on one side.
Do Water Conditions Affect The Buoyancy Of Kayak Paddles?
Generally speaking, if the water conditions are rough, then your kayak paddle may have a harder time staying afloat than if the water was calm.
Remember when you were choosing your life jacket and you learned about the different types of flotation devices for different types of water conditions? Well, just like with your PFD, a paddle may sink if it is overwhelmed by the force of the water.
This is because the amount of buoyancy in the paddle will generally not be enough to keep it out of the water at all times. It would also be unlikely to provide buoyancy if you were to try to use it to stay afloat in a rescue situation.
This means it would be unwise to rely on your kayak paddle being able to float in these circumstances without some other buoyancy aid to help.
How Can I Make My Kayak Paddle Float?
Even though your paddle is unlikely to sink completely, you can add additional buoyancy to help your kayak paddle float better.
One thing you can do to keep your paddle afloat is to use paddle grips.
What Are Paddle Grips?
Paddle grips are designed to be attached to the shaft of your paddle to prevent blisters and calluses on your hands during long paddling sessions. But they can also add extra buoyancy to your paddle, making it more likely to float.
Paddle grips are usually made out of a range of materials and can be both solid and soft. For increased buoyancy it can be best to opt for the softer ones, as these will often be made out of neoprene or foam, which should float as these tend to be inherently buoyant materials.
You can usually use these products on canoe paddles as well as most types of kayak paddles. However, not all grips will work with all types of paddles. And some paddle grips cannot be adjusted to suit different shaft diameters.
It can be best to choose one that has an adjustable Velcro strip so that it is easier to wrap around the shaft, especially if you have a kayak paddle with a diameter that is larger or smaller than average.
What About Paddle Floats?
You can also use paddle floats to help your paddle float. Paddle floats are mostly designed to be used in a re-entry situation and during self-rescue. A paddle float attaches over the blade of your paddle to provide additional buoyancy.
You can then use the paddle float to help stabilize your boat while you attempt to climb back in.
There are usually two types of paddle floats: inflatable ones and foam ones. Both will increase the buoyancy of your paddle but you usually can’t paddle with a float attached to your blade (or if you could, it’s not likely to be very easy or efficient).
Paddle floats are not designed to be used while actively paddling.
What About Kayak Paddle Leashes?
A kayak paddle leash can be a good way of keeping your paddle close to you or your kayak at all times. Paddle leashes are designed to attach to your paddle at one end and either your kayak or yourself at the other.
The end of the leash attaches to your paddle and is usually a type of hook and loop closure that is designed to be wrapped around the shaft of your paddle. The other end often has a clip or a loop that can be connected to a point on the deck of your kayak or somewhere on your person, such as your life vest.
The benefit of a paddle leash is that even if your paddle did start to sink if you dropped it, you would be able to retrieve it easily as it would still be within reach.
Essentially, it keeps your paddle secure as your paddle would only be able to go as far as the length of cable on your paddle leash. This means you shouldn’t need to worry if your kayak paddle floats, as it won’t have the chance to sink. It also won’t float away if you drop it.
Many kayak anglers often use a paddle leash to secure a fishing rod to the deck so that the rod doesn’t fall overboard while paddling.
As well as using a paddle leash to secure your paddle, it’s also a good idea to keep a spare paddle on board your kayak, just in case.
So, do kayak paddles float? While most paddles do float in most situations, such as if you drop it overboard on a flatwater lake, there is no such thing as a completely unsinkable paddle.
This means that it can be a good idea to take additional measures to secure your paddle, whether that is by adding buoyant materials to the shaft or using a kayak paddle leash to keep it attached to you.
Remember to always wear your PFD and maybe keep a spare paddle on board.
Let us know your thoughts and if you think others might find it useful, feel free to share.