Kayak paddles come manufactured with many different materials, including differing materials in the shaft (handle) and the paddle (blade). Of course, the companies that sell them each have their own material preferences as well.
Do Aluminum Kayak Paddles Float?
For a paddle to be light enough to float, it needs to be constructed of a buoyant or light material and also have air pockets. Aluminum paddles are sometimes too heavy to float, at least not for an extended period, regardless of the buoyancy of the blades.
Spending a large amount of time kayaking on the water, it stands to reason that there will be times when your grip slips and you lose your paddle in the water. So it’s an understandable question as to whether or not aluminum paddles—or any paddles—float.
Manufacturers do consider this, it is a water sport and recreational activity, after all, so one would figure that there would be at least some buoyancy characteristics shoehorned into most kayak paddle designs.
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Are There Aluminum Paddles That Float?
If you’re in the market for an aluminum paddle that floats, you’re in luck, because there are some available. Most manufacturers make up for the weight of aluminum by hollowing out parts of the paddle, designing more buoyant blades, and utilizing foam.
- SeaSense X-treme 1: Constructed of aluminum with plastic blades and does float
- Odoland Kayak Paddle: Two-piece aluminum shaft that’s reinforced and hollow
- Intex Kayak Paddle: Single aluminum shaft that is 86” in length and lightweight
That’s just a few out of the wide selection of aluminum shaft paddles that float. Always be sure to carefully analyze pre-purchase to determine if it floats as many manufacturers don’t outright say whether it floats or not.
Customer reviews are also important. If you’re shopping for a floating aluminum paddle online, check out the customer reviews or frequently asked questions (FAQs) section to find information on a paddle’s buoyancy.
Also, it’s important to consider the aspects of two-piece, three-piece, and four-piece paddles because the connection points require more material components, and therefore, they add more weight to the paddle.
If you have a floating, aluminum paddle and you add a heavy paint job, you may have just turned it into a kayak anchor. Some of these paddles are fine-tuned at just the right weight and buoyancy to float and paint can get surprisingly heavy in a hurry.
There are many things to consider when purchasing a paddle. If a floating, aluminum paddle is a must-have on your shopping list, just be sure to do your homework. Never assume that just because it’s marketed as a lightweight paddle that it’ll float indefinitely.
How Do You Make Your Aluminum Paddle Float?
If you already have an aluminum paddle that pretends to be a boulder when it hits the water, you may want to consider adding a buoyant component to it. Most of the time, the answer is floaties, just not the kind that goes on a child’s arms.
There are several ways to turn your aluminum deadweight into a floating paddle. You can inject it, fill it by hand, drill holes for foam fill, or wrap floating material around the sections you don’t use when handling it.
- Great Stuff: Fill the hollowed interior of the shaft with Great Stuff foam spray. Be careful to drill a small hole on either end of the shaft, below the blades. As the foam fills the interior, it needs a method through which to push excess air from within the shaft.
- Bubble Wrap: The next time you get an Amazon Prime package, don’t throw away the bubble wrap or give it to the kids to pop. Instead, stuff your paddle shaft with it.
- Foam Wrap: You can consider placing foam wrap in areas along the shaft that won’t get in the way of your hands.
Those are just some ideas, although, you’re free to experiment until your heart is content. That’s the beautiful thing about aluminum paddles; they’re cheap so you can afford to get creative with them.
Do keep in mind, if you decide to go with the Great Stuff method—and you’re dealing with a shaft that’s more than one piece—you don’t want to get any of the foam material near the moving parts where the shafts connect. Once it dries, it will be a back-breaking effort to remove.
Should You Leash Your Aluminum Paddle?
Some kayakers swear by the leash and many kayak paddles come with one so that you don’t have to worry about whether it floats or not, so long as you have it leashed to you. However, for safety reasons, we wouldn’t advise it.
There are several reasons why. Most kayakers who are using aluminum kayak paddles are beginner or intermediate enthusiasts. The less experienced you are at kayaking the more chances there are for you to make a mistake.
Flipping over in a kayak is one thing. Flipping over in a kayak and getting wrapped up or caught in the leash is entirely different. That’s an extra risk you run if you decide to leash your paddle to you.
Some manufacturers design their paddle leashes with a “breakaway” mechanism, so if you’re interested in leashing your paddles and, you’re new to kayaking, look for that type of leash for your aluminum paddle.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot of upper body movement involved in paddling a kayak and the addition of a long string hanging down and attached to the paddle probably isn’t worth it. This is especially true when buying a floating aluminum paddle is inexpensive.
Do Other Paddle Materials Float Better Than Aluminum?
Carbon fiber and fiberglass paddles are much lighter than aluminum and plastic paddles. Not only are they lighter, they most certainly float better and are also far more resilient to the elements.
Of course, the extra durability, lightweight features, and endurance come with a higher price point. Paddles are like many things in that you get what you pay for.
That’s not to say that aluminum and plastic paddles are bad, not by any stretch. It only means that they lack the kind of features that experienced kayakers look for in a kayak paddle.
There are four common types of kayak paddles: Carbon fiber, fiberglass, plastic, and aluminum. You may find wooden ones out there occasionally but those are generally homemade paddles and not generally sold or mass-produced in the marketplace.
Out of the four, carbon fiber is the lightest, and it’s not even a close comparison. Fiberglass is second, with plastic third and aluminum a close fourth. Carbon fiber and fiberglass paddles are also frequently designed with foam or buoyancy features already built-in.
Does The Ergonomics Of An Aluminum Paddle Make A Difference?
In general terms—such as ergonomic handles and grips—ergonomic handles don’t make much of a difference. The weight of a paddle is the weight of a paddle and the shape of it doesn’t make much of a difference.
However, the size of the blade can make a small difference, at least in terms of how long it takes your paddle to sink. The wider the blade, the more surface area. The more surface area that sits on top of the water, the better it will hold the paddle afloat, at least for a time.
It’s something worth considering if you’re looking at aluminum paddles. If you purchase one, look for wider blades. It will certainly help keep your paddle floating a little bit longer or at least long enough for you to reach it.
The aluminum paddles that are on the market today come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and weights.
Some people might think that this would make them all pretty much the same but it doesn’t take long to realize how different they can be. Always do your due diligence before buying and don’t always take the manufacturer’s word that it’ll float.
If you’re looking for a paddle that floats, opt for a carbon or fiberglass paddle instead of aluminum.
Warren, D. (N/A). Do Kayak Paddles Float? The Scoop On Your Navigation Companion’s Buoyancy Retrieved from: https://wildernesstoday.com/do-kayak-paddles-float/
N/A (October 16, 2015). Choosing A Kayak Paddle Retrieved from: https://aquabound.com/blogs/resources/choosing-a-kayak-paddle