A misleading guide to which paddle to go for, centres around blade area – the amount of square inches or centimetres the blade has. This is often defined as large, small or medium, but the truth is this is highly misleading. Much like the volume of a board, the total volume may be ‘x’ but the critical information relates to where that volume is placed? It could be the larger percentage of the volume is in the nose for example and therefore this has more relationship to how the board will perform as against whether it will support your weight. In the case of blade area, the same rule applies. In the case of a tear drop paddle, which is triangular in shape, the greater percentage of blade area is towards the tip of the blade, at the point where the blade is widest.
This blade shape is said to to have a low centre of effort. Conversely, a blade that is more rectangular in shape, so as to have longer straight sides with clearly defined ‘shoulders’ which angle in towards the neck of the blade, puts the max blade average, somewhere higher up toward the middle height of the blade. This paddle is said to have a high centre of effort. These differing blade shapes with the same total blade area, will perform and feel very different when compared and therefore it’s not a simple matter of choosing blade area, but indeed blade shape first and foremost. Generally speaking a tear drop blade (low aspect) of equal blade area to that of a rectangular blade (high aspect) will be wider in width at it’s maximum point and this in itself will tell you something about the way the paddle will feel in the hands.
Mistral high aspect paddlers include the Ulani, Keanu and Makani and the low aspect paddles, the Tamarii, Kanoa and Gold.