Iboutdoor takes a look at what to do when you’re up a creek without a paddle…
Breaking or losing a paddle sucks. On your local run, it might just mean an end to your day’s fun, but on more committing runs, it could be a serious problem. This is why it’s common now for groups of paddlers to carry “Split” paddles.
A “split” is a kayak paddle made of several parts – usually four, that is stored inside the boat until it’s needed. They’re there as a back up for if a kayaker breaks their main paddle, or loses it on a rapid and can’t retrieve it. A lot of people will rush out and buy a set when they appear on a leadership course kit list, or plan a big trip overseas, but it pays to put some thought in to what you buy.
There’s two schools of thought, when it comes to buying split paddles. The first is that you’re unlikely to ever use them, so there’s no need to splash out on a top end set. Cheap split paddles can be bought for as little as £30, with the best deals often being in Decathalon or on Ebay. However, other people will suggest that you invest in a decent set, as you’re most likely to lose your main paddle running something hard. Would you be happy to paddle a section of grade 4 with an entry level plastic paddle normally? If not, then I’d suggest buying a split that is as close to your normal paddle as possible.
Werner make a four piece split version of all of their premium line blades – which is good news if you’re using a Powerhouse, Player or Sherpa etc. If you manage to break your main paddle, you can pull one out from your boat that’s identical. Being a cheapskate, I’d suggest waiting until you buy a new paddle and then have the old set made in to splits.
For those that don’t trust their own DIY skills (like me!), some paddlesport retailers will do it for you, at a cost. Around £30 seems to be the going rate. I bought a new paddle recently and took my old one back to the manufacturer to have it made in to a split. At the same time they patched up the fibreglass blades, changed the feather to 30 degrees and put a longer (197 cm) shaft on it, to make it as close as possible to my new paddle. It cost me roughly £80 all in, but one run down Holme Pierrepont with it convinced me that it was money well spent – thanks Streamlyte! It’s certainly a paddle with character now – find out more here.
Although some companies use their own designs, most splits are usually joined by spring buttons:
Or by the Lendal Padlock system:
I find the Lendal Padlock to be the sturdier of the two, but it is the dearer option. Due to the way mine were made, I have both types of fitting on the same paddle. Once all the parts are connected, I wrap the joins in duct tape, to make sure there is no movement and to keep water out of the shaft.
My splits fit easily in to the back of my Pyranha Everest, either as two or four pieces. Some people try to wedge them in behind hip pads, or between the airbags (as shown below), relying on friction to hold them in place. I would be concerned about losing them in a swim though, so mine live in a drybag, clipped in behind the seat.
Hopefully this article will have been of use to those looking to buy a set of splits… just hope that you never have to use them in anger!