How to Carry a Spare Kayak Paddle

Spare kayak paddle carried on the front deck

Most kayakers know that they should carry a spare paddle, because getting a broken paddle on a kayak trip — even on a day trip — is a pain. I know, because I’ve done it, and I didn’t have a spare. I limped back about a mile to the place I launched using my snapped Greenland paddle canoe style. Although, it got me back, it took extra time, and if I wasn’t an avid solo canoeist who knows the “C” stroke, the paddle would have caused misery. Since that day, I’ve always carried a spare paddle, and you should, too.

On the Kayak’s Front or Rear Deck

It’s best to carry your spare on the deck, because if you break a paddle, it’s easier to get to than if you carried a four piece in your hatches. Because most kayaks have bungees designed to carry a paddle on both the front or the back deck, you can carry it on either. Both have advantages. On the front deck, the paddle is easier to get to, you can monitor it, but it’ll often throw up spray into your face and surf tends to push it out from under the bungees. On the back deck, it’s more protected in the surf, stays out of the way, keeps the foredeck open for maps, etc., but it’s hard to grab and hard to monitor. Your spare could float away without you knowing. I always carry mine on the front deck.

How to Carry It

There are lots of ways to carry and attach a paddle to the deck, but the three most common solutions involve fabric sleeves, PVC pipe or just deck bungees. The first two solutions protect the paddle and the kayak’s gel coat from scratches, and can make it easier to pull the paddle out when needed. Kayakers that use PVC pipes claim that it stops the paddles from coming out in the surf. To see the many fabric and PVC pipe solutions, check out Gnarlydog’s post. For a commercial version, check out Northwater’s Paddle Britches.

Spare kayak paddle setupPersonally, I’m a fan of using bungee cord. I like it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s light. Second, it’s versatile. My current setup includes three parts. I use the foredeck bungees to hold the blade to the deck. I like to face the back of my spare paddle’s blade to the sky and the spoon towards the deck. This helps prevent scratching on the boat’s deck and the paddles blade, but I think scratching is just the norm. I use the bungees in front of the hatch and compass to hold the paddle’s shaft. I use a third bungee with a plastic cliff to hold down the middle of the shaft.

For the shaft bungee, my kayak features three plastic padeyes. I run a long length of bungee through all three. I tie double knots on the outside padeyes to prevent the bungee from pulling through, and pull a bight of bungee from the center padeye. I slide a plastic cordlock over the bight and slide it down to the padeye. When I secure the paddle shaft, I loosen the cordlock, wrap a loop of bungee around the shaft, and then tighten the cordlock. See the picture.

Extra bungee loop that holds the spare paddle.Even though I feel that the kayak’s foredeck bungee and the shaft bungee holds the paddle tight against the boat, I picked up a trick last year from ACA Coastal Kayaking Level 5 Advanced Open Water Instructor Trainer Educator Sam Crowley. To further secure his spare paddle, he girth hitches a loop of bungee cord with a plastic snap hook on it to one side of the kayak’s perimeter deck line over his kayak’s front hatch. Then clips the snap hook to the other side’s perimeter deck line. This further secures the paddle. To get at the hatch, you just unclip the snap hook. See the picture.

Preventing Deck Scratches

With any spare paddle setup, you’re not going to prevent deck scratches on a composite boat. It’s just going to happen. When you accept that, you’ll feel better. But, if you like to keep your composite boat looking shining and new, consider covering the deck areas susceptible to scratches with Helicopter Guard Tape, which is the tape used to protect the edges of helicopter blades from damage. It’s tough and clear. Keep in mind that any tape you cover your deck with will help prevent the gel coat from fading, which means when you peel it off, the gel coat will be darker under the tape than in surrounding areas. That’s not a big deal if you always use tape.

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  • Hi Bryan
    I am just wondering about the split spare paddle and the compass.
    Recently I searched for a installation instruction how to install a compass and within a guide I found, the author mentioned, that he experienced a deviation of 30(+) Degrees carrying a paddle next to the compass.

    This is a big deviation and can cause serious problems.

    Reason for the deviation was the small spring clip (the old Wer*** Design) on the paddle – located next to the compass – like your paddle on the second picture.

    Did you ever check deviation or experience this?

    Regards from Switzerland,
    Axel Thobaben

  • Hi, Axel,

    I always check for deviation when I change what I pack near the compass. My paddles don’t cause any. Even the only paddle that I own that has a spring clip doesn’t cause deviation in my setup. The paddle shown in the pictures is an Epic, which has only a small pin. I suspect that any metal in the paddle joint is far enough forward of the compass that I won’t see any deviation.

    It’s a good point that everyone should check.

  • Axel, I have heard of some users having trouble with compass deviations too.
    I have some metal fittings around my compass area and wanted to make sure it would not interfere with the accuracy of the compass. Despite my best efforts to purposely create a deviation with my compass I was unable to do so with stainless steel hardware. Now, I would assume that paddle fittings would have stainless steel, not just steel that attracts magnets and rusts badly in a marine environment.
    I use Silva and Suunto compasses.
    Try if any of your compasses are affected by stainless steel.

  • There are several qualities of stainless steel. Some are non-magnetic, and some react to magnets.
    Stainless steel SS316 is non-magnetic while 6MO and duplex is reacting to magnets, but in lesser degree than carbon steel.

  • Oyvindbl, I thought that all “marine grade” stainless steel was non magnetic.
    Must be that I can only source 314 here and that has posed no trouble.
    Will keep an eye out for fittings that I am suss about and check with a magnet before purchasing.

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