People typically think of needing a break down paddle (splits) when someone in the group breaks his or her paddle, but what if somebody just loses a paddle? We have all been on the river and seen someone swim. People are going all different ways chasing the swimmer, the boat, the dry bag that came out, but what about the paddle? The paddle is one of the hardest things to spot floating through a rapid and can be easily lost. Suppose it was you that lost or broke your paddle. “My friend has a break down,” you think to yourself feeling relieved. Then your friend hands you a paddle with a blade twice the size of what you normally use and it’s 10 cm longer with a 60 degree offset. Now what?
What Kind of Break Down Paddle Should You Get?
What kind of paddle do you normally use? Your break down paddle should be a 4 piece version of that same paddle.
For example if you use a Werner Shogun that’s 200 cm long with a 30 degree offset, your break down paddle should be a Powerhouse that’s 200 cm long with a 30 degree offset. (The Shogun is the foam core version of the Powerhouse and the Stikine is a foam core version of the Sherpa).
The blade shape and size is the same. I don’t know if you can get foam core break downs but you probably don’t want to because that would be expensive.) I know paddles aren’t cheap and break down paddles are no exception but unlike your primary paddle your break down paddle will see very little use (hopefully), so it will last pretty much forever. You only have to buy it once and trust me, a break down paddle is one piece of gear you will be really glad you have if you ever need it.
When Should You Carry Your Break Down Paddle?
Answer these two questions….
Can I walk back to my car if I lose my paddle?
Do I want to hand paddle, bare handed not with hand paddles, the rest of the run if I lose my paddle?
If you answered no to both of these questions you should take a break down paddle with you.
How Do You Store A Break Down Paddle?
Ok, so now you have a break down paddle. How do you store it in your kayak? There are as many ways as there are paddles to choose from. Here is one method that I use pretty often that is simple and easy to do. First make sure there is nothing in the back of your kayak. I like to to store my paddle in two pieces but depending on the length of your boat and the length of your paddle you may need to put the the blade and half of the shaft in separately and then connect them once they are in your kayak. Most modern creek boats and river runners should have room for half of a paddle, but depending on your seat height and the stern rocker and a number of other factors you might not be able to get it in with the blade connected to the shaft. If this happens take the blade off.
Put the shaft in first and then the blade. Once both pieces are in, align the blade to the shaft and reconnect them. Make sure you can reach the lock button. If you have to put the paddle in one piece at a time you will most likely need to get it out the same way. If you can’t reach the lock button you won’t be able to get the paddle back out. Once you have both pieces in, one of each side of the pillar, put your float bags in on top of the paddle halves. I like to use the NRS rodeo floats in my creek boat. If you push the bags all the way to the end of the kayak, you still have room for a dry bag in front of them after they are fully inflated. Once you have your bags in and pushed all the way back simply blow them up as tight as you can. The bag will hold the paddle tight to the floor of the kayak keeping it securely in place.
Once your paddle is stored in your kayak you can just leave it there so you don’t have to remember to pack it each time. It will be there when you need it. I’ve been carrying my break down like this for a couple years now and it seems to work really well. If you have any other tricks that have worked for you please feel free to share them in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
See You On The River
Words and pictures by Pete DeLosa.
Check out Pete’s blog here.
If you want to make your own set of splits check out my guide here.