What makes a good beginner paddle for surfing, cruising & touring respectively?
Blade size is a key when choosing a paddle. The size of blade can be looked at the same way as gears on the bike, where a bigger blade (ore higher gear) will take more power to pull through the water, and in turn require a stronger paddler. While a smaller blade size will pass through the water easier and require less energy to be pulled through the water, like a lower gear on a bike. As there is less resistance on a smaller blade you will find that there is less impact on your body resulting in a lower chance of injury.
Therefore as a beginner, finding a paddle with a smaller blade size (relative to your body mass) is key, for both efficiency and injury prevention.
The Second factor mentioned is Paddle length. A paddle which is too short will result in a more hunched paddling position and in turn put strain on your back. While a paddle which is too long, will cause an over extension and rolling of the shoulders and put strain on the joint. We suggest a paddle 10–15cm taller than yourself.
Other things to consider….
Fixed vs Adjustable
If you are looking for a paddle for yourself I would suggest always go fixed shaft over adjustable, as the strength flex and weight are far better. Adjustable paddles are great and have their place in the family one paddle scenario but as a person specific paddle a fixed shaft is far better.
The angle which the blade joins the shaft is referred to as the blade angle, the flatter the angle the shorter the stroke, which makes for a faster paddle rate or cadence, generally suited to wave riding where you would use a shorter quicker stroke for acceleration in order to catch a wave. A bigger angle will allow for a longer stroke and which will suit a slower cadence i.e for touring.
There are many different materials to choose from, from wood to aluminum and 100s of composites in between, the most popular being Carbon and Fiberglass.
The cost of a paddle will vary depending on its construction and paddles can vary in price from R1000 for an Aluminum adjustable paddle to R8000 for the top Carbon paddle. Each of these materials has their own pros and cons, while an Aluminum paddle may be a good value for money it will also be heavy and very stiff, and a carbon paddle has great strength to weight ratio it is also more expensive.
A paddle is a personal object and should be treated as such, so take time to feel it in your hand. If you are still uncertain you could even come ask for a demo at the shop.