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Kayaking… It’s a wet sport but there are a few features that will reduce your chances of getting wet. One such feature is kayak paddle drip rings.
Many kayak paddles come with drip rings some don’t. If you feel like drip rings could help in making your kayak adventures more enjoyable, you don’t need to buy a different paddle. Drip rings can be easily installed.
I’ll discuss the different types of drip guards for kayak paddles, how to install them, and how they should be adjusted to keep water from running down your arm and dripping on you and into your kayak, on your deck, gear, or even scruffy if you’re the type to bring your dog kayaking.
What Are Kayak Paddle Drip Rings?
Kayak paddle drip rings are cupped rubber rings that fit on both ends of the shaft near the blade. Drip rings help prevent water from running down the paddle shaft to your arm, into your armpits, onto your torso, or dripping on your legs, in the cockpit, or on the deck.
I sure am thankful for drip rings! Being a bit ticklish, I can’t stand cold water running down my arms into my pits. My kayak paddles have always come with them but if yours doesn’t have drip rings, this inexpensive piece of rubber is well worth it.
Kayak paddle drip guards add a level of comfort that is well worth the nominal expense.
You can see the drip rings that came on my two-piece Bending Branches kayak paddle in the heading photo above.
If you want a Bending Branches Whisper kayak paddle like mine, you can get one at Backcountry. They’re very durable paddles that can take a lot of abuse. From my experience, these split kayak paddles are great whether on a river with rock and gravel or a large body of water. I’ve spent a lot of time on both.
Do You Need Kayak Paddle Drip Rings?
Although kayak paddle drip rings aren’t a necessary item, they do add a level of comfort for touring and recreational kayakers.
If you’re a white water kayaking badass, there’s absolutely no use in using drip rings. You’re going to get wet when you drop off that waterfall into the pool below. At that point, who cares about a little more water dripping off a paddle?
Let’s face it. No matter what type of kayaking you do, you’re going to get wet. It’s the nature of the sport.
Do Kayak Paddle Drip Rings Work?
The effectiveness of kayak paddle drip rings and how much water will drip on you depends on the style of kayaking, paddling technique, length of the paddle, wind, and whether the drip rings are installed and adjusted properly.
I like drip rings. They work for me and my style of kayaking.
Some people don’t like drip rings. They just don’t improve kayaking comfort for some people.
Let’s look at why paddle rings work for some people and not others…
Kayaking Style and Drip Ring Effectiveness
I mentioned in the previous section that drip rings don’t work for certain styles of kayaking.
Kayak paddle rings work best for leisurely styles of kayaking. Aggressive paddling styles and powerful waters often exceed the design capacity of drip rings.
Paddling Technique and Paddle Length
If you have a low-angle paddling stroke, you’re less likely to experience drips with kayak paddle drip rings installed. With a high-angle stroke, it really doesn’t matter whether you use a drip ring. Here’s why…
Relaxed, leisurely paddlers like me take paddling strokes with a lower angle where the top hand stays below shoulder level.
This style of paddling requires a longer paddle and the angle of the stroke causes the paddle blades to enter the water further away from the kayak.
Water dripping from the paddle on the upstroke of a low paddling angle runs slower from the blade down the shaft toward the kayaker. These slow-moving drops are easily stopped when they reach the drip ring. They then fall back into the water below.
Low-angle paddling has an effect on how long it takes to kayak a mile but the paddling technique improves the effectiveness of drip rings.
(Pssst… Have you ever seen an origami-style folding kayak? It’s the kayak in the picture above and was developed by Oru Kayak. Super cool huh?!)
Aggressive paddlers tend to take high-angle strokes where the top hand elevates above shoulder level.
This style of paddling requires a shorter paddle and the angle of the stroke causes the paddle blades to enter the water close to the kayak increasing the chance that water will drip onto or into the kayak.
For high-angle paddlers, there is a greater chance that the water running from the blade will exceed the design capacity of the drip ring. The water can easily fill the cupped rubber ring and run on down toward the kayaker or drip onto the kayak deck or into the cockpit.
Poor Paddling Technique
Sometimes people, especially newbies, have a poor paddling technique that causes water to bypass the drip ring. Poor techniques are often overcome with practice or from a few lessons from an experienced kayaker.
Improper Paddle Length
Proper paddle length will depend on the height of the kayaker, the type of kayak (sit-in or sit-on-top), and the type of paddling stroke (whether you’re an aggressive paddler or leisurely paddler. Paddles that are inappropriately sized can render the drip ring useless.
Using a paddle that is too short will cause the kayaker to have a high-angle paddling stroke. As I covered earlier, strokes, where the top hand is in a high position, can exceed the design capacity of the drip ring and cause water to fall from the drip ring onto the kayak.
Using a paddle that is too long can affect the usefulness of the drip rings as well. I’ll cover proper drip ring installation in a moment. To compensate for a long paddle, the drip rings can be moved further away from the blade. Watch your stroke as the blade enters the water. You don’t want the drip ring to be submerged on your downstroke.
Wind Can Render Paddle Drip Rings Useless
Stronger winds or gusts can render kayak paddle drip rings useless. Winds can easily catch and blow dripping water from the paddle and ring onto the kayak or kayaker as the droplets fall back toward the water.
Improper Installation and Kayak Drip Ring Adjustment
A kayak paddle water guard won’t work if it’s installed or adjusted improperly. Luckily installation and adjustment are easy and you may not have to install drip rings at all. Many kayak paddles come with drip rings installed and all that’s needed is a small adjustment.
Let’s look at the different rings and how they should be installed and adjusted.
How to Install Kayak Paddle Drip Rings
Kayak paddle drip rings are flexible cup-shaped rings that install on the paddle’s shaft cup side out toward the paddle. If they’re installed backward, they can scoop up water and pour it on the kayaker or kayak instead of shedding droplets off the shaft to the water below.
Kayak drip rings can be purchased in a two-pack to replace or add rings to your paddle if they weren’t preinstalled. When purchasing drip rings, make sure you’re buying the right size and style. They’re designed to fit common-sized paddle shafts (standard or small-diameter shafts) and to be installed on one or two-piece paddles.
Common Sized Paddle Shafts:
Small-diameter kayak paddles have a diameter of around 22mm. These are for paddlers with small hands. If your hand is smaller than 6.5 inches from the base of your palm to your middle fingertip, a small-diameter shaft is the size for you.
No matter what your skill level, you’ll find drip rings super easy to install.
There are four drip ring styles that I’ll cover. Each is sold in pairs to be installed at each end of the paddle’s shaft. There are solid kayak paddle drip rings that slip on two-piece paddles and split drip rings for one-piece kayak paddles.
Solid-Design Drip Ring Installation
Two types of solid-design drip rings:
1. Pressure-mounted solid-design drip rings are rings that are tight enough to stay in place without any additional hardware. Simply take your two-piece paddle apart and slip them down the shaft toward the paddle blade. Make sure the cupped side faces the paddle.
These are my favorite solid-design drip rings and some of the best kayak paddle drip rings on the market. They stay in place yet they’re easily adjusted without any need for hardware or tools. They’re super inexpensive too! Some of the least expensive drip rings you can buy and they work great!
They’re what I use.
Aqua Bound drip rings can be purchased at REI or check out what may be the driest drip ring on the market, the deep dish YakAttack CatchNRelease Drip Ring at Amazon. These rings feature a unique design that catches water coming down the shaft when the paddle blade is in the high position and releases it back into the water on the downstroke.
2. Zip-tie mounted solid design drip rings slip on the shaft like pressure-mounted rings but require zip-ties to keep them in place. I’m not partial to these. They can’t be adjusted as easily. Adjustments require new zip-ties.
Split-Design Drip Ring Installation
Split drip rings are a great idea for one-piece paddles. These rubber drip rings have a break in the ring so they can be spread open and slipped over the shaft to be snuggly secured.
Split design rings can be used on two-piece paddles too but I prefer the pressure-mounted solid design drip rings for two-piece paddles.
Two types of split-design drip rings:
1. Bolt closure drip rings simply slip them around the shaft and bolt them into place. To adjust, loosen the bolt and tighten it back.
2. Snap closure drip rings slip over the shaft then the ends of the ring at the split snap together to lock the ring in place. These rings don’t require additional hardware or tools and are easier to adjust on the fly, though I prefer the bolt closure drip rings to this style.
How to Set Your Kayak Paddle Drip Rings
Setting your kayak paddle drip rings is fairly easy.
If you’re using the right length paddle for your height, type of kayak, and paddling style, the drip ring should be somewhere around 4 to 8 inches from the paddle blade. If you don’t have a measuring tape handy, use one width of your palm for the 4 inches and adjust from there.
Increase the distance from the paddle if the drip rings are entering the water when paddling. Drip rings won’t work properly if they are submerged.
Move the rings closer to the paddle if you have water dripping off the rings onto the kayak instead of the lake or river you’re paddling.
Your drip rings can be further from the paddle and still function properly if you have a leisurely, low-angle paddling style.
To adjust most rings, just slide them along the shaft to the spot you want and secure them. For information on how to secure your drip ring, see the installation section above for your style ring.
Kayak paddle drip rings help prevent water from running down the shaft onto you and your kayak. The use of drip rings often depends on paddling style and personal preference.
Many kayak paddles come with drip rings but don’t worry if your paddle doesn’t have them. One of the four styles of drip guards I covered will meet your needs.
If you’re new to kayaking, remember to install the drip rings cupped side out toward the paddle and the kayak paddle drip ring placement should be 4 to 8 inches from the blade where the ring doesn’t enter the surface of the water or drop water onto the kayak on the upstroke.
If you want to stay dryer while kayaking, kayak paddle drip rings are worth the $5 to $20 expense.