Paddles come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own strong points. For many stand up paddlers in the market for a new paddle, the first question one asks is dihedral or not? A dihedral paddle has a spine on the blade giving the power-side of the blade a peaked contour. C4 Waterman and Werner both have dihedral blades. The alternative is a traditional flat blade such as a those produced by Kialoa or Quickblade. In this article you find a quick review of some of the pros and cons of each so you can make a more educated purchase for you next paddle.
The theory behind the dihedral blade is increased stability throughout the stroke. As your paddle enters the water, it the dihedral spine creates a path for the blade and causes the water to shed off both sides of the blade to prevent fluttering.
Fluttering is when the blade wobbles from side to side during a stroke. If you have troubles with blade fluttering in your stroke, than a dihedral blade may be a good choice for you. With less fluttering, you are less likely to bang the rails of your board with your paddle and are more likely to achieve a more even and efficient stroke. A dihedral blade should decrease fluttering.
Doesn't everyone have a problem with blade fluttering? No way. There are many stand up paddlers that never have flutter problems. Will the dihedral really prevent rails dings for me? Not necessarily. Repetition and refining your stroke will cause you to develop the muscle memory you need to keep your blade straight regardless of whether or not you have a dihedral blade.
Are there any downsides to a dihedral blade? Some feel that they don't get enough power in their stroke with a dihedral blade. They feel that the dihedral shedding the water decreases the resistance, or catch, of the blade. While the catch of a traditional flat blade increases as you dip the blade deeper in the water, with a dihedral blade there is less variation in the catch especially since the dihedral spine is usually more pronounced closer to the paddle shaft. Additionally, with a decrease in catch, it may
require more effort, more strokes, and more time to turn the board
around 180 degrees before catching wave. There are also some of the opinion that a dihedral blade creates excessive drag when skimming it along the face or a larger wave, though this is debatable.
How will you know if a dihedral blade is for you? Try one out. Look for paddle demo days in your local area, rent one from your local surf shop or surf school, or swap paddles with someone else in the lineup for a few waves or for a paddle out on the lake.
To sum it all this up, the dihedral will decrease fluttering, and may result in a more efficient and controlled stroke, and possibly fewer ding in the rails. However, dihedral blades generally have less catch or resistance which could affect your paddling speed and flat water turning. It's not uncommon for an avid stand up paddler to have one of each, and this article may be a good excuse for you to pick up a second paddle and grow your personal paddle quiver.