So, your paddle board paddle won’t come apart? Welcome, to our world. We’d been stand up paddle boarding for less than a month when, out of nowhere, both of our SUP paddles stuck together like they’d been glued.
Most modern paddles split into sections so they’re easier to adjust, store and transport and replacing them isn’t cheap. So, when those paddle parts get fused together like wet lips on paper, it’s annoying and inconvenient, to say the least.
And, from everything we’ve read, it happens a lot. Not just to paddleboarding beginners like us, but to experienced paddlers too.
So, why does it happen? Why do paddle shaft sections get bonded together? How can you fix/get them unstuck (without breaking or damaging them)? And, more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening again, or in the first place?
We trawled countless paddling forums, SUP blogs, paddle board manufacturer’s websites you name it, all to find an answer to our sticky paddle problems.
We even emailed our inflatable paddle board supplier for their recommendations.
They even replied.
Yet, for a while, nothing would work. And then, just when we’d almost resigned ourselves to owning two inconvenient paddle-shaped brooms, we did it. We got our stuck SUP paddles apart and we did it without using excessive force or causing any damage.
In no time at all, we went from image 1 below “Fused and Confused”, to Image 2 “Apart, Yet Together Forever”.
And so can you.
Paddle FUSED. Us – CONFUSED.
Apart, yet together forever.
DON’T expect it to be easy.
Two Stuck Paddles – A Cautionary Tale
** NOTE TO START: Our SUP paddles were stuck through NO fault of the manufacturer/supplier. In the end, it was simply the result of beginner / lazy paddleboarder’s error, plus a lack of proper paddle maintenance and care. Bah! Isn’t it always?
** NOTE TO SELF: Always read the instructions. Unless there aren’t any. In our defence there wasn’t anything in the SUP paddle board instructions we were given when we purchased them that was specifically about paddle maintenance and care. Plus, the supplier foolishly left out the disclaimer about “always using common sense”.
** NOTE TO SUPPLIERS: As a family, if we don’t see a Common Sense Disclaimer, we NEVER use it.
Anyway, first a little background.
How many paddle boarders does it take to dismantle a paddle?
Actually, if it ever happens to you, you’ll discover it’s NO JOKE. We certainly weren’t laughing when both of our brand new 3-piece fibreglass hybrid SUP paddles, less than half a dozen trips old, got stuck tighter than a…(regardless of how many people we had yanking on them).
When we began paddleboarding we had two sleek, sexy-looking 3-piece adjustable fibreglass hybrid stand up paddle board paddles. A few short weeks later and we had two sorry looking 2-PIECE adjustable stand up paddle board paddles.
So, what went wrong and how did it happen so quickly?
Why my paddle board paddle won’t come apart?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why won’t you come apart?
And, yet, it was something we asked our paddles many times in many different ways using many different levels of profanity.
Our paddles refused to answer.
Paddles are not cheap. They’re a major portion of your initial kit costs- especially the fibreglass hybrid and carbon fibre versions. Our SUP paddles came as part of a mid-range kit option available when we purchased our inflatable paddle boards.
They are 3 piece adjustable paddles that the supplier’s guide said comprised a
“Lightweight, buoyant fibreglass shaft with a stiffened Polypropylene Blade – Available in a choice of 6 colours.”
Twobarefeet , the supplier, offer a choice of starter, deluxe, deluxe carbon and ultimate kits with their paddle boards.
We went for the deluxe kit because…
- Nobody likes to admit they’re beginners.
- We didn’t want to have to upgrade later when we “undoubtedly” became experts at it.
- The paddles floated. Beginner Bonus! Sshh!
And, for a while, the paddles worked beautifully. As advertised.
They assembled quickly and came apart easily. We could speedily adjust sup paddle length to match our individual requirements. They were lovely, lightweight and a pleasure to use. Like we said, for a while…
A trip or two later and the battle had begun.
Car Park Paddle Tug-O-War
Round 1: Winner – Paddle
In retrospect, we should have seen/heard the warning signs.
Crunch. Grind. Rasp. SCREECH!
That last noise was us btw.
The sounds of a soon-to-be-stuck SUP paddle.
By the third trip, our paddles were complaining ever more hoarsely and were becoming harder and harder to put together and pull apart.
By the fifth trip, they were COMPLETELY STUCK.
From then on, we had to transport them between the car seats, with the blades in the passenger side foot well. Not ideal. Not safe.
Not what we wanted.
Having to fork out twice for a paddle because you’ve broken it trying to take it apart, or because you’ve ended up with an inconvenient “one piece paddle-shaped fly swatter“, is not something many paddlers recommend.
Not at current prices anyway.
We wanted to avoid that. We also didn’t want to keep transporting them about two-thirds assembled. That was a massive pain in the behind.
So, it was time for some SERIOUS research.
First, though, we were curious to find out how and why our paddles had got stuck in the first place.
8 common reasons why your paddle won’t come apart
After hours and hours of online research, Google suggested it was probably due to one or more of the following:
- Fine sand, grit, dirt, grime, salt, random dust particles, pollen, marine particles etc. getting stuck in the section where the paddle shafts join
- A stuck or jamming locking pin/ferrule button – sometimes due to a manufacturing fault/poor design but, more likely, due to one of the above microscopic culprits
- A combination of stuck ferrule button and sticky paddle shaft
- Corrosion – especially on aluminium/metal alloy paddles, due to exposure to the elements
- Water absorption in the paddle shaft material leading to swelling. Most likely due to the paddle being stored in a wet or humid environment for a prolonged period
- Paddle Shaft curing – which, apparently, can happen for several years after manufacture and can lead to shrinkage and jamming
- Rarely / Never taking paddles apart. Keeping them assembled for long periods.
- A lack of proper paddle care, maintenance and storage
There are probably other rare, freakish one off reasons that could result in a fused paddle (lightning strike anyone?) but, in general, one or a combination of the above is normally to blame if your split paddle won’t come apart.
According to Google anyway.
So, if it’s such a common problem, why does it happen? Surely manufacturers would have it sorted by now?
Unlocking the secret to unlocking a stuck paddle
The Sciency bit – Paddle Biology
Most break down 2 or 3 piece paddles utilise what’s called a “ferrule connection“. That’s ours above.
According to Wikipedia,
A ferrule (a corruption of Latin viriola “small bracelet”, under the influence of ferrum “iron”) is any of a number of types of objects, generally used for fastening, joining, sealing, or reinforcement.
This simple mechanism allows 2 or more pieces of paddle shaft to be joined to make one long single, solid paddle.
In its basic form, one end of a section of paddle shaft will house a spring lock button. This is the male end. This end slides into the end of the other paddle shaft (the female end), which has a hole in the collar through which the lock pin will peek out when properly assembled.
To put the 2 paddle pieces together, the spring lock button has to be pressed in and the male end inserted into the female end until the button is seated in the hole. If done correctly, you’ll have one long, solid, continuous paddle ready for use.
To separate the paddle again after use, depress the locking pin button and pull the shafts apart. Simple.
I would draw it, but it’s already sounding too much like a paddle “Birds and the Bees” biology lesson, so on ours it looks like this.
** Spoiler: You can see pictures of the inside and outside of each section in detail later on in this post. The pictures below were taken when this paddle was firmly stuck. **
Simple SUP Paddle Ferrule Join
Ferrule Locking Button – Ready For Activation
Ferrule Button Fully Depressed
This type of simple ferrule connector mechanism is standard on most SUP/Kayak and other types of adjustable paddles. It’s there to help you quickly and easily break apart and rejoin your paddle when needed.
This is also a ferrule mechanism, but in the form of a clamp.
It’s commonly found on paddles too. Again, that’s ours above.
A 3 piece adjustable paddle will probably have one of each type of ferrule join – a spring lock button to join the blade and middle sections and an adjustable clamp to join the middle and handle sections.
That’s all great, but what has it got to do with why a paddle board paddle won’t come apart when you want it to?
Little tolerance for loose ferrules
Even though it’s such a simple design, a ferrule connection has to perform its job perfectly.
A properly performing two or three piece adjustable paddle has to feel like one solid shaft. It has to be a nice tight snug fit. A loose, slack or wobbly connection between paddle sections that allows the ends to shift and twist is bad for your paddle and your paddle boarding.
Conversely, a fit that is too tight is also bad. You’re going to be spending far too much time trying to get your paddle together and more time trying to get the thing apart later. Time that could be better spent on the water.
Unfortunately, the ferrule connector mechanism and paddle shafts work in combination to a fine tolerance. In most cases, as fine as a few thousandths of an inch of clearance. So, the more parts and pieces you have on a paddle that have to work under such fine tolerances, the more chance you have of experiencing problems.
Mechanisms jam, wear down or fail entirely on most things eventually. Metals corrode. Composite and synthetic materials expand and contract, degrade, break down and fracture when exposed to the elements.
If such a mechanism relies on precision engineering, like on an adjustable 2 or 3 piece paddle, then it only takes something small to put that system out of balance.
Chuck something very small, like sand, salt water, marine particles etc. into the mix and then you’ve got the potential for…
A major spanner in your paddle works
OMG! Somebody help that Kayak Paddle. Quick!
Somewhere, somehow, we got one in ours.
Both ferrule connector lock pin buttons depressed and rose fully so button jamming was not an issue. The ferrule clamp was also fine. We could rule that out too. The two bottom sections of the paddle, however, would just not come apart. They were completely stuck. No twist. No pull. No play.
So, what next?
How to separate a stuck 2 or 3 piece paddle
Now we knew what the likely causes were, we went looking for a solution. Needless to say, when it came to answers, the paddle-using community displayed a fair amount of ingenuity, a lot of creativity and large amounts of outright brutality.
Depending on the material a paddle is made from, this is what people either tried or suggested.
In no particular order:
- Soaking the ferrule join in clean water, cold water, warm water, icy water, hot water, soapy water
- Flushing the paddle shafts with one or all of the above
- Pulling the paddle sections apart using rubber wrenches, pipe wrenches, bench vices, a car a tree a tow hook and a rope, a pair of jar openers, warehouse sliding doors
- Pounding the paddle on rocks, on logs, with wooden mallets, with rubber hammers
- Blasting the ferrule mechanism with compressed air inside and out
- Penetrating / lubricating the join using calcium lime rust removal, WD40, silicon oil, dish washing liquid, liquid wrench, white lithium grease, bicycle chain lubricant, vitamin E oil, vegetable oil
- Heating and expanding the join with a blow torch, heat gun, hair dryer, hot towel, heat pad
- Cooling and contracting the join using a bag of frozen veg or ice cubes or ice water
- Pouring hot water on the join while simultaneously filling the ferrule hole with ice water
What actually worked? How did we get our SUP paddles apart?
This is what we tried.
Two stuck paddles. Both exactly the same, except for colour. We started with paddle one – our guinea paddle pig.
Would it give us the blues?
Here are the results.
“Settling the Score” Card
|METHOD: What we tried
|Pulling / Car Park Tug-O-War
|Twisting / Car Park Twist-O-War
|Pulling & twisting at same time / Car Park Tug & Twist-O-War
|Pulling sections apart behind knees while assuming a seated position – *apparently an old fisherman’s trick to separate stuck together fishing rods
|Paddle – old fishermen obviously never used a 3 piece adjustable fibreglass hybrid paddle
|2 – 4 people pulling while another one holds down locking button
|2 – 4 people pulling and twisting while another one holds down button
|Pulling upwards while someone sits down and hangs on to the bottom section – making sure to keep paddle sections straight
|Paddle- but very useful later as we found out
|Removing top third piece of paddle shaft and squirting hose pipe down stuck shaft
|Paddle- Plus, wet pants! Remember to point ferrule locking button away from you when you do this
|Soaking paddle join in bath water
|Paddle – stuck sections too big to fit in bath
|Running warm water over ferrule joint and button in shower
|Paddle- though never showered with a paddle before so that’s one off the bucket list
|Squeezing a little dish washing liquid into ferrule button and around join for cleaning and possible lubrication
|Wrapping joint in hot towel – it opens facial pores, so why not paddles?
|Pouring warm soapy water down shaft and leaving it to work its magic
|Paddle – Magic Failed
|Pouring warm soapy water down shaft then plunging the top third shaft in and out like an air pump – hoping to force water through more
|Paddle. Plus REALLY wet pants! Make DOUBLY sure locking button is facing away from you as this is like a water pistol!
|Gently tapping joint with a wooden rolling pin while rotating it – hoping to delicately knock it loose
|Emailing Twobarefeet (supplier) for recommendations – Reply promptly received. Warm water recommended
|Paddle – Already tried this in many different ways
As you can see, we were quite thorough.
Of all the methods suggested, though, what we hadn’t yet tried was…
- Heat / Cold – contraction and expansion
- Extreme Mechanical force to aid twist or pulling e.g. bench vice, pipe wrench, car tow hook
- Lubricant / penetrator – we were saving this as a last resort as you’ll find out later
It was turning out to be one hell of a battle and, to be honest, things were looking dark, bleak and gloomy.
But then…all of a sudden…the sun came out.
Or should I say…the hairdryer did.
Giving your paddle the Hairdryer Treatment
STOP! Not there. We meant on the join…
The Hairdryer method
** Do this outside if possible so as not to risk overheating/melting anything and causing a stink – literally! Also, VERY IMPORTANT: Water and electricity can be fatal! Make sure everything is dried properly and there is no water anywhere within reach when you do this. **
- Take one hair dryer. Set it on hot and low speed.
- Carefully heat up the female side of the shaft – the section where the hole and lockpin are. This is important! If you heat the male end of the joint it will only get tighter.
- Slowly rotate the shaft while heating up and down the female section to about 4-6 inches above the join. Do this until you see a gap form between the male and female sections – e.g. a little air space around the shaft. Or until you think it’s made a difference.
- Then, being careful not to burn your hands on the heated section, quickly pull and/or gently twist the paddle shaft sections apart.
Here it is televised. The video is only 60 seconds long, just to give you an idea of the technique. I probably kept it up for between 3 – 5 minutes.
An alternative to this is to use ice or cold water on, or in, the male end of the join. This has the opposite effect to heat, causing the male end to contract and hopefully forming a similar air gap. We opted for the hair dryer method first.
As you can see in the video, I made sure I carefully heated the female section of the shaft up and down from about 4 – 6 inches away for a couple of minutes.
Then, when I noticed a slight gap, I quickly got my daughter to hang off the bottom section while I pulled straight up and twisted the other section slightly.
** Apparently, it’s better to do the pulling vertically rather than horizontally as not only does it prevent you from flying backwards and crashing into something, but it also puts less stress on the ferrule. Just be careful not to hit yourself in the face when it comes apart.**
Fortunately, we didn’t video that. And the end result?
A twist, a pull, a twist again, more pulling, a bit of grunting, a little crunching noise and whoosh the paddle sections came quickly apart.
SUCCESS. Cue lots of shouting, laughing, kissing (of the paddle) and high fives.
Round 17 – Winner – Paddle boarder
And with our paddle now apart, we finally got a good look at our sticky opponent.
Here are pictures of the split paddle shaft sections inside and out, directly after separation.
Male Paddle Shaft – Outside
Male Paddle Shaft – Inside
Female Paddle Shaft – Outside
Female Paddle Shaft – Inside
Although we were careful not to get sand or dirt on the joints before assembly, what we weren’t aware of was that very fine sand particles were getting embedded in the plastic of the ferrule assembly. You can see the scratching and scoring in the pictures above. In our case, it wasn’t the sand ON the beach (because we were careful about that).
It was the sand IN the water AT the beach.
Torbay has many fantastic beaches suitable for paddleboarding. Many of them are sandy. And this suspended sand, water and salt mixture, possibly combined with other microscopic marine material, dried and cured and bonded our paddle shafts together like nobody’s business.
The culprit was this chalky, salty, fine crusty paste that almost looked like dried glue.
No. Not chalk dust or cement. Something much much more ANNOYING.
So, the heat expansion method worked, on one of our paddles at least.
Though, to be honest, we’d tried so many things prior to this that might have helped loosen the join, it was impossible to say if success was due to the hairdryer method alone.
Out of all the methods we tried, it certainly made the most difference in the least amount of time.
Luckily for us, though, we had another stuck SUP paddle we could try the hair dryer solution out on just to see if it worked quickly first go.
Here are the results for our second paddle battle.
In the Red corner…
|METHOD: What we tried
|Hairdryer Method – Twice for a few minutes each time followed by vertical 2 person pull
|Paddle – just – though we did get the locking button to move slightly and a small gap to appear between the paddle sections
|Pouring cold fresh water down shaft then plunging the top third shaft in and out like an air pump – hoping to force water through and around sections more. Then 2 person pull.
|Paddle – no further noticeable progress
|Hairdryer Method – Once again for a few minutes then 2 person vertical pull
|Paddleboarder – woohoo!
As you can see, much much quicker that time.
And here’s our downed opponent shortly after our victory.
How to prevent your paddle getting stuck ever again (or in the first place)?
So, you’ve finally got your paddle apart again. Well done you!
Now, if you’re anything like us, you’re desperate to find out how you can keep it from happening again, because nobody would willingly go through all that twice.
Here’s what we discovered.
TOP SECRET RECIPE – STAND UP STICKY PADDLE PUDDING
Sssshh! Are you ready?
This is what you need to do.
- Clean your adjustable paddle shaft joins thoroughly with clean fresh water BEFORE and AFTER use. If you’re a saltwater SUP(per) like us, make especially sure any salt residue and sand is completely removed. As you now know, salt and sand residue will dry to a crusty glue if left – making it much much harder to get the shafts apart. Pro Tips: Use a soft toothbrush to thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the shafts. Use bottled water, an unused hydro pack or the free-to-use beach taps if available.
- Separate your paddle AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after use. Try not to leave it too long before taking it apart and cleaning it.
- Store your split paddles in separate pieces blade up. Why separate? To stop them fusing together like ours and then having to research and read something like this. Why blade up? A paddle blade is meant to come into contact with water, not solid ground. Storing it blade up in lovely thin air, avoids stress, wear and accidental damage to the blade. Added bonus: Thanks to gravity, it also allows residual water and residue to make its way out of and off the shaft joints and mechanism more easily. It also stops you accidentally standing on the blade or shaft and damaging it.
- Store your paddle(s) out of the elements. No temperature/weather extremes. Somewhere inside and under cover. Somewhere nice and cosy.
And that’s it.
That’s the Top Secret Hack for Preventing your Paddle Board Paddles from EVER Getting Stuck Again.
Clean the damn things. Before and after use.
Wait, though. We still have questions…
Can’t I just use lubricant on my paddle?
Answer: No. Do NOT use lubricants.
That’s the general consensus. Experienced paddlers from every type of paddling community; kayak, canoe, SUP etc. all agree.
Using a lubricant to prevent your paddle mechanism jamming, locking or your paddle shafts getting stuck together is like guessing your paddle board psi. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.
Here’s what the experts at paddling.com say about using lubrication on your paddle…
Lubrication – Don’t! Lubes can create a sticky surface for little microscopic nastiness to adhere its irritating, friction-causing self to surfaces and edges. Keeping your ferrules well rinsed is your best measure for keeping ferrules from locking up. If they do, you are better off contacting the manufacturer instead of trying any tricks you think will work.
In fact, a lubricant will attract the very things that caused the jam in the first place -sand, grit, grime and debris. Ultimately, some lubricants and oils may even damage the material your sup/kayak paddle is made of. Try getting oil out of a wetsuit if you don’t believe us.
Of course, there are those that swear a little WD-40, bicycle chain oil or silicon oil did/does the trick. If you absolutely need to, because you’ve tried everything else 5 times each and you don’t really care at this point, try some.
However, use one you know won’t damage your paddle and make absolutely sure you clean and wipe it off and dry off thoroughly before next use. After that, just clean and rinse with freshwater, wipe it dry and store it separated.
Pro Tip: When it comes to finding a paddle friendly lube, the solution might actually be right under your nose. Actually, no…sorry, it’s at the side. Apparently, an old fly fisherman’s trick to lubricate the joint in fishing rod shafts so they assemble and come apart more easily, is to use the oil secreted by the glands at the side of your nose. NOT up your nose – that won’t work. Use the oil that forms in the greasy valleys where your nostrils meet your cheek. Your forehead is a good place too. A quick finger rub there and then on the joins of your paddle shafts could work.
Note: ** We’ve tried this. If you are going to do it, save it until you are somewhere private – just saying. “Nose picking paddle boarder” or “Nose Rubber” is not a nickname you want to be associated with down the beach.**
Do all types of paddle board paddles get stuck?
No. One piece paddles don’t. Obviously. The image above is of one we had lying about. As you can see, no locking pins, no clamps, no joins to get stuck.
Adjustable 2 or 3 piece SUP/Kayak paddles, though, whether made of aluminium, fibre glass, carbon, bamboo or a combination of all of them, do get stuck. Yours might too.
The method you choose for getting it unstuck may depend on how effective it’s likely to be given the material your paddle is made from, how long it’s been stuck and how much effort you’re willing to put into it.
All we can say is “Good luck”.
So, in summary…
4 Things you should NEVER do if you want to get your paddle apart
- Never apply extreme, unnecessary or unusual twisting force or torque to your paddle when trying to take it apart. Don’t hit them on or with anything to get them apart. Handle them carefully. Modern paddles are designed to have fine tolerances to ensure that, when the two or three pieces of the paddle are combined, they’re rigid enough to do the job of displacing water and transferring power. Bending, fracturing and breaking your paddle shaft or blade when attempting to get them apart will obviously lower performance, raise costs and possibly void any warranty you might have.
- Don’t wait a day or two before getting round to taking your paddle apart. Do it as soon as possible after your paddling is done for the day. Wash thoroughly and rinse properly in clean fresh water. Then wipe dry.
- Don’t store or leave your paddles outside exposed to the elements. UV light, damp and extreme temperature changes will adversely affect almost any material over time.
- Don’t use lubrication – unless it’s nose grease. Or one guaranteed not to attract sand, dirt, particulates etc. Nose oil seemed to work for us by the way. On our most recent trip out paddle boarding, the paddle sections came apart faster than they’ve ever done. We might bottle ours and sell it.
What if all else fails…?
It may look like a woman posing with a paddle, but she’s actually soaking the ferrule join in fresh lake water
If you’ve tried everything and your paddle board paddle still won’t come apart, then you have our utmost sympathy.
If you can put up with it as it is, then Carry on Paddling. We did, until it simply got too annoying to get them to and from the beach.
If it helps, some paddlers (who have no issue with transporting and storing a fully assembled paddle), actually now prefer their stuck paddles. Paddle shaft joins and ferrule mechanisms can wear through use, leading to less fine tolerances and greater section misalignment. In some cases, we can imagine that being just as annoying, if not more so, than using a rigidly stuck paddle.
However, if you need the convenience, portability and adjustability of a break-down paddle, then your options are limited.
You could try contacting your paddle supplier. They might offer suggestions, hacks or tips for their own branded paddles. If it’s a common problem, they’re likely to have been asked about it at some point. Whether they’re under an obligation to fix it is another matter. It might be covered under warranty, it might not.
They might help, or they might not.
In the end you may have to fork out for another. If you want the branded paddle that came with your paddle board kit, that could mean anything from fifty to a couple of hundred pounds/dollars. If you don’t mind a cheap generic paddle, then there’ll be someone selling them somewhere.
We had a look to see what was available elsewhere just in case. Our SUP paddles are lovely, sexy, stand out blue and red and match our inflatable paddle boards, so we weren’t ever really going to consider a generic replacement until every available fix/hack/tip/trick/solution was attempted…numerous times.
Still, if all else failed, we might have gone with something reasonably cheap like this on Amazon.
Or, perhaps this, which has a double clamp mechanism – no finicky locking button.
I might have even asked for one of these for Christmas, as it also comes with an oar/paddle leash to prevent you losing it in strong currents or when paddle boarding at night.
Anyway, adjustable, telescopic replacement paddles can be found. But, like most things, you get what you pay for.
Never Fear Your Frozen Paddle Ever Again
So, the moral of this rather long tale…don’t give up. You’ve got this!
At some point, either through a good long soak, a good long pull, or a good bit of ice and/or heat, that pesky paddle is likely to give in. It’ll loosen its grip on itself and your undivided attention and go back to doing what it was designed to do.
Split. Come apart. Break down.
And, when it does, look after it and keep it that way. Until you next go paddle boarding, of course.
We certainly will. That’s for sure.