Best Kayak Paddle – 2020 Reviews and Guide
Paddles. They're all the same, right? Wrong!
How do you know what length to choose? Which is the best material for paddling? Bent shaft or straight?
Choosing the wrong paddle means there's a chance you're not going to enjoy your kayak the way you should be.
We have put together the best kayak paddle picks and a full buyer's guide to help make sure you improve your paddling experience.
Top Kayak Paddle Picks:
(click below to look at paddles on 3rd party sites)
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Best Kayak Paddles Reviewed
1: Werner Camano 2 PC Straight Paddle (best overall)
Read our full Werner Camano review
- Length: 220 to 260 cm
This Werber Camano straight shaft, two piece paddle features a carbon fiber blend shaft, which makes it both ultra lightweight and comfortable to hold and use during a long day on the lake. It can also be purchased in a one-piece version.
It also benefits from having asymmetric dihedral blades constructed from tough fiberglass, giving it extra strength in the water and allowing for efficient paddle strokes.
This can be a good choice for touring and for frequent use to reduce fatigue, and it can be an ideal paddle for lakes and slow moving water, where you’re using a low angle stroke. It’s available in a range of bright colors and their sizes range from 220 to 260 centimeters.
The blades are a mid-size design which can make this quality paddle more suitable for a wider range of paddlers and can be best suited to a low angle stroke. The indexing and texture on the shaft, combined with the moderate flex of the carbon, can make it more comfortable for long distance paddling.
Another useful feature of this Camano one is that it is available in a standard or a small diameter shaft. This can make it more appealing, especially if you’re smaller framed and prefer a smaller shaft for improved paddle control and less fatigue.
The Camano also benefits from having a Smart View adjustable ferrule system that can let you set the blades to the desired angles for your most efficient paddling technique.
Additionally, this feature can help give the shaft the strength and feel of a one-piece paddle.
If you're into paddling long distances, particularly touring, and you're looking for a good deal, the Camano is worth a try.
2: Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle (best value paddle)
Read our full Carlisle Magic Plus review
Featuring fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene blades and a fiberglass shaft, this one is not only lightweight but it’s also durable. It benefits from having an asymmetric blade with a spoon shaped curve, which will provide more power with each stroke. The best kayak paddle in our opinion!
It is available in three different lengths; 220, 230 or 240 centimeters, with the 220 centimeter length weighing just 35.6 ounces.
Its lightweight and strong construction means it could be a good paddle for a day on the water or a multi-day trip.
The Carlisle Magic Plus is a two-piece paddle, which can make it easier to transport and store. It can also give you the chance to either feather the blades to 60 degrees or keep them inline, depending on your preference.
The inclusion of rubber drip rings can help you to stay dry while you’re paddling.
The shaft features an ovalized grip for more comfortable paddling, which could make it a good choice for both recreational kayaking and touring. The wrapped fiberglass shaft is also designed to minimize pressure on your joints, with the balanced blades helping to reduce paddling fatigue.
Another great feature of the Carlisle Magic Plus paddle is that it is built to float, making it easier to grab if you drop it overboard. However, it is still recommended that you attach a paddle leash, just in case you do happen to let it go.
This paddle also comes in a selection of bright colors so that you can choose the best one to suit the color of your yak or for increased visibility.
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3: Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbon Posi-Lok 2 Piece Kayak Paddle (best carbon paddle)
Our full Manta Ray paddle review
If you’re looking for an ultra lightweight paddle for frequent use then this could be it. This Manta Ray paddle has the benefit of a 100% carbon fiber straight shaft, meaning it’s extra light but also extra tough.
This two piece paddle also features lightweight carbon fiber blades, giving you extra strength in the water. It can be good for multi-day trips or long days, as the oval shaft type will mean it’s more comfortable and allows for a better grip.
This paddle also benefits from a Posi-Lok ferrule system, which allows you to adjust the feathering angle easily but keep it locked in place when you need it. The sizes range from 210 cm to 250 cm.
The range of lengths can make it suitable for a wide range of kayakers, with the corrosion-resistant system letting you tailor the blade angles for your own needs while minimizing the risk of rusting.
The blades are a large size with a dihedral design which can help you to increase your power and let you cover more water at a faster rate.
The carbon-reinforced nylon blades are engineered to better suit a high angled stroke and could also be ideal for paddling a heavier craft, for example a fishing kayak or a fully loaded camping yak.
The shaft benefits from having seven layers of carbon, helping to maximize the strength and durability of the overall paddle. The surface is designed with a positive grip so that you can gain full control of the shaft even when your hands are wet. Additionally, there are drip rings close to the blades to minimize the amount of water coming off the blade and into your boat.
The Manta Ray Carbon paddle is lightweight, durable and strong. It's great if you’re a more experienced paddler looking for improved power and efficiency.
Check the links below to see the latest price.
4: Bending Branches Angler Classic (best paddle for fishing)
Made in the USA, the Angler Classic from Bending Branches features a fiberglass straight shaft and fiberglass reinforced blades, so it’s both lightweight and durable. Designed for kayak fishing, this one has a hook retrieval system built into one of the blades, so you can easily free your line if it’s caught.
Another feature of this Angler Classic is the measuring tool built into the shaft, so you can measure your catch in both standard and metric units. The blades are asymmetric dihedral, with a slight curve to give you extra power with each paddle stroke.
This Bending Branches paddle is available in lengths from 220 cm up to 260 cm. This can make it suitable for a wider range of paddlers and ideal for different widths of boats, particularly wider fishing yaks that may require a longer shaft.
The Bending Branches Angler Classic is a 2-piece paddle, which can be easier to transport. This can also make it a good option for storing on board your yak as a spare. The shaft features a three hole snap button ferrule system which is designed to provide a strong feel, similar to that of a one piece shaft.
A handy feature of this one is the ovalized shaft. This can be more comfortable to hold while paddling and can help to minimize fatigue, as well as giving you improved grip for increased control.
Bending Branches have brought us either a sage green color or a bright orange color, so you can choose between being incognito for fishing tactics or being more visible for safety reasons.
- Hook retrieval system
- Choice of camouflage or highly visible color
- Available in a range of lengths
- Fish measuring system on shaft
This is a great choice for fishing and recreational kayakers alike. The 2-piece paddle makes it easier to carry around, along with your tackle.
5: Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Paddle (best for touring)
Designed for touring, the Carlisle Expedition Expedition paddle has both a lightweight fiberglass shaft and fiberglass blades, so it can be a good choice for an all-day adventure. With the 220 centimeter length weighing just 33 ounces, you’ll be able to paddle for longer with less fatigue.
It’s available in lengths of 220, 230, 240 centimeters and it features a push button joint to let you set different feathering angles. However, it can only be angled at either 60 degrees or inline. The blades are asymmetric dihedral, to give you extra power as you move through the water.
The medium sized blades can be ideal for most paddlers and can be great for recreational paddling or even fishing, as well as longer tours.
A nice feature of the Carlisle Expedition is that it is a two-piece paddle, making it more versatile, whether you want to use it as a spare to keep on deck or use it as your main paddle. It is also built to be strong and durable, making it great for lakes and rivers.
Another great feature of the shaft is the ferrule system that can let you adjust the feathering for either right-handed paddling or left-handed, making it more appealing to a wider range of kayakers.
- Durable fiberglass blades
- Ideal for recreation and touring
- Adjustable ferrule system
- Asymmetric dihedral blades
- Fiberglass shaft
As well as being an excellent long distance paddle, the shaft and blades come in a bright yellow color so this can be more visible in the water for added safety.
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6: Werner Kalliste Carbon 2-Piece Paddle (best bent shaft)
This can be a great option if you’re heading out on a multi-day trip or will simply be spending a lot of time on the water. The Werner Kalliste features a carbon fiber shaft that is bent, giving a more ergonomic design, which is more comfortable to use during long hours on the water.
It has lightweight carbon blades with an asymmetric dihedral design and benefits from Dynel blade edges, giving it extra resistance. This paddle also benefits from an adjustable ferrule system so you can feather the angle to suit your paddling style and comes in a length of 220 cm.
The carbon shaft is also available in 230 and 240 cm lengths, as well as being available in two different sizes of shaft diameter - small and standard. This can make it a great choice if you’re a smaller framed paddler, as the small diameter shaft can be more comfortable to hold and can be easier to grip.
It benefits from having a Smart View locking mechanism which can allow you to set the feathering angle of the blades in 15 degree increments from 0 to 75 degrees. This system is also crafted so that the shaft has the strong feel of a one piece paddle and is designed to prevent your gear from getting snagged.
Additionally, the full carbon blades are built to float.
- Full carbon blades
- Great for touring or frequent use
- Bent shaft
- Adjustable ferrule system
The Kalliste is engineered for high performance using low angle strokes. The medium sized blades are designed to suit a variety of paddlers, with the smooth back face helping to improve your paddling efficiency by creating a cleaner entry to and exit from the water.
Featuring a nylon construction, the Advanced Elements Compact is durable and lightweight but the best part about it is that it can be taken apart. It breaks down into 4 parts so it can be easily packed into your yak as a spare or can be taken with you when traveling.
When taken apart it measures just 25.5 inches in length and features asymmetrical dihedral blades and a round shaft. It can be a good choice for touring on either lakes or the sea.
The blades are made from fiber glass filled nylon and are of a medium size, making this ideal for powering through the water quickly. The blades are unfeathered and are set at a 60 degree angle.
The round shaft is crafted from aluminum alloy, which can make it a little heavier compared to carbon fiber or fiberglass shafts but this can also help to make it more affordable. The aluminum shaft material can also be strong and durable. To help keep water from dripping into your boat, the shaft also features rubber rings near the blades.
The main feature of this paddle is that it can be easily stored and transported, making it more suitable as a second paddle. However, this feature can also make it a great choice as a main paddle to use with an inflatable or folding kayak, where you may want more compact accessories for the convenience of carrying in your car, for example.
With a carbon fiber shaft, the Seattle Sports SeaWhisper is a lightweight, strong option that is ideal for touring, recreation or fishing. It even has DorsalBlades built into each blade so you can grab your fishing line or even hook onto gear in your yak or anything that’s fallen overboard.
The asymmetric dihedral blades are fiberglass reinforced nylon, so they’re not as lightweight as full carbon fiber blades. You can adjust the length of the shaft between 230 and 240 centimeters and you can also adjust the feather angle.
The SeaWhisper also has the added feature of having reflectors built into the blades, for higher visibility if you’re out in lower light conditions.
Another great feature that can help to increase your visibility during your nighttime paddling expeditions is the addition of the oversized drip rings that are designed to glow in the dark. These large rings are also built to effectively reduce the amount of water that runs off your blade and into your yak, helping to keep you and your boat dry. This can be useful in both sit-on-tops and sit-insides.
The SeaWhisper comes in two pieces for convenience and easy storage and even benefits from having a built-in leash loop to make it easier to attach a tether to prevent it from floating away.
This can be an ideal option for a low angle stroke.
An affordable carbon fiber paddle with a handy adjustable shaft.
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9: SeaSense X-TREME1 Kayak Paddle (best budget paddle)
The SeaSense XTREME-1 paddle can offer good value for anyone who’s looking to get started or just looking for a spare one. It features a durable aluminum shaft and symmetrical dihedral blades. The blades are constructed with molded plastic, so they’re strong and can be a wise choice for recreational kayaking.
The symmetrical blades means it can be good for high angle strokes but it may get a little heavy after a while, due to its aluminum construction. However, there are foam hand grips for your hands to give you a little extra comfort while you’re out on the water.
The Xtreme 1 has a relatively short shaft at just 213 cm, which can make it better suited to smaller paddlers or children. It can also be a good option for using on smaller kayaks. However, it is available in a 244 cm model if you’d prefer a longer length.
The drip rings are adjustable so that you can position them at the optimum points for your style of paddling, to prevent water dripping into your vessel.
The shaft also benefits from having an adjustable ferrule system so that you can set the blade angle to suit many paddling techniques. There are three locking positions.
Another useful feature is that it floats, making it easier to retrieve if you lose it overboard. It also comes in two pieces to make storage and transportation a little easier.
This is a budget paddle that's great for those just stating out on their kayaking adventures. Even if you're more experienced, it's also a good paddle to have as a spare. Just in case.
The latest price is available below.
How To Choose A Kayak Paddle
Types Of Paddle
For different types of paddling there are different types of paddles. We’ll take a look at the four main ones to help you choose which one might be the better one for you.
Recreational Kayak Paddle: Designed for recreational use, they tend to be heavier but also less expensive. They are durable and most often used for shorter trips or by people who don’t kayak for long periods of time, due to their tendency to increase fatigue. They are also commonly used for fishing.
Touring Kayak Paddle: These are designed to be comfortable even after a day of paddling. They are ergonomic, lightweight and durable and are ideal for lakes, slow moving rivers or the sea.
They come in a range of different styles, with various blade shapes and shaft styles to suit your personal style of paddling.
The Carlisle Expedition paddle is our favorite for touring.
Performance Kayak Paddle: Like their name suggests, they are built for performance. They are usually ultra light and extra durable, often with advanced features. These ones are ideal for when you want speed and power.
They are often designed to make it more comfortable and more efficient for you out on the water, with less wind resistance and restrictions that may hinder your paddling.
Whitewater Kayak Paddle: These ones are designed with durability in mind. Because of the strong whitewater conditions they are often able to withstand occasional underwater hazards, such as rocks.
They are also built to allow for efficient maneuvering in the strong currents, often with wider blades and a thicker shaft.
The length of paddle you will need will depend on a number of factors. The two most important factors in choosing the right length are the width of your kayak and your height, or more specifically, the length of your torso.
With recreational yaks being wider, you may still need quite a long paddle, even if you’re not very tall. This is to account for the width of the yak, so that you don’t hit your knuckles off of the gunwales as you paddle.
Sit-on-tops may also require a longer paddle than sit-insides because you’re higher above the water and will therefore need the extra length in order to reach and stroke through the water easily.
Kayak Paddle Length Chart
As a guide, if you’re under 5’5” and your kayak is under 23 inches wide, an ideal paddle length would be 210 centimeters; if it’s between 24 and 28 inches, go for a 220 centimeter paddle; 29 to 33 inches, a 230 centimeter one would be ideal and for over 34 inches, a 240 centimeter one would be good.
For paddlers over 5’5”, the length should increase by around 10 centimeters compared to the paddles for the shorter paddlers, and again by another 10 centimeters for those over 6 feet tall. So a 6 foot paddler may choose a 260 centimeter paddle to use with a yak that’s over 34 inches wide.
However, your torso length will determine what size of paddle you will need, as people with a longer torso will sit higher in the yak.
It's not just about the paddler height. If your torso is 22 inches long, a 180 centimeter youth paddle would be ideal. If your torso is 24 inches, a youth paddle of between 180 and 200 centimeters may be comfortable.
For torsos of 26 inches, 190 to 210 centimeters could be recommended; 28 inch torsos would be 200 to 220 centimeters, with the length range of the paddle increasing by 10 centimeters as the torso increases by 2 inches.
Torso Length Chart
A quick way of working out which length of paddle will work best for you is to stand with the paddle vertically, with one blade on the ground. You should be able to reach up and your fingers will curl just over the opposite blade.
You can also hold the shaft out, in paddling position. Your hands should be around two thirds of the way between the center of the shaft and the start of the blade.
However, it’s always a good idea to test out a paddle on the water before you go ahead and purchase, as your style of paddling will also affect the length you’ll need. Many retailers will offer demo days where you can try out the paddles as well as having experts on hand to offer advice on which will be the best one for you.
Materials (Blade & Shaft)
Kayak paddles come in a range of different materials, each of them with their own benefits. The material you choose will depend on your personal preference, budget and your style of paddling.
Starter paddles tend to have an aluminum shaft with a plastic blade construction. This makes them durable but also heavy. However, the advantage is that they are often less expensive than some other materials. You may find that some recreational kayaks will come with an aluminum and plastic paddle included.
The least expensive paddle blades are often made from plastic, aluminum or even nylon. They can be ideal blade materials for beginners or if you’re looking to get a spare.
Fiberglass is a popular material for blades, as it offers good durability as well as being lightweight and can be a good option for both recreational and touring kayaking.
Carbon fiber paddle blades are even lighter than fiberglass but are also a lot more expensive. They are usually found on performance paddles, as they will let you move efficiently through the water and reduce fatigue.
Many shafts are still made out of wood, due to its strength and durability. You may find that the wood has been coated with a protective layer to give it more resistance, but they can be used even without a coating.
Aluminum is a popular shaft material because of its high durability and strength. Aluminum shafts tend to be heavier, which is fine if you’re not spending a lot of time on the water but they may cause fatigue if you’re out on a multi-day trip.
Aluminum shafts are relatively inexpensive compared to fiberglass and particularly carbon fiber shafts. Both fiberglass and carbon fiber shafts are lightweight and strong, designed for frequent use that makes them a good choice for the more serious kayakers.
Paddle Shaft Shapes And Pieces
As well as materials, there are other things about the shaft that you need to consider when choosing a paddle. First of all, the shafts can either be round or oval shaped. The round one, which is the more traditional, may not be quite as comfortable as the oval one.
Bent Vs. Straight Paddle Shafts
An oval shaft will be easier to hold, giving you better grip areas and therefore more efficient paddling. You can also get shafts that are mostly round, with designated oval sections for your hands.
Shafts can also come as a one-piece, two-piece or more. The two-piece can be taken apart. This is usually to allow for feathering of the blades, which will give you a more personalized paddle for your paddling style, with the aim of making each stroke easier and faster. With some two-piece shafts you are able to put them together so that the blades are at different angles, to suit many paddling styles.
You will also find that you can get either straight shafts or bent ones. The bent, or cranked ones, are designed to make it more comfortable and easier to paddle, minimizing the strain on your wrists.
Choosing the style of blade design can be difficult, with there being so many to choose from. You’ll probably find that most paddles are dihedral as opposed to flat, meaning they have two power faces, which can help direct the flow of water towards the end of the blades, making it more efficient.
You may also discover that most blades are asymmetric, so their surface area in the water is equal along both sides of the blade, meaning you don’t have to use as much energy to paddle the stroke and it also reduces flutter in the water. The way in which the asymmetric blades are designed means that the angle that the blade hits the water allows you to maximize your stroke.
When looking at the blade design, the sides are not the same but because you don’t paddle completely vertically or completely horizontally, the asymmetric angle on the blade gives you that maximum surface area in the water.
Wing blades are generally used for speed and in racing sports. Using a wing blade requires a high angle paddling stroke and can increase your speed and efficiency quite dramatically. However, for recreational kayaking and low angle paddling, it would not produce the same effect.
How you paddle will also affect the style of blade you’ll need. For high angle paddling, for example if you paddle with the shaft more vertical than horizontal, then you may be better with a wider blade design. The shafts tend to be shorter for high angle paddling.
For low angle paddling, where you keep the shaft more parallel to the water, you may find your paddling is more efficient with a narrower blade and, in turn, a longer shaft.
What About Kayak Paddle Extensions?
When have a paddle you love it can be hard to let go, even when you’re in a situation that could really use a longer paddle. But that’s where a paddle extension might just be able to help.
Can You Extend A Kayak Paddle?
Depending on the type of paddle you have, yes, you can. There are various products on the market that can allow you to extend the length of your paddle by adding an extension section to the middle portion of your paddle.
If your paddle features a single shaft that cannot be taken apart then you may struggle to add an extension. If, however, you have a 2-piece or 4-piece paddle, you may find adding an extension easier, as the extension is designed to fit in between shaft pieces.
How To Extend Your Paddle
It may also be possible, depending on the type of paddle you have, to manufacture your own paddle extension by using the shaft from another paddle.
In order to do this you could take apart your “spare” paddle and cut the shaft down to the extension length you require. You may also need to drill holes in the piece you’ve cut in order for it to lock into the other sections of your paddle.
However, you might find that some of the diameters may clash, which could require additional items and skills.
Kayak Paddle FAQs
What Length Paddle Do I Need?
This will depend on your height or torso length and the width of your kayak. For most recreational kayaks, most paddlers will find a paddle length of around 230-240cm suitable.
What Size Kayak Paddle For A Child?
Kids need a shorter, lighter paddle with a thinner shaft for small hands and smaller blades so that they don't become overwhelmed. This page has some decent tables available to help you.
Where To Hold A Kayak Paddle?
The "power face" is the concave side of a curved blade and the smooth side of a ribbed blade. Make sure the power faces of the paddle blades are facing you.
Then, holding your paddle, lift it above your head and rest the shaft on top of your head, so that your arms form a right angle at your elbows. This is where your grip (loose) should be.
Kayak Paddles: Conclusion
While choosing the best kayak paddle for your needs can be a difficult task, we hope we’ve been able to provide you with some helpful information that will boost your understanding of what you need to look out for when you go to purchase your next one.
First and foremost, you should factor in the width of your kayak. But you also should have your height and torso measurements to hand. In addition to this, you will need to factor in what type of kayaking you’re planning to do and what your needs are.
As long as you have a basic idea of your requirements you’ll be able to take that first step towards buying a new paddle. Take one out on a test drive. Get a feel for it. You need to make sure it’s comfortable and suitable for you so you can really maximize your time out on the water.