Best Kayak Paddle
Choosing a paddle can be a difficult business, especially if you’re just starting out.
How do you know what size to choose? What are the differences between them all? Which is the best material to choose?
We have put together some information that will not only answer these questions but will hopefully give you a better understanding of what makes a good paddle for kayaking.
Top Picks: Paddles For Kayaks
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We’ll look at the various types you can get and what they’re used for, so you know what to look out for when you next go to buy one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 aluminum shafts with plastic blades. 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 blades are often made from plastic, aluminum or even nylon. They can be ideal 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 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 material in shaft construction 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. 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.
An oval shaft will be easier to hold, giving you better grip 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 your paddling style.
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 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, 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. 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 the two 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.
Best Paddles For Kayaking
1: Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle
Featuring fiberglass-filled 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.
It is available in three different lengths; 220, 230 and 240 centimeters, with the 220 centimeter length weighing just 35.6 ounces.
Its lightweight and strong construction means it could be a good choice for a day on the water or a multi-day trip.
2: Werner Camano 2 PC Straight Paddle
This 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 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.
There's other Camano paddles in the range.
3: Aquabound Manta Ray Carbon Posi-Lok 2 Piece Kayak Paddle
If you’re looking for an ultra lightweight paddle for frequent use then this could be it. This Manta Ray one 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 a good choice for multi-day trips or long days, as the oval shaft 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.
4: Advanced Elements Compact Touring Kayak Paddle
Featuring a nylon construction, this one 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.
5: Bending Branches Angler Classic
Made in the USA, the Angler Classic features a fiberglass straight shaft and fiberglass blades, so it’s both lightweight and durable. Designed for 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 stroke.
This one is available in lengths from 220 cm up to 260 cm.
6: Werner Kalliste Bent Shaft Carbon 2-Piece Paddle
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. Featuring 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 two piece 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.
7: Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring Kayak Paddle
Designed for touring, this lightweight Expedition paddle has both a 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 and 240 centimeters and it features a push button joint to let you set the feathering angle. 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.
8: Seattle Sports 060295 SeaWhisper Carbon Kayak Paddle
With a carbon fiber shaft, the 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 nylon with fiberglass reinforcement, 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.
9: SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle, 84-Inch (Budget Option)
This 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 good 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 grips for your hands to give you a little extra comfort while you’re out on the water.
Kayak Paddles: Conclusion
While choosing a kayak paddle 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.
What paddle do you own, and why? Comment down below!