The Best Kayak Paddle in 2021 – Detailed Buyer’s Guide & Top Products

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kayak paddle on sunset

When it’s time to choose the different parts of your kayaking gear, the paddles, although easy at first, turn out to be some of the hardest to pick. Why is that? Well, while they are fairly similar at first glance, most kayak paddles differ from one another in a lot of ways, ranging from their angle, length, size, materials, and more. All that makes finding the best kayak paddle a bit of a challenge. So, how to strike the perfect balance between affordability and performance? You’re about to find out!

In this detailed buyer’s guide, we will go over some of the top paddles for this year, look at their pros and cons, and see which are the most fitting categories for each model. Let’s start with a brief comparison between our picks now!

Kayak Paddles Comparison Chart

ProductLengthWeightMaterialsOur
Rating
Wilderness Systems Pungo
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220-240 cm25 ozCarbon Fiber
BKC KP224
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218 cm35 ozAluminum shaft
Plastic blades
Perception Hi-Five
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190 cm27 ozAluminum shaft
Plastic blades
Perception Universal
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230 cm33 ozAluminum shaft
Fiberglass blade
Pelican Boats Symbosia
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240-250 cm48 ozFiberglass shaft
Fiberglass and
reinforced nylon
blades
Werner Odachi
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194 cm30/35.5 ozCarbon Fiber
Oceanbroad Paddle
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230-240 cm40 ozAluminum shaft
Fiberglass blade
Sea Eagle Paddle
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213 cm43 ozAluminum shaft
Fibrylon blades

Best Overall – Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (5/5)

If you’re looking for the best of the best, then the Wilderness Systems Pungo has to be on of your top picks for a kayak paddle this year. It is one of the few paddles made out of carbon fiber on this list and it goes with a price tag that reflects that. Despite it being extremely expensive, however, this paddle is incredibly durable and comes with some nice features that help it boast incredible performance compared to its competition. And if you aren’t comfortable with the high price, there is a fiberglass blade option that will arguably make this an even better value for your money.

Just like the blades, the shaft of this paddle is made out of unidirectional carbon fiber. This makes it very tough and basically unbreakable which is ideal for whitewater kayaking as well as touring. The carbon fiber blades have a foam core and have a size of 595 cm2. The overall weight of the paddle is just 25 oz, making it also one of the lightest paddles of this size on the market.

The paddle comes in three color options – black, mango, and galaxy. Size-wise, it is adjustable from 220 cm all the way up to 240 cm which is good for beginners that want to experiment with their paddling angle. Another thing that can be adjusted is the feather of the paddle. Unlike other models that only allow you adjustments up to certain degrees, the Pungo gives you infinite feathering options, allowing you to personalize the paddle to your stroke style. As a whole, if you’re willing to pay the high price tag, this should definitely be on your shortlist!

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Unlimited feathering options
  • Adjustable length from 220 to 240 cm
  • Carbon fiber construction
  • Foam-core blades
  • Weighs only 25 oz
  • Extremely durable

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Not ideal for beginners
  • Not suitable for kids or shorter adults

Best Budget – BKC KP224 86″ Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

If you’re looking for something on the budget side of things, then the BKC KP224 is just the right thing for you. BKC is a brand that specializes in water sports and produces all sorts of products for kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, and diving. This particular paddle features a heavy-duty construction that maintains a lightweight profile and has enough adjustability and performance to fit both beginners and intermediate paddlers.

The overall construction quality of this paddle isn’t stellar, especially since the blades are made out of plastic. See, plastic isn’t as good as fiberglass or carbon fiber mainly because it lacks rigidity and it flexes underwater, resulting in a worse stroke performance. The shaft is aluminum which is alright and it helps keep the weight down while maintaining decent durability. However, since this is a two-piece paddle, the center part of the shaft will be the weak spot since that is where the two parts connect. Most sites describe this as an adjustable paddle but it isn’t. Its length is fixed at 218 cm, although the blades themselves could be feathered at three different angles.

With a weight of 32 oz, this is still a fairly lightweight paddle that is great for beginners to learn their stroke form on. It is good for touring but I wouldn’t recommend it for surfing or whitewater kayaking. The blades are contour molded and dihedral, allowing you to slice through the water more easily. Additionally, there are drip guards right next to the blades that help with grip comfort. Another thing that helps with comfort is the anti-slip grip pad on each side which helps prevent blisters on long days. Thanks to that two-piece construction, the paddle is also quite easy to transport, especially compared to some long single-piece models. All in all, this model has its ups and downs but it is ultimately a great value for your money and won’t burn a hole through your pocket if you’re just now starting to get into paddling!

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • Aluminum shaft
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Adjustable feathering
  • Contour molded blades
  • Easy to transport and store
  • Great for beginners

Cons

  • The center of the paddle is a weak spot
  • Non-adjustable length
  • Plastic paddles

Best For Kids – Perception Hi-Five Kids Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

If you’re looking for a kayak paddle that will be great for your kids, then the Perception Kayaks Hi-Five has to be on your list! While this particular paddle is specifically optimized for the Perception Hi-five kayak (which is also for kids), it does work with all other kayaks of similar sizes. The paddle’s optimization for kids consists in a few key factors. First, it has a shortened length of 190 cm. This is far shorter than most adult paddles out there which are typically in the 220-250 cm range. It is also suitable for whitewater kayaking thanks to its short size. Additionally, the paddle’s blades are smaller at around 425 cm2 (the industry’s average is around 550 cm2). This makes the paddling strokes much easier since the blade won’t catch too much water.

The blades themselves aren’t exactly dihedral, meaning they might wobble a bit in the water but are slightly asymmetrical. This means that they will perform well when out of the water and will allow the kid to control the kayak better. Thanks to their elongated design they also allow for both low and high-angle paddling. This makes them good for beginners that are still learning all the stroke styles and are developing their own. The shaft is made out of aluminum and features a smaller diameter. This allows kids to grip it better without tiring their hands or getting blisters. However, there is no padding on the grip zones, meaning longer touring sessions might take their toll on the kids’ hands.

The blades could be adjusted at three angle positions (0, +60, and -60). This feathering capability will allow kids to learn how to control the paddle and the kayak’s movements better. At barely under 1.7 lbs the paddle is also quite lightweight, making it easy to hold by smaller kids. Since it is a two-piece model, it can come apart in the middle which makes for easy transportation and storage. However, one thing that I don’t like is that there aren’t many color/style options, especially when we’re talking about a kids model here. Still, for the price, it is a great bargain if you’re looking for a smaller paddle.

Pros

  • Fairly cheap
  • Two-piece construction
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Smaller diameter shaft
  • Smaller blade surface
  • Relatively lightweight
  • 3-position feathering
  • Great for kids

Cons

  • Blades aren’t very rigid
  • The shaft has a weak spot in the middle
  • No color/style options
  • No size adjustability

Best for Touring – Perception Kayaks Universal Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

In order to have a paddle comfortable for touring, it has to check a few specific boxes. It needs good angle properties in order to work well with low-angle paddling. Additionally, it needs to be durable, comfortable, and relatively lightweight. The Perception Kayaks Universal kayak paddle fits all these criteria and then some. It is a fairly affordable option from the brand’s line-up and it comes in a unique color combination. Additionally, the paddle works great for both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks, making it a good all-rounder for frequent paddlers.

The construction quality of all Perception products is top-notch for its price-class and this model makes no exception. The aluminum shaft is incredibly sturdy without weighing a lot. Unfortunately, it is a two-piece paddle, meaning it will always have that weak spot down the middle. Still, when it comes to transporting and storing the paddle, this is a definite advantage over one-piece models.

The blades are made out of fiberglass making them incredibly sturdy and rigid. This allows for better rowing capabilities and more control over your strokes. There are three feather angle options for the paddle at 0, +60, and -60 degrees for each blade. The blades also feature a dihedral design that allows for flutter-free strokes, making them an even better option for kayak touring. The Universal paddle comes in one color combination – lime and blue, as well as one size at 230 cm. This makes it less-than-ideal for kids but more than good enough for people with low-angle stroke techniques.

Pros

  • Great for all types of kayaks
  • Strong and durable blades
  • Anodized aluminum shaft
  • Great design and color
  • Two-piece construction
  • Feather adjustment
  • Relatively lightweight

Cons

  • A bit on the expensive side
  • Not suitable for kids
  • Has a weak spot in the middle of the shaft
  • No size adjustment

Best for Fishing – Pelican PS1131 Symbosia Angler Fishing Paddle


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Kayak fishing is an ever-growing sport and more and more anglers are trying it out each year. Thanks to that, the whole industry is booming and there are now countless fishing kayaks and fishing kayak paddles, as well as a ton of other accessories and fishing gear. The Pelican Boats Symbosia Angler Kayak Paddle is one of the best models out there for this particular job. It comes ready to help with its integrated hook retrieval system. It also has a tape measure on its shaft and a safety whistle in case something goes wrong.

Unlike most models on this list, this paddle is height adjustable from 240 to 250 cm making it suitable for taller paddlers that utilize both low and high-angle strokes. That feature also makes the paddle compatible with wider kayaks. The blades on the Symbosia have a fiberglass core with a nylon cover. This gives the blade plenty of rigidity while also makes it very durable in the long run. Their feathering angle can be adjusted from 0 to 360 degrees which is relatively rare in any kayak paddle.

On the shaft, you have drip rings that could have their positions adjusted according to your needs. The shaft itself is also made out of fiberglass making it durable. One major issue with this paddle is that it weighs 48 oz despite its lightweight components. The primary reason for that is its length, making it a less-than-ideal choice for people looking for a recreational paddle or something lighter. Pair that with the slightly higher price tag and you will find little to no reason to get this particular paddle unless you need it for fishing.

One cool feature that I really enjoy here is the ovalization of the shaft. What this means is that the shaft goes from circular to oval in the areas where you are supposed to grip it. Not only does that improve durability but it also makes the paddle much easier to grip at all angles. It also serves as a reference point for where your hands should be placed. As a whole, for people that love kayak fishing, this is one of the top choices for a paddle, despite it being a bit expensive and on the heavy side.

Pros

  • Excellent for fishing
  • Height-adjustable
  • Fiberglass construction
  • 360 degrees feathering angles
  • Adjustable drip rings
  • Ovalization on the shaft

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Expensive
  • Not suitable for touring
  • Not suitable for shorter people

Best for Whitewater – Werner Odachi Carbon Whitewater Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Whitewater kayaking is the most difficult type of kayaking out there. It requires durable gear that will be lightweight and super tough. In most cases, two- and four-piece paddles fall out of the competition due to their obvious weak spots. That leaves us with one-piece paddles. And what is the strongest material for a kayak paddle? You guessed that right – it is carbon fiber! This is why the Werner Odachi Carbon Whitewater Kayak Paddle is one of the top options if you’re looking for something suitable. The obvious downside of this paddle is that it will definitely burn a hole through your pocket. Still, it offers plenty of performance for its price and it is head and shoulders above most of its competition.

The whole paddle is a single-piece one, further adding to its overall rigidity. And while that doesn’t make it easy to store and transport, it definitely works in its favor when it comes to long-term durability. The carbon weave skeleton with foam core is responsible for most of the construction’s rigidity, while still keeping the weight relatively low. The blades are dihedral with Dynel edging and race-inspired tips. There is a 30-degrees blade-to-shaft offset that helps with the right-hand control of the paddler. The blade themselves have a 735 square cm surface which allows you to make quick and powerful strokes that will propel you forward. The height of this paddle is 194 cm which makes it great for high-angle rowing but less-than-ideal for taller paddlers. Thanks to its solid construction it also isn’t adjustable but that isn’t exactly a requirement in whitewater kayaking.

The paddle actually comes in bent and straight shaft versions, both offering their own sets of pros and cons. In most cases, this choice boils down to whatever the paddler is used to working with. Bent shaft paddles typically offer more grip and are easier to control, especially at the high stroking angle required in whitewater kayaking. One of the major disadvantages of the neutral bent shaft model is that it weighs 35.5 oz while the straight shaft one weighs in at just 30 oz, making it significantly lighter. As a whole, both options are worth considering if you’re looking for a top-shelf product that will be virtually indestructible and will perform like no other paddle on the market.

Pros

  • Superb stroke performance
  • Excellent for whitewater kayaking
  • Great for high-angle rowing
  • Dihedral blades with dynel edging
  • Carbon weave construction
  • 735 cm2 blade surface
  • Very durable single-piece design

Cons

  • Extremely expensive
  • Not great for tall people
  • Hard to store and transport
  • Not great for beginners

Best for Beginners – Oceanbroad Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Oceanbroad kayak paddle is one of the simplest and cheapest models you can buy on the market right now. It is excellent for beginners thanks to its simplistic yet full-of features approach. The paddle has an aluminum shaft that provides plenty of sturdiness. The blades on it have a fiberglass core reinforced with a polypropylene top layer. This ensures relative durability with good amounts of rigidity for a great stroke performance. On the shaft, you have polyethylene tubes that make gripping the paddle much easier and prevent blisters on your hands on those long touring days. The 230 cm option is excellent for adults, although you can opt for an even higher paddle. The two-piece design makes the paddle easy to carry around and store in the off-season.

Apart from its cheap price tag, another thing that I love about this paddle is that it comes in multiple size options and plenty of color options as well. You can get it in 6 colors such as black, blue, orange, red, white, and yellow both for the shaft and the blades. Sizes-wise, you can select either 90.5 inches or 95 inches. With it, you also get a bungee paddle leash for free, which is great for beginners that don’t want to lose their paddle in the water. As a whole, if you’re a beginner and want to simply learn how to paddle properly and not buy something expensive, this is the perfect product for you.

Pros

  • Excellent price
  • Great for beginners
  • Comes with a free bungee paddle leash
  • 6 color options
  • 2 size options
  • Easy to store two-piece design

Cons

  • Not suitable for kids
  • Long-term durability is questionable

Easy to Store – Sea Eagle 4-Part Kayak Paddle


Our Rating: (4/5)

The Sea Eagle Easy Pack Kayak Paddle is one of the cheaper options you can get if you want something that packs in a backpack-sized room. Packed, the paddle has a length of under 33 inches, which is extremely handy to have if you don’t have a lot of space in your car or home to store/transport it. The paddle is 240 cm tall making it ideal for low-angle paddling or tall paddlers. The blades can be feathered up to 65 degrees each. And while its shaft and blades are made out of good materials (aluminum and Fibrylon) the overall weight remains high at 2.7 lbs. In fact, this is the heaviest paddle on this list.

The obvious downside of this particular model is that it has plenty of moving parts. While the 4-piece design is excellent for transportation and storing, it leaves a lot of weak spots in the construction. Over time, the paddle starts feeling flimsy and might make squeaking noises that make it less than ideal for fishing or relaxed touring. Still, its practicality is decent and it is rare to have a fairly well-designed 4-piece paddle, so this could be a decent consideration if you want something that can fit in your backpack!

Pros

  • 4-piece design
  • Super easy to carry around and store
  • Fairly cheap
  • 240 cm tall
  • 65-degree feathering
  • Asymmetrical blades

Cons

  • Not great for kids
  • Construction can feel flimsy
  • Not advised for intermediate and expert paddlers

Kayak Paddles Buyer’s Guide

Kayaking as a sport is growing more and more each year and people are getting into all of its variations. Whether you are out fishing with your kayak, touring, or enjoying some whitewater adventures, having the right paddle for the occasion is a must. This is why, in this section, we will talk about all the nitty-gritty details of kayak paddles and dive deep into everything you need to know as a consumer!

Before we get into any of the paddle features that we have to discuss, let’s first talk about the different types of paddles out there…

Types of Kayak Paddles

Kayak paddles can be differentiated into quite a lot of categories based on their size, length, materials, angle, feathering, and more.

Asymmetrical vs Symmetrical

One of the main classifications used for kayak paddles is dividing them into symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical blades are beginner-friendly and you see them virtually everywhere. They are easy to use, very good at displacing large amounts of water, and most importantly – they are a great bang for your buck.

Asymmetrical blades, on the other hand, are meant for professional paddlers. As their name suggests, they feature an asymmetrical design where one side of the blade is shaped more different than the other. All that will give the paddler far more control over what the kayak is doing and will make handling waves easier. It also gives them finer control with one side and better speed control with the other. These paddles are more expensive and harder to find and are generally not recommended for beginners.

One, Two, and Four-piece paddles

In terms of their construction, kayak paddles are also often divided into one, two, and four-piece models. As the logic would suggest, single-piece paddles are very durable and also the lightest out of the bunch. They also have the strongest shaft but are a pain to transport. Paddles that have their blades come off are often categorized as single-piece. Models that separate in the middle are two-piece paddles, while four-piece paddles have their blades come off and separate in the middle. These are the easiest to carry around but have compromised durability. If you’re short on storage space, these are great!

Materials-wise and length-wise, kayak paddles can also be divided into individual groups. However, we will discuss that further when we talk about each of these respected features.

Features That Define a Good Kayak Paddle

Couple travelling by kayak

As you might’ve already guessed, the features that define a good kayak paddle are numerous. Apart from the actual type of paddle, there are a lot of other characteristics that will determine its performance and how good it will be on a variety of occasions. All those are:

  • Type
  • Length
  • Materials
  • Durability & Build Quality
  • Blade Size and shape
  • Blade Angle
  • Feathering
  • Shaft
  • Price

Now, let’s dive deeper into each of those features and see what role they play in a paddle’s overall quality!

Type

To sum things up, when it comes to the symmetry of the blades, look for symmetrical paddles rather than asymmetrical. They will be easier to learn how to use and are more suitable for beginners. Additionally, they will be easier on your budget, unlike asymmetrical models which are mode expensive.

Matched (unfeathered) blades will make your strokes more powerful, while feathered (unmatched) will increase wind resistance. If you can’t decide on either one of those, look for paddles that have an angle adjustment option for their blades on their shaft.

Length

Figuring out the length of your paddle isn’t going to be easy. Every paddle’s length is measured in centimeters and you also need to know your torso’s height and boat width to figure out the correct length. Even though most manufacturers will provide you with a table of their own to make the process easier, there are some universal rules and measurements you could follow.

Torso Height/Paddle Length:

22″ – 180 cm

24″ – 180 – 200 cm

26″ – 190 – 200 cm

28″ – 200 – 220 cm

30″ – 210 – 230 cm

32″ – 220 – 240 cm

34″ – 230 – 250 cm

Alternatively, you can use the paddler’s height and the boat’s width to determine the paddle’s length, as follows:

Your
Height
<23"
Boat Width
23 - 28"
Boat Width
28 - 32"
Boat Width
>32"
Boat Width
<5 feet210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5' - 5'6"215 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5'6" - 6'220 cm220 cm230 cm250 cm
>6'220 cm230 cm240 cm 250 cm

Pro Tip: If you fall between two categories in any of the charts you see online, better go for the shorter model. However, if you are proportional but have a shorter torso, then go with a slightly longer paddle. That will compensate for it.

Another thing that you can take into consideration is the paddle angle that you’re using. If you’re using a high-angle style, you should add 10-20cm on top of your paddle as it won’t be able to reach the water otherwise. Contrary to that, for low-angle style paddlers, you will need to add 5-10 cm on top of what you already added so far. This is because they will be paddling more horizontally and will need a bit of extra length to fully reach the water.

Materials

When it comes to the materials used in a paddle, you will have to look at both the blades and the shaft as two individual components. As time goes on and you become a better paddler, you will be able to swap out the blades of your paddle or maybe get a new shaft. Until then, you will have to choose a single paddle carefully considering the individual materials used in its parts.

Blades

For the blades, the possible material choices are:

  • Plastic or Nylon – These blades are some of the cheapest out there and, logically, can be found virtually anywhere. They are the top choice for recreational paddlers and beginners thanks to their budget and lightweight nature. However, there are a few major disadvantages to using plastic in kayak paddles. First and foremost, plastic isn’t as durable as fiberglass or carbon fiber. Thanks to that, these blades can break. Additionally, they become extra brittle when exposed to the sun for longer periods. All that makes their long-term performance less than stellar. And while some plastic paddles will have certain flex to them that will prevent breaks, this same flex will reduce their stroke capacity underwater.
  • Nylon – This is another alternative to plastic that is equally cheap but slightly more flexible and durable. It is also less prone to breaks and cracks.
  • Fiberglass – Fiberglass offers a decent alternative between price and performance. Price-wise its sits between plastic and carbon fiber blades. In terms of durability and performance, it also sits far above plastic but slightly below carbon fiber. This is the main reason you can find fiberglass blades that can match the price tag of some carbon models. These blades can chip and break but won’t break or crack all the way through. Thanks to their rigidity, they also have a great stroke performance, being able to displace a lot of water without bending.
  • Carbon fiber – If you want the best of the best, you must be willing to pay the price. And pay the price you will, because carbon fiber blades are the most expensive on the market. They are also the lightest out of all materials and are immensely tough and rigid. That lightness and rigidity make them perfect for pro paddlers and people that want to have the best performance possible.

Shaft

For the shaft, the materials are often narrowed down to the same materials used in the blades. However, plastic is nowhere nearly as common in shafts as it is in blades, which is why you basically cannot find paddles with plastic shafts. Instead, it is replaced by aluminum which has all the best properties for the job. It is lightweight, very durable, easily serviceable, doesn’t rust, and isn’t that expensive. Its biggest downside, however, is the fact that it gets very hot and cold depending on the weather. This is why gloves are a must when using an aluminum shaft.

Some high-end aluminum models will come with some sort of soft covering for the shaft that will prevent this from being an issue.

The other two materials for paddle shafts are fiberglass and carbon fiber. They are both very durable and easily the most lightweight options you can find out there. And while they are both fairly expensive, the higher price surely matches their improved performance over plastic, nylon, and aluminum in terms of material choice!

Durability & Build Quality

As we already discussed, the durability of your paddle will be primarily determined by the materials used in it. Additionally, the build quality will help improve the long-term performance and durability of the paddle. Models made out of fiberglass will be less prone to large cracks but can chip away. Plastic paddles will likely never chip but are far more prone to larger cracks that go all the way through the paddle. For maximum durability, go for carbon fiber blades that are connected with an aluminum shaft.

The durability of the paddle also depends on whether it is a single-piece, two-piece, or four-piece paddle. While you gain a ton of practicality with two- and four-piece paddles, you sacrifice durability, as there are more weak spots across the paddle that can break or bend.

If you want to learn more about winter kayaking and learn a few awesome tips, click here!

Blade Size and Shape

Young Woman kayaking

With the blade design, there is quite a lot of information that we will have to cover. The first thing you need to learn is what a “dihedral” blade is. What this means is that the blade is basically split in the middle by a bump. That bump in the middle of the blade allows water to run smoothly in both directions, allowing you to track straight. Blades that aren’t dihedral are often plastic and cheap but are much harder to track straight and will flutter a lot in the water when you paddle.

Most blades are also asymmetric, meaning they will have two different surfaces. That will be harder to manage as a beginner but will make the blade handle water easier when you sink it in. Thanks to its asymmetric nature, the water will flow easier through it when it’s horizontal. That will provide additional maneuverability to you. It will also provide more power when you’re actually paddling if you’re using the correct side.

Most cheaper models will be symmetrical and won’t provide a ton of benefits when it comes to speed or turning control. However, they are typically slightly bigger and are better for picking up speed. That is why kayak surfers typically prefer larger symmetrical blades for their sport.

Narrow blades, on the other hand, are lighter on average and are a much better choice for longer tours, especially for kayak trips. Their strokes won’t be as powerful but they will be easier on your hands and will be better for kayak control.

Blade Angle

The angle of the blade is one of the last features that you have to look for. Typically, when paddling, there are two possible options in terms of your paddling angle. You can have your higher arm lower than your shoulders for a low angle of paddling. This is easy for longer paddling sessions and won’t tire your hands a lot. Contrary to that, you can have your high arm higher than your shoulders and paddle close to your kayak. This is called high-angle paddling and can be very tiring, especially if you aren’t doing it properly.

With all that being said, there are two paddle angle types that work best for each rowing style. There are low-angle paddles that work great for low-angled paddlers as well as high-angle paddles that work best if you use a high-angle style of paddling. You should be very mindful of this feature as depending on the type of paddle angle, the size charts will differ by 10-30 cm and you can easily get confused if you aren’t careful.

Feathering

Lastly, you might notice that some kayak paddles have their blades turned in different directions relative to one another. Aligned blades are called “matched” or “unfeathered”. These lie on the same plane and make paddling for beginners much easier. Feathered blades, on the other hand, are specifically designed with one thing in mind – to reduce air drag to the blade that is out of the water. This makes for a much smoother paddling process and increases your speed and control over the paddle.

Looking for feathered or unfeathered paddles isn’t a crucial thing do to, though. The reason for that is because almost all paddles on the market will allow you to rotate each blade. However, only the expensive models will allow you rotations above 15 degrees for each paddle, giving you more control over the angle, hence being much more practical for pro paddlers.

Shaft

Apart from the shaft materials and length that we already discussed, you should also look at its shape. There are two options to choose from here – bent and straight shafts. Bent shafts will have two or four curves along their length. These kinks will allow your hands to grip the shaft at a better angle during the hardest part of the stroke. This reduces discomfort and fatigue in your hands and joints.

Straight-shaft paddles offer a more traditional approach and a generally better for beginners. They are also cheaper and more accessible. One thing to remember is to stick with your original shaft choice if you can. The reason for that is because the transition from straight to bent or vice versa will take you a lot of time to get used to and to adjust your paddling technique.

As I mentioned earlier, shafts could also come in one or two pieces. This allows them to break down in order to be stored more easily. Additionally, shafts can vary in terms of their diameter. Wider shafts are much easier to grip but are more fatiguing in the long run. People with small hands will have a hard time holding a wide shaft for longer periods of time. Ideally, you want to touch your index finger and thumb when you grab the shaft. Right now, the market predominantly offers normal shafts and small ones, so you won’t be too confused with this particular feature.

Price

Depending on how often you go out with your kayak, you might want to consider differently priced options. For beginners or casual paddlers, I suggest looking for paddles in the 30-50 dollar range. These are typically made out of plastic or, in the best case, fiberglass. If you’re an advanced paddler or want something premium for your kayak gear, the high-end models can easily set you back more than 200 hundred dollars. These are almost always made out of fiberglass or carbon fiber, although some models will have aluminum shafts, which isn’t always a disadvantage as we already saw.

As a whole, the main determining factor for the price is the materials used in the paddle. The size and diameter of the shaft and blades also play a major role, as well as whether the paddle is feathered, adjustable, or asymmetrical.

The model’s warranty is another thing to consider, as some manufacturers will cover their paddles with more than 5 years of full warranty.

Now that we’ve done through all the important features, let’s talk more about the way you handle your kayak paddle…

How To Hold A Kayak Paddle

Strong young man

The very first thing you have to remember about the paddle hold is to never squeeze. Instead, use a light grip. That will prevent your wrists from bending over when holding the paddle, which may lead to potential injuries down the road. Another reason to not kink your wrists is that you will be pulling the paddle when you work with it. Logically, it will be much easier to pull if your wrists are straight rather than bent.

On a non-feathered paddle, your knuckles should align with the edge of both blades. On feathered paddles, your right hand’s knuckles should align with the right blade’s edge, while the left hand’s knuckles should align with the left blade’s edge.

How spread out your hands are on the shaft is a bit difficult to figure out at first. Simply put, your should have your hands grabbing the shaft slightly wider than shoulder-width. One easy test to determine whether your hold is good is to put your paddle on top of your head. If your hands are bent at a right (45 degrees) angle at the elbows, then you’ve nailed it!

If you want to head out to the whitewater, make sure you check out some of my best beginner kayaking tips for whitewater kayaking!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are expensive paddles worth the high price?

While you will undoubtedly get a better paddle as the price goes up, that doesn’t guarantee that you will feel the difference. Apart from build quality and long-term durability, most beginners won’t notice the slightly improved performance of high-end kayak paddles. Additionally, most of the time, the kayak itself might limit the paddle’s performance. So, if you have a high-performance kayak, get a high-end paddle that goes with it. For beginners, however, I suggest sticking to the mid-range models. These will offer plenty of performance with decent durability and a great value for their money.

What is considered a good weight for a kayak paddle?

As we already discussed, kayak paddles vary in weight between 1 to 4 pounds. Lightweight models shouldn’t exceed 2 pounds, although it is logical that the longer and bigger the paddle, the more it will weigh. This is why some of the bigger and more expensive models are made out of carbon fiber, which is a notoriously lightweight material.

What will happen if my paddle is too long or short?

Paddles that aren’t matched well to the paddler’s height tend to overexert that same paddler. It will be much harder to build up speed and maintain the kayak in a steady position. Keeping track will also be harder with a longer paddle. Paddles that aren’t symmetrical to your height will also move around more in your hands, resulting in blisters.

How to prevent blisters while paddling?

While there are a lot of ways to prevent blisters from forming, one of the simplest is to use an anti-blister cream such as Hike-goo or Trail Toes. If you already have blisters, applying Vaseline to that location can help with the pain and further inflammation. If your hands and feet are prone to blistering, you might want to consider putting anti-blister pads between your hands and glove, as well as between your kayaking shoes and feet.

Final Words

Finding the best kayak paddle for your next adventure can be a challenging task, especially with the countless models on the market. The first thing you should do is look at the size of the paddle. Make sure it matches your height, torso length, and boat width. Most manufacturers will have charts to help you out with that. Additionally, look at the specific type of paddle, its materials, as well as the blade’s specifications. Some paddles will be asymmetrical, feathered, or have other features that will gear them more towards professional paddlers. If you’re a beginner, look for symmetrical unfeathered models that will give you the best performance for the best price!