Now that you have found the kayak that fits you best, it is time for you to find the right kayak paddle. Though it may seem like a simple aspect of kayaking, the process of choosing a kayak paddle can be difficult. From length, to blade shape, to paddle material, to positioning of each blade, there are many factors to consider as you shop for a kayak. If this seems overwhelming, then you are at the right website. We have created a kayak paddle guide that informs you of the necessary paddle features to consider, how to use a kayak paddle properly, and some helpful tips regarding your paddle. Better yet, at the end of the article, we briefly review our top picks of kayak paddles that will give you a place to start shopping.
Though they may all seem the same, kayak paddles differ based on material and the types of water they are designed for.
Kayak paddles come in a range of materials: from carbon fiber, to carbon, to aluminum, to even plastic. Material is mostly a matter of personal preference, though some materials make for a more durable and lightweight kayak paddle than others. Carbon fiber kayak paddles and fiberglass kayak paddles are very durable and lightweight, providing you with the best quality. However, they are more expensive. These paddles are good for intense kayak trips, such as those on the whitewater rapids, for they can withstand bumps and smashes better. Aluminum and plastic kayak paddles are less expensive, but also more likely to break. Aluminum kayak paddles also tend to be heavier. Paddles made of plastic and aluminum are great for leisurely, recreational kayak trips.
The type of water you kayak in and the intensity level of your activity will also dictate what type of paddle you want to buy. For slower, more leisurely outings, a common recreational paddle will suffice. Recreational paddle blades are often longer and thinner. The shaft of a recreational paddle is long to accommodate for the wide hull of most recreational kayaks.
Touring kayaks paddles are similar to recreational paddles in regards to blade shape, yet their shafts are not as long due to touring kayaks’ shorter hull width.
Sea kayak paddles are often feathered to accommodate the windy conditions you face while on the ocean waters.
Whitewater kayak paddles have shorter shafts and wider blades to allow for more torque and power in each stroke.
Here are the most important factors to consider when choosing a kayak paddle.
Kayak paddle length is the most important factor to consider when buying a kayak paddle, for without the right sized paddle, it will be hard to propel and control your kayak.
When considering the right length for your paddle, you will want to consider both the width of your kayak, and your own height. You want to make sure the paddle can reach far enough beyond the edge of the kayak, while also being the right length to match your height. If the paddle is too long, it will be awkward and difficult to use. If it is too short, you will not be able to generate enough power to effectively propel your kayak forward.
So how do you know what size kayak paddle to buy? on average, kayak paddles range from 210 centimeters to 260 centimeters. The taller you are,the longer a paddle you will need. For example, if you are below 5’5”, a 210 centimeter to 220 centimeter paddle will suffice. For anyone over 6’, you will want a kayak paddle that is about 250 centimeters to 260 centimeters.
Also consider the width of your boat; if your kayak is particularly wide, like a recreational kayak, you will need a long paddle.
For those of you who have already invested in a paddle, the best way to tell if you have the right sized paddle is to do this test; hold the paddle out in front of you so that your elbows make a 90 degree angle. If your paddle is the correct length, the space in between your hands should take up a third of the kayak paddle shaft.
For those of you sharing a kayak paddle with a person of a different height, or have growing children, you may want to consider purchasing an adjustable length kayak paddle. That way you can fit the kayak paddle to the length that fits you best.
As mentioned above, kayak paddles are made in a range of materials. From fiberglass, to carbon fiber, to aluminum, to plastic, the options are endless. All materials make for a well functioning paddle. For the most part, it is just a matter of preference. Materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber are lighter than other materials like aluminum. Keep in mind that a heavy kayak paddle can become tiresome after a few hours of paddling. Hence, if you plan to take long kayaking trips, you may be more comfortable with a lightweight kayak paddle. However, lighter kayak paddles are often more expensive.
You also want to keep in mind the durability of such materials: carbon fiber and fiberglass are very durable, whereas plastic will break more easily. If you are engaging in an intense type of kayaking, such as whitewater kayaking, where you are exposed to rocks and unpredictable waters, you will want to invest in a durable material that can withstand such wear and tear.
The size of your kayak paddle blade influences how powerful each stroke is. The wider and larger the blade, the more water it grasps and pushes with each stroke, and therefore you have a more powerful stroke that will drive you faster.
The larger the kayaker you are, the wider your paddle size should be because you need enough force to propel your body weight. A wide blade is best for fast paced, intense kayak journeys. For a more relaxed stroke, which is best for recreational and touring kayaking, a longer, thinner blade does the trick.
Another aspect of the kayak paddles design you will want to consider is whether it is feathered or unfeathered. A kayak paddle is feathered when the two blades are positioned at two different or opposing angles. This feature reduces the wind resistance that one blade faces when the other is in the water. Hence a feathered paddle is particularly useful in windy conditions, when an unfeathered blade would catch some wind and make it difficult to paddle.
The downside of a feathered paddle is the added stress it puts on your wrists, for with each stroke, you must alter your wrist position. Though handy, a feathered paddle is not always necessary; if you are kayaking on a calm day, an unfeathered paddle will work perfectly. Many multi-piece paddles allow you to adjust the angle of your blade, giving you the choice to switch between the two paddle positions as the weather conditions change.
Kayak paddle shafts come in two shapes or curves: round and oval. Round paddle shafts are most common, especially in inexpensive and recreational kayak paddles. Yet an oval shaped paddle presents a slight advantage; the oval shape fits better to the curve of your hands and can be more comfortable to hold. If you plan to go on long kayak trips, it may be worth it to invest in a paddle with an oval curved shaft for that extra bit of comfort.
You will want to consider what type of kayaking and activity level you will be doing. As mentioned above, there are different types of paddles that are made specifically for certain bodies of water.
If you plan to do some slow, relaxed paddling on a lake or slow river, opt for a recreational kayak paddle. If you want to take on the choppy ocean waters, invest in a sea kayak paddle. If you wish to have an intense, fun day on the whitewater rapids, chose a whitewater kayak paddle.
For those of you who are more athletic and plan to do some high intensity kayaking, chose a paddle with a wide blade and shorter shaft. This type of paddle will provide you with more torque and power, and allows you to build up good speed on the water.
To add convenience to your kayaking journey, opt for a take apart or adjustable kayak paddle. Take apart paddles can be broken down into two, three, or even four pieces. This feature is handy when it comes to storing your paddle. Adjustable paddles are also handy; they allow you to adjust the length of the shaft or the angle of the blades, allowing you to customize to the kayaker’s own height and paddling style.
Now that you know what features to look for in a kayak paddle, it is time to buy one that best fits you and your kayak. There are hundreds of paddles on the market to choose from, and you may not know where to start. Here are some of the best kayak paddles to give you some inspiration as you shop.
If you are looking for a kayak paddle that is inexpensive, but still of decent quality and design, then the SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle is perfect for you. This two piece kayak paddle is great for paddling on lakes, slow rivers, and even calm ocean waters. It has a durable aluminum shaft and lightweight plastic blades. To provide comfort as you hold the paddle, there are rubber grips and adjustable drip guards. This kayak paddle also allows you to adjust the length of the paddle. Better yet, this paddle floats, so if it is dropped into the water, you can easily retrieve it. The SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle is available in multiple lengths, including an 84 inch paddle and a 96 inch paddle, allowing you to pick a length that accommodates both your height and your kayak’s width. The SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle provides you with comfort, choice, and decent quality: all at an affordable price.
For those of you ready to kayak on the ocean waters, the Sting Ray Hybrid Posi-Lok 4-Piece Paddle is a great paddle to partner with your sea kayak. This sea kayak paddle is a four piece paddle. With a carbon shaft and durable fiberglass blades, it is very lightweight: only 30.5 ounces. The best feature about this paddle is its adjustable blade positions, allowing you to easily feather your paddle blades if desired. Feathered blades comes in handy as you face windy conditions on the ocean waters. Though it is a bit pricey, the Sting Ray Hybrid Posi-Lok 4-Piece Paddle is durable, lightweight, and performs well in the ocean waters. The quality of this paddle is well worth the price.
The Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle is a great kayak paddle for any kayaking rookie. It is very affordable, yet still has the features of a quality, thoughtfully designed kayak paddle. It has a durable aluminum shaft with comfortable, soft hand grips. There are drip guards to keep you dry as you paddle, as well as three different positions to adjust your paddle blades if desired. It also breaks down into two pieces to make transportation easier. The feature of the Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle Rounded 96" that makes it perfect for beginners is its contoured, molded blades. The blades are designed to help you scoop water with ease, allowing you to propel your kayak with less effort. The Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle has quality features that add ease to your kayaking experience without breaking the bank.
For those of you eager to tackle the fast, intense rapids of whitewater rivers, the Werner Paddles Player Fiberglass Whitewater Kayak Paddle-BS-200cm is a great kayak paddle to take on your journey. This hand crafted, whitewater kayak paddle is perfect for any serious whitewater enthusiast. Though it has a high price tag, this paddle provides quality features specifically designed to perform well in the whitewater. It has fiberglass laminate blades that are downturned to help propel you through the choppy rapids. Its carbon shaft is lightweight. Such durable materials can withstand bumps, scrapes, and crashes. If you are looking for a quality kayak paddle designed for the whitewater, you can not go wrong with the Werner Paddles Player Fiberglass Whitewater Kayak Paddle-BS-200cm.
The Werner Skagit FG 2 PC Straight Shaft Paddle is a durable, lightweight recreational kayak paddle that offers great quality. It is made of sturdy materials that are very light in your hands, making paddling less tiresome. This paddle’s shaft is made of a carbon, fiberglass blend and the paddle blades are made of nylon and fiberglass. Such strong materials are sure to withstand the wear and tear of the water for years to come. The long, sleek blades offer smooth, easy strokes and perform well on clam, recreational waters. Though you have to spend a few extra dollars, the quality of the Werner Skagit FG 2 PC Straight Shaft Paddle is well worth the money.
If you are on the hunt for a paddle to go with your touring kayak, we highly recommend the Werner Baja 2 Piece Kayak Paddle. It has long, thin blades that are perfect for a leisurely kayak tour. It has nylon durable nylon blades and is lightweight, weighing only 37 ounces. Such a light weight ensures your arms do not become weary overtime, making it great for long outings. Better yet, this touring kayak paddle has easily adjustable blades, allowing you to feather the paddle to fit your paddling style. It breaks down into two pieces, making it easy to store and transport in the trunk of your car. Providing good quality and performance the Werner Baja 2 Piece Kayak Paddle is a great choice for any kayak tourist.
The quality and design of your kayak paddle can make or break your kayak outing. If you have a paddle that is too short, too heavy, or unfit for the waters you are kayaking in, you will have trouble paddling, turning, and controlling your kayak. Finding a paddle with good construction and a design that accommodates your height and paddling style will make all the difference in your kayaking experience. Hopefully you found our kayak paddle buying guide helpful during your paddle buying process. Best of luck as you shop for paddles and happy kayaking!