7 Best Kayak Paddles – Reviews and Guide

A kayak is an exciting and fun way to get outside on the water.  Whether it’s kayaking on a river, the ocean, or a lake, one thing is sure: you need a way to propel your kayak. Therefore, you must get a good kayak paddle! The best kayak paddle will get you moving quickly through the water in no time.

best kayak paddle
best kayak paddle

Kayak Paddle Basics

There are many types of kayaks for various water activities. There will also be different kayak paddles for different activities, from fishing to touring to whitewater. Next to your kayak, your paddle has the most impact on your performance and how quickly and smoothly you move through the water.

When choosing the best paddle for kayaking, there are several important considerations to make:

  1. Blade Materials
  2. Blade Design
  3. Shaft Materials
  4. Shaft Design
  5. Paddle Length

The blade is the part that is “paddled” and inserted in the water to help propel you forward. The shaft is the tube to which the blade is attached. There is typically a blade on each end of a single shaft in kayaking.

Remember that the lighter your paddle, the better performance since it will help lessen fatigue from constant paddling. Some also transfer energy better, making each stroke more efficient.

Blade Materials

Kayak paddles come in various materials, and the blades will be made of different materials than the shafts. Some materials are heavier than others, which is an important consideration when choosing a paddle.

Plastic and Nylon Kayak Paddle Blade Materials

The cheapest kayak paddle blades typically are plastic material. These plastic blades may work fine for recreational paddlers, but they can also hinder performance since the blades tend to bend in the water. They can also degrade in the sun and elements, and even though they seem pretty indestructible, they have the potential to crack. There are polypropylene blades and polymer blades under the “plastic” umbrella. Nylon blades have similar characteristics to plastic in performance and strength.

Fiberglass Blades

Fiberglass blades are lighter than plastic, though they are in the mid-level price range. In addition, fiberglass is more efficient in the water since it doesn’t bend, and while it may chip, it usually doesn’t break. Sometimes the plastic or nylon blades are coated with fiberglass to make them stronger, more efficient, and lighter.

Carbon Fiber Blades

Carbon fiber is the most expensive material of the three and a carbon paddle is the most lightweight paddle. It’s a technical material used for lots of lightweight outdoor equipment due to its strength. In addition, it is very efficient in the water.

Kayak Paddle Blade Design

There are two types of strokes are used in kayak paddling: low-angle and high-angle. Depending on the low-angle stroke or high-angle stroke there are different types of blades. Symmetrical paddle blades and asymmetrical paddleblades.

Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical Kayak Blades

Symmetrical blades are identical in blade shape on both sides of the kayak blade. This means you can hold the kayak paddle in any direction, and the paddle performance will be the same. A kayak paddle with symmetrical blades is great for kayak beginners or for low impact paddling.

Asymmetrical blades have different shapes on the sides of the kayak blade. Kayak paddles hit the water initially with a very shallow angle and then drive deeper into the open water. An asymmetrical blade will enhance your paddle stroke increasing power and agility in the water.

Low Angle Blade

Low-angle paddles are common for most recreational paddling. The shaft is slightly tilted, and the upper hand stays below shoulder level. Blades for this type of paddling are usually narrower than those used for high-angle paddling.           

High Angle Blade

High-angle paddles are used for speed and requires shorter paddles, and the blade is wider than one used for a low-angle stroke.

Asymmetrical Dihedral Blade

Most kayak blades are asymmetrical and allow the blade to pass more uniformly through the water. A dihedral blade has a rib in the center, so water flows smoothly over both sides. Many paddles on the market are asymmetrical dihedral blades.

Kayak Paddle Shaft Materials

There are three primary materials used for kayak paddle shafts:

  1. Aluminum Shaft
  2. Fiberglass Shaft
  3. Carbon Fiber Shaft

Aluminum Shaft

Aluminum is cost-effective and popular. It is relatively lightweight and robust, perfect for a wide range of kayak activities. The only issue is it is weather-sensitive, meaning it can get too hot or cold to the touch depending on the temperature.

Fiberglass Shaft

As with fiberglass blades, these shafts are strong and lightweight and can also be more expensive than aluminum.

Carbon Fiber Shaft

These are the lightest paddle weight and strongest. Therefore, carbon fiber shafts are also the most expensive.

Kayak Paddle Shaft Design

A paddle shaft comes in two designs. A straight shaft paddle is as it sounds: straight. A bent shaft is bent at the sections where the hands go for the most comfortable angle throughout the power portion of a stroke to help with fatigue and minimize discomfort.

Paddle Shaft Diameter: Standard and Small

Additionally, there are two diameters of paddle shafts: standard and small. Those with smaller hands should consider a small diameter paddle shaft. Ideally, you want to be able to touch your thumb and index finger together. If your paddle is too big, your hands will be easily fatigued.

Paddle Shaft Two or Four Pieces

Finally, shafts come in two or four pieces and connect at the adjustable ferrule. The most significant difference is the ease of packing and easy storage. The four-piece will break down into shorter segments and be easier to pack for those carrying a paddle on their back long distances.

Kayak Paddle Length and Sizing

Kayak paddle sizing is probably the most critical factor in choosing a paddle. Whether you’re looking for the proper fishing kayak paddle length or the correct length for whitewater kayaking, getting one that is too short or too long can be uncomfortable at best. At worst, it could lead to injury.

How are kayak paddles measured?

Paddles are measured in centimeters and based on a paddler’s height and kayak width. Therefore, the wider your kayak is, and the taller you are, the longer paddle you should use. Kayak paddle manufacturers should all have a kayak paddle size chart, so check it before buying to determine the right kayak paddle for your needs. For convenience, we have provided a link to a common kayak paddle sizing guide.

If you fall in between sizes, the general rule is to go with the shorter paddle to save weight, but factors such as torso size may affect your choice.

Kayak Paddle Features

Other features that may come with your kayak or that you can buy separately include:

  1. Kayak paddle holder
  2. Kayak paddle leash
  3. Kayak paddle grips
  4. Kayak paddle extender
  5. Kayak drip rings or drip guards

Whether your paddle comes with these, you need to add them, or you are looking to upgrade to the best kayak paddle holder or other accessories, you can always add these on.

What Is Kayak Paddle Feathering

Kayak paddle feathering allows you to adjust the feathering angle for different angles of your paddle and blade. The blade angle or feathering angle is offset for each blade. This is done to help paddle in strong, high wind. Depending on your paddling style, the feathering angle is primarily based on personal kayaking preference and the efficient strokes and powerful strokes you are looking for.

Top Rated Kayak Paddles

Best Recreational Kayak Paddle

If you’re looking for a recreational paddle that compromises well built and lightweight but affordable, look no further than the Best Marine Kayak Paddle.

This is an excellent mid-level kayak paddle for general recreational use for people of all levels. The shaft is carbon fiber, meaning it’s lightweight and strong. The blades are fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene which adds more strength than if they were simply plastic blades. In addition, the combination blades make it a lighter paddle and sales for an affordable price.

It’s made for low-angle paddling, and reviewers say it works great for all-day or multi-day paddling. It’s a two-piece shaft that comes apart for easy transport, then clicks easily back into place.

This paddle comes in several prism colors that make it look far more expensive than it is. It also comes with a leash to keep your paddle tethered to your kayak, and the drip rings keep water from running down the paddle and getting you wet.

Best Touring Kayak Paddle

The Werner Camano fiberglass paddle is perfect for touring paddlers who want to cover water during their kayaking journey. This Werner Camano paddle helps for a low angle stroke for a relaxing and enjoyable time on the water.

Best Kayak Paddle for Beginners

Someone just getting into kayaking doesn’t need to spend a bunch of money to get a good kayak. However, ergonomics and materials make a difference in ease of paddling and fatigue, so finding a paddle that won’t sour someone on the sport is essential. We think the BENDING BRANCHES Whisper is a great paddle for a beginner with some higher-end components while not breaking the bank.

While the blades are made of polypropylene nylon, they are also fiberglass reinforced. This allows lightweight durability and firmer paddling with less fatigue requiring less energy than a straight plastic or nylon blade.

This two-piece paddle has a lightweight aluminum shaft that can be “feathered” and locked into place for ultimate paddling comfort. It also comes with comfortable grips that can help protect hands from blisters, heat, and cold.

For beginners, reviewers say the Whisper splashes less, feels lightweight, tracks well, and many like how it breaks down for transport. When starting, there is no need to spend a lot of money on a paddle until you know if you’re even going to like the sport. If you’re looking for the best kayak paddles for beginners, this is a good balance and a good choice between cost and comfort.

Best Whitewater Kayak Paddle

People often debate about which paddle is best when getting into a higher performance activity like whitewater kayaking. Sometimes it comes down to personal preference and what feels best to you, while sometimes it means the lightest kayak paddle will be the best high-performance paddle. It may mean you try out your friend’s paddles before deciding which you like. We’ve perused the web, read reviews, and know Werner makes great kayak paddles. We think the Werner Sherpa Carbon Bent Shaft Whitewater Kayak Paddle is an excellent option if you’re ready to shell out some dough on an exceptional paddle.

Of course, Werner has variations of this paddle and carbon paddles with varying materials and shaft designs and thus different price points. We wanted to recommend the best carbon fiber kayak paddle somewhere in the mix of best kayak paddles, and here we are.

Remember, when looking at kayak paddles, carbon fiber will be the lightest weight and have incredible strength. For those reasons, we love this paddle because it has both a carbon shaft and carbon blades.

The one-piece ergonomically bent shaft paddles are designed for an easy grip and reduces fatigue when paddling hard or for long lengths. The mid-size performance asymmetrical dihedral blades are great for river or creek running. Also, this paddle is lightweight for an easy swing.

Further, Werner paddles are handcrafted in Washington state and come with a one-year warranty.

Best Fishing Kayak Paddle

As with so many things related to water and fishing, there are plenty of kayak paddles with specific fishing features! We are big fans of the BENDING BRANCHES Angler Scout 2-Piece Snap-Button Kayak Fishing Paddle if you are in the market for the best kayak paddle for fishing.

This lightweight kayak paddle has a blade of epX-engineered polymer reinforced with fiberglass, making it strong and light while keeping it affordable. One blade comes with a hook retrieval system, a small notch designed to help you get your lures out of the bushes if necessary!

The two-piece aluminum shaft easily comes apart with a locking system and has a tape measure for measuring your fish as you catch them!

Bending Branches is a reputable brand amongst kayakers. They’ve been making these paddles in Wisconsin since 1982 with a .03 breakage rate. People who use these paddles say they are tough, lightweight, and great for beginners and more experienced paddler and kayakers alike.

Another popular kayak fishing paddle is the Pelican Poseidon Angler Fishing Lightweight Kayak Paddle with built in retrieval hooks. This paddle is strong and sturdy and 250cm long. This length makes this paddle a nice compliment to wider fishing kayaks. The paddle comes with an Aluminum shaft and fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades. The paddle also has an integrated hook retrieval system as well as a high visual fish measuring tape on the paddle shaft.

Best Budget Kayak Paddle

A kayak paddle doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to get the job done well. So whether you’re looking for the best entry level kayak paddle or you’re a more seasoned pro looking for something for recreational day use, we think you’ll be impressed with the OCEANBROAD Kayak Paddle.

First, you can’t beat the price of this paddle for what you get. It comes in seven colors and with many “extras.” These extras include a kayak paddle leash to keep your kayak tethered to your boat and drip rings or adjustable drip guards to keep water from running down the blade. 

The straight two-piece shaft is aluminum and has three locking positions to “feather” your paddle at the most comfortable angle for you. It comes with a shrinking PE tube cover to keep your hands comfortable in hot or cold and to help prevent blisters.

The blades are asymmetrical dihedral and fiberglass-reinforced, meaning they will be lighter than plastic and have higher performance in the water.

Reviewers love the strength and performance of this paddle for the price. If you’re looking for kayak paddles for kids, this is a great option for them as well.

Best Kayak Paddle Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many things to consider when buying a kayak paddle, but following a few simple principles, you should have no problem finding a top rated kayak paddles to suit your needs.

Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to go to the next level, the best kayak paddle will come down to what type of performance you need and how much you want to spend. Materials make the difference in weight and efficiency, which need to be considered when looking.

It doesn’t hurt to go down to your local outdoor store and try several paddles out, including premium paddles, to get a feel for the different types. Look at blades made of plastic, fiberglass, and carbon fiber and shafts made of aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Feel the various weights and try a paddling motion.

Just remember, the most important thing, no matter which kayak paddle you choose, is to make sure you get the proper size. Using manufacturer size charts will help you determine the right paddle for your height and the size of your kayak. So what’s stopping you?! Buy your paddle and get out on the water asap!