Finding the best kayak paddle for your paddling style is almost as important as finding the right kayak. If you pick a paddle that is not the right length, uncomfortable to hold or too heavy, you will have a difficult time maneuvering your kayak.
There are several considerations when selecting your kayak paddle, so to help with your decision we created this guide on how to choose a kayak paddle and evaluated the most popular paddles and give you our top picks.
- Seattle Sports Sea-Whisper Carbon Paddle
- Cannon Kayak Paddle with Black Fiberglass
- Bending Branches Angler Classic Kayak Paddle
- Advanced Elements Compact Touring Kayak Paddle
- Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle
- SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle
- Aquabound Sting Ray Touring Kayak Paddle
Here is a feature overview of the kayak paddles with full reviews and our buying guide below.
The Best Kayak Paddles
Kayak Paddle Reviews
The Seattle Sports paddle is a higher-end paddle that features a carbon fiber shaft for the ultimate in strength and making it a very lightweight kayak paddle.
It is incredibly durable that will stand up the harshest of abuse. The blades are of an advanced design that are made of impact resistant glass and nylon for durability and efficient paddling.
The paddles have unique design that allows you to retrieve items that fell overboard, grab your fishing line or position yourself while docking. If you are a fishermen, you will definitely appreciate this design.
The cam-locking design for adjusting your blade angle allows for quick and precise adjustments. The high visibility green paddles adds an element of safety from power boats by increasing your visibility.
For those kayakers who are willing to spend a little more money, the Seattle Sports is an excellent carbon fiber kayak paddle.
The Cannon paddle is probably the perfect entry level kayak paddle. It features an aircraft grade, anodized aluminum shaft that is extremely lightweight and durable. The shaft has 3 offset angles so you can adjust it to your desired paddle angle.
The grips are ergonomically designed for comfort, so all day paddling is not a problem. The shafts have heavy-duty drip rings to keep the water from running down the shaft to keep your hands dry. They are also made in the USA, so you know you are getting a quality paddle that will last you a long time.
Bending Branches was started in 1982 by Dale Kicker and Ron Hultman because they were not happy with the current paddle technology. Their first product was a composite canoe paddle and have since expanded to make paddles for kayaks and SUPs. To this day they still make their paddles in Wisconsin to have control over product quality.
The Angler classic continues Bending Branches tradition of quality products and the Classic does not disappoint. It has a fiberglass shaft for strength and durability along with nylon blades with fiberglass reinforcement.
One of its best features is the 3 button snap ferrule that allows you to adjust the feathering angle between 0 and 60 degrees. There is also an upgrade to a ferrule with unlimited adjustment angles plus it allows you to adjust the paddle length.
This is a worthwhile upgrade if you plan on using the paddle with multiple kayaks or more than one person will be using the paddle. The Classic is available in lengths from 220cm to 260cm, so there should be one that suites your needs.
The Bending Branches had the angler in mind when creating the Classic. The blade has a hook retrieval system on it plus a measuring tape on the shaft to check your catch and see if its legal. If you plan on fishing you will definitely appreciate these features.
For paddlers interested in extra visibility, one of the available paddle colors is orange along with the classic green.
While you don’t have to be a fisherman to enjoy this paddle, in my opinion this is the best kayak paddle for fishing.
If you can afford the extra money, Bending Branches also has the Angler Pro Paddle that has a carbon fiber shaft and multi-laminate fiberglass blades.
After using my Advanced Elements inflatable kayak for a while I wanted to upgrade to a better paddle and figured I would give their paddle a try. This is a very lightweight paddle (2.7 Pounds) with an aircraft grade aluminum shaft and blades made from nylon that are reinforced with glass fibers.
This is paddle comes apart into 4 sections and packs down to 25 inches, for the ultimate in portability. This makes a great complement to my inflatable kayak because it all fits easily in the trunk of my car. The blades as you can see are Asymmetrical for more thrust at low paddle angles.
The paddle is medium length of 91 inches or 231 cm, that’s probably its only downside is that is available in only one size. This should not be a problem unless you have a very wide kayak. I think the Advanced Elements is the best budget kayak paddle.
The Magic Plus paddle is a solid choice for touring paddle. It has a durable, lightweight fiberglass shaft and polypropylene blades reinforced with glass fibers. These blades are very tough and can take a beating from hitting rocks and other obstacles or pushing off when you get stuck.
The blades are offered in high visibility orange and blue giving you a little more visibility for safety if your around power boats. It is offered in 3 lengths, 220, 230 and 240 cm and weighs in at only 2.5 pounds. Magic Plus comes apart into 2 pieces for portability.
Carlisle makes quality water recreation gear and the Magic Plus is a good choice for a kayak paddle and in my opinion the best kayak paddle under $100.
The SeaSense is our most inexpensive paddle recommendation. Just because it is inexpensive doesn’t mean its not a great paddle. It features a 2 piece, aluminum shaft that is both lightweight and strong with molded, lightweight plastic blades. The grips are made of a comfortable foam that makes it a good choice for an all day paddle.
The SeaSense paddle comes with rubber drip guards to keep your hands dry and the blades can be adjusted to 3 different positions so that it will fit your paddling style. With its bargain price and solid performance, the SeaSense is the best kayak paddle for beginners.
It is a good entry level paddle that makes a great spare.
When you’re looking for a touring kayak paddle the Aqua Bound Sting Ray Carbon needs to be at the top of your list. The Sting Ray is an excellent touring paddle, it is lightweight and weighs only 28 ¾ ounces.
You will be hard pressed to find a lighter paddle at any price.
Sting Ray achieves this with a 100% carbon fiber shaft coupled with an incredibly tough and durable carbon reinforced nylon resin blade. The carbon fiber blade is stronger and stiffer than paddles that use fiberglass reinforced blades.
With the paddle being so lightweight, it makes paddling all day much less tiring. The Sting Ray Carbon is specifically designed for slow moving rivers or flat lakes, this is not a paddle you want to take white water rafting!
The patented Sting Ray Posi-Lok ferrule is also composite so it is corrosion resistant and offers infinite feathering angles. The Sting Ray Carbon comes in 5 lengths, from 210cm to 250cm and is a two piece design.
There is also a 4 piece Sting Ray, it costs a bit more but if you need a more compact paddle, this is a better option. All Aqua Bound paddles are made in their factory in Osceola, WI for quality control.
I think the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray is by far the best touring kayak paddle, highly recommended.
How to Choose a Kayak Paddle
Kayak paddles come in a variety lengths ranging from 210 centimeters to 260 centimeters. Finding the right length for you and your kayak depends on a multitude of factors including your height, paddling style, and the width and height of your kayak.
A general rule to consider is that the taller you are, the longer paddle a paddle you will need.
How Wide Is Your Your Kayak
Here is a quick reference with typical kayak widths:
Recreational Kayak: These kayaks are usually from 26″ to 30″ inches wide. They are normally short and wide.
Performance Kayak: Are typically from 19″ to 22″ inches wide. Performance kayaks are normally longer and narrower.
Whitewater Kayak: With a whitewater kayak the paddlers height is the most important factor.
Touring Kayak: A touring kayak have a width from 22″ to 25″ inches. Touring kayaks are similar to performance kayaks but with more storage capacity.
If you’re a beginner recreational kayaker then the width of your kayak is the most important factor for selecting a paddle. If on the other hand you are into touring or sea kayaking, then your paddling style and physical fitness will be a more important factor in your decision.
A wider kayak will require a longer paddle. So measure your kayak’s width at its widest point before buying a paddle.There is one other important factor we will cover next.
Your Torso Length And How Fit You Are
The length of your torso is another critical factor for choosing the correct paddle length. Here is a quick way to determine your torso length: Sit up straight on a chair, then measure how far it is from the chair, starting between your legs to the tip of your nose. Then use this chart as a reference:
- A more athletic kayaker will in general want a shorter paddle that has a wider blade for the extra power you get.
- A heavier or taller kayaker will want a longer paddle that has a wide blade to provide a slower efficient stroke.
- A shorter or smaller kayaker or someone who is not concerned about speed should choose a smaller blade with less surface area.
- In general if you want more power and speed get a paddle with a blade with a lot of surface area.
One last thing, if you have small hands, your better off with a paddle that has a thinner shaft.
Paddle styles vary based on the type of kayaking. After determining what type of kayak adventure you are embarking on, you can easily determine which style is the best fit.
- Low-angled paddling
Low-angled paddles are excellent for leisure kayaking through calm waters. The horizontal thin blades are longer in length, offering more productivity and less fatigue for those intending to take long distance trips.
- High-angled paddling
High-angled paddles are great for adventurous kayakers, taking on water that is more challenging and less predictable. The paddles are most useful in spots with quick flowing waters that require the kayaker to swiftly move through with moderate to strong force. Many people who choose to kayak for fitness prefer this type of paddle as well.
There are three factors to consider in choosing paddle blade material including strength, weight, and affordability. Ideally you will find the right paddle for your needs, one that provides a perfect blend of these three features.
If you are looking for a colorful paddle blade falling within the medium price range, built for strength and semi-light weight, fiberglass paddles may be the best fit for you. This is typically the paddle of choice for recreational kayakers and tourist rentals.
- Carbon Fiber
This top of the line blade in extremely lightweight and built for power. Though it is the most costly of the blade materials, it is worth it for the serious kayaker or for someone taking a long trip.
- Nylon, Plastic, or Aluminum
Though the paddles are considerably heavier than their counterparts, they are strong and inexpensive. Plus, they require little upkeep, thus are perfect for the recreational paddler or someone taking their first kayaking adventure.
Short video on choosing the correct paddle length:
In the past, symmetrical blades were the popular choice among kayakers; however, asymmetrical dihedral-designed blades are becoming a preferred design. The shape requires the paddler to exert less energy in comparison with the previous design. They resemble the wing of an aircraft, allowing water to effortless flow along each side of the blade.
Finding the right shaft mostly comes down to determining what feels right. Both shafts are equal in quality though one or the other may be preferable depending on the type of kayaker.
- Straight Shaft
The straight shaft is perfect for the advanced or more adventurous kayaker. It allows for more flexibility in maneuvering the paddle in various situations.
- Bent Shaft
The bent shaft is ideal for beginner or leisurely paddlers. The angle in the shaft takes unpleasant pressure off the kayakers’ wrists. More advanced paddlers can reduce the inflammation by adjusting their strokes, through practice.
Don’t forget the Spare!
A wise man once said, “Be careful not to find yourself up the Creek without a paddle”. This timeless advice applies to kayakers of all levels. Paddles break, float away, or get lost in ferocious current, etc. Though no one thinks it will happen to them but, it is better to be safe than sorry! Carry a cheap paddle or even a portable fold up paddle, in case of emergency, so you will not be caught, “Up the creek without a paddle”!
If your new to kayaking, I created a beginners guide to kayaking covering all aspects of the sport.