The best kayak paddles has more to it than it meets the eye. There are various paddles specifically designed for different applications and making the right pick can greatly impact the paddling experience. For example, a paddle built for whitewater paddling can make casual flatwater touring much more work than it really does need to be.
It’s almost as important to find the best kayak paddle for your paddling style as getting the right kayak. You’ll have a hard time maneuvering your kayak if you choose a paddle that’s not the right length, awkward to carry or too heavy to manage
When selecting your kayak paddle for kayaking there are several factors. We developed this guide on how to choose a kayak paddle to help with your decision, and reviewed the most popular paddles.We’ll review 12 of the best kayak paddles in this article and give you the requirements you need to learn to select the right paddle for the kind of kayaking you’re going to do. We’ll also clarify many of the kayak paddle features that you’ll see when you’re looking for a new paddle, too. Let’s start, then!
Top Picks: Best Kayak Paddles
- Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass
- Werner Skagit FG
- Bending Branches Angler Classic Kayak Paddle
- Werner Camano Premium Fiberglass Kayak Paddle
- Cannon Paddles Escape E Kayak Paddle
- Advanced Elements Compact Touring Kayak Paddle
- Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle
- SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle
- Aquabound Sting Ray Touring Kayak Paddle
- SeaSense X-Treme
- Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring Kayak Paddle
- Seattle Sports 060295 SeaWhisper Carbon Kayak Paddle
Best Paddles For Kayaking
The Pungo Glass Wilderness System is a quality performance paddle, which has the added benefit of being flexible. The dihedral blade of medium size is designed to suit a variety of styles and levels of paddling experience.
We were immediately impressed by the innovative lever lock attachment system that offers extra adjustability to the paddle. Users can choose the feather of the blades-and-the dynamic paddle’s length. Most specifically, after extensive use this function continued to perform.
Using a carbon blend shaft and fiberglass blades, this paddle is lightweight but powerful. It wasn’t too stiff on our joints but provided an effective power transfer.
Only the most elite of full carbon models trumped the Pungo Glass in performance, which also retailed for a considerably greater price. Not only is the Pungo cost-effective and high quality, it also meets the most flexible needs for kayaking.
The Werner Skagit includes features such as the Smart View Adjustable ferrule system and carbon blend shaft from Werner’s premium line. The strengthened molded blades filled with nylon placed the paddle on the heavy side.
It does have the added advantage of being more durable, though. For recreational touring kayakers this is a great value efficiency paddle.
This paddle is also well suited to a new paddler looking to buy a paddle they know they can rely on for years to come to work. Those who are looking to tour long distances or perform high-speed sprints might want to consider a smaller, more powerful paddle.
Overall this is a great option for those who are looking for a powerful kayak paddle to deliver quality efficiency.
Bending branches began in 1982 and have over 35 years of composite paddle making experience. To this day in Wisconsin they still make their paddles to have complete control over the quality of the product.
The Angler classic continues the tradition of quality products in Bending Branches and the Classic is not disappointed. It has a carbon fiber shaft with nylon blades lined with fiberglass for strength and durability.
One of its best features is the 3-button snap ferrule which enables you to change the feathering angle from 0 to 60 degrees. There is also a ferrule upgrade with infinite angles of change plus it helps you to adjust the length of the paddles.
If you intend to use the paddle with several kayaks or more than one person will be using the paddle, this is a worthwhile upgrade. The Classic is available in lengths ranging from 220 cm to 260 cm, so that one will suit your needs.
Video: Review of Angler Classic Bending Branches.
When making the Classic the Bending Branches had the angler in mind. The blade is fitted with a hook recovery system plus a measuring tape on the shaft to test the catch and see if it’s legal. If you are considering fishing you can definitely appreciate these characteristics.
For paddlers interested in extra visibility, orange along with the traditional green is one of the popular paddle colors. While you don’t have to be a fisherman to enjoy this paddle, this is the best fishing kayak paddle in my opinion.
Bending Branches also has the Angler Pro Paddle which has a carbon fiber shaft and multi-laminate fiberglass blades, if you can afford the extra capital.
The Werner Camano paddle is a high-end paddle which features an ultimate in strength carbon fiber shaft and makes it a very lightweight kayak paddle.
It is extremely enduring that will stand up to the harshest violence. The blades are of advanced design made of impact-resistant glass and nylon for toughness and paddling performance.
The paddle’s dihedral shape gives you smooth and steady paddling, which is especially important when paddling long distances. The Camano is available in a wide range of bright colors, not only to suit your style, but also to improve safety with increased visibility for power boats.
The Werner Camano is the best carbon fiber kayak paddle for those kayakers who wish to spend a little more money.
The Cannon paddle is probably the perfect kayak paddle for entry level. It features an extremely lightweight and robust aircraft standard, anodized aluminum shaft.
The shaft has 3 offset angles so you can change it to the paddle angle you want and it’s a two-piece design. The grips are ergonomically designed for comfort so there’s no problem paddling the whole day.
To keep your hands dry, the shafts have heavy-duty drip rings to keep the water from flowing down the shaft. They’re made in the USA too, so you know you’re having a great paddle that’s going to last you a long time. It is by far the best kayak paddle for the price for less than $70, and is a solid choice.
After using my Advanced Elements inflatable kayak for a while, I decided to upgrade to a better paddle so I thought I’d give their paddle a try.
This is a very lightweight paddle (2.7 Pounds) with an aluminum aircraft grade shaft and nylon-made blades covered with glass fibers. This is a paddle that splits into four parts and holds up to 25 inches for the ultimate portability.
This makes my inflatable kayak a great addition, because it fits comfortably in my car’s trunk. As you can see the blades are asymmetrical at low paddle angles for more thrust. The paddle is average length of 91 inches or 231 cm, which is probably its only drawback is that it is only available in one size.
Unless you have a very big kayak, that shouldn’t be a problem. I consider the Advanced Elements to be the best lightweight kayak paddle.
The Paddle Magic Plus is a solid choice for paddle touring. It has a sturdy, lightweight fiberglass shaft and glass-reinforced polypropylene blades.
Such blades are very durable and when you get stuck, they will take a beating from hitting rocks and other obstacles or pushing back. The blades are provided in orange and blue high visibility that gives you more visibility if you are around power boats for added safety.
It is available in 3 lengths, 220, 230 and 240 cm, it weighs in at only 2.5 pounds and divides into 2 portability bits. The slight flex in the shaft makes it easier on your wrists while still supplying you with a lot of power in your stokes.
Carlisle is making quality water recreation equipment and the Magic Plus is a good choice for a kayak paddle and the best kayak paddle under $100, in my view.
The SeaSense is our cheapest choice on paddles. Just because it’s inexpensive it doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent paddle.
It features a 2 piece aluminum shaft with molded, lightweight plastic blades that is both lightweight and solid. The grips are made from a soft foam which makes it a good choice for a paddle all day.
The SeaSense paddle comes with rubber drip guards to keep your hands dry, and you can change the blades to 3 different positions to suit your style of paddling.
The SeaSense is the best kayak paddle for beginners thanks to its bargain price and solid performance. It’s a nice paddle in the entrance level which makes a great spare.
The Aqua Bound Sting Ray Carbon needs to be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a touring kayak paddle. The Sting Ray is a perfect traveling paddle, it’s lightweight and only weights 28 3⁄4 ounces.
To find a lightweight paddle at any price you’ll be hard pressed. Sting Ray does this with a 100 percent carbon fiber shaft combined with an incredibly tough and strong nylon resin blade reinforced with carbon. The carbon fiber blade is heavier and stiffer than paddles using strengthened blades made from fiberglass.
With the paddle so lightweight, it makes it much less tiring to paddle all day. The Sting Ray Carbon is specifically designed for slow moving rivers or flat lakes, this isn’t a white water rafting paddle you want to use!
Video: Review Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Paddle.
The patented Sting Ray Posi-Lok ferrule is also lightweight so it’s resistant to corrosion and provides limitless feathering angles. The Sting Ray Carbon comes in 5 lengths, from 210 cm to 250 cm and is built in two parts.
There’s also a 4 piece Sting Ray, it’s a bit more expensive but if you need a more lightweight paddle, it’s a better choice. All Aqua Bound paddles are designed for quality control at their factory located in Osceola, WI. I think the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray is by far the cheapest, highly recommended kayak paddle to tour.
#10 SeaSense X-Treme
A budget paddle for those who don’t care about results but want to get on the water.
The considerably lower price tag on the SeaSense makes it an enticing choice for anyone looking to buy an inexpensive paddle without breaking $50. It would also make a suitable backup paddle to hold in emergencies or as a spare for multi-day touring. Although this paddle’s design and weight significantly impacted its efficiency, it might be adequate for those who just want to get out on the water.
The SeaSense X-Treme 2 is a recreational touring paddle with no-frills, at the entrance stage. It was a close contender for the Best Budget Buy title, since it is practical and has an exceptionally low price (less than a quarter of the most competitors ‘ cost).
This model is perfect for a fast float or short trips at the beach. The foam grips reduced performance, and the contact point was feeling shaky. This model would not be recommended for extended tours (over two hours) or for paddlers looking for results, due to its excessive weight. For those paddlers who want to get out on the water, the Sea Sense X-Treme II is without making a significant investment in the sport yet.
This lightweight Adventure paddle is designed for touring and has both a fiberglass shaft and fiberglass blades, so it can be a good choice for an all-day adventure. With a length of just 33 ounces weighing 220 centimetres, you can swim faster with less fatigue.
It is available in lengths of 220, 230 and 240 centimetres, and features a push button joint to allow you to adjust the angle of the feathering. It can be set at either 60 degrees or in-line, however. The blades are dihedral asymmetric, to give you extra power when you pass through the water.
The SeaWhisper is a lightweight, strong option with a carbon fiber shaft which is suitable for walking, recreation, or fishing. It even has DorsalBlades built into each blade so that in your yak you can catch your fishing line or even hook on the gear or anything that falls overboard.
The asymmetric dihedral blades are nylon reinforced with fiberglass, so they’re not as lightweight as full carbon fiber blades. The shaft length can be changed between 230 and 240 centimeters, and you can also adjust the angle of the feather. Also, the SeaWhisper has the additional feature that reflectors are built into the blades for better visibility if you are out in lower light conditions.
How to Choose a Kayak Paddle
Different Types Of Paddle
There are various kinds of paddles available for different types of paddling. To help you choose which one might be the right one for you, we’ll look at the four main ones.
- Recreational Kayak Paddle: They are built for recreational use and tend to be heavier but also cheaper. Because of their propensity to increase fatigue they are lightweight and most often used for shorter trips or by people who don’t kayak for long periods of time. They are widely used also for fishing.
- Touring Kayak Paddle: These are built for comfort even after a paddling day. These are ergonomic, lightweight and sturdy, ideal for lakes, slow flowing rivers or the sea.
These come in a variety of different styles, with various blade shapes and shaft types to suit your personal paddling style.
- Performance Kayak Paddle: Designed for performance, as their name suggests. Typically, they’re ultra-light and super rugged, often with advanced features. Those are ideal if you want speed and power.
Often they are designed to make it more comfortable and more effective on the water for you, with less wind resistance and restrictions that may impede paddling.
- Whitewater Kayak Paddle: These are built for long-lasting purposes. These are often able to withstand occasional underwater threats such as rocks, due to the strong whitewater conditions.
They are also designed to enable successful maneuvering in the strong currents, often with wider blades and a thicker shaft.
Your length of torso and how well you suit
Another critical factor in choosing the correct paddle length is the length of your torso. This is a simple way to determine the length of your torso: sit straight on a chair, then measure the distance from the chair, starting from your legs to the tip of your nose. Use that map as a guide then:
Your degree of height, weight and health is also an important consideration in paddle selection.
- In general, a more competitive kayaker will want a shorter paddle which will have a wider blade for the extra power you get.
- A heavier or taller kayaker will want a longer paddle with a large blade to provide a smoother, more powerful stroke.
- A kayaker or someone who doesn’t care about pace should choose a smaller blade with less surface area.
- If you want more power and speed, usually get a paddle with a blade with a lot of surface area.
One last thing, if you have tiny hands, with a paddle with a thinner handle, your better off.
The paddle styles differ by kayaking type. Once you’ve determined what kind of kayak adventure you’re embarking on, you can easily determine which style fits best.
- Low-angled paddling
Low-angled paddles are great for kayaking across calm waters for recreation. The thin horizontal blades are longer in length, providing greater productivity and less fatigue for those considering long distance trips.
- High-angled paddling
High-angled paddles are ideal for adventurous kayakers, taking on more challenging and less predictable water. The paddles are most useful in spots with fast flowing waters which require the kayaker to move quickly with moderate to strong force. Most people who opt for kayaking for fitness often prefer this type of paddle.
In choosing paddle blade material there are three factors to consider including strength, weight and affordability. Ideally, you should find the right paddle to match your needs, one that provides a perfect combination of these three functions.
If you’re looking for a colorful paddle edge, designed for strength and semi-light weight that falls within the medium price range, fiberglass paddles may be the best fit for you.
- Carbon Fiber
This top of the line blade is extremely lightweight and power-built. Though it’s the most costly of blade materials, it’s worth it for the experienced kayaker or someone on a long journey
- Nylon, Plastic, or Aluminum
Though the paddles are significantly heavier than their counterparts, they are powerful and inexpensive. However, they need little maintenance, so it’s great for the casual paddler or someone having their first kayaking adventure.
Short video choosing the correct length of paddle:
Symmetric blades have been the popular choice among kayakers in the past; however, asymmetric dihedral shaped blades are becoming a preferred option. Compared to the previous design the form allows the paddler to exert less energy. They mimic an aircraft’s wing, allowing for an effortless flow of water along each side of the edge.
It is mostly down to finding the right shaft to decide what feels right. Both shafts are of equal quality although one or the other may be preferred depending on the kayaker style.
- Straight Shaft
The straight shaft is suitable for experienced kayakers or for more adventurous ones. This helps to move the paddle more flexibly in different situations.
- Bent Shaft
The bent shaft is ideal for paddlers starting out or leisurely. The angle in the shaft exerts painful pressure off the wrists of the kayakers. More skilled paddlers, by practice, will reduce the inflammation by modifying their strokes.
Don’t miss the Spare!
Once a wise man advised, “Take care not to find yourself without a paddle on the River.” The timeless advice applies to all rates of kayakers. Paddles split, float away, or get lost in furious current, and so on. Although no one thinks it’s going to happen to them, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Carry a cheap paddle or even a lightweight fold-up paddle, in case of emergency, so you won’t be caught, “Without a paddle up the creek!”
What about Extensions of Kayak Paddle?
It can be hard to let go if you have a paddle you love, even if you’re in a situation that could potentially use a longer paddle. But that’s where an extension to a paddle could just improve.
Can You Extend A Kayak Paddle?
You can, yes, depending on the type of paddle that you have. There are several products on the market that can allow you to extend your paddle length by attaching an extension section to the middle portion of your paddle.
If your paddle features a single shaft that can not be disassembled then you may have trouble adding an extension. However, if you have a 2 piece or 4 piece paddle, you can find it easier to attach an extension, since the extension is designed to fit in between the two parts of the shaft.
How To Extend Your Paddle
It may also be necessary to make your own paddle extension using the shaft from another paddle depending on the type of paddle that you have.
To do this, you may take your “spare” paddle apart and cut the shaft down to the length of the extension you need. You may need to drill holes in the piece you cut to insert it into the other pieces of your paddle, too.
You can notice however that some of the diameters can overlap, which may require additional items and skills.
Although selecting a kayak paddle can be a challenging task, we hope we’ve been able to provide some useful information that will improve your understanding of what you need to look out for when you go to buy your next one.
First and foremost, the width of your kayak should be factoring in. But you should also have measurements of your height and torso in hand. Besides that, you will need to make a factor in what sort of kayaking you want to do and what your needs are.
You will be able to take that first step towards buying a new paddle as long as you have a basic idea of your requirements. At a test drive take one out. Get a glimpse of it. You need to make sure that this is simple and acceptable for you so that you can really maximize your time out on the water.