The 10 Best Kayak Paddles In 2021: Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

By James @ Sea Kayak Explorer
Last updated

If you’ve been kayaking before with any old kayak paddle you’ll know the chore it can be. They’re heavy, cumbersome, don’t cut into the water and can leave you exhausted at the end of a whole day of paddling. That’s where buying a quality kayak paddle can save you and your back from struggling and help you glide faster through the water with ease.

In this post, we’ve put together a complete buying guide of everything you need to know when buying a kayaking paddle. Then we’ve also reviewed a ten paddles that we think could be the best kayak paddle in 2021 to help you make the right choice when buying one.

Quick Answer: The Best Paddles For Kayaking

How to Choose a Kayak Paddle: Buying Guide

As all kayaking websites will tell you, having a compatible and quality kayaking paddle can enhance your entire kayaking experience. To help you choose the right one we’re going to look at some of the features and their benefits so you know what you’re looking for when buying your next paddle

The Anatomy of a Kayak Paddle

Parts of a kayak paddle

But, before we talk about what makes a good paddle let’s break it down into each part just so we’re on the same page.

There are two main parts of a kayak paddle. We have:

  • The shaft
  • The blades

The Shaft

You could refer to the shaft as the spine of a kayak paddle. It’s the component that connects each of the two blades and is the part that you hold on to while paddling.

Materials Used

Paddle shafts can be made out of a number of different materials. The most common materials used are fiberglass, carbon fiber and aluminum with each one having its pros and cons.

The first type of material you’ll see paddle shafts being made of is Aluminum. It’s very durable and inexpensive to make so you’ll often see cheap models being made from Aluminum. But, as far as paddles go they’re not as lightweight as the next two materials.

Carbon fiber and fiberglass shafts are used for more high end paddles and so cost a lot more. They are very lightweight and durable though so you definitely get your money’s worth when splashing out on one with these materials.

Bent Vs Straight Shaft

Kayak paddle shafts can be straight or bent depending on your preference. The bent shaft paddles have a little kink in them to help your hands get a better grip that’s more comfortable and helps to get more power in your strokes.

Beginners tend to prefer a paddle with a straight shaft. It allows them to choose where to grip the paddle a bit more so they can find a comfortable position that suits them.

Bent shafts put less strain on your wrists. This means that it’s more efficient to paddle and your hands will have less fatigue.

Diameter 

Paddle shafts are made with a standard diameter size. But, for children and those with small hands you can get paddles with a smaller diameter. This will make it easier to grip.

The Throat

The throat of a kayak paddle is the part where the shaft begins to widen as it meets the blade. Depending on how many parts your paddles is made out of it may be one piece or there might be a connector here too.

The Blades

The blade of a paddle is what propels you through the water as you to take strokes and navigate forward or backward. They are made in a variety of different shapes, sizes and materials which we’ll get into a bit later.

Let us look into the various parts of a kayak blade and some of its features.

Different Width and Lengths

Kayak paddle blades come in various different wides and lengths. Which one you go for depends on what type of kayaking you’ll be doing. A wide and short blade will create more force and power while paddling and so is more suited for whitewater kayaking.

The other type is long and narrower blade which are more suitable for long days of paddling due to being more lightweight.

Asymmetrical vs Symmetrical Blades

Another way that paddles differ is their shape which can be asymmetrical or symmetrical shaped.

Symmetrical blades are popular due to the way that the blade is angled which, as the name suggests, is symmetrical with both sides being the same. This means that it doesn’t matter which direction you hold the paddle and makes it a lot easier for beginners as it’s one less thing to think about. They’re usually used for rapids and surfing.

The other type is asymmetrical blades which are not the same shape on either side. One side travels up to the tip at a shallow angle and has the benefit that more of the blade goes into the water when paddling which gives you more power and control. They’re usually used for touring.

Blade Materials

Like the shaft, the blades of kayak paddles can be made from a number of different materials. The main materials used are

  • Plastic
  • Fiberglass
  • Carbon fiber
  • Wood

Plastic blades are by far the cheapest but are usually a lot heavier and less durable than the other options. The most durable and lightweight materials used are carbon fiber and fiberglass. This does mean though that they’re on the more expensive side but well worth it if you can afford the extra cost.

Feathering

The feathering of kayak blades refers to the angles at which your blades are to each other. If both blades are at the same angle they would be set to 0 degrees feather. You can set your angle by twisting the ferule of the paddle from 0 all the way to 90 degrees feather.

The reason why paddlers adjust the feather is to avoid creating wind drag when the blade not in the water is in the air along with making it easier on their wrists when twisting.

Some kayak paddles have an adjuster that allow you to change the angle of your feather. Other’s aren’t adjustable and come pre set. If you’re new, we’d recommend a 60 degree feather as you’ll find it easier to learn than unfeathered.

This video gives a good overview of feathering along with some suggests to help you find the right angle for you.

Paddle Length

Knowing what length kayak paddle is right for you can be a a bit tricky. To help we’ll cover some of the factors that will determine how long your kayak paddle should be.

The two main factors that will affect it are:

  • Your kayak’s width
  • Your height

If your kayak is wider, then you’ll need to buy a paddle with a longer shaft. This is to ensure your paddle can span the width of your kayak and prevent your hands from hitting the side as you paddle. The taller you are, or more specifically the longer your torso is, the longer paddle shaft you’ll need to get.

Here’s a kayak paddle length chart to give you a rough idea of what length would be right for you.

Your Height Kayak Width
Under 23″ 23″ to 28″ 28″ to 32″ Over 32″
Under 5′ Tall 210cm 220cm 230cm 240cm
5′ to 5’6″ Tall 215cm 220cm 230cm 240cm
5’6″ to 6′ Tall 220cm 220cm 230cm 250cm
Over 6′ Tall 220cm 230cm 240cm 250cm

Another option is getting a paddle with an adjustable shaft. Having a buffer adjustment of up to 15cm makes it convenient for you to use the same kayak paddles in different kayaks and if you’re sharing a paddle between people of different heights.

Number of Pieces

Kayak paddles can come in a number of different pieces. Most of the time they will either be a single piece, two-piece or four-piece. Each have their pros and cons but if you’re serious about kayaking we’d advise you to opt for a one piece paddle for a number of reasons.

A one piece paddle doesn’t come apart in the middle and as a result takes up more storage space. It also doesn’t allow you to change the angle of the feather and is already preset. But, they have a number of advantages. They’re lighter – due to not having the weight of the connector – and they are usually stronger as they won’t become loose over time or require repairing.

But, if you’re traveling a lot with your paddle, especially on transport like airplanes, you’ll definitely need to get one that packs down smaller in which case a 4 piece paddle will probably be better suited for you.

Weight

Weight plays a vital role in paddling. Your hands are always in motion taking hundreds, if not thousands of strokes over the course of a paddling trip. The strain on your forearms, biceps, and triceps is therefore multiplied a lot and you always want to get the most lightweight paddle possible for your budget.

Typically, a two-piece inexpensive kayak paddle weighs around 5 pounds which will cause you to get very tired. However, if you can afford to spend a bit more money you can get a paddle weighing considerably less and some of the high end ones weighing in at less than 30 ounces.

Types of Water

Depending on what type of paddling you plan to do you can get a paddle that’s made for that type of water conditions. The main types are whitewater, touring, recreational, and fishing paddles. Let’s take a brief overview of each of them.

Whitewater Kayak Paddle

If you’re looking for a whitewater kayak paddle then we wouldn’t recommend just buying any one. While whitewater kayaking you’ll face a lot more collisions with rocks and obstacles and so you’ll need something highly durable. A paddle made with cheaper material will not likely last as long and is likely to break.

Whitewater paddles have a wider blade to distribute the impact while cutting through the water evenly and they’ll usually have a thicker shaft to help you grip better. You’ll also want to look for one with around a 45° feather angle or one that can be adjusted.

Touring Kayak Paddle

Touring kayak paddles are designed for paddlers who are going to be out all day. As a result, they’re made from very lightweight and durable materials. They are ideal for rivers (without rapids), lakes and kayaking in the ocean.

They are available in multiple designs with various shaft and blade lengths and thicknesses depending on your own preference.

Recreational Kayak Paddle

Kayak paddles designed for recreational paddling are generally lower in price compared to a whitewater kayak paddle. They tend to be a lot heavier and the blades a bit longer.

They’re popular with people who don’t go kayaking very often and when they do, go on calmer flat water. They’re also popular for kayaking fishing.

Budget

As with everything in life you’ll find a wide range of different prices. You can get a budget kayak paddle or you can splash out and spend a few hundred dollars on a top of the range kayak paddle.

How much you spend will affect a few different things with the materials used being the primary factor. Aluminum or a plastic will be more commonly found in lower end models where as highly durable and lightweight materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass will be used on more expensive ones.

Other Paddle Accessories

There are a couple of other kayak paddle accessories you might want to consider too.

Paddle Grips

Depending on what material the shaft of you kayak is made out of you might want to consider getting some kayak paddle grips. They have a number of benefits like helping you to get a better grip of the shaft plus warm your hands up when kayaking in the cold. To read more about them, check out our post where we cover the kayak paddle grips and how to choose them.

Paddle Leashes

Another accessory you might want to get is a kayak paddle leash. These are leashes that you can attach to your kayak or life jacket to prevent you from losing your paddle overboard. They’re particularly popular with anglers who often need to quickly drop their paddle to pick up their rod. For more information check out our post here on kayak paddle leashes with reviews.

Top Paddle Brands 

Kayaking is big business and as such, there are a lot of brands making paddles. Everyone will have their own favorites but the popular brands tend to be Werner, Carlisle, Oceanbroad, Advanced Elements, Seattle Sports, Aqua Bound among lots of others.

Best Rated Kayak Paddle Reviews

Now we’ll cover some reviews of what we think are the top ten kayak paddles on the market in 2021 and look at some of the features and benefits that helped us make those choices.

#1. Werner Kalliste Carbon Bent Shaft Kayak Paddle

Our number one choice when it comes to kayak paddles has to be the Werner Kalliste Carbon Bent Shaft Kayak Paddle. This paddle achieves the perfect balance between power and ease of use. The foam core makes this gear very lightweight, ensuring that you can paddle at your pace, worry-free of resistance from heavy equipment. 

This lightness is also a critical factor in the Werner paddle’s ergonomics. This feature works alongside the neutral bent design that provides a perfect line along the blade, ferrule, and grip. 

These factors are also responsible for the paddle’s well-shaped profile and functionality. Werner promises that you’ll experience smooth movement with each stroke, thanks to the optimally crafted, low-angle paddle that cuts into and out of the water effortlessly. 

Its profile also boosts the paddle’s buoyancy, allowing you maximum control over your equipment at all times. Meanwhile, the dynel edges and carbon weave shaft protect the material from environmental damage. 

Many have attested to how great this Werner paddle is, with widespread admiration for how lightweight (yet balanced) and fast it is.

#2. Werner Camano Premium Fiberglass Kayak Paddle

For those looking for a top kayak paddle no matter the cost then you have to check out the Werner Camano Premium fiberglass paddle here. It’s a high end, ultra lightweight fiberglass paddle that is designed beautifully and performs to perfection. Despite being to lightweight it’s one of the strong paddles on the market and can withstand quite a beating being made with a combination of impact resistant glass and nylon to ensure its incredibly durability.

The blades use a unique dihedral shape that makes cutting through the water a breeze and would suit kayakers who have shoulder pain when they paddle and want something to take some of the load off. It would get our number one spot if it weren’t for the premium price tag which will set you back quite a bit. But with the Werner Camano paddle you definitely get what you pay for.

#3. AQUA BOUND Manta Ray Carbon 2-Piece Kayak Paddle

AQUA BOUND Manta Ray Carbon 2-Piece Kayak Paddle, Black CR Blade/Posi-Lok Carbon...
197 Reviews
AQUA BOUND Manta Ray Carbon 2-Piece Kayak Paddle, Black CR Blade/Posi-Lok Carbon...
  • MADE IN OSCEOLA, WISCONSIN, USA. Like all Aqua-Bound paddles, the Manta Ray 2-piece paddle is hand-built in Wisconsin, staffed by...
  • 2 PIECE CONSTRUCTION. The Manta Ray breaks into two pieces with Posi-Lok ferrule for easy travel and storage
  • Carbon abX resin blades are lightweight, stiff and stronger than glass reinforced blades

The American made, Aqua Bound Manta Ray is another all carbon fiber kayak paddle that we really like and can highly recommend. Due to its carbon fiber build, it’s very lightweight which makes it very easy to use all day out on the water but still retaining good strength.

It splits into two pieces to aid transporting and storage but we particularly liked its oval shaped shaft which meant it was very comfortable to grip. Another thing we liked was that it’s available in multiple lengths (210cm – 250cm) to suit you style and build. All in all, a great paddle and good value for money for a lightweight carbon fiber paddle.

#4. Vibe Evolve 230-250 Centimeter Adjustable Fiberglass Paddle

Vibe Evolve 230-250c Centimeter Adjustable Fiberglass Paddle (Tsunami Red)
129 Reviews
Vibe Evolve 230-250c Centimeter Adjustable Fiberglass Paddle (Tsunami Red)
  • Adjustable length of 230-250 cm for high-low kayak seating
  • Adjustable length for use with different width kayaks
  • Durable shaft and blade construction

This adjustable paddle (ranging from 230-250 cm) is ideal for kayaking with either high or low seating. 

The modifiable length is also useful if you vary between the use of differently-sized kayaks. Using a paddle that can hardly reach over your vessel is bound to get you some pretty nasty injuries. (Kayakers are prone to joint and tendon problems, sprains, and dislocations as it is). With that in mind, the 20 cm difference can save you a lot of trouble. 

This paddle features a dihedral blade, perfectly angled for paddling efficiency to further support a smooth kayaking experience for you. Additionally, the paddle has a two-piece snap button for even greater functional versatility. This enables the ferrule to move 60 to the left or right, giving you maximum adaptability with each stroke. 

There can be a lot of play in the ferrule adjustments. Still, overall, this paddle has lived up to the hype for beginning and experienced kayakers. 

#5. Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-Lok Kayak Paddle

This Aqua-Bound paddle is highly convenient to use, mainly due to the ferrule that has several optimal features for using and storing your kayak. When you’re on the water, take advantage of the feather angle adjustment to boost the efficiency of your paddle’s entry and exit into and out of the water. 

You can finely alter the feathering in increments of 15°, ranging from 0°-60° in either direction. This detailed adjustment range ensures that you get precisely the handling you need for every circumstance. 

Aqua-Bound designed this paddle to be comfortable yet powerful to use. The lightweight carbon shaft helps you move more freely and easily and provides just the right amount of flex. Plus, the nylon (reinforced with fiberglass) protects your paddle from environmental hazards while the corrosion-resistant material and rubber drip rings defend against longer-term wear. 

You’ll need to get some gloves or grips with this paddle, but overall, its performance is excellent for most kayakers so far. 

#6. Bending Branches Angler Classic Fiberglass Plus Fishing Kayak Paddle

Kayaking fishermen gather up. This paddle promises everything you can get in a high-end fishing paddle at a fraction of the price (including a hook retrieval system). 

One of its prime features is the telescoping (PLUS) ferrule. This grants you the precision and flexibility you need to optimize your strokes. Adjustments on the ferrule also allow you to control your paddle’s feathering angle, helping you achieve the perfect entry and exit as you move across the water. 

Despite its heavy-duty strength and durability, this paddle is also very lightweight, ensuring that you don’t waste your energy having to operate a burdensome paddle all day. The drip rings will also help keep you comfortable while you kayak by preventing water from pooling up in your kayak or on you. 

Keep in mind that, although a beginner would benefit from these features, Bending Branches states that this paddle is definitively a “step-up” from entry-level gear. In any case, it’s proven to be an excellent paddle with great strength and versatility. 

#7. Pelican Poseidon Kayak Paddle

Pelican Poseidon Paddle 89 in - Aluminum Shaft with Reinforced Fiberglass Blades...
2,072 Reviews
Pelican Poseidon Paddle 89 in - Aluminum Shaft with Reinforced Fiberglass Blades...
  • All-purpose 2-piece aluminum shaft Paddle
  • Ovalized shaft, sleeve, drip rings and 0-65˚ angle adjustment
  • Fiberglass reinforced Polypropylene blade

It’s a breath of fresh air to find a kayak that was made with you (and others like you) in mind. That said, Pelican designed this paddle especially for kayakers who are 5′-6′ tall. 

This company’s got you covered concerning your kayak’s dimensions, too. The Poseidon paddle was crafted specifically for widths 28-32″. 

If you and your kayak align with these criteria, you can customize the oval paddle even further to optimize your performance. This is thanks to the 0-65° feathering angle adjustment, which will further optimize how your paddle cuts into the water. 

The drip rings help you keep your grip on your paddle by preventing too much water from dripping across the paddle’s surface. Plus, the fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene blade will remain in great shape, helping improve your recreational kayaking experience. 

As long as you’re just doing recreational kayaking, this paddle is tried-and-true. It holds up in short- and long-distance kayaking and will keep you comfortable and in control, even as a beginner.

#8. Best Marine And Outdoors Kayak Paddle

Sale
Best Marine Kayak Paddle. 234cm Premium Carbon Fiber Paddle with Reinforced...
634 Reviews
Best Marine Kayak Paddle. 234cm Premium Carbon Fiber Paddle with Reinforced...
  • How Are We Different? - Our kayak paddles are made of a carbon fiber shaft and reinforced fiberglass blades. Each paddle weighs...
  • Why Best Marine & Outdoors? - Our company goal and mission is to help people find inner peace and purpose through kayaking. Our...
  • Who Is Our Paddle For? - The number one piece of advice most advanced kayakers will offer you is a “carbon fiber paddle”....

Next we have another good option from American water-sports brand Best Marine and Outdoors. It’s a lightweight, affordable and durable paddle that’s made with a carbon fiber shaft and fiberglass blades to ensure strong performance but without the hefty price tag. Once you’ve tried a carbon fiber paddle there’s not going back as you’ll fall in love with how light and easy to use it is.

This paddle is 234cm in length (92″) and so suits most heights of kayakers. It conveniently splits into two separate pieces to make it easy to pack and store and each blade can be set in three different angles. Plus it includes two drip rings to stop water from going down the shaft and getting you wet with each stroke and a paddle leash to ensure it’s attached to you and your kayak.

It gets fantastic reviews and considering the price, we think it’s fantastic value for money and earns a spot in our top ten.

#9. Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle

Carlisle Adult Magic Plus/Glass Shaft Kayak Paddle, Dark Cherry, 230cm, (Model:...
209 Reviews
Carlisle Adult Magic Plus/Glass Shaft Kayak Paddle, Dark Cherry, 230cm, (Model:...
  • Glass-filled polypropylene blades are both lightweight and durable
  • Asymmetrical, slightly curved blade shape produces smooth, efficient strokes
  • Lightweight, yet strong, the wrapped fiberglass shaft has an ovalized grip

Carlisle Paddles’ craftsmanship exceeds expectations in this Magic Plus paddle model. It features glass-filled polypropylene blades, allowing for maximum durability without being too heavy. 

This balance extends into the shaft, which features a wrapped fiberglass design that optimizes the paddle’s strength yet adds little to no weight. Plus, this material prevents the paddle from getting too hold or cold in extreme temperatures, ensuring a comfortable grip for you, no matter what. The shaft is also ovalized, further supporting your ability to find the perfect hold. 

The blades are asymmetrical, having only a slight curve to perfect its movement through the water. You can adjust their feathering angle using the no-fail push button and set them at either 60° angles or position them inline for efficient left- or right-handed control.

This Carlisle paddle has been consistently celebrated for its performance and balance, but keep in mind that it might feel a bit heavier than most lightweight paddles due to the materials. 

#10. Bending Branches Whisper

This Bending Branches paddles can be adjusted by 60 to the left or right from the ferrule. This virtually guarantees that you’ll get the perfect grip and position for your paddle, ensuring a comfortable ride across the water (that won’t wind up in a sprain or cramp). The drip rings will keep the excess water off you, too, preventing the paddle from slipping. 

You might have to see it to believe it, but Bending Branches also ensures that this plastic ferrule will hold its own in many types of environments. The company claims that it can stand up to sand and salt water without seizing up. Hopefully, this means that you can adjust the feathering and assemble and disassemble the two-piece ferrule without a problem. 

Conclusion: Which Kayak Paddle Should you Buy?

So that about wraps up our post on kayak paddles, we hope the buying guide and paddle reviews helped to make more sense of what you should be looking for and some of the best paddles on the market. Which ever one you go for, we’d recommend to look for the most lightweight paddle you can afford. The more you can afford to spend, generally, the lighter paddle you’ll get so it’s worth spending a bit more money if you can.

If you’re still on the fence about which kayak paddle to buy, we’d recommend going for the Werner Kalliste Carbon Bent Shaft Kayak Paddle. The combination of the incredibly lightweight foam filled core, well designed blades and comfortable shaft make it easily the best paddle on the market and one we can recommend highly. For more information and to get the best price, click below.