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 what we think are the 5 best kayak paddles in 2020 to help you make the right choice when buying one.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Like the shaft, the blades of kayak paddles can be made from a number of different materials. The main materials used are
- Carbon fiber
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 best kayak paddle grips and how to choose them.
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 the best 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 five kayak paddles on the market in 2020 and look at some of the features and benefits that helped us make those choices.
#1. Best Marine And Outdoors Kayak Paddle
- HOW ARE WE DIFFERENT? - Our kayak paddles are made of a carbon fiber shaft and reinforced fiberglass blades. Each paddle weighs...
- WHY BEST MARINE AND 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”....
Our number one choice when it comes to kayak paddles has to be this one 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 great 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 our top spot.
#2. Werner Camano Premium Fiberglass Kayak Paddle
- Adjustable Ferrule System allows elegant adjustment of feathering angle from 0° - 75° right or left in 15° i
- Award winning mid-size blades design offers gentle power and a smooth easy stroke
- Advanced dihedral blade design creates stable forward strokes
For those looking to the best 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. OCEANBROAD Aluminum Kayak Paddle
- DURABLE AND AFFORDABLE: This kayak paddle is with high-quality aluminum alloy shaft (1.1mm shell thickness) and fiberglass...
- USER FRIENDLY: The oar shaft is designed with a shrinking PE tube cover. It provides better grip for your hands to prevent...
- POPULAR LENGTH AT 230CM: Not too short, not too long, the oar is 230cm (90.5 inches) at length. It’s an ideal kayak paddle with...
Next we have one of the more affordable options in our list which is this kayaking paddle from OceanBroad. It features an aluminum alloy shaft paired with reinforced fiberglass blades at each end. Considering its price we think it’s great value and would make an ideal starter paddle for those getting into kayaking before upgrading to a more premium one. It’s a popular length coming in at 230cm making it accessible for the majority of kayakers. It also splits into two pieces, again to make it easy to carry with out and then store when not in use.
Like some of the other paddles we’ve looked at, it includes drip rings to prevent water dripping down the shaft as well as a free paddle leash to prevent you from losing it overboard. Oceanbroad also offer a customer satisfaction guarantee so if you’re not happy with your paddle, they’ll replace or refund you.
#4. AQUA BOUND Manta Ray Carbon 2-Piece Kayak Paddle
- 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.
#5. SeaSense X1 Kayak Paddle (Budget option)
- Two Piece Aluminum Construction
- Lightweight, Black Molded Plastic Blades
- Adjustable Drip Guards/Foam Rubber Grips
Lastly, for those looking for a no thrills kayak paddle to do the job at an affordable price, then we can recommend the SeaSense X-1. It’s a 2 piece paddle that features a durable aluminum lightweight shaft and molded plastic blades to ensure good strength. The aluminum shaft has handy foam grips to keep your hands a little warmer when gripping the metal shaft. It also helps to prevent blisters too which is another bonus.
It’s very affordable too and while it won’t compare to some of the other options on our best of list, for a beginner or first time looking to get their first paddle you can’t go wrong with this one. The one downside is that it’s quite a bit heavier due to the aluminum shaft which will wear you out quicker.