Our Favorite Kayak Paddles Reviewed
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
Carlisle's asymmetrical and curved shape
Very light and flexible
Made of fiberglass
Size measures 240 cm
- AQUA BOUND
- BEST Marine and Outdoors
- Leader Accessories
- BENDING BRANCHES
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Favorite Kayak Paddles
Carlisle's asymmetrical and curved shape
Very light and flexible
Made of fiberglass
Size measures 240 cm
Not a product for experienced avid kayakers
Maybe heavy for some
Carlisle is a rugged and very reliable paddle that is built for strong movement of water. It is a nice product for recreational and beginners as it's designed is made to eliminate or at least reduce wrist fatigue and minimize pain from a tripRead more
The shape of with a spoon like a curve helps to lock onto large amounts of water and cup it allowing movement through the water to be stronger, and even faster. The materials used to provide a good balance between the stiffness you want for power with the flex you'd want to reduce that wear on those sensitive joints.
The construction of this piece of gear was designed to last and help you work your way through the water. It is made up of both wound fiberglass in the shaft area as well as fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene blades. This design and durability allow you some variety in where you prefer to explore, the open water or near the shorelines.
Cost and Value
A very well-priced and affordable option that is versatile in its use and works well for beginners and recreational kayakers alike. It is a space-saving option as well, should you need the ability to better store your gear in tight spaces. It can actually break down into two pieces so that you can easily put it away or pack more easily when you are loading up your car for your next trip.
Mid Size blade
Light with flexibility
Carbon blend straight shaft
The shaft works with hand sizes 7 inches and larger
14 vibrant color patterns
When you pull lightly it can oscillate a bit up and down which can be challenging
A low-angled design, Werner is popular with kayaking gear and this model is one of the most well-liked by consumers. The carbon shaft is standard diameter and it is straight. The blade is made of fiberglass. This model is a bit lighter than previous models from this company giving making it a bit more easy to use.Read more
Paddlers who want power in their stroke while also engaging in a more relaxed touring will appreciate this balanced design that combines both of these effortlessly. Smooth forward strokes can be achieved with a light swing making the power and comfort of this product worth a try.
Removes the Burn
If you are paddling across any body of water where you work up a total burn in your muscles, this is a tremendous option to relieve some of that pressure. The lightweight is easy to maneuver and but it hits the water hard, biting in for a strong return. You can propel forward much easier and keep up your speed as you glide across the water helping you stay with the pack if you are enjoying a group trip or get the speed you desire if you are going it alone.
Cost and Value
This is an expensive piece of gear but it is literally feather light. and is perfectly designed and constructed to send you easily forward cutting through the water. Its performance is top-notch and its use is effortless and fun so don't be surprised if you turn into a paddle snob after a few times out with this one.
3. AQUA BOUND
Two pieces use either Posi-Lok or Snap Button ferrule
Injection-molded abX II blades
Reinforced with fiberglass
Oval paddle shaft
Drip Rings included
The paddle size is extra large which may not work for all
Light but not feather light
Aqua Bound is a world leader in designing and manufacturing paddles for a plethora of watersports. Paddling enthusiasts comprise this adventure company and they take their gear personally. Quality products, that are fairly light, with the latest innovations make these products the best of the best for serious kayakers.Read more
The carbon fiber shaft is designed with an ovalized shape that promotes hand and grip comfort. Strong power transfer gives you the most bang for your pull each time you push through the water but the lighter weight improves the feel so it can reduce your fatigue with those large strokes. You can get a serious sticky grip with the added ribbed texture that resists slippage from water.
The last thing you want is a paddle that will break under the pressure especially when you are looking to strong pulls during your trip. The fiber reinforced plastic gives you that strength and durability so you can have confidence in the structure and construction of this product. It also can hold up to gravel bottoms when you navigate yourself through shallow waters.
Cost and Value
this easy to adjust, snap and click system won't give you any headaches during setup and when taking apart. The design allows you to really customize your angle when in use. It is a product that can extend your endurance over the long term which will allow you to go out on the water more often, making this product a serious value even with it's a higher price.
Made of solid aluminum without any connection
Easy to carry
Double serrated teeth edges
Fiberglass blades are adjustable for three angles
are made of PP and fiberglass materials
Floats in the water
These aren't heavy but they have a bit of weight to them
Overmont makes a paddle that breaks down into two pieces for convenient storage, packing, and transport. The aluminum used is corrosion resistant and durable and it helps the paddles stay buoyant in the water should you have the unfortunate accident of dropping them in the water they won't sink!Read more
Designed for Power
The blades are a duck palm arc that is sufficient for digging into the water and pulling for strength. The ring design at the end of the shaft helps keep the water moving by these as opposed to splashing over and getting into your kayak which can be annoying otherwise.
The two pieces are very easy to set up and the nice added adjustability with the length that they can allow various sized bodies to use them comfortably. They are as sturdy as you'd need and well-made and although they have some weight to them, they tend to be light enough for most people that they won't tire out and strain the arms and wrists.
Cost and Value
The overall solid construction and easy portability and packability make these a true value. It is hard to find a better put together paddle for the low price.
5. BEST Marine and Outdoors
Carbon fiber shafts
Reinforced fiberglass blades
Works for all skill levels
Universal length at 92 inches long
Adjustable with three different positions
Separates into two pieces
No questions asked refunds if needed
Blades are a bit small which can decrease your power
The drip ring's quality could be improved
Best Marine and Outdoors makes a decent paddle for a fair price. the carbon fiber shaft in combination with the fiberglass blades may be a step up for some aluminum models. It comes apart int two pieces and has an included paddle leash.Read more
This product is light enough to float so your not going to have an issue with it sinking to the bottom if you drop it. Just make sure that the waves don't carry it away! The size works pretty well for most bodies and boat sizes and the adjustability in three positions helps a comfort grip and feel as well. The blades are pretty firm and so they can provide a boost in the water.
The finish is nice and it feels smooth on the hands which helps the comfort during long trips. As a whole, this product is put together well with firm engagements and has minimal bulk at the connection.
Cost and Value
This product can be used by a wide range of kayakers making it a good option especially for beginners who are just figuring out what their preferences are. The affordable price makes it a decent investment that is backed up by their risk-free purchase guarantee should you be unhappy with it.
6. Leader Accessories
Blades made of molded plastic
There is a push-button connection between two pieces with three locking positions
5 color options
The shaft is thicker and the extra bulk makes it a bit heavy
The blades may flex a good amount
Colorful options and durability with affordability make Leader Accessories a good product for beginners and introductory instruction. This product functions well isn't too difficult to break down, and convenient drip stoppers with rubber for a better hold.Read more
While there are lighter options available, this one isn't overly heavy and it can function well for newbies. The rubber drip guards are nice in keeping your hands from getting soaked which each stroke as this can affect the quality of your grip and your streak. The handgrips also help as they are rubberized so that you can keep a firm grasp. It is easy enough to break down with the push button lock.
The scoop blades help to grab more water and pull it in so your strokes end up being more efficient. It can work well as a spare or even as a primary paddle on your boat
Cost and Value
You aren't going to be breaking the bank with this one, and for beginners, that is exactly on point. until you get a feel for what works or what areas you'd need that is better, trying an inexpensive, well-built option is all you need, and that is exactly what this product is.
7. BENDING BRANCHES
Includes a built-in tape measure
Adjustable and separates into two pieces
Hook-retrieval notch to help with hooks that get caught
Ideal fishing gear
Durable with a breakage rate of less than .03%
Measuring tape numbers may rub off with repeated use
Bending Branches is a very reputable brand that makes high-quality gear and this product works well for avid kayakers, beginners, or those who enjoy fishing while out on the water. The built-in tape measure is a neat feature that can help you immediately measure your catch and if you overshoot your cast or it gets stuck, the great thing about one of the blades is that it has a built-in hook-retrieval notch.Read more
Holds Up Well
When going out in unforgiving terrain your gear can take a major beating. This paddle holds up well without nicking easily or showing any wear over long trips which is exactly what you want when you are going hard trying to get those fish. This is an extremely tough and rugged product.
This product is not only heavy duty and rugged when it comes to how well it wears but it is light and can float. This is a top of the line paddle that is still suitable for beginners.
Cost and Value
Moderately pricey this is a higher-end product that comes from a company which a terrific brand reputation and solid functionality that avid kayakers can appreciate. The great thing about this one is that if you like to fish while you are out it is set up just for that activity.
Two Piece Construction
Adjustable Drip Guards
Three Locking Positions
Floats, very light
This has a smaller diameter shaft
You will have nothing but good things to say about this product. SeaSense is a balanced product that won't weigh you down or cause you much distress in your joints or arms, getting tired over long trips. The extra length of this paddle really works well for taller individuals.Read more
This product can be disassembled easily and stored away with minimal space. It is also easy to pack for trips and when you are ready to get in the water it doesn't take much to put it back together. Each part of the paddle floats so if you have to take it apart in specific situations near or on the water, you won't have to worry about losing parts from sinking.
If you put a good amount of pressure on your gear this one will hold up without showing any visible deformation in the shaft. Whether you are on a calm lake or in choppy and rough waters, this product can glide through and cut that water fairly easily.
Cost and Value
You get a good grip with the handgrips that are padded and the drip rings work well. For a recreational paddle that is a nice quality, this is a good choice. It also comes at a budget-friendly price.
Easy to maneuver
Attractive colors and design
Designed for women
The Accent is a women's style paddle that is extremely light and the blades are pretty solid with a firm steadiness. The color option is pretty which can be very appealing to the ladies. The smaller size works well for most women's comfort.Read more
The design of this paddle and the lightweight really helps reduce fatigue. If you have had difficulty moving through water and going on long trips without coming back a bit sore and stressed, this one will reduce a lot of those negative side effects from your trip.
Ease of Use
The size is spot on and the texture is comfortable and easy to grip. Maneuvering is made even simpler with this product and you can adjust this product as needed, it isn't hard at all to do.
Cost and Value
This is a pricey option but if you are a woman who needs a specific size and weight to get the most performance out of your trips and your paddling style, this product may help you out a ton. Another nice thing is how pretty it looks.
Rubber hand grips, drip guards, and feathering options
Shipping and quality control issues with this company
TRAC makes a pretty generic paddle but that is great for beginners, children, or just as a backup to have around and for emergency purposes. The construction is solid and it has some of the features you'd want such as rubber hand grips and drip guards.Read more
The blades are fairly solid overall and they are pretty substantial as well. The length can work for most sized people even and unless your boat is seriously wide the sizing should fit you fine. It will do the job well so you can get into the water and get going for a nice calm, journey.
This is a good product. It is as comfortable as you'd need and it works well. The drip rings are nice so that you don't get all wet and have your grip affected by water with each stroke.
Cost and Value
Budget, budget, budget, these are the keywords. If you have a low budget or just want a cheaper backup option, this one comes in at the right price. It is a basic option that will hold up for leisurely streaming through the water.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Your paddling style will be a contributing factor in picking out the right product. The way you paddle will have variance based on which type of kayaking you are engaging in. Here are two of the paddling styles and which types of products would work best to compliment them.
Low-angled paddles are best used for leisure kayaking when you are in calm waters such as a large tranquil lake or a lazy stream. Horizontal blades will be much longer lengthwise and they will also be thin. This design provides increased
productivity while producing less fatigue when you are paddling through longer distances.
High-angled paddles are better used for more technical and adventurous kayaking where the water is much rougher and much less predictable. Often, these environments will have many areas of quick-flowing water and the need to swiftly navigate through with strength and force to overcome intense currents is needed. Those who choose to kayak in these types of water bodies and areas are going to be those who are looking for the thrill of the sport or those who choose to engage in this activity for intense workouts and fitness gains.
Blade Shapes also goes into consideration when determining the right product for your style. For a long time, symmetrical blade shapes were very common and very popular. Then asymmetrical dihedral-designed began taking over and becoming the more preferred design. The benefit of this asymmetrical design is that it allows for less exertion on the part of the paddler when compared to the exertion needed for the symmetrical design. In appearance, the look like the wing of an aircraft. Just as in air, this style works similarly in the water allowing for the cutting and flow of the water to move easily along the sides of each blade.
When looking at blade shape, it is also important to understand paddle shafts. The differences will mostly be those that are up to individual preference as the paddler will be best able to choose what feels the best.
The straight shaft works well for those that are more seasoned and those that will be engaging in more rigorous waters and adventurous byways. It has more flexibility which is essential for moving and steering through various turns and environments.
Bent shafts will be best for those who are new to kayaking. This angled shaft reduces pressure on the wrists making the experience more enjoyable and doable. Those paddlers who have some more experience can use this shaft too. These kayakers can benefit from that reduction in pressure so that they can reduce inflammation through adjustments in their strokes. In order to master this, it takes a bit of practice.
Blades can come in a couple of different material options. There are generally three factors that you need to think about when you are looking at the different types of blades there are and these include strength, weight, and affordability. If you can balance these three with your needs you should be able to sift through the options to find just the right piece of gear for you.
If you are looking to make a statement or project a specific look, fiberglass is going to work out nicely. These paddles can be colorful and as far as price goes, they will be in the middle of the pack, priced right between the most expensive and the most affordable. They are strong and light which is why they tend to be used for rental shops that cater primarily to tourists and local recreational kayakers.
Carbon fiber is a high-quality, elite material that is light and built to provide power. It is the most expensive of all the materials used but for competition kayakers, those looking for longer trips, or the serious and extreme kayaker, this investment will be well worth it in performance and durability.
Nylon, plastic, and aluminum are also used. They tend to be heavier, but they still maintain a strength necessary to hold up through repetitive use. Those working under a tight budget will find that these are going to be the most affordable.
These also require minimal maintenance and upkeep so those who enjoy recreational kayaking or beginners trying out the sport can find some good use with these materials for starter paddles.
Paddles come in various lengths and the length of your body's torso along with your fitness level can help you determine which size will fit you best. A quick way to determine your torso length is to sit straight up in a chair. Then take a measurement from the chair, between your legs all the way up to the tip of your nose. Here are some references for torso lengths:
Torso Length Paddle Size
22" Youth 180 cm
24" Youth 180-200 cm
26" 190 - 210 cm
28" 200 - 220 cm
30" 210 - 230 cm
32" 220 - 240 cm
34" 230 - 250 cm
36" 240 - 250 cm
38" 250 cm
Those who are fitter and have a more athletic build will want a paddle that is shorter with a wider blade to take advantage of the extra power offered by this construction. Heavier and taller bodies will use longer paddles that offer a wider blade best. These paddles work well for slower, and efficient strokes that reduces pressure. Short, more petite bodies should look for smaller blades that have smaller surface areas, if speed is not a concern.
Overall, if you want to choose paddles based on your goals, then look for paddles with larger blades that have large surface areas if you want to have power and speed. The other thing to note is that the shaft of the paddle can also vary. Those with smaller hands should gravitate more towards thinner shafts that will fit better and allow for a much tighter and more efficient grip.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Taking a few precautions can make your experience much more enjoyable. Be aware of weather conditions and dress accordingly. Always, Always, Always, wear a personal floatation device. Tell someone where you plan on going and when you should be back. If you are in rougher water you should utilize a safety helmet as well.
Proper paddle fit needs to be done for comfort as well as for effeciency when paddling. Paddle size is determined by structure size of the individual, size of kayak, and stroke preference. Be sure to check the appropriate charts prior to purchasing to be sure you obtain the correct sized paddle.
Other Factors to Consider
Be smart and be well prepared. Always bring a spare! The saying, "Be careful not to find yourself up to the Creek without a paddle," could never be truer than when you are out and about ready to enjoy a day on the water. This idea and advice are not only for advanced kayakers and those that hit rough waters but also for beginners through intermediate as well. All levels should take heed. Paddles aren't guaranteed and the success of your trip isn't either. Paddles can easily break, be dropped and float away, or get taken up and lost in strong currents. These are just a few of the many events that can break away your paddle from your possession and if you are left without it, you will really understand what it will be like to be "up to a creek without a paddle."
Everyone wants to think they have a grasp and handle on their gear and that this will not happen for them, but you aren't hurting yourself to be prepared. You will feel the pain should you be ill-prepared. You can easily carry a cheap, light paddle, even fold-up options are suitable if you find yourself in an emergency situation.
Understanding the type of kayak you have or will be using can also help in determining the type of kayaking you will be doing and can also help to determine compatibility with paddles.
Recreational kayaks are sized from 26″ to 30″ inches wide and tend to be short and wide.
Performance kayaks are sized from 19″ to 22″ inches wide and tend to be long and narrow.
Whitewater kayak is best sized based upon the paddler's height.
Touring Kayaks are sized from 22″ to 25″ inches and are very much akin to performance kayaks. Where these models differ is in their increased storage capacity.
For those who are beginners or recreational and leisure kayakers, the width of your kayak is very important when you are choosing your paddle. those who are going out in the ocean and touring would rely more on your physical fitness as well as your personal paddling style. Wider kayaks styles work best with long paddles that can easily be maneuvered over and around the larger width.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What should you use when you fall between sizes?
If you are in-between sizes, either going up or down in length should work for you. However, it may be best to go shorter if you are really stuck on which size to choose. At least going shorter saves a tiny bit of weight. If your body has a shorter torso, this is where the advice changes. You are going to need a bit of extra reach from your paddle, so adding some length could be a better choice.
q: What type of blades are best for very long trips?
If you are going on a multi-day journey or if you are gong to be kayaking for the duration of the day, form morning to night for instance, using a blade that is narrower will be most comfortable. These types of blades are going to be lighter so all the repetitive use you are going to engage in will take its toll. Accounting for that with a bit less weight helps reduce stress and fatigue.
q: What is the difference between those products that break down into two pieces versus four?
Any product that has the ability to break down makes carrying, portability, storage, and packing much easier and efficient.
A four-piece breakdown is going to have shorter increments so storage and packing are much more improved. If you need extra space like if you are hiking or flying, this is going to help, so go with the four-piece.
q: How does a smaller diameter shaft help?
It tends to be much easier to grip these shafts making the fatigue that can envelop your wrists and hands reduced. If you have smaller hands the best thing is to use a smaller shaft because it can be very difficult to get a hold on thicker shafts which will cause much more strain. Shafts are going to be standard or small, so choose based on your hand size.
q: What does feathering refer to?
Blades can be feathered or what is called matched. The feathered blades will be offset on an angle opposite of each other and this accomplishes a reduced wind resistance when the blade is up in the air and out of the water during a stroke. Most all paddles have a certain amount of adjustment that you can do to get your feathering angle right and these are generally adjusted within notches of 15 degrees.