7 Best Kayak Paddles
Choosing the right kayak paddle

The 7 Best Kayak Paddles – And How To Choose Yours

Every seasoned kayaker knows that a good paddle can make or break your kayaking experience. It’s pretty much the most important piece of equipment you need—aside from the kayak itself. A good paddle can mean the difference between a struggle through rapids and a fun day in the water. There are few things to take into consideration when looking into kayak paddles, so read on to get some insight in this area! 

Model

Type

Buy On Amazon

SeaSense X-Treme II Mix

Inflatable

Leader Accessories Marine

Rigid pedal powered

Werner Cyprus Straight Shaft

Inflatable

Carlisle Magic Plus

Rigid

Cannon Escape

Rigid

Bending Branches Angler Classic

Rigid

Aquaglide Cruise Lightweight Paddle

Rigid

What to Look For

Certain aspects of a paddle are very important in order to get the results you’re looking for (i.e., not a terrible kayaking experience). An inexperienced kayaker may not know what to look for or specifics, so we’ve listed them below. The top things to consider are the length, the materials and their price, the blade choice, and the shape choice.  

Length of the Paddle

The length of your paddle is pretty easy to figure out. Basically, you’ll want to base this off of the size of your kayak—more specifically, the width. A wider boat will need a longer paddle to reach across comfortably.

A post shared by Rick Spillman (@thfishrmn) on

You also have to take into consideration your own height. Just like a wider kayak requires a longer paddle, so does a taller person. These two factors will determine the length of paddle you need.

Websites will often provide charts to help you determine specifically what length you need according to your height or the size of your kayak. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if you fall between sizes on a chart, go for the shorter size. If nothing else, your paddle will weigh a tab bit less.  

Blade Materials

The materials that make up your blades will determine how well your paddle performs and how expensive it is. The most common types of blades used to manufacture paddles are plastic/nylon, fiberglass, and carbon-fiber.

Plastic/Nylon

Plastic or nylon blades are the cheapest option to go for. The cost the least and are most often used for recreational purposes. Inexperienced kayakers may not realize that these blades can crack easily. They also suffer damage from being out in the sun, which makes them weaker.

While the plastic can be more flexible in the water, meaning the chances of it cracking may go down, the flexibility of the material means the strokes won’t be as strong.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass blades fall right in the middle price-wise. Fiberglass blades are much more durable than plastic or nylon blades, and while they may chip, they usually don’t crack through the entire blade.

Fiberglass is great and efficient in the water, offering strength through the waves and giving users productive strokes. They’re also more lightweight than plastic, which is always a plus.

A post shared by Tania Pitt (@pitty2412) on

Carbon-Fiber

Carbon-fiber blades are at the top of the list in terms of price. The most expensive kind of blade, carbon-fiber blades offer up top performance with the best energy transfer into your strokes.

Carbon-fiber is stronger and more durable than any other material used in paddles and is stiff and ready to be used by any serious paddler.

Blade Design

The design of the blade matters just as much as the materials used to create it. Each blade design has different strengths and is better for different purposes.

Asymmetrical

Asymmetrical blades are on the more narrow side, and as their name suggests, they are shorter on one side. This shape creates an angle that makes the surface area more uniform as it pushes through the water.

Dihedral

The dihedral blade features a rib that runs down the center of it. This rib lets the water flow smoothly and evenly over both halves of the blade. It also eliminates the flutter that other blades without the rib may experience.

A rib down the middle of the blade makes it easier for paddlers to stay on a straight path longer.

Narrower & Wider

In general, these kinds of blades can be narrower or wider. The narrow blades are good for longer trips in the water. Full-day kayak trips will go along smoother with a narrower blade.

Wider blades are better for quick, powerful strokes. These aren’t the kinds of strokes you would use on a long trip, as you would tire out quickly. The wider blades let paddlers accelerate faster. These wider blades are often used by Kayaking surfers.

A post shared by Scott Gobel (@yeticool7) on

Shaft Design

The design of the shaft can be much more varied than an inexperienced kayaker might know. The shaft of a paddle can be straight or bent. It can come in four pieces or two. The diameter of the shaft can differ from paddle to paddle.

Additionally, you can get a shaft that matches your blades or feathers them—meaning they are not aligned with each other on the same plane.

All of these features have to do with the kayaker as an individual. The type of shaft and shape of it, along with the diameter, should be determined based on your comfort level, grip size, and personal preferences.

Shaft Materials

Paddle shafts are typically made from one of four different materials. These materials are plastic, aluminum, carbon, and fiberglass.

Plastic shafts are a rarity and are hardly ever made or bought for obvious strength and durability reasons.

Aluminum shafts are the most affordable of the materials listed. They are very durable and work as they should, withstanding the force of the paddler in conjunction with the waves of the water.

A post shared by Brian Smallheer (@bms_design) on

However, aluminum reflects temperature easily, meaning that if it’s a cold day, the shaft will be cold; if it’s a hot, sunny day, it will be hot to the touch. Users may want to consider using gloves if they intend on using aluminum shafts.

Carbon and fiberglass shafts are the best but most expensive of the group. They are highly durable and are materials that will last. Not only are they strong, but they are lightweight. Lightweight paddles are much easier to use. They’re effective as well and will be worth the price.  

Important Things to Remember

Paddles can be used for different activities, so it may be a good idea to consider the activity you’re planning in participating in before choosing your paddles. There are paddles that are specifically designed for touring, white water rafting, surfing, and multi-use. The weights, shapes, and lengths of these vary.

Touring Paddles

Individuals who intend to paddle for touring purposes should look into longer, skinnier, asymmetrical blades. These paddles are built to be lighter, as tourists probably aren’t keen to the struggles of rougher paddling. They’re often made to be taken apart to be put away into storage.

White Water Paddles

White water paddles are made to be tougher to withstand higher levels of activity and intensity. These paddles are usually symmetrical, but not always. They tend to use a shorter and wider blade to give the user more power and efficiency.

Surfing Paddles

Surfing paddles aren’t too different from white water paddles, except that they are generally a bit lighter and have shorter asymmetrical blades that aren’t too big.

Multi-Use Paddles

As their name suggests, multi-use paddles can be used for many different activities. These paddles have a little bit of everything. They can have either symmetrical or asymmetrical blades and generally have a rib  in the middle.

The Best Products

Choosing the perfect paddle for your needs can be a little overwhelming at first, especially if this is your first go-around. After reading through the above, you should be a little more knowledgeable about making an informed decision. However, even with all of that knowledge in your head, it can still be difficult to decide which paddle exactly is the best for you—or the best out there.

For that reason, we’ve put together brief reviews of some of the top-rated paddles available to you. Read through and see which paddle rates best on your list!

Leader Accessories Marine Aluminum Kayak Paddle

This aluminum kayak paddle by Leader Accessories adheres to public appeal by offering a variety of bright, attractive colors. These colors allow users to slightly customize their paddling experience, which is always a plus.

The paddle is made from aluminum, as mentioned, and is very lightweight with molded plastic blades. Its shaft uses a feathered design and can be adjusted with three different locking positions.

The blade can be separated into two pieces, making it easy to store during off months. Users can feel secure knowing that it is easily rebuildable and features an enforced push-button connection.

The paddles come in two different sizes and lengths and use a curved blade. 

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Easy to use
  • check
    Easy to store and put back together
  • check
    Easy feathering
  • check
    Affordable price
  • check
    Comes in assorted, attractive colors
  • Not the lightest paddle available
  • close
    Plastic blades could crack

SeaSense X-Treme II Mix Kayak Paddle

The SeaSense X-Treme II kayak paddle features a feathered blade design in a couple of different vibrant colors. This two-piece construction comes apart, making it easy to store and easy to assemble.

The paddle has two hand grips for comfort and can be changed into three different locking positions. An added benefit to this paddle is that it will float in the water. If a member of your group accidentally drops a paddle in the water, no worries—it won’t sink!

The shaft of this paddle has an added support ridge that gives it extra strength that other paddles may not have. This extra strength will ensure the paddle lasts long through multiple uses.  

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Conveniently placed and comfortable hand grips
  • check
    Easy construction and storage
  • check
    Add support ridge gives extra strength
  • check
    Paddle floats; no fear of loss
  • check
    Three different locking positions
  • check
    Affordable price
  • check
    Different colors
  • Hand grips reported to fall apart after a few uses
  • close
    Not good for heavy usage or long trips

Werner Cyprus Straight Shaft Paddle

The Werner Cyprus straight shaft paddle is made up of a carbon weave shaft that features a two piece, take apart design. This paddle uses mid-sized ultimate performance core blades that have an angled design and also use a carbon weave material and a foam core.

This paddle is known for suiting the widest range of paddling needs, with a smart view adjustable ferrule and drip rings.

Hand crafted, this item comes in a sleek, black design and is very lightweight. The blades cut into the water and give an excellent transfer of energy for quick starts and acceleration. The durable material is sure to last for years to come.  

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Popular brand—dependable
  • check
    Fits a wide range of needs
  • check
    Versatile
  • check
    Smooth and light
  • check
    Buoyant—floats on the water to prevent loss
  • check
    Standard diameter shaft best for all users
  • check
    Securely adjusts for feather angle
  • Very high price point
  • close
    Only available in one color

Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle

The Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak paddle is available in two different colors, and the blades are made from durable high-impact, glass-filled polypropylene. This paddle is made to be lightweight while also being strong and able to maintain performance in high-intensity situations.

The shaft is constructed from lightweight fiberglass and comes in at just 35.6 ounces. It comes in various lengths and utilizes an asymmetrical blade that delivers smooth but powerful strokes.

With an excellent balance between weight and durability, this paddle can take a beating without sacrificing strength or confidence.

This paddle comes in a two piece construction, making it easy to take apart for storage. It is also very simple to put back together when kayaking season comes back around.

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Available in various sizes and color options
  • check
    Highly durable and reliable materials
  • check
    Two piece construction for easy storage and building
  • check
    Good in choppy, tough rapids and water
  • check
    Lightweight materials
  • check
    Powerful strokes
  • Water blocking rings are subpar
  • close
    The shaft runs a little thick
  • close
    Mid to higher price range

Cannon Escape Kayak Paddles

Available in just either silver or black, Cannon’s kayak paddles are lightweight and durable made from fiberglass reinforced black nylon blades. An excellent starter paddle, beginners will find this light model easy to use and maneuver.

The shaft is hand treated and anodized aircraft grade aluminum. It features ovalized grips that help users to hold on tight without losing their paddle. The blades and shaft together offer a power stroke that entry level kayakers can handle.

The two piece paddle easily comes apart and goes back together for storage. It has three blade offset angle settings for 60 degrees right or left hand control as well as the feathered option. This paddle is great for all purpose use and can be used by anyone. It is versatile without being too pricey.

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Lightweight
  • check
    Durable materials
  • check
    Easy to use—good for beginners
  • check
    All-purpose and versatile
  • check
    Affordable price
  • check
    Standard diameter for general use
  • check
    Features drip rings to prevent water from running down to the hands
  • Do not float
  • close
    Does not feature hand grips
  • close
    Does not come in bright colors
  • close
    Other users have described missing parts and defects

Bending Branches Angler Classic

Coming in three different colors, the Angler Classic by Bending Branches is comprised of a composite ferrule, two piece fiberglass shaft. These two piece can be put together and taken apart easily for storage and ease of use.

The blades are large and made of reinforced fiberglass. The blades can be adjusted by the user at 0 or 60 degrees for left or right hand use.

These blades also use an integrated hook retrieval system that is excellent for kayak fishing. The paddle is lightweight, and the hook retrieval is an added bonus that fishermen will appreciate, along with the tape measure on the shaft.  

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Lightweight
  • check
    Durable
  • check
    Especially attractive for fishers
  • check
    Hook retrieval system
  • check
    Measuring tape on the shaft
  • check
    Different color options
  • check
    Two pieces for easy storage and set up
  • check
    Reinforced blades are strong
  • check
    Cuts through the water nicely
  • Higher price point
  • close
    Some users report too much give

Aquaglide Cruise Lightweight Kayak Paddle

This sleek and trendy white and black designed kayak paddle made by Aquaglide is visually appealing with an excellent look to it. Coming in two pieces, this paddle makes for easy storage and easy build.

The powder-coated aluminum shaft offers superior strength and durability. However, that doesn’t mean it sacrifices weight in the process; this paddle is extremely lightweight. Its blades are durable injection-molded that are designed for peak performance.

The shaft includes handgrips that make it easy to hold on, even when they get wet. Additionally, the paddle has drip guards that are designed to keep water from dripping down the shaft to the user’s hands. The less water there is the less slippage on the grip.   

Pros & Cons

  • check
    Lightweight
  • check
    Durable
  • check
    Two pieces for easy storage and set up
  • check
    Cuts through the water nicely
  • check
    Drip guards and hand grips for a tight hold and easy use
  • check
    Injection-molded blades
  • check
    Very affordable
  • No other color options
  • close
    Not adjustable
  • close
    Not many other specs available to customers

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing the best paddle, the answer can be a matter of a few things. Of course, durability and strength come into play, but a big factor can be the price. Can you find a good paddle for a lower price? Is it worth it to spend tons of money for an excellent paddle?

If you really want to splash out (hah!) you could buy a paddle from a high-end, artisan paddle-maker like Mitchell Blades. They ain't cheap, but they're made right.

However, our winner today out of our reviewed paddles is the SeaSense X-Treme II Mix Kayak Paddle. The first thing we noticed about this paddle is the vibrant colors it comes in. This isn’t such a huge factor in what makes a paddle great, but people sure do enjoy bright, fun colors in outdoor activities.

More importantly, this paddle features a support ridge. This was something that wasn’t featured on any of the other paddles we reviewed. This support ridge gives the paddle extra strength, which in the long run makes it more reliable. A reliable paddle is best for high impact activities like white water rafting or long trips. This SeaSense paddle can handle anything that comes its way.

With three different locking positions, users can customize their experience. Additionally, this paddle floats. Lots of paddles float in the water, but not all of them. This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but you’ll remember this fact when you or someone in your group accidentally drops their paddle in the middle of a deep lake.

The two-piece construction is excellent for storage purposes. When the season is over, and it is time to put the kayak away, the paddle easily comes apart and can be stored. When it’s time to be used again, you can just as easily put it back together with the confidence that it will hold through all your activities.

Lastly, the SeaSense X-Treme II paddle has hand grips for comfort and to prevent slip, and it also features adjustable drips guards. When you’re paddling, water can drip down the shaft to your hands and make the pole slippery. The drip guards prevent that, and the hand grips give you extra support.

For a very reasonable and affordable price, the SeaSense doesn’t sacrifice quality, durability, or reliability. That’s why it’s our top choice.