A Guide To The Best Kayak Paddles
Your paddle is the engine for your ‘yak, connecting your muscles to the water and transferring that power with every stroke. It’s also the chief means for you to steer and stop. Like choosing the tires on your car, selecting the right paddle is important to your ability to handle your kayak.
If you pick a paddle that is not the right length, uncomfortable to hold or too heavy, you will have a difficult time maneuvering your kayak.
Your Kayak paddle is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will use. The average paddler will take around one thousand paddle strokes per mile so it is very important to ensure the paddle you are purchasing will allow you to further enjoy your time on the water with less fatigue.
But because so many factors affect this choice, and because the range of options is huge, it can be tough to know what the right paddle is for you. To help, take a look at our buying guide and reviews of the following excellent paddles.
A Spotlight on some of the best Kayak Paddles
|BENDING BRANCHES Angler Classic||AQUA BOUND Sting Ray Carbon||BENDING BRANCHES Whisper||Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle||Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle for Recreation/Touring|
|Material: Fiberglass||Material: Carbon Fiber||Material: Aluminum||Material: Fiberlass||Material: Carbon Fiber|
|Shaft Type: Straight||Shaft Type: Straight||Shaft Type: Straight||Shaft Type: Straight||Shaft Type: Straight|
|Two Piece||Two Piece||Two Piece||Two Piece||Two Piece|
Bending Branches Angler Classic Paddle – Best for Fishing Kayaks
Bending Branches’ Angler Classic is a design fisher can count on. It it’s long enough to accommodate the width of most fishing kayaks. That adjustability helps, too, when you change the seat height in your ‘yak — a nice touch and a feature to keep in mind in your search for the right paddle.
Its straight fiberglass shaft is durable and strong, and having used my own paddle as a push pole, you won’t mistake this paddle for an ultra-light touring model. When equipped with the infinitely adjustable “plus” ferrule necessary to adjust lengths, too it allows for any feathering angle you prefer, another mark in its favor.
The Angler Classic is tipped with blades made from fiberglass reinforced plastic, and that’s a good choice for the bumps and impacts of fishing. They also have a cool notch on each one, allowing you to hook your line with your paddle. As every kayak angler knows, that’s going to come in handy.
One of its best features is the 3 button snap ferrule that allows you to adjust the feathering angle between 0 and 60 degrees.
The blade has a hook retrieval system on it plus a measuring tape on the shaft to check your catch and see if its legal. If you plan on fishing you will definitely appreciate these features.
|Adjustable length||Straight Shaft only|
|Strong and Durable|
|Big sweet spot|
AQUA BOUND Sting Ray Carbon – Best for Touring Kayaks
Aqua-Bound’s Sting Ray is available in a wide range of lengths, and for most people, finding the right paddle should be simple.
Built from carbon fiber, this paddle is light, stiff, and strong — exactly what a serious touring kayaker demands. It can hold its own on long excursions, and its adjustable ferrule offers an infinite number of feathering angles, with clearly marked guides for consistency and easy use.
The Sting Ray’s blades are long and narrow, clearly designed for low-angle paddling and touring. Made from fiberglass reinforced plastic, they’re tough and durable, too.
With the paddle being so lightweight, it makes paddling all day much less tiring. The Sting Ray Carbon is specifically designed for slow moving rivers or flat lakes, this is not a paddle you want to take white water rafting!
The patented Sting Ray Posi-Lok ferrule is also composite so it is corrosion-resistant and offers infinite feathering angles.
For experienced kayakers who prefer a straight shaft, this paddle is a good choice. I think the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray is by far the best touring kayak paddle, highly recommended.
|Amazing range of length||Straight Shaft only|
|Light and Durable|
BENDING BRANCHES Whisper – Best Budget Friendly Paddle
Bending Branches is a well-known name in paddles, and you’ll see their designs on the water wherever you go. Its Whisper is available in a good range of lengths, and all but the tallest kayakers should find a size to suit them. Designed for recreational use, this general-purpose paddle has a lot of qualities that make it a good fit for beginning kayakers.
Offered with a straight aluminum shaft, this paddle is sturdy and dependable, not the best choice for long trips. Relying on the three-hole snap system common to entry-level paddles, its ferrule is adjustable between matched blades and 60-degree feathering, with either right- or left-hand dominance. Again, while this may not be the ideal system, it’s a good choice for beginners who don’t demand precise control over feathering.
The aluminum shaft made the Whisper paddle much heavier than the top-performing paddles. However, when compared against paddles of a similar cost, it actually would fall in the lighter category.
Outdoor adventure enthusiasts who want to get out on the water to explore, but are not concerned about having a performance paddle, will be grateful to have such an affordable option available.
The Whisper is a good choice for beginners and anyone who might want a spare paddle.
|Durable||Straight Shaft only|
Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle – Best For Recreational Kayaking
The Magic Plus paddle is a solid choice for a touring paddle. It has a durable, lightweight fiberglass shaft and polypropylene blades reinforced with glass fibers.
Its straight shaft is constructed from fiberglass, weighing in at 2.48 pounds. For a recreational paddle, that’s no problem, but keep in mind that this paddle is probably not the best choice for multi-day expeditions. It uses a push-button, three-position ferrule, offering matched or 60-degree feathered options, with either right- and left-hand dominance.
The Magic Plus offers glass reinforced plastic blades, and though shaped somewhat like touring blades, they’re relatively fat, providing plenty of power.
The slight flex in the shaft makes it easier on your wrists while still giving you plenty of power in your stokes.
If you find yourself on long-ish adventures and are more of a recreational kayaker than a tourer, this paddle will serve you well. It’s also budget-friendly, so you won’t need a loan to get out on the water!
|Durable||Straight Shaft only|
Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle for Recreation And Touring
The Pungo Kayak Paddle can be a great option if you’re heading out on a multi-day trip or will simply be spending a lot of time on the water. Featuring a carbon fiber shaft that is bent, giving a more ergonomic design, which is more comfortable to use during long hours on the water.
It has lightweight carbon blades with an asymmetric dihedral design and benefits from Dynel blade edges, giving it extra resistance. This two-piece paddle also benefits from an adjustable ferrule system so you can feather the angle to suit your paddling style and comes in a length of 220 cm.
One of the game-changing features of the Pungo Glass paddle is the lever-lock ferrule joining the two pieces. This unique system is sturdy, yet simple enough for cold and clumsy hands to use. Also, it allows users to extend the length of the paddle, without compromising on the performance it delivers.
The fiberglass blades deliver a smooth and effective stroke, giving the feel of a well-balanced paddle. Lightweight and versatile, this paddle is exceptionally easy to adjust or dismantle thanks to the foolproof lever lock system.
Despite being suitable for beginner kayakers, the performance of this paddle is not compromised and would suit expert paddlers as well.
|Reliable and Lightweight||Questionable Graphics|
|Easy to adjust and extend|
What You Should Consider Before Choosing the Right Kayak Paddle?
- Kayak Width – a wider kayak demands a longer paddle. That’s because the narrower the ‘yak, the easier it is to reach the water with the blades.
- Torso Height – One simple method to begin the process of selecting the right length for you is to sit in a chair and measure the distance between your crotch to the tip of your nose.
- Low Angle Paddling – If your hands remain below your shoulders when you paddle, you’re low-angle paddling. This is common for touring and long-distance paddling, where fighting sudden currents isn’t the order of the day.
- High Angle Paddling – If your hands rise above your shoulders when you paddle, you’re high-angle paddling. This style allows the paddle to enter the water at a steep angle, applying more power to the stroke.
Feathered blades are offset to improve their efficiency, and this placement keeps the higher blade flat, reducing its wind resistance. For each stroke, feathered blades demand a slight twist of your wrist to turn the blade into the water.
Choice of Shaft
- Straight Shaft – The shaft runs in a line between the blades, giving you a lot of control and allowing a wide variety of strokes.
- Bent Shaft – These designs feature two bends in the shaft to change your hand position, allowing a more natural grip.
- Plastic – This is not a great choice for paddle shafts as it’s just too flexible to provide power.
- Aluminum – This is used in shafts as it’s both inexpensive and durable, but comparatively heavy.
- Fiberglass– is strong and light, and an ideal combination for a paddle shaft.
- Carbon Fiber – is ultra-light and incredibly strong, but often many times more expensive than fiberglass. Paddles constructed from carbon fiber are something to consider if kayaking is a major part of your life.
Choosing the right paddle isn’t as simple as grabbing the first one you see in the store, and depending on what you do on the water, your level of experience, and your dedication to kayaking, the right paddle for you might be the wrong one for someone else.
While choosing a kayak paddle can be a difficult task, we hope we’ve been able to provide you with some helpful information that will boost your understanding of what you need to look out for when you go to purchase your next one.