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When you begin the process of determining the best kayak paddle for your needs and style, it can be almost as daunting a task as finding the right kayak. Factors that will impact your decision includes things like the right length, a weight that is manageable (not too heavy), comfort, etc. Choosing the correct paddle is critical to your ability to effectively maneuver your kayak.
There are multiple considerations that will impact your selection of a kayak paddle. We have reviewed the selection of paddles on the market and shared our ten top picks for your review. Additionally, a buyer’s guide is provided to assist you in navigating all the information available to ensure you get the best kayak paddle that fits your needs.
Top 5 Comparison Chart
The 10 Best Kayak Paddles Reviewed
1. Carlisle Magic Plus
The Carlisle Magic Plus kayak paddle is made of fiberglass, which makes the paddle lighter, while remaining durable. A lighter weight paddle will allow you to paddle longer without becoming fatigued. This paddle comes in three different sizes and offers two colors to choose from to suit your style.
The blades are made of a glass filled polypropylene, outfitting you with a lightweight and durable paddle. The design of the blade is asymmetrical to reduce torque and minimize wrist fatigue. They are also spooned shaped offering an efficient and smooth stroke to assist in propelling you through the water.
2. SeaSense X-Treme II
The SeaSense X-treme II is an affordable, entry level recreational kayak paddle not intended for rough water. The paddle is easy to adjust and offers a locking mechanism to ensure things stay in place. Although on the heavier side, not ideal for longer trips, both the paddle shaft and blade are extremely durable. This paddle is an affordable, well constructed, paddle that offers quality features like adjustable drip guards and three locking positions.
3. Bending Branches
The Bending Branches is an ideal paddle for anglers featuring a notch in the end of the paddle that helps to free fishing lines from snags. Additionally, there is a measuring tool built into the shaft, so you can measure your catch in both standard and metric units.
The shaft is made of carbon fiber, which gives it strength and durability. The blades are nylon with fiberglass reinforcement and are asymmetric, with a slight curve to give you extra power with each stroke.
4. AIRHEAD Kayak Paddle
The Airhead kayak paddle is convenient to transport and stow, as it breaks down into 2 sections Blade angles are easily adjusted to fit personal preferences . This paddle is made of aluminum making it lightweight and durable. It features drip rings and foam hand grips for comfort and to ensure your paddle will float if dropped into the water.
5. Leader Accessories Kayak Paddle
The Leader Accessories is made of aluminum making it a very durable, lightweight paddle with molded plastic blades. The paddle features three locking positions, engineered curved blades, and a push button connection, allowing you to break down the paddle making it easy to transport and stow. The Leader Accessories comes in 5 colors to suit your individual preferences.
6. SeaSense X -Treme 1
The SeaSense X-Treme 1 paddle makes it easier to maneuver your kayak due to the unique symmetrical shape. It features an aluminum shaft, with blades constructed with molded plastic, making them strong and durable.The symmetrical blades are good for high angle strokes. Due to the aluminum construction the paddle will be heavier and may cause fatigue on longer trips. The paddle has foam grips for extra comfort.
7. Attwood 11768-2 Asymmetrical
The Attwood 11768-2 Asymmetrical kayak paddles are specially designed featuring irregular spoon paddles, which are constructed to increase stroke efficiency, as well as lower noise and blade flutter. The paddle is constructed with heavy-duty aluminum shaft and hard plastic blades. Additionally, the shaft is a two-piece design making it ideal for transporting and storing.
8. Carlisle Day Tripper
The Carlisle Day Tripper is an asymmetrical design with polypropylene blades that create a smooth and efficient stroke. The paddle features a lightweight anodized aluminum shaft, feathered blades and a two piece construction, allowing you to break it down for easy transportation and storage.
9. Werner Camano Premium
The Werner Camano kayak paddle has a lightweight shaft with a quality blade design making for smooth, efficient strokes. The blades are constructed of laminated fiberglass for high performance. The adjustment system for blade angles is easy to use and feels secure. The paddle is very durable and ideal for those looking for a high performance paddle that creates extra power and strength.
10. Aqua Bound Sting Ray
The Aqua Bound Sting Ray kayak paddle has a carbon fiber shaft and a strong and durable carbon reinforced nylon resin blade. This is an extremely lightweight paddle, ideal for longer kayak trips. The paddle features two piece construction, drip pads included and five lengths to choose from.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Right Kayak Paddle
Determining which kayak paddle will best suit you will take a little more effort than simply walking into a store and picking a paddle. There are several factors that should be considered, so the following is provided as a guide to begin your search:
Choosing a Type of Kayak Paddle
There are four general types of kayak paddles that vary in design and construction for the intended use:
- Recreational Kayak Paddles: These paddles tend to be on the heavier side, durable and are typically less expensive. Due to the increased weight they are usually used on shorter trips and are commonly used by anglers.
- Touring Kayak Paddles: Usually a very lightweight, ergonomic designed paddle that is durable. As the name implies, they are usually used for touring, or long trips on a lake, river, or ocean. There are a variety of options and styles to choose from to meet your personal tastes and needs.
- Performance Kayak Paddles: Usually ultra light and very durable, with advanced features built for those individuals needing a high performance (speed and power) paddle.
- Whitewater Kayak Paddles: This paddle is designed and constructed with a focus on durability. Due to the conditions they are used in they are able to withstand unseen underwater hazards such as boulders or rocks. Additionally, they are made to provide efficient maneuvering to manage strong currents and tight areas.
A primary consideration when choosing a paddle is the length. Two factors impacting the length of paddle you will need are the width of your kayak and your height. Kayak and paddle manufacturers have developed sizing charts you can access online to make choosing the right paddle length easier.
Some additional factors to consider include the following:
- The wider the kayak, the longer the paddle you’ll need;
- Longer paddles require more effort;
- Shorter paddles allow a quicker stroke;
- Shorter paddles are usually generally lighter;
- Kayaks under 9 feet long you can use a shorter paddle;
- And kayaks longer than 12 feet you should choose a longer paddle.
Type of Blades
The materials a kayak paddle is made from will impact the weight and balance of the paddle, both important considerations. The following are the primary materials paddle blades are constructed from:
- Fiberglass: Lightweight, very durable, and variety of styles and colors. Often used by recreational and touring kayakers.
- Carbon Fiber: Typically are more expensive and the choice of kayakers looking for a high-performance paddle.
- Nylon/Aluminum/Plastic: Extremely durable, require little overall maintenance, and are generally the least expensive option. Typically the choice of recreational or individuals new to kayaking.
DesignThe paddle blades are designed with a variety of shapes and widths. The choice you make will be dependent on your type of kayaking adventures and intended uses. The following are some considerations:
- Wider blades are approximately 6 to 8 inches in width and designed for speed and power. There is increased strain on your shoulders, back and wrists.
- Narrow blades are approximately 5 inches or less, offer less power and designed for touring and longer trips where endurance and fatigue are factors.
- Asymmetrical and dihedral blades are constructed for efficiency, power and reduced side-to-side twisting.
- Scooped blades are used for professional and experienced kayakers who have a need for more maneuverability, power and speed.
Feathered or Unfeathered
The blades come in either a unfeathered or feathered design. Unfeathered blades are positioned in a parallel line with each other. Feathered blades are at offset angles to each other.
Feathered blades are designed with the intention of reducing fatigue. As you stroke with one blade in the water, the opposite blade is angled to reduce wind resistance as it cuts through the air.
One-Piece or Two-Piece Paddle
Paddle designs typically come in either a single or two-piece design. Paddles that can be broken down into a smaller configuration makes it easier to transport and store. You will want to consider the quality of design and construction however, as any extra joint makes the potential for breaking or a less stable paddle more likely. You will need to consider these factors when making your decision.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kayak Paddles
How do I determine what length of paddle I need?
The factors you will need to consider are your height, the width of your kayak, whether your kayak is a sit-in or sit-on-top design, and your intended uses. Kayak and paddle manufacturers have developed sizing charts, you can access online, to make choosing the right paddle length easier.
A quick assessment of the best length or paddle for you is to simply hold the paddle vertically, with one paddle blade on the ground. Holding the paddle, raise one arm to reach the top of the paddle. If your fingers can cup over the blade, you have a paddle that will likely be a good fit for you. Again, refer to the sizing charts available from the manufactures before making a final decision.
Can a Kayak Paddle be Extended?
If you have a two-piece or four-piece paddle then the answer is yes. There are a variety of products available that will allow you to extend the length of your paddle. This will require adding an extension piece to the middle portion of your paddle.
If your paddle is a solid one-piece shaft that does not come apart the task of extending the paddle is much more difficult and probably not advisable.
What maintenance is required for a kayak paddle?
To ensure the longevity and performance level of your paddle some regular maintenance is wise. The first thing to incorporate into your practice is to not use or at the very least be cautious using your paddle blade to push off the shore. Blade construction varies with some that will easily crack or break. You do not want to find yourself a long ways from your exist point with a broken or cracked paddle.
After each outing, you should rinse your paddle off with clean, fresh water. Wipe it clean and store in a dry, shaded area to extend the life of your paddle and the quality of its performance. You may also want to consider spraying any connections on the paddle shaft with a silicone lubricant.
It’s an amazing and exhilarating experience to be out on the water in your kayak enjoying all that nature has to offer. However, your kayak outing can quickly become a labor intense and exhausting experience if you have the wrong or a damaged paddle. The buyers guide and paddle recommendations provided should assist you in making the best choice for your needs.This article provides our top five recommendations , along with five additional kayak paddles for you to consider. Each has its pros and cons. Hopefully you will find this information helpful. Let us know in the comments section which kayak paddle you choose.
For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, please visit the following articles.
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.