Best Kayak Paddles

There is something about being on the water in a kayak.  Whether you’re braving the white water rapids of your favorite river, or enjoying a peaceful jaunt around a placid lake, there is something about finding the balance between your strength and ability, the equipment you use, and the water that can be one of the most enchanting things imaginable.  To find that balance, you need the right equipment, including the best kayak paddle available.  Here are a few of our favorites.

WERNER SKAGIT
  • WERNER SKAGIT
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to store
  • Price: See Here
BENDING BRANCHES
  • BENDING BRANCHES
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Angler friendly
  • Great blade shape
  • Price: See Here
CARLISLE MAGIC
  • CARLISLE MAGIC
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Easy on the joints
  • Great design
  • Price: See Here

 

10 Best Kayak Paddles

 

Werner skagit

Werner skagit
The Werner brand is one of the most respected kayak paddles in the business, and with good reason. This kayak paddle provides an overall great feel, great propulsion, and does it at a very reasonable cost or the quality.
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Blade Material

The blades on this kayak paddle are made from fiberglass reinforced nylon that has been injected into molds. They are not only impact and wear resistant, but are also surprisingly lightweight.


Paddle Design

Designed with both beginner kayak enthusiasts and veterans alike, this paddle falls into the mid-sized range, and feature low-angle paddling capabilities. In addition, the adjustable ferrule has been fashioned with one of the most precise fits in the industry.

Blade Shape

The blade shape is asymmetrical, which allows for a smoother and more stabilized stroke in the water. It’s a great choice for low angle paddling.


Type of Shaft

The shaft itself measures fifty-one inches in length, and the total weight of the paddle is just over three pounds. The shaft is made from carbon fiber material, which makes it one of the sturdiest and lightest available today.


Ease of Storage

With a quick twist and a pull, this paddle quickly comes apart into two pieces, which makes it fairly easy to store in a variety of places including the garage, the trunk of a car, or even strapped to the kayak itself.

Summary

If you’re looking for the best overall kayak paddle that is great for both beginners and veterans alike, this choice from the Werner brand is certainly a great one.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to store
  • Perfect for the inexperienced as well as the veteran
Cons
  • A touch expensive.

Bending Branches

Bending Branches
Designed with both the angler and the kayak fan in mind, this paddle helps you to excel at navigating the river waters to catch your next meal.
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Blade Material

The blades are made from reinforced fiberglass that allow for easy movement and an overall reduction in weight.

Paddle Design

This paddle features a number of unique design choices that make it perfect for both fisherman and kayak enthusiasts alike, The fiberglass reinforced blades feature a smart hook retrieval system, so you won’t have to worry about snagged lines, or lost lures. Plus the shaft has an easy to read ruler, so determining the size of your catch is easy as well.


Blade Shape

The two blades on this kayak paddle are asymmetrical around the shaft buy a small amount, and are fairly long as well. They’re perfectly suited for the river waters that are a bit calm, but still have a ripple or two on the surface-- in other words a great place to go fishing in.

Type of Shaft

The aluminum shaft is lightweight and easily splits into two separate pieces with a simple push of a button. It’s easy on the hands, but can get a little slippery as the day goes on.

Ease of Storage

This paddle can quickly break down into two pieces, through the use of a snap button ferrule. This makes storage relatively simple and straightforward. Plus transportation is a breeze, since it can easily fit into most car trunks, or in the bed of a pickup truck along with your kayak easily.


Summary

Designed with both the fisherman and the kayak fan in mind, the Bending Branches Angler Scout 2-Piece Snap Button Kayak fishing paddle is a great way to combine two great water sports into one adventure.
Pros
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Angler friendly features
  • Blade shape allows for use in multiple types of river environments
Cons
  • Aluminum shaft can get cold and slippery – harder to handle with time.

Carlisle magic plus

Carlisle magic plus
Looking for a kayak paddle that will allow you to have a great day on the river without sacrificing your joints? The Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle is designed to do just that.
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Blade Material

The blades on this kayak paddle are made from a lightweight yet strong glass-filled polypropylene which allows for added strength as it pushes through the water, and flexibility to allow for a lower amount of impact on your arms.

Paddle Design

The paddle weighs just under 36 ounces, and the lengths range between 220 and 240 centimeters or 86 to 94 inches in length, so chances are you’ll find the right size for your kayaking needs. Plus it easily breaks down into two pieces, so storing it isn’t a problem. The one complaint we had was that the blades were known to come loose over time. However, we don’t believe that they were designed that way.


Blade Shape

The blade shape is slightly asymmetrical, which makes it a great choice for those situations where you don’t quite know what you’ll be facing. In addition, the overall scooped shape of the blade makes it easy to move it through the water creating powerful strokes without much effort.

Type of Shaft

The shaft is made from a lightweight fiberglass material and features two easy to use grip areas that make paddling a lot easier on the hands and arms overall.

Ease of Storage

This paddle easily breaks down into two smaller pieces, so it can easily be stored along with your kayak, transported in just about any four-wheeled vehicle, and is lightweight enough to carry on its own.

Summary

The Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak paddle is a great choice for those kayakers who love to be on the water but can’t afford to put too much strain on their joints. This paddle has found a great balance between being lightweight and durable.
Pros
  • Usable in a wide array of situations
  • Designed to be easy on the joints
  • Easy to store.
Cons
  • Blades have been known to become loose on occasion.

Seasense X-1

The Seasense X-1 Kayak Paddle is designed to make your trips through calmer waters like the lake or the open ocean a breeze and an enjoyable experience.
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Blade Material

The blades themselves are made from a lightweight molded plastic material that is great for use in more gentle waters such as lakes or open ocean.

Paddle Design

This paddle is designed for low-angled use, and it’s a great starting point for beginners of all ages. The paddle features adjustable grips and drip guards, so making sure the paddle is the right fit for the person is easy to do.


Blade Shape

The blades are symmetrical around the shaft, and relatively narrow, which makes it a great choice for moving through calmer waters. We would have liked to see a slight curve to the blade to make paddling easier, but overall it’s not a bad shape.


Type of Shaft

The aluminum shaft is relatively strong, but does have some unexpected heaviness to it, which can make longer treks a bit tiring for the arms.


Ease of Storage

This kayak paddle splits easily into two smaller sections, and can be easily stored in the garage, with the kayak, or in the car for easier retrieval when the time comes.


Summary

Although there were a few design choices that we weren’t impressed with, overall the SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle is a solid choice for a person who is just beginning to enjoy the world of kayaking
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Great for calmer waters and/or beginners
  • Size will fit most kayaks
Cons
  • Would have preferred a slight curve to the blades
  • Shaft is a bit heavier than we would like.

Solstice 4

The Solstice 4 Piece Quick Release Paddle provides a fantastic way for a kayaker to not only brave some challenging rapids, but also a great way to transport their paddle and kayak to those potentially far off places.
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Blade Material

The blades are made of a hard molded plastic that is relatively lightweight and yet reasonably strong.

Paddle Design

Unlike other of the best kayak paddles on this list, this paddle is designed for compact travel, and can easily be split into four separate pieces, the largest one measuring 30.5 centimeters in length. In addition the overall weight is just 2.7 pounds, making it one of the lighter ones on the market. The only two real complaints we encountered was that the parts became harder to pull apart and put together with use, and that the blades could be a little more stiff for use in more turbulent waters.


Blade Shape

The blade is asymmetrical in shape, and relatively wide and short. This allows them to function well in faster flowing, more demanding waters such as a river, although some customers indicated the preference for a stiffer blade for more fierce rapids.


Type of Shaft

The shaft is made of aluminum and as stated earlier, can be easily divided into four segments for easier storage. It’s a matter of simply sliding the parts together or apart with a simple twist.


Ease of Storage

Of all the kayak paddles on this list, this one that has the ability to split into four parts provides the most versatility when it comes to storage and transportation. The relatively small size of the pieces – at most 30.5 centimeters- allows the paddle to be stored in a wide array of places, including the trunk of your car, carried in a large backpack, or even stored in the kayak itself.

Summary

The Solstice 4 Piece Quick Release paddle provides a great way to brave some rapids on a river, or enjoy a more turbulent lake or shoreline. Then, when you are done, it’s a matter of a few quick twists and pulls, and you can easily store your paddle away for next time.
Pros
  • Easy to store
  • Compact size when taken apart
  • Very reasonable price
Cons
  • Blades could be stiffer for faster moving waters

  • Staff becomes harder to pull apart over time.

Advanced elements ultralite pack

Advanced elements ultralite pack
If you’re looking for one of the lightest and easiest kayak paddle to use, the Advanced Elements Ultralite Pack Kayak Paddle may just be what you’ve been searching for.
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Blade Material

The blades are made of a hardened resin plastic, and are relatively lightweight.

Paddle Design

The paddle is designed to be easily broken down into four separate pieces, and reduces from a length of 224 centimeters down to a length of 60 centimeters. That’s a difference of over five feet! It’s clearly been designed for use on backpacking trips along with an inflatable raft or kayak. The overall weight is also surprisingly little, just 23.6 ounces. However, we did notice that the decrease in weight did mean less overall material, which could lead to breakage under more strenuous use.


Blade Shape

The blade is symmetrical around the staff, but is relatively wide, making it ideal for use in multiple situations, whether it’s a calm lake or a river with calmer rapids.

Type of Shaft

The shaft appears to be a lightweight reinforced plastic material that is a bit thinner in diameter than most other kayak paddles, but does become easier to handle after a while.

Ease of Storage

This particular kayak paddle is designed for storage in a backpack for use and transport in a wilderness environment. Whether you are portaging your kayak over to the next river, or inflating one to use along the shoreline, this paddle can easily stay apart and fit into your backpack for easy retrieval later.

Summary

The Ultralite Pack Kayak Paddle by Advanced Elements provides a great way to combine a love of kayaking with exploring the great outdoors. Extremely easy to use and transport, its ultralight nature makes it a fun addition to any adventure.

Pros
  • Extremely light weight and easy to use
  • Easily stored in a backpack
  • Blades are shaped to handle most types of rapids that you would encounter.
Cons
  • Shaft may be too small in diameter for some tastes.
  • Paddle has an overall “toy” feel to it.

Aqua-bound manta ray fiberglass

Aqua-bound manta ray fiberglass
If your kayaking trip involves some serious rapids or the need for quick movements and adaptability, the Aqua-Bound MantaRay Fiberglass Paddle should definitely be on your list.
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Blade Material

Fashioned out of lightweight but durable fiberglass material, the blades are able to easily move through the water, and move water out of the way with each powerful stroke.


Paddle Design

The paddle is designed for use in rough waters and designed for high-angled entry into the water. It can also be easily pulled apart into two pieces for easy storage and feathering as needed. Overall it’s a simple and solid design.


Blade Shape

Slightly asymmetrical in design, but still fairly wide, these blades are a great choice for situations where you really don’t know what’s coming around the next bend. Plus, with a snap of a button, you can easily adjust the angle of the blade from 0 degrees to 60 degrees in either direction. And with the overall wider profile, you actually end up doing less of the work, which is a great thing for a beginner.


Type of Shaft

The shaft is made from lightweight reinforced fiberglass material that is surprisingly durable.


Ease of Storage

While it does come easily apart into two pieces, the blades and the elongated shaft overall makes storage and transportation slightly more difficult than the other kayak paddles on the list.

Summary

This paddle is designed to be used in rapid flowing water and to aid the kayaker in moving through the water by helping to create powerful and efficient strokes. While we would have like to see the paddle more easily broken down into more than two pieces, overall this is a solid choice for a kayak paddle.
Pros
  • Solidly built
  • Perfect for rougher waters
  • Able to be feathered between zero and sixty degrees.
Cons
  • Breaks down into two larger pieces, may be hard to store.

Shoreline marine propel motion

If you’re looking for a respectable lightweight paddle that is slightly longer than the others on this list at 96 inches in length, this kayak paddle may be just what you need.
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Blade Material

The blades are made with a lightweight plastic material.


Paddle Design

The paddle is designed to be easily broken apart with the push of a snap button into two pieces. In addition, with a simple twist of the shaft, the paddle blades can easily be feathered as needed by the user.


Blade Shape

The blade is asymmetrical in shape and they are slightly curved. They are, however, a little bit more narrow than what is normally seen in river kayaking. This combination makes it a good choice for a variety of situations, but not including stronger or faster moving waters such as those around waterfalls or fast moving streams.


Type of Shaft

The shaft is comprised of lightweight aluminum material with two grips on either side of the central point to aid in hand placement.

Ease of Storage

Because of the longer length, even in two pieces, this kayak paddle is a bit harder to store overall. While it will fit in the back of a pick-up truck or garage, there may be some issues fitting it into smaller vehicles.

Summary

Lightweight and fairly easy to use, the Shoreline Marine Propel Motion Kayak paddle is a great choice for those who enjoy kayaking, but require a longer paddle either due to the nature of the kayak or their taller torso height.
Pros
  • Relatively light weight
  • Longer shaft suitable for wider kayaks or taller people
Cons
  • Longer paddle may be difficult for storage.

Seattle sports seawhisper carbon

While we would have preferred a stronger carbon fiber shaft, this kayak paddle is a great choice for beginners who aren’t going to be traveling through treacherous waters.
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Blade Material

The blade material is comprised of glass that is reinforced with nylon materials.


Paddle Design

This paddle is designed to be easily taken apart and to be lightweight and easy to carry. The paddles design also features two good sized grips and a secure locking mechanism that allows for easy feathering.


Blade Shape

The blade is slightly asymmetrical around the shaft, giving a more dorsal fin type of shape that allows for both low angle and high angle use.


Type of Shaft

The shaft is created out of a carbon fiber material that is relatively strong and lightweight. However, there have been reports of the shaft breaking with moderately strenuous use.

Ease of Storage

This paddle breaks down into two separate pieces that can easily be stored in various locals including the back of cars, trucks or with the kayak itself.

Pros
  • High visibility blades make it easier to spot.
  • Asymmetrical blades great for a wide array of waters.
Cons
  • Carbon fiber shaft not as strong as we would like.

Seasense x-treme II mix

If you’re looking for a relatively lightweight paddle that can easily be used in a wide array of situations, this paddle with a mix blade design will be a big help.
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Blade Material

The blades are made from a fiberglass filled nylon material that is very lightweight and strong. However, the blade themselves have been known to bend when being used to push off harder objects such as sand bars or rocks.

Paddle Design

This paddle is designed to be easily used in a wide array of situations, especially one where there is likely to be higher winds, where feathering may be a good option.

Blade Shape

This paddle is designed with an asymmetrical blade on each end. The blades are about as long as they are wide, which makes this paddle a great choice for choppy waters that are a bit harder to navigate.

Type of Shaft

The shaft is a two piece aluminum shaft that is fairly lightweight and strong. It also features three locking positions for easy feathering.

Ease of Storage

Overall this kayak paddle is easy to store and transport, although the aluminum shaft can be a bit heavier than others on this list.


Summary

This paddle is more than adequate for most situations, especially for a beginner who wants to brave more turbulent waters.
Pros
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Great for choppy waters
Cons
  • Blades bend a bit easier than we would like.

Criteria for Evaluation

What is the Blade Material?

When it comes to kayaking, whether it’s in the open ocean or handling a Class Three rapids, your paddle is an essential tool.  Each time your kayak paddle passes through the surface of the water, there is a chance that it might be damaged by the water, a rock, or even debris or litter.  Therefore, it’s essential that the blade of the paddle be made of a material that is not only light enough to allow for good maneuverability but also strong enough to withstand what it may encounter.

With new innovations and designs, kayak paddles on this list make use of lightweight fiberglass or carbon fiber material, both of which are reasonably strong and lightweight, although they can have their disadvantages as well.

The Paddle Design is also Important

Of course, what the blade is comprised of really pales in comparison to what the overall design is.  There are quite a few different designs available, and what you need greatly depends on what type of kayaking you’re planning on enjoying in your time on the water.  If your adventures have you paddling through calmer waters, such as a lake or the open ocean, a Paddle Design that is suited for low-angle paddling.  These blades are usually long and narrow, and require less effort and energy to move through the water.  However, if you’ll more likely to be in environments that require powerful strokes and quick, high angle movement, a paddle that has blades that are wider and designed to quickly move water out of the way is probably more beneficial.

Blade Shape

Generally speaking, there are two different types of blade shape that a kayaking enthusiast should consider when buying a paddle – symmetrical and asymmetrical.  As their name implies, a symmetrical blade has the same basic shape around the shaft of the paddle, while the asymmetrical one does not.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages.  Because of their shape, symmetrical blades are often easier to use, since it really doesn’t matter which way you hold them.  They are often well suited for beginners or those situations where the speed of stroke is important, such as white water rafting.

Type of Shaft

In one way, the shaft is the backbone of a quality kayak paddle.  It’s what you hold onto and move to perform your stroke.  It needs to be light enough to be comfortable in your hands, long enough to provide propulsion, and strong enough to withstand a great deal of abuse.  Plus, it also needs to allow for easier storage and transport out of the water.  That’s a pretty tall order.

Thankfully, most of the shafts in this list have found an ideal balance between strength, comfort and durability without too much of a hassle.  While not every shaft choice is not perfect for every situation, having a shaft that fits your needs generally speaking is a great idea.

Ease of Storage

Regrettably, you can’t spend all your time testing the waves.  Sooner or later you’re going to have to bring your kayak paddles out of the water and put them into storage.  Whether you’re transporting them to the next location or hanging them up for another season, being able to easily break down the paddles and store them away is essential to making sure they last.

Today, most kayak paddles have staffs that can break down into two or four separate pieces.  This makes them easily stored, but can also lead to problems if they are not maintained correctly.  There have been instances, although rare, of paddles coming apart because the locking mechanisms on the shaft is not up to standards.

Thankfully, the shafts listed here are well made, and relatively easy to break down and put back together when necessary.  Chances are you won’t have too many surprises here.

More to think about when purchasing your next  kayak paddles

What type of kayaking do you enjoy?

Like most sports that focus on the individual rather than the team, there are actually a few different types of kayaking that people can enjoy.  Each type is based on the kind of water you will be traveling through, such as the open ocean, a lake, a river, or even the shoreline environment.

If you are a person who enjoys white water rafting, or the excitement of having to make quick decisions to make it through a difficult pass, chances are you’ll enjoy kayaking down a river with a few rapids and calm areas.  If that’s the case, and you’re experienced enough for the challenge, a kayak paddle that allows for high-angled entry into the water, with wider, but shorter blades is certainly more suited to your tastes.  However, if you prefer a little bit calmer approach, such as moving through more tranquil waters such as the ocean or a lake, a paddle that allows for a lower angle of entry and less powerful strokes may be more suitable.

How much weight can you handle?

While a few pounds here and there might not sound like much when it comes to kayaking, everything can easily add up. Not only do you have to consider the weight of the water that you will be pushing with the paddle.  Both those can add up pretty quickly.  Since you can’t really change the weight of the water, the only option you have is to find a paddle that feels comfortable and light in your hands.

What type and size of kayak do you use?

Just as there are different types of kayaking adventures out there, there are different types of kayaks used primarily for each one.  For example, a kayak that is used in a river environment is usually relatively narrow, and is designed for increased maneuverability and speed.  However, a touring kayak, which is mostly used in calmer waters, is usually wider and is made for stability and ease of movement.

Whichever type of kayak you use, the kayak paddle you choose should be long enough to fit the kayak in question.  Essentially, the length of the kayak paddle is dependent on three main factors, your torso size, your overall physical condition, and the width of the kayak you’re using.  The taller you are, or the wider the kayak, the longer the paddle should be.  But you also need to take into account your physical condition, since longer paddles are often harder to use.

FAQs

Q:  Why are kayak paddle blades feathered? 

A:  Not all kayak paddle blades are feathered, actually.  The term feathering refers to the act of having the two blades at different angles from the horizontal line.  When the blades are not feathered, the paddle can easily lay on the ground flat.  When the blades are feathered, they are turned at angles to the horizontal, usually thirty, sixty or ninety degrees off the horizontal line.

The purpose of feathering is to help you keep control of your paddle during times when you’re traveling into higher winds.  The higher angle- say sixty degrees- will allow you to cut through the high winds more easily and slice down into the water with each stroke.  Conversely, if the winds are at your back, the tilted blades act something like mini sails, allowing you to harness the wind to help you power into the next stroke.

Q:  What are the different types of kayak paddles?

A:  There are actually a few different ways to distinguish between different kayak paddles, including length, blade style and style of shaft.  However, for the most part, kayakers tend to divide paddles into three basic categories – recreational, touring, and performance style.

The recreational style of kayak paddle is probably the one most people are familiar with.  The shafts are usually straight, and measure between five and eight feet from end to end.  The blades are usually asymmetrical in shape, and overall the paddles are designed for a wide array of uses both in calm and turbulent waters.

Touring kayak paddles, by contrast are designed for kayakers who enjoy a longer trip in calmer waters, such as the open ocean or large lakes.  The shafts are sometimes bent for more ergonomic use, and the blades themselves are often more narrow and symmetrical in shape.  They are designed to help the kayaker move more smoothly through the water, not necessarily at a faster rate.

Performance style paddles, however, are designed for the serious kayak in mind, one who wants to push themselves to their limits, either for excitement or health purposes.  They are usually comprised of ultralight materials that are designed to maximize the amount of speed and strength used in each and every stroke.

Q:  How should I hold my kayak paddle?

A:  There are a few steps to holding your kayak paddle correctly.  The first is to make sure that the paddle itself is positioned well.  Start with making sure that the concave, or curved side of the paddle faces you.  That way, when it enters the water, it will push the water away from you propelling you forward.  Next, if the blades are asymmetrical, make sure that the tapered edge is closer to the water.  This makes it easier for the blade to cut the surface of the water.  If you were to have the longer side enter the water first, you’d have much more resistance, which would lead to a less powerful stroke.

Now that you have the paddle in the right orientation, the next step is to position your hands correctly.  Most people place their hands about 8 inches on either side of the shaft’s center point.  A good rule of thumb is that your hands should line up comfortably with your shoulders.  This wider grip allows for greater control and flexibility.  If you’re traveling over longer distances, a slightly more narrow grip, one of about five inches on either side of a center point offers less control, but it is more relaxing.

Now onto the actual hand grip.  One thing to realize is that one side is considered your “control side” and the other is considered the “loose” side.  The control side is usually your dominant hand, and for most people that is the right hand.  On this side, your grip should be firm, but not exceedingly tight, and your knuckles should line up with the edge of the blade.  The loose side as the name implies, has the same basic style of grip, but isn’t as tight.  Essentially the control side is used to direct the paddle the way you want it to go, while the loose side is left to freely rotate, so that the correct edge of the blade enters the water.

And finally, try to keep the paddle itself a good distance, about a foot in front of your torso.  This allows for the free movement of the paddle.

Final thoughts

If you enjoy kayaking, having quality equipment is essential, and that includes having the best kayak paddles for your use.  It doesn’t matter if you enjoy braving the rapids, or a lazy afternoon on the lake, these paddles will help you have a great time.