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A paddle is as essential to a kayak as an engine is to a car, and as such, it’s important to choose wisely. The right paddle can increase your stroke efficiency, so that you go faster and straighter while using less energy. The wrong paddle can make a fun day out on the water feel more like a chore. There are a whole host of factors to consider - including your blade size and shape, the shape of your shaft and the materials your paddle is made out of. Here, we look at a few of the most important factors while compiling a list of the best kayak paddles to buy for your next trip on the water.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: SeaSense X-Treme II Kayak Paddle
The SeaSense X-Treme II Kayak Paddle may not be the best performing paddle on Amazon, but reviewers love it because it strikes a happy balance between quality and affordability. Available in 84” or 96” lengths, the sleek black paddle features nylon blades and a durable aluminum shaft. The blades are feathered, which means that they’re positioned at an angle to one another to reduce wind resistance on the one that’s in the air. This is a major plus, helping to reduce your fatigue and increase the paddle’s efficiency.
The paddle features three locking positions, so you can adjust the feathering angle to suit your needs. Adjustable drip guards prevent water from running down the shaft and into the kayak; while two foam grips protect your hands from calluses and make long-distance trips more comfortable. A support ridge gives the paddle extra strength and durability, and if you capsize, it will float. When you’re finished for the day, the paddle can be split in two to fit into your vehicle or to allow for convenient storage at home.
Best Budget: SEAFLO Adult Aluminium Kayak Paddle
The SEAFLO Adult Aluminium Kayak Paddle is the ideal option for entry-level kayakers who don’t want to break the bank. It’s one of the most affordable choices on Amazon, yet boasts a surprisingly complex design. The shaft is made from aluminum and splits in two for convenient storage. Use the knob system in the middle of the paddle to adjust the length from 220 cm to 230 cm depending on your needs. The fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene blades are designed to last (giving you even better value for your money) and are especially suited to high-angle strokes. They are feathered and can be adjusted to three different locking positions.
Best Fiberglass: Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle
Those with a slightly larger budget should consider the Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle. Its polypropylene blades are reinforced with fiberglass to make them lighter and more durable than conventional plastic paddles. They offer a more rigid stroke and are less likely to crack in the event of a high-impact collision. The paddle’s shaft is also made from fiberglass and combines the stiffness required for a strong stroke with enough flex to reduce stress on your joints.
Fiberglass shafts are also a better bet than aluminium ones in extreme climates, as they won’t get uncomfortably hot or cold to the touch. This paddle comes in three lengths: 220 cm, 230 cm and 240 cm. The shortest weighs in at 35.6 ounces. Other benefits include the slightly spooned shape of the asymmetrical blades, which allows for smoother, more powerful strokes. The paddle includes drip guards and splits into two for easy storage. Choose your blades in stand-out shades of Sunrise or Cloud.
Best Carbon Fiber: Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle
When lightness is a priority (and money is no object), carbon fiber paddles are the obvious choice. The Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle features carbon-reinforced nylon blades for an ultra-light feel and unparalleled efficiency. The shaft is also made from 100 percent carbon, so the entire paddle tips the scale at just 28.75 ounces. According to reviewers, the low swing weight means that one can paddle harder and longer without becoming fatigued.
The blades are mid-sized to suit a wide array of different paddling styles and activities. Meanwhile, the paddle’s four-piece construction allows the shaft to split in two and the paddles to separate from either end. Posi-Lok™ ferrules provide a strong, corrosion-free connection with a dual-button release and infinite feathering angles. This classic black paddle is available in a variety of lengths from 210 cm to 250 cm.
Best for Kids: Lifetime Youth Kayak Paddle
Those looking to introduce their children to the sport for the first time can’t go wrong with the Lifetime Youth Kayak Paddle. At 72” in length, it’s perfectly sized for smaller hands, while the wallet-friendly price-tag is a bonus for families with more than one kid to shop for. The aluminum shaft breaks into two pieces for easy storage, while the asymmetrical polypropylene blades provide plenty of power without exerting too much pressure on your child’s joints. Best of all, the paddle weighs in at just 27.2 ounces. The only drawback is a lack of drip guards - although for most kids, getting wet is all part of the fun.
Best Bent Shaft: Werner Powerhouse Fiberglass Bent Shaft Paddle
The Werner Powerhouse Fiberglass Bent Shaft Paddle is specially designed for seasoned kayakers tackling whitewater rivers and creeks. Its bent shaft features a kinked section that helps to position your hands more comfortably for the downward stroke, thereby reducing joint fatigue and discomfort. The shaft’s design is complemented by its lightweight carbon construction.
The dihedral blades are made from fiberglass and feature a rib down the center that encourages water to flow evenly over the two halves. In doing so, the blades make it easier for you to maintain a strong, straight course through patches of turbulent water. This paddle is hand-crafted in Washington and comes with bright translucent Red or Topo Eagle Falls Green blades. A one-year manufacturer’s warranty helps to justify the paddle’s hefty price-tag.
Best for Fishing: Bending Branches Angler Scout Fishing Paddle
Recreational kayak fishermen will love the Bending Branches Angler Scout Fishing Paddle. The fiberglass-reinforced blades feature an in-built hook retrieval system that also comes in handy for freeing snagged lines and rescuing misplaced lures. The aluminum paddle shaft includes a measurement system, so you can make sure your catch complies with size limits (and back up your fishing tales back on land).
The paddle is designed to float in case it gets dropped overboard in the excitement of reeling in the big one. It breaks in two for easy travel and storage and features a handy snap-button ferrule connection. Choose yours with eye-catching orange or camouflaged sage green blades. Paddle lengths start at 220 cm and increase in 10 cm increments up to 260 cm.
Best for Expeditions: Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Kayak Paddle
Reviewers love the lightweight efficiency of the Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Kayak Paddle, which is designed with long-distance tourers in mind. The 17” x 7” fiberglass blades provide exactly the right combination of power and lightness. The shaft is also constructed of fiberglass to make the paddle impressively durable - important for when you’re miles from home in unchartered territory.
The asymmetrical dihedral blade shape helps to reduce fluttering, and you can adjust your feathering angle for right or left-hand control. The paddle breaks into two pieces, making it easy to transport to your entry point or to stow in a tent overnight. Those that like to stand out from the crowd will also appreciate the paddle’s beautiful translucent gold color; while drip guards add another element of practicality.