These Are the Best Kayak Paddles for Every Kind of Paddler

Our overall favorite is the carbon-fiber Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Hybrid Paddle

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Tripsavvy's Pick

If you have the money or interest in investing in a top-quality paddle, you’ll do well to buy a fiberglass or fiberglass and carbon-blended paddle, like the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-Lok Paddle, or a carbon fiber paddle, like the Werner Kalliste Bent-Shaft Paddle. The more lightweight it is, like the Werner Camano Straight 2-piece paddle, the longer you can paddle without fatigue. We even provided budget options like the OCEANBROAD Kayak Paddle and specialized paddles for anglers, such as the Carlisle Magic Angler Kayak Paddle. No matter which paddle you choose, be sure to read our FAQs section to understand the various features of paddles and how to decide which one is best for you.

During the pandemic, 2.5 million more people discovered the joys of kayaking, bringing the total number of paddlers to over 37 million people—in the US alone! As the sport continues to grow in popularity, and beginners become intermediate and expert kayakers, they’ll be looking for the best paddle to take on their kayaking adventures. We’ve got you covered.

We looked at kayak paddles and considered everything from blade size to materials and shapes of shafts, making sure to choose paddles that can keep your stroke free of flutters and strain.

Read on to find the best kayak paddle for you.

Best Overall: Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Hybrid 2-Piece Kayak Paddle

Hybrid Kayak Paddle

Amazon

Pros
  • Mid-range price

  • Improved Posi-Lok ferrule system

  • Seven-layered carbon fiber shaft

  • Mid-sized asymmetrical fiberglass-reinforced blades

  • Feathering is adjustable by 15 degrees from 0 to 60 degrees

Cons
  • Blades are not dihedral

Paddlers who want a solid kayak paddle for recreational kayaking on flat bodies of water, like lakes and rivers, will love the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-Lok Paddle. It features a carbon fiber shaft that can be adjusted in 15-degree increments from 0 to 60 degrees for right- or left-hand control. This happens with the Posi-Lok ferrule system, created by Aqua-Bound, so it feels like the paddle is one piece rather than two. This ferrule is stronger than those of most paddles and has a dual-button click-and-release set-up. 

It would have been nice if the blades were dihedral, but at least they’re mid-side and asymmetrical, which does help to limit paddle fluttering. Fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades are more durable than regular nylon blades but not as heavy.

Weight: 30.5 ounces | Shaft Type: Straight two-piece | Blade Length: 18 inches | Blade Width: 6.25 inches

Best Budget: Oceanbroad Kayak Paddle

Kayak Paddle

Amazon

Pros
  • Super-affordable

  • Multiple color options

  • Comes with free bungee paddle leash

  • Shrinking PE tube cover to protect hands

  • Three locking positions for feathered angling

  • Asymmetrical dihedral blade is reinforced with fiberglass

Cons
  • Aluminum alloy shift

The OCEANBROAD kayak paddle is perfect for those who like to paddle a few times a year and can’t afford to invest in a higher-quality paddle. You can choose from multiple color and size options. This paddle has an aluminum alloy shaft and asymmetrical fiberglass-reinforced nylon blades. It won’t be the lightest of paddles, but the fiberglass reinforcement will make the blades more durable, and the dihedral aspect will help to prevent fluttering, which occurs when water spills off the vertical edges of the blade and makes it "flutter" or vibrate underwater. 

We appreciate the shrinking PE tube cover that protects your hands and that you can adjust the paddle to three different angles. It doesn’t hurt that the paddle has a free bungee leash to keep your paddle secured to the kayak.

Weight: 39 ounces | Shaft Type: Straight, two-piece | Blade Length: 18 inches | Blade Width: 6.5 inches

Best Fiberglass: Werner Camano Straight 2-Piece Paddle

Straight 2-Piece Paddle

REI

For the ultimate low-angle fiberglass paddle, go with the Werner Camano Straight 2-Piece Paddle. The fiberglass blades are asymmetrical and dihedral in shape, so you don’t have to worry about torque or fluttering. We love the long shape of the mid-size blade because it allows for longer stretches of paddling, especially during multi-day adventures. 

As for the shaft, it’s made of a carbon and fiberglass blend and comes in standard and small-diameter options. Choose your blade angle with right and left feathering between 0 and 60 degrees in 15-degree increments. That is easy to do with a ferrule with offset degrees printed on the internal part of the shaft. Make blade angle adjustments before clicking the shaft together.

Weight: 27.25 ounces | Shaft Type: Straight, two-piece | Blade Length: 20.5 inches | Blade Width: 6.3 inches

Best Carbon Fiber: Werner Kalliste Paddle- Carbon Bent-Shaft

Werner Paddle Bent Shaft

REI

Pros
  • Super-lightweight 

  • Multiple size options

  • The bent shaft offers more comfort

  • Asymmetrical dihedral carbon fiber blades

  • Ribless back for a smoother sculling stroke

  • The ferrule is designed to make the shaft feel like one piece

  • Right or left feathering between 0 and 60 degrees in 15-degree increments

Cons
  • An expensive buy

The Werner Kalliste Paddle isn’t just our "carbon fiber" pick—it’s our splurge choice, too. This expensive paddle is only for die-hard paddlers who need a paddle that weighs only 23 ounces. That’s the magic of a carbon fiber shaft and blades. You’ll have no trouble on day-long trips as these blades will easily enter and exit the water. They may be asymmetrical and dihedral in shape—to reduce fatigue and fluttering—but you’ll notice that the back is ribless for a smooth sculling stroke. 

The bent shaft will limit strain on your wrists, while a special grip area fits the contour of your hands and provides you with better control. And like the previous Werner paddle, this paddle has an improved ferrule system with internal printing of degrees and allows you to adjust right or left for feathering between 0 and 60 degrees in 15-degree increments.

Weight: 23 ounces | Shaft Type: Bent, two-piece | Blade Length: 20.5 inches | Blade Width: 6.3 inches

Best for Kids: Pelican Boats Kid Size Kayak Paddle

Pelican Boats Kid Size Kayak Paddle

Amazon

Encourage your kids to hit the water with their very own kayak paddle—the Pelican Boats Kid Size Kayak Paddle. This affordable paddle is excellent for kids who aren’t yet preteens, as it’s super-light and only 60 inches in length. The scooped, ribbed blades will also allow young ones to maintain decent speed on the water, possibly enticing them to continue the sport for years to come. 

Neither parents nor kids will have difficulty putting this paddle together or breaking it down for transport. Just make sure you dry it off when you're finished kayaking, and store it away to slow the breakdown of the materials over time.

Weight: 16 ounces | Shaft Type: Straight, two-piece | Blade Length: Not provided | Blade Width: Not provided

Best Lightweight: Aqua-Bound Whiskey Fiberglass Kayak Paddle

Aqua-bond whiskey fiberglass kayak paddle

Amazon

Pros
  • Multiple sizes and colors

  • 100 percent T-700 ovalized carbon shaft

  • Wide, asymmetrical fiberglass blades

  • Five feathering positions between 0 and 60 degrees

  • Posi-Lok ferrule makes paddle feel like a single piece

Cons
  • Pricey

A lightweight paddle is necessary for all-day kayak trips and aggressive adventures in the sea and on whitewater rivers. Our pick? The Aqua-Bound Whiskey Fiberglass Kayak Paddle. It weighs 26 ounces, thanks to an ovalized carbon shaft and asymmetrical, dihedral fiberglass blades. Where the blade's dihedral feature limits fluttering, the wider shape allows for more torque and propulsion when the blade is close to the kayak. 

Feather the blades in five positions between 0 and 60 degrees with the durable Posi-Lok ferrule. While it's not the cheapest paddle, you'll notice how high-quality materials and craftsmanship make a world of difference for this high-angle paddle.

Weight: 26 ounces | Shaft Type: Straight, two-piece | Blade Length: 16 inches | Blade Width: 7.8 inches

Best For Fishing: Carlisle Magic Angler Kayak Paddle

Carlisle Paddle Magic Angler

Amazon

Pros
  • J notch cut-out

  • Four color options

  • Ovalized shaft for comfort

  • Imperial/metric ruler on the shaft to measure your catch

  • Asymmetrical and slightly curved blades

  • Left and right feathering at either 0 or 60 degrees

Cons
  • Pretty heavy

  • Only two feathering options

  • Shaft made of aluminum wrapped in fiberglass

The Carlisle Magic Angler Kayak Paddle offers a lot to kayaking fishermen. For example, it floats on water if you ever drop it overboard while landing a fish. An ovalized shaft will feel better on your wrists, while the J-notch cut-out makes it easy to free snagged hooks. You'll especially like the ruler on the shaft that will allow you to measure your catch immediately. 

This isn't the lightest paddle on the list due to the aluminum shaft wrapped in fiberglass, but it shouldn't be a big deal if you're fishing on calmer waters. With the asymmetrical, slightly curved blade and the ability to feather right or left-handed at 0 or 60 degrees, you won't have trouble cutting through the water smoothly.

Weight: 48 ounces | Shaft Type: Straight, two-piece | Blade Length: 18 inches | Blade Width: 7.25 inches

Best For Beginners: NRS Ripple Kayak Paddle

NRS Ripple Paddle

Backcountry

Pros
  • Fiberglass shaft

  • Multiple size options

  • Mid-size asymmetrical blades

  • Three feathering positions between 0 and 45 degrees

Cons
  • Only three ferrule positions

We believe we’ve found the perfect kayak paddle for beginners with the Ripple Kayak Paddle. It’s not the lightest paddle, but it’s not heavy, either. It features a fiberglass shaft and fiberglass-reinforced mid-sized blades, which are perfect for low-key kayaking. Newbies will quickly get a feel for how this paddle reduces fluttering and helps you to maneuver across water smoothly. You can practice your stroke by adjusting the blade angles between 0 and 45 degrees at three feathering positions for left- or right-hand control. It’s not the cheapest paddle on the market, but it’s also not the most expensive. Invest in the Ripple Kayak Paddle, and you’ll be able to improve your paddling techniques.

Weight: 38 ounces | Shaft Type: Two-piece, straight | Blade Length: 17 inches | Blade Width: 7.25 inches

What to Look for in Kayak Paddles

Price

Kayak paddles range from $20 to nearly $400; like with many things, the more expensive the paddle, the higher the quality of the materials. That said, you could probably find a kayak paddle priced between $50 and $150 that you’ll love.

Weight

Generally, the lighter the paddle, the better. With a lightweight paddle, you can kayak for longer distances without getting tired. Paddles usually weigh between 1.5 and 4 pounds. Anything under 2 pounds is considered light.

Type

Choosing a specific type of kayak paddle will depend entirely on your expertise. Beginners will probably do just fine with a straight-shaft symmetrical blade paddle made of fiberglass or plastic. Enthusiasts should invest in carbon fiber or fiberglass paddles with a blade type that fits their kayaking interests or stroke technique.

Size

The most important thing to remember when buying a kayak paddle is that the taller you are, and the wider your boat, the longer the kayak paddle needs to be. Check out the charts online to make sure you choose a paddle that’s the right size. And if you have smaller hands, you’ll want a small-diameter shaft.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I pick the right kayak paddle for me?

    Putting aside materials and styles, the main things to consider when buying a kayak paddle are your height, the width of the kayak or boat, and the type of paddling you’ll be doing. 

    One easy thing to remember is that the taller you are, and the wider your boat is, the longer your kayak paddle will need to be. For example, if you’re taller than 6 feet and have a boat that is wider than 28 inches, you’ll need a paddle that is at least 240 centimeters in length. Plenty of charts explain the paddle size based on height and the boat width. 

    Similarly, kayaking in the open ocean versus a calm lake may entail investing in different types of paddles. For example, recreational paddlers—those who go out on calmer bodies of water—will need longer paddles. Even certain activities, like fishing, may be cause for specialized paddles, such as those with notches that can retrieve hooks.

  • What are the different styles of kayak paddles?

    Kayak paddle styles can be broken down by shafts and blades. Paddle shafts are either bent or straight. Bent-shaft paddles are like a soft zig-zag shape that lets your hands rest at more comfortable angles. Those with small hands may want to choose a small-diameter shaft so that it’s easier to grip. Most kayak paddle shafts can break down into two pieces, but you can also go for a four-piece paddle to break it down smaller for easier storage—like a bag on a plane.

    Now let’s talk blades. They can be either matched or feathered. Matched blades mean they align; however, some paddlers prefer feathered blades, which are unaligned, because it reduces wind resistance out of the water. If you want the feathered option, look for paddles that allow you to adjust the blades between 0 and 60 degrees at 15-degree increments. 

    As for the shape of the blades, you can choose from wider blades, narrow blades, dihedral blades, spoon blades, and symmetrical and asymmetrical blades. Consider narrower blades if you’re doing full-day or multi-day kayaking trips, as they’re lighter and more efficient for extended periods. Wider blades allow you to accelerate quickly, such as if you’re fishing and see your line pulled underwater. 

    Asymmetrical blades are like they sound—narrow and shorter on one side, making it easier to move through the water. Symmetrical blades—which have the same shape at the top and bottom—are often used by beginners and are not as efficient. 

    The dihedral blade has a rib down the center, which helps water flow over the blade more evenly, making for a better experience. Some may consider spoon blades, which curve like a spoon (hence the name). They scoop water and provide more power. This type of paddle is best for intermediate or experts who have better paddling techniques and can prevent the spoon blade from fluttering.

  • What are the best materials for kayak paddles?

    Regarding shafts, budget-friendly kayak paddles will feature aluminum. However, aluminum shafts can become too hot or cold, depending on the weather, and are not as light as carbon and fiberglass paddles. The lighter the kayak paddle, the more distance you can cover for a longer amount of time. 

    Blades tend to have plastic/nylon, carbon fiber, or fiberglass. Carbon fiber is the best material, because it’s the lightest, most flexible, and most durable. Following that, your best bet is fiberglass. It’s still more lightweight than plastic/nylon, and while it’s not as durable as carbon fiber, it will do the trick if you find rigid blades. Fiberglass is also not as expensive as carbon fiber.

    And, of course, there’s plastic/nylon. It’s affordable and often used by beginners who are unaware of how the material can crack when it's left in the sun. If you don’t plan to kayak often, a plastic/nylon blade or a fiberglass-reinforced nylon blade will do.

Why Trust Tripsavvy

Author Alex Temblador is an outdoor and travel journalist who lives in Texas. In addition to working out—running, lifting, hiking, kayaking, and more—at least five days a week, Alex seeks out adventurous travels all around the world. Throughout her career as an outdoor and travel journalist, she has rappelled in Mexico, kayaked in Puerto Rico and Thailand, skied in Telluride and Montana, surfed in Zihuatanejo, scuba dived in Bonaire, hiked in Peru and Switzerland, and completed a one-day, 100-mile cycling event in 100-degree weather in North Texas.

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