Best Kayak Paddles in 2021: The Ultimate Kayak Paddle Buying Guide

Paddles. All they do is push you through the water, right? Why is it that every time you get on the water with someone new, they have a paddle you’ve never seen before? And why, when you borrow someone else’s paddle which they so fiercely defend as “the best paddle they’ve ever used,” do you hate it?

In this overview, we’ve put together a list of kayak paddles that we think are worth your attention in 2021. There’s also a buying guide to help you choose the best paddle for your kayaking adventures.

Best Kayak Paddles for Beginners

PictureModel SpecsWhere to Buy
Bending Branches WhisperBending Branches WhisperShaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material: Polypropylene
Weight: 37 oz. (1049 g)
Austin Kayak
NRS PTRNRS PTR Shaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material:
High impact ABS plastic
Weight:
44 oz. (1247 g)
NRS
Werner TybeeWerner TybeeShaft Material: Fiberglass carbon blend
Blade Material:
Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Weight:
36 oz. (1020 g)
REI

Bending Branches Whisper

Bending Branches Whisper

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Polypropylene
Blade Dimensions: 6.75 x 18 in. (17 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 89 sq. in. (574 sq. cm)
Lengths: 210 / 220 / 230 / 240 cm
Weight: 37 oz. (1049 g)
USRP: $64.95

This is one of the best selling introductory paddles in North America, and for a good reason. 

The Bending Branches Whisper is a solid, two piece paddle. This durable design combines an aluminum shaft with some polypropylene blades to create a paddle which can survive an enormous amount of abuse. When you’re starting out paddling, you’re likely to take a few knocks along the way, and it’s reassuring to know you’ve got a paddle which will take those knocks with you.

Don’t be fooled, though. This isn’t just a paddle to beat up and throw away when you’re done with it. It’s a solid, wobble free design which has streamlined asymmetric blades. The design makes the Whisper really easy to paddle with, and the adjustable ferrule lets you choose whether you want flat blades, or to control the paddle with your left, or right, hand.  

These are an affordable option for anyone starting out, but bear in mind they come from a manufacturer who makes some of the most popular paddles available. They might be the introductory option for Bending Branches, but they’re a solid and reliable option for a beginner kayaker. 

What we like

  • Affordable price point
  • Easy to use, great beginner option

What we don’t like

  • At this price point, nothing

See Bending Branches Whisper on Austin Kayak


NRS PTR

NRS PTR

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 45° Right handed. 
Blade Material: High impact ABS plastic
Blade Dimensions: 8 x 18 in. (20 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 124 sq. in. (800 sq. cm)
Lengths: 197 / 200 / 205 / 220 / 230 / 240 cm
Weight: 44 oz. (1247 g)
USRP: $59.95

When you’re looking for a beginner’s paddle, it doesn’t get much more straightforward than the NRS PTR paddle. Firstly, these are the only symmetric blades on the list, this means that it doesn’t matter whether you use them right way up, or upside down, they’ll work the same. Square blades are powerful and direct, and though they may lack some of the fineness of an asymmetric blade, beginners will benefit from how easy they are to use. 

The strong aluminium blades and the stiff, sturdy plastic blades make this a really durable option, ideal for beginners who often end up bounding around rocks and shorelines as they get on and off the water.

NRS have taken away all the difficulty with choosing a paddle. They’ve simplified the process, by making this paddle in just the one option. You can get the PTR in right handed, with a 45° angle, a nice middle ground to get to grips with the strokes. If this angle works for you, there’s no reason you can’t progress with this paddle, but unlike others on this list, there’s no option to change it. Either like it, get used to it, or start again. 

What we like

  • Easy to use and understand for any paddler

What we don’t like

  • Square blades are limited for performance strokes
  • Limited options for feather and no left handed option

See NRS PTR on NRS


Werner Tybee

Werner Tybee

Shaft Material: Fiberglass carbon blend
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Blade Dimensions: 7.2 x 26.9 in. (18 x 68 cm)
Blade Size: 94.25 sq. in. (608 sq. cm)
Lengths: 210 / 215 / 220 cm
Weight: 36 oz. (1020 g)
USRP: $135

It might be a bit unfair to throw the Tybee in the mix as a beginner’s paddle when it could quite easily have gone in with the best paddles for recreation, below. In reality, this is a fantastic paddle, as you would expect from a paddle manufacturer renowned worldwide as making some of, if not the best, paddles on the market.

The Tybee itself takes a step away from the other beginner paddles on this list. The carbon/fiberglass shaft and the fiberglass reinforced nylon blades don’t have the same strength as the aluminium shaft and plastic blades of the two paddles above, but as long as you’re happy that you’re not going to destroy your kit too quickly, it makes it a much nicer paddle to use. 

The high angle blades promote proper paddling position and the asymmetric shape gives them a smooth catch and release of the water. The Tybee also has an adjustable ferrule, so you have a huge range of options when it comes to picking your feather. 

It may come in at twice the price of the other two paddles on this list, but the Werner Tybee gives you the greatest longevity options of the three. It’s a paddle which is equally apt for beginners or recreational paddlers of all levels, so you won’t find yourself wanting to replace it any time soon.

What we like

  • Progressive option
  • Strong, smooth, high angle blades

What we don’t like

  • Expensive compared to others on the list

See Werner Tybee on REI


Best Recreational and Touring Kayak Paddles

PictureModel SpecsWhere to Buy
Werner SkagitWerner SkagitShaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Weight: 34 oz. (964 g)
REI
Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-LokAqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-LokShaft Material: 100% Carbon
Blade Material:
abXII Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Weight:
30.5 oz. (865 g)
REI
Werner CamanoWerner CamanoShaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend
Blade Material:
Fiberglass
Weight:
27.25 oz. (773 g)
REI
AT QuestAT QuestShaft Material: Carbon blend
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Weight: 31 oz. (879 g)
Austin Kayak
Aqua-Bound Manta Ray CarbonAqua-Bound Manta Ray CarbonShaft Material: 100% Carbon
Blade Material: abX Carbon reinforced nylon
Weight: 29.5 oz. (836 g)
REI

Werner Skagit

Werner Skagit

Shaft Material: Carbon and Fiberglass blend
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, two-piece. 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Blade Dimensions: 6.1 x 19.3 in. (15 x 49 cm)
Blade Size: 93.75 sq. in. (605 sq. cm)
Lengths: 220 / 230 / 240 / 250 cm
Weight: 34 oz. (964 g)
USRP: $135

The Skagit is essentially the touring version of the Tybee. It retains that fantastic carbon and fiberglass blended shaft, so you know you’ve got a decent amount of flex, protecting your wrists over a long day on the water. You also have the same fiberglass reinforced nylon blades, so you don’t need to be too cautious as you launch and land on the beach. The reinforcement stiffens the blades to give them a solid catch and a smooth release in the water.

They’re slightly heavier than the Camano, a couple of paddles down, which is a fiberglass version of this paddle, but they’re also far more durable and around half the price.

The ferrule system on the Skagit is really easy to use, with fifteen degree increments of angles, you can change it really easily on the go. This paddle is a brilliant option for recreational paddlers who want to go slightly further afield, or for tourers who want to explore calm waters, coastlines and gentle bays. It’s often a top choice as a spare paddle for longer trips, where you may end up bumping around rocks, or just want a spare tucked in your deck lines, just in case.

What we like

  • Strong and durable
  • Great spare paddle for longer trips

What we don’t like

  • Weight will notice on longer trips

See Werner Skagit on REI


Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-Lok

Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-Lok

Shaft Material: 100% Carbon
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, regular diameter (1.18 in.) or small shaft (1.12 in.).
0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: abXII Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Blade Dimensions: 6.25 x 18 in. (16 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 91 sq. in. (587 sq. cm) 
Lengths: 210 / 220 / 230 / 240 / 250 cm
Weight: 30.5 oz. (865 g)
USRP: $149.95

A lightweight, stiff shaft combined with a pair of incredibly strong blades gives you a paddle which is ideal for adventuring around your local lake, or for longer days out on the water. The adjustable ferrule means you can change your feather on the go, so if conditions start to change throughout the day, you can react to them and make it easier to paddle.

The blades are designed for a relaxed low angle paddle, not only making these ideal for cruising gently around, but in wind you won’t be battling on each and every recovery stroke. 

The posi-lok system is incredibly solid and easy to use, giving a reassuring click when the two pieces of the paddle are properly together. This system is corrosion free and eliminates any play that comes from some push button systems. 

The Sting-ray is a lot of paddle for the price, the rigid carbon and slight flex in the blades play off one another to give you a comfortable paddle which you know is going to last you for the long haul, and you won’t have to worry about bashing a few rocks along the way.

What we like

  • Solid two piece paddle with a strong ferrule system
  • Good balance of light, stiff carbon shaft and strong blades

What we don’t like

  • Blades aren’t quite as stiff as some similar paddles

See Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Posi-Lok on REI


Werner Camano

Werner Camano

Shaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, two-piece. Normal or small shaft. 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° (Left or Right handed). 4 piece shaft available at higher price.
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Blade Dimensions: 6.3 x 20.5 in. (16 x 51 cm)
Blade Size: 100.75 sq. in. (650 sq. cm)
Lengths: 220 / 230 / 240 cm
Weight: 27.25 oz. (773 g)
USRP: $285.00

A step into the realms of stiffer, more responsive blades, the Werner Camano is a smooth touring paddle with a large blade area so you get maximum power and propulsion in your boat. fiberglass blades give you a fantastic balance of weight, response and stiffness, but retain a slight flex which helps to protect your wrists over long journeys.

The low angle blades on the Camano are perfect for touring, but are equally at home for high level recreational paddlers, or those who want something a little lighter to paddle with. 

With options of standard shaft or small shaft, as well as four piece splits available (at an extra cost), there’s no shortage of options for how you use this paddle. It also has Werner’s strong, easy to use ferrule system which gives you fifteen degree increments of feather, easy to change on the go. 

If nothing else sways you, the weight might, this is the lightest paddle in this category, you’ll thank yourself on a long day on the water for that weight saving. A few strokes with the Camano and you’ll forget about the hefty price point, you’ll be cruising along with ease.

What we like

  • Powerful, smooth blades
  • Light and responsive

What we don’t like

  • High price point

See Werner Camano on REI


AT Quest

AT Quest

Shaft Material: Carbon blend
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, two pieces. Infinite ferrule angles. Bent shaft available at higher cost. 
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Blade Dimensions: Not stated
Blade Size: 87.5 sq. in. (565 sq. cm)
Lengths: 210 / 220 / 230 / 240 cm
Weight: 31 oz. (879 g)
USRP: $275 

An interesting one, this, and the only Adventure Technology paddle we’ve included on the list, though they make a decent range of white water, touring and angling. The Quest is AT’s mid range paddle, in every sense. It’s mid range in price, it’s mid range in power, and it’s mid range between whether it’s a high, or low angle blade. 

Unlike a lot of kayak blades, which sit firmly on one side, or the other, the AT Quest seeks to blur that line, giving you a paddle which is equally at home used as a relaxed low angle cruiser, or a high angle power machine. 

The Quest is also available with carbon blades, though we like the slight flex that you get from the glass blades, especially when you’re using it with a straight carbon shaft. That’s flex, not flutter. These blades feel stiff and responsive to use, but glass, unlike carbon, does protect your wrists a little as you paddle.

The ferrule option is solid, and gives you infinite options of feather to play with. The blades themselves are considerably smaller than other glass, or carbon options on this list, and may be suited to smaller framed paddlers.

What we like

  • Balance of high and low angle blade design
  • Fully adjustable ferrule

What we don’t like

  • Smallest blade size of the list

See AT Quest on Austin Kayak


Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbon

Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbon

Shaft Material: 100% Carbon
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, posi-lok two piece. 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° (Left or Right handed).
Blade Material: abX Carbon reinforced nylon
Blade Dimensions: 7.25 x 18 in. (18 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 105 sq. in. (677 sq. cm)
Lengths: 210 / 220 / 230 / 240 / 250 cm
Weight: 29.5 oz. (836 g)
USRP: $199.95

Designed for high-angle paddling, the Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbon has the largest blade area of all the touring paddles on this list, giving you an incredible bite, pull and release. However, thanks to a carbon shaft, and a lightweight blend of abX carbon reinforced nylon blades, you get all of this power without feeling like you’re swinging around a sledgehammer.

In fact, these paddle more like a fully carbon paddle, than anything with some nylon in the blades. They’re stiff and responsive, while flowing seamlessly through stroke transitions. 

The two piece posi-lok keeps the paddle secure, while also allowing you to choose your feather in increments of fifteen degrees. This is perfect for recreational paddlers who are still finding their ideal set up, or for touring paddlers who want to change their approach as they battle through the wind, or drift lazily downstream. 

The high angle design really allows you to push your paddling as you move into narrower kayaks, or if you want to play around in surf or near bays, where direct power is necessary to get you moving. 

What we like

  • Really powerful blade design
  • Strong price point for a quality paddle

What we don’t like

See Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbon on REI


Best Kayak Fishing Paddles

PictureModel SpecsWhere to Buy
Pelican Poseidon AnglerPelican Poseidon AnglerShaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene
Weight: 38.6 oz. (1095 g)
Amazon
Crooked Creek Tournament AnglerCrooked Creek Tournament AnglerShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material:
Poly-Fibre composite
Weight:
42 oz. (1200 g)
Amazon
Carlisle Magic AnglerCarlisle Magic AnglerShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material:
Fiberglass polypropylene blend
Weight:
42 oz. (1190 g)
Austin Kayak
Bending Branches Angler ClassicBending Branches Angler ClassicShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material: epX Engineered Polymer, Fiberglass reinforced
Weight: 34 oz. (964 g)
Austin Kayak
Werner Shuna HookedWerner Shuna HookedShaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Weight: 27.5 oz. (779 g)
Austin Kayak

Pelican Poseidon Angler

Pelican Poseidon Angler

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 65° feather (left or right handed).
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene 
Blade Dimensions: Not stated.
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: 230 / 240 / 250 cm
Weight: 38.6 oz. (1095 g)
USRP: $49.99

Pelican are known in the kayaking world for making affordable gear. Their kayaks and paddles tend to be towards the more introductory end of the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re not totally appropriate for a lot of people’s needs. 

The Poseidon Angler is a solid paddle, designed to be used by novices or in areas where you don’t need to paddle long distances to start fishing. The aluminium shaft and fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades make this a really strong, solid design. 

The blades are stiff enough to be responsive and to not flutter in the water, but flexible enough that you aren’t likely to shatter them if you bounce them off rocks, or get them caught under the boat as you launch and land. 

WIth a two piece shaft and pop button design, you can easily change your angles between zero degrees, or sixty-five degrees either left, or right handed. 

Along the length of the shaft is an incorporated tape measure, to see how impressive your catch is. There’s also a retrieval hook built into the blade, just in case you snag your line on something as you go.

What we like

  • Cheap and easy to use
  • Sturdy design with plenty of options

What we don’t like

  • A beginner option, designed for short trips rather than long days out

See Pelican Poseidon Angler on Amazon


Crooked Creek Tournament Angler

Crooked Creek Tournament Angler

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Poly-Fibre composite
Blade Dimensions: Not stated.
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: 213 / 244 / 274 cm
Weight: 42 oz. (1200 g)
USRP: $68.99

The Crooked Creek Tournament Angler is, to put it simply, quite a lot of paddle for the price you have to pay. It’s cheap, but it doesn’t feel like you’re using a bargain paddle. 

With a fiberglass shaft and poly-fibre composite blades, you get a stiff and responsive paddle stroke, and it seems to be surprisingly powerful for the design. That said, although Crooked Creek don’t provide the exact blade dimensions, a few reviews do state that they feel a little small, perhaps then not a great choice for anyone who really needs a powerful stroke. They’re potentially not a long distance option, either, weighing in at a hefty forty-two ounces. 

That’s the negatives out the way, but in reality, if you know what you’re getting into, you could do a lot worse than the Tournament Angler. Both blades have hook retrieval systems on them. There is also a measuring tape along the shaft, though this only lines up if you’ve got your paddle set without a feather.

The shaft system of a push-button ferrule allows you to quickly and easily change how you’ve got your paddle set up, whether you want zero, or sixty degrees of feather either right or left handed.

All in all, this paddle has its ups and downs, but for the price, it’s a really good option.

What we like

  • Lots of paddle for the price
  • Solid and dependable paddle

What we don’t like

  • Small blades can limit power
  • Heavy

See Crooked Creek Tournament Angler on Amazon


Carlisle Magic Angler

Carlisle Magic Angler

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Fiberglass polypropylene blend
Blade Dimensions: 7.25 x 18 in. (18.5 x 45 cm)
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: 230 / 240 / 250 / 260 cm
Weight: 42 oz. (1190 g) 
USRP: $119.99

Another heavy duty option, the Carlisle Magic Angler is slightly more refined than the Crooked Creek Tournament Angler, with smooth, high angle blades which catch and release the water smoothly and effectively. 

High angle blades are slightly at odds with fishing kayaks, which are notoriously wide, lending themselves to lower angle paddling. However, these Magic Anglers come in such a range of lengths that you won’t have to worry about overreaching, especially if you’re sitting well clear of the water. 

The fiberglass shaft keeps a level of stiffness to your paddling, while stopping this paddle from ending up being even heavier than it already is. This shaft has a pop-button ferrule, which can be adjusted depending on whether you want your blades in line with one another, or offset by sixty degrees.

The shaft itself is ovalised, rather than perfectly round. This gives you a more comfortable hold on the paddle, and works to keep your hands in the right position; ideal if you’re just starting out. 

Also on the shaft is a tape measure, while the blades have a hook retrieval system.

What we like

  • Progressive paddle design at an affordable price
  • High angle blades give good, direct power

What we don’t like

  • Heavy

See Carlisle Magic Angler on Austin Kayak


Bending Branches Angler Classic

Bending Branches Angler Classic

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: epX Engineered Polymer, Fiberglass Reinforced
Blade Dimensions: 6.9 x 17.5 in. (18 x 44 cm) 
Blade Size: 95 sq. in. (613 sq. cm)
Lengths: 220 / 230 / 240 / 250 / 260 / 260 / 270 / 280 cm
Weight: 34 oz. (964 g) 
USRP: $139.95 

Do kayak fishing paddles come much more popular than this? Bending Branches certainly think not. This paddle is a step up from their entry level designs. This is a solid paddle which would be perfect whether you’re just starting out, or want something to stick with for years to come. 

This is, by the standards of plastic bladed paddles, pretty lightweight. The fiberglass shaft helps this quite a lot, keeping the paddle stiff and responsive, but also sturdy and comfortable to use over longer distances. 

The blades, meanwhile, are really strong. This strength comes from the polymer design, which is reinforced with fiberglass to save some weight and make sure they retain that catch and power through the stroke which Bending Branches paddles are renowned for.

You can get hold of the Angler Classic in the snap button design, which gives you a few choices for feather and a huge selection of lengths. Alternatively, you can buy their “plus” model, which comes with a fully adjustable ferrule, which allows you to change the length of the paddle as well as playing through an infinite selection of feather angles. Of course, this comes with a higher price.

If you’re taken by the Bending Branches paddles, but want something a little lighter, there’s always the Angler Pro, a similar paddle design but with fully fiberglass blades, very similar to the next paddle on this list.

What we like

  • Paddles don’t become this popular without a good reason
  • Strong, smooth design for long days out

What we don’t like

  • Limited options if you don’t jump up to the “plus” model

See Bending Branches Angler Classic on Austin Kayak


Werner Shuna Hooked

Werner Shuna Hooked

Shaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend.
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, two piece. 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° (Left or Right handed). 20 cm. Length adjustment with the ferrule.
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Blade Dimensions: 6.2 x 18 in. (16 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: 220 – 240 / 240 – 260 / 260 – 280 cm
Weight: 27.5 oz. (779 g)
USRP: $315

That’s right, it’s Werner’s entry into the angling category, because, let’s be honest, it’s hard to have a performance category without Werner finding their way into it.

The Shuna didn’t start life as an angling paddle, but as a high performance touring paddle, and we seriously considered it instead of the Camano for the last category, but opted for the low angle tourer instead.

It’s a safe bet that if you want to go for long days on the water, buying a paddle which was originally designed for touring means you can’t go too far wrong. It’s also really light, so you’ll quickly forget that you’re swinging it around and you can get on with searching for a fishing spot.

With powerful, high angle blades made from fiberglass, you can be certain of the solid catch and release that people have come to associate with Werner’s paddles. 

The shaft, meanwhile, is a carbon/fiberglass blend, keeping it really light but with just enough give to stop your wrists getting strain injuries on longer paddling days. 

The Shuna Hooked comes with a ferrule which not only allows you to change your paddling feather in fifteen degree increments, but you also get twenty centimetres of length adjustment too.

What we like

  • It’s an awesome touring paddle, perfect for long days out on the water

What we don’t like

  • Expensive if you’re just after a fishing paddle

See Werner Shuna Hooked on Austin Kayak


Best Kayak Paddle Under $100

PictureModel SpecsWhere to Buy
Carlisle Magic Plus FGCarlisle Magic Plus FGShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material: Fiberglass and polypropylene blend
Weight: 39.8 oz. (1128 g)
Austin Kayak
Bending Branches Sunrise GlassBending Branches Sunrise GlassShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material:
Polypropylene
Weight:
35 oz. (992 g)
Austin Kayak
Perception 3-Piece Hi-life Kayak/SUPPerception 3-Piece Hi-life Kayak/SUPShaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material:
Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene
Weight:
kayak 57 oz. (1615 g) / SUP 35 oz. (992 g)
Amazon
NRS PTKNRS PTKShaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material: High density ABS and fiberglass
Weight: 42 oz. (1191 g)
NRS

Carlisle Magic Plus FG

Carlisle Magic Plus FG

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Fiberglass and polypropylene blend
Blade Dimensions: 7.25 x 18 in. (18 x 45 cm)
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: 220 / 230 / 240 / 250 cm
Weight: 39.8 oz. (1128 g)
USRP: $99.99

This is basically the recreational version of the Magic Angler, above, and to all intents and purposes, it’s near enough the same paddle, just without the little optional extras which make the Magic Angler a fishing specific paddle. 

That said, this shouldn’t be overlooked. The Magic Plus is a fantastic option for beginner paddlers who might want to get themselves into a bit of touring, or perhaps some longer recreational days. 

The sturdy fiberglass shaft is joined by a solid pop-button ferrule, which gives you options between no feather, or sixty degrees either right or left handed. 

fiberglass and polypropylene blades are strong and durable, while stiff enough that you get a good response and decent power from relatively small blades.

There’s not a load to say about this paddle, it’s a little heavier than most touring paddles, but sits about mid range for beginner paddles. If it had to go into any other list, it would be hard to place between beginner and recreational paddles.

What we like

  • Good beginner option, with room to progress

What we don’t like

  • Not the lightest paddle on the list

See Carlisle Magic Plus FG on Austin Kayak


Bending Branches Sunrise Glass

Bending Branches Sunrise Glass

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Polypropylene
Blade Dimensions: 6.75 x 18 in. (17 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 89 sq. in. (574 sq. cm)
Lengths: 210 / 220 / 230 / 240 cm
Weight: 35 oz. (992 g)
USRP: $99.95

This is a step up from the first paddle on this list, the Bending Branches Whisper. The Sunrise Glass is essentially the same paddle but with a fiberglass shaft, rather than aluminum. This saves you a couple of ounces in weight, but also makes the whole paddle feel far more responsive and smoother, especially over longer distances.

Beyond that, you still get the solid Bending Branches design which makes them unendingly popular throughout North America. 

Polypropylene blades may not be the most technical option, but they will last forever, so you won’t need to worry if you play to push off beaches or bump off rocks as you career down a lazy river. 

This is arguably the best of the “under $100” bunch. The blades are a smoother shape than most others on here, and they will feel more like one of the higher level touring paddles than something aimed purely at beginners. 

What we like

  • Basic paddle with a strong, smooth blade
  • Bending Branches are renowned for making solid, quality paddles

What we don’t like

  • Polypropylene blades can flutter under power

See Bending Branches Sunrise Glass on Austin Kayak


Perception 3-Piece Hi-life Kayak and SUP Paddle

Perception 3-Piece Hi-life Kayak/SUP

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: 3-piece shaft. Can be used either as a SUP or kayak paddle. Adjustable length for both.
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene
Blade Dimensions: Not stated
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: One size, adjustable. SUP: 183 – 198 cm. Kayak: 215 – 230 cm
Weight: SUP: 35 oz. (992 g). Kayak: 57 oz. (1615 g).
USRP: $80

We’ve included this one as a bit of something different, a crossover which gives you a range of options. This paddle comes in four pieces, and can either be assembled as a kayak paddle, or a SUP paddle, depending on your needs.

This could be perfect for anyone with a crossover kayak/SUP model, where you don’t want to be shelling out for one of each. Alternatively, it’s a great spare paddle to carry. 

It’s not fancy, that much is fairly apparent. This is a very functional paddle and is perfect for short recreational trips. The aluminium shaft is strong and should last indefinitely, even if it gets squashed or trodden on as you move your kayak around on the beach.

The polypropylene blades are reinforced with fiberglass, to give them a degree of strength and stiffness which means that they can propel you effectively. 

This is all great, right? But there are some drawbacks to this crossover design. 

Firstly, the blades. They’re stiff and responsive, which is great, but because they’re shaped like a SUP paddle, they aren’t particularly smooth to use when you’re kayaking. 

They’re also heavy. Really heavy. As a SUP paddle it’s relatively weighty, but throw that extra blade on the end and you’ve got a robust fifty seven ounces of paddle in your hands. This is fine for shorter trips or for exploring local lakes, but if you’re going further afield, you’ll probably want something lighter.

What we like

  • A bit different. Great for a SUP/kayak crossover

What we don’t like

  • Heavy. You’ll definitely get a workout with this paddle
  • Blade shape is not ideal for kayaking

See Perception 3-Piece Hi-life Kayak/SUP on Amazon


NRS PTK

NRS PTK

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 45° right hand.
Blade Material: High density ABS and fiberglass.
Blade Dimensions: 7.25 x 17 in. (18 x 43 cm) 
Blade Size: 98 sq. in. (632 sq. cm)
Lengths: 197 / 200 / 210 / 220 / 230 cm 
Weight: 42 oz. (1191 g)
USRP: $74.95

The PTK paddle is surprisingly cheap for a paddle which is not only solid, but can span a range of environments. Similar to the Sunrise Glass, the PTK is a step up from a model listed earlier on, this time it’s the NRS PTR. 

The PTK retains the same strong, stiff ABS/fiberglass blades, which, unlike polypropylene or nylon blades, don’t flutter or flex. These stiff blades are massive, too, providing far more power than any of the other paddles on this “under $100” list. 

The main difference between the PTR and the PTK is the blade shape. NRS have gone for asymmetric, high angle blades for the PTK, and actually they’ve made a pretty smooth paddle in doing so. These blades are not only great for recreational paddling, but can be used for rivers and some very low grade white water, too. They’re pretty versatile for something so cheap.

The issue, if there is one, is in the simplicity. NRS have made the PTK in one model, and one model only. If you like your paddles right handed, and with forty-five degrees of feather, then great. If not, it’s time to move on. 

By not having any joins in the paddle, it makes for a strong and sturdy shaft, but the limited option may mean this is aimed more for clubs or schools, where uniformity is sought after, rather than for individual paddlers. 

What we like

  • Solid and stiff plastic blades
  • Can be used in a lot of environments

What we don’t like

  • Limited options for feather

See NRS PTK on NRS


Best Whitewater Paddles

PictureModel SpecsWhere to Buy
Werner RioShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Weight: 37.75 oz. (1070 g)
Austin Kayak
Werner StrikeWerner StrikeShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material:
Fiberglass
Weight:
34.75 oz. (985 g)
NRS
Werner SherpaWerner SherpaShaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material:
Fiberglass
Weight:
34.75 oz. (985 g)
NRS
Werner Sho-GunWerner
Sho-Gun
Shaft Material: Carbon
Blade Material: Carbon, foam core
Weight: 36 oz. (1021 g) 
NRS

Werner Rio

Werner Rio

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 30° or 45° right handed.
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Blade Dimensions: 7.75 x 16 in. (19.5 x 41 cm)
Blade Size: 101 sq. in. (655 sq. cm)
Lengths: 191 / 194 / 197 / 200 cm
Weight: 37.75 oz. (1070 g)
USRP: $135

We’ll apologise right now, because if you don’t like Werner paddles, then this white water list isn’t for you. But then again, what’s not to like about Werner’s paddles. Quite simply, they have cornered the US market in white water paddles. Also, as we’ve shown throughout the other categories, they just make great paddles all round. It’s hard to overlook them worldwide as the most accomplished manufacturers of paddles around.

The Rio, then, is Werner’s entry level white water paddle, alongside the Amigo, which is basically a smaller version of the Rio. 

Entry level, but by Werner’s standards, means that the Rio is still a pretty good paddle. The plastic blades will last forever, so much so that even after people move on from the Rio to a fiberglass paddle, they usually keep hold of this one for low-level rock bashing, or as a spare. They just last forever.

The fiberglass shaft plays off nicely against the plastic blades to bring a level of stiffness and direct power which is necessary in white water. These are a great paddle for learning and for less powerful rivers, but once you start getting into tight technical moves, or powerful pumping rapids, you might want to start moving down the list.

What we like

  • Affordable, quality entry level white water paddle
  • Solid and robust for rock-bashing

What we don’t like

  • Some flutter from the blades
  • Lacking some of the direct power of other models

See Werner Rio on Austin Kayak


Werner Strike

Werner Strike

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, 30° or 45° right handed. Standard or small shaft options. Bent shaft available at extra cost.
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Blade Dimensions: 7.75 x 18 in. (19.5 x 46.5 cm)
Blade Size: 106 sq. in. (685 sq. cm)
Lengths: 191 / 194 / 197 / 200 / 203 cm
Weight: 34.75 oz. (985 g)
USRP: $260

Werner enjoyed a great success with their Twist, their performance paddle aimed at smaller paddlers, it was great but had a very high angle, direct and powerful blade. Now, with the Strike, there’s a paddle aimed at smaller paddlers which has the same flow for linking strokes as Werner’s ever popular Sherpa (next on the list, unsurprisingly). 

The Strike’s blades are designed to be smooth to pull through the water, as well as easy to recover and catch quickly for the next stroke, all without that ‘tug’ that sometimes comes from longer paddles. 

With fiberglass shaft and blades, these are stiff and responsive, without the bank-breaking expense of carbon. This also means you won’t be too upset if you bounce off a few rocks along the way. 

You can get this paddle in a standard shaft, or a small shaft if it fits your hands better. This is important for white water, where grip and feedback through the paddle allow you to intuitively make your next move on the river. A poor fitting shaft will really hamper your performance when it counts. 

What we like

  • Aimed at smaller frame paddlers
  • Smooth linked paddle strokes

What we don’t like

See Werner Strike on NRS


Werner Sherpa

Werner Sherpa

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, 30° or 45° right handed. Standard or small shaft options. Bent shaft available at extra cost.
Blade Material: Fiberglass
Blade Dimensions: 7.75 x 18 in. (19.5 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 105 sq. in. (680 sq. cm)
Lengths: 191 / 194 / 197 / 200 cm
Weight: 34.75 oz. (985 g)
USRP: $260

Smooth like butter. The Sherpa has long been one of the most popular white water paddles on the market and there’s a really good reason for that. In an environment where linking strokes seamlessly together is of utmost importance, you need a paddle you can rely on to catch, release and recover in one fluid movement. 

The Sherpa is unassuming in this sense, but once you start paddling with it you’ll wonder why anyone uses anything different. The smaller brother of the Powerhouse, which is increasingly popular in tight creeks and off drops, the Sherpa is an all round classic. 

fiberglass shaft and blades keep it stiff, responsive and durable, and you can get hold of this paddle in standard or small shaft options. You can also get a bent shaft for an extra cost, if that’s what you’re into. 

What we like

  • It wouldn’t be used by so many pro paddlers if it wasn’t as good as it is
  • Recovery and linked strokes is second to none

What we don’t like

  • Longer blades can slow your cadence. Some environments demand high cadence and powerful strokes. In this case, look to the Player or Sidekick paddles

See Werner Sherpa on NRS


Werner Sho-Gun

Werner Sho-Gun

Shaft Material: Carbon
Shaft Options: Straight shaft, 30° or 45° right handed. Standard or small shaft options. Bent shaft available at extra cost.
Blade Material: Carbon, foam core. Dynel® edges and Kevlar® reinforcement on the blades.
Blade Dimensions: 7.85 x 18.85 in. (20 x 48 cm)
Blade Size: 100 sq. in. (711 sq. cm)
Lengths: 194 / 197 / 200 / 203 / 206 cm
Weight: 36 oz. (1021 g) 
USRP: $365

Sometimes you want to know you’ve got the best of the best, a paddle which provides unsurpassed power and performance from a stiff, responsive package which is hard to beat. The Sho-Gun is just that, sitting alongside the Double Diamond and the Stikine. 

These high angle blades are designed to give direct power exactly when you need it. The power to weight ratio is heightened by the foam core in the blades, which is also a great asset if you need to roll, as your paddle already wants to float to the surface.

The drawback to carbon, other than the eye watering price, is that if you plan to rock bash your way down a river, you’re going to get pretty upset as small pieces of your paddle are chipped off along the way. Werner have gone some way to negate this by reinforcing the blades, especially the edges, but this is still a paddle for deeper rivers and making tight, technical moves, rather than for scraping down a low water run. 

There’s loads of options with regard to the shaft diameters and whether you want it bent or straight, but whatever you choose, you’re getting an enormous blade, with a stiffness and responsiveness unmatched by almost any other paddle on the market. 

What we like

  • Really powerful blades
  • Stiff and responsive

What we don’t like

  • Expensive and carbon can chip easily on rocks
  • The foam core is great, but if you puncture the paddle and fill it with water, it becomes useless

See Werner Sho-Gun on NRS


Best Kayak Paddles for Kids 

PictureModel SpecsWhere to Buy
Bending Branches SplashBending Branches SplashShaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material: Polypropylene
Weight: 32 oz. (907 g)
Austin Kayak
Perception Hi FivePerception Hi FiveShaft Material: Aluminium
Blade Material:
Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene
Weight:
27 oz. (765 g)
Amazon
Werner Sprite Werner Sprite Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Blade Material:
Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Weight:
30 oz. (850 g)
Austin Kayak

Bending Branches Splash

Bending Branches Splash

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Polypropylene
Blade Dimensions: 6.75 x 18 in. (17 x 46 cm)
Blade Size: 89 sq. in. (574 sq. cm)
Lengths: 180 / 200 cm
Weight: 32 oz. (907 g)
USRP: $59.95

A smaller version of the ever popular Bending Branches Whisper, the splash has the same highly durable blades, which still provide the same strength and power as the usual model. The shaft is just as strong as the adult version, but in smaller proportions to make it suit small hands.

This is a great starter paddle for kids, robust enough to survive being bounced off rocks and shorelines and easy enough to paddle with. It’s the heaviest of the three, though, so while it’s perfect for beginners, it might limit longer distance trips.

What we like

  • Easy to use and really robust
  • Powerful blades

What we don’t like

  • Larger, heavier blades might be tricky for smaller paddlers

See Bending Branches Splash on Austin Kayak


Perception Hi Five 

Perception Hi Five

Shaft Material: Aluminium
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 60° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene
Blade Dimensions: Not stated
Blade Size: 65 sq. in. (425 sq. cm)
Lengths: 190 cm
Weight: 27 oz. (765 g)
USRP: $39.99

This is the accompanying paddle to Perception’s popular Hi Five kayak/SUP crossover for kids and is perfectly designed for youth users. 

The small shaft, with ferrule options of no feather or sixty degrees either direction, gives room for progression as your child develops through the sport. Not only that, but the aluminium build means it will last even if it’s bounced around, dropped or trodden on as they splash around and jump on and off their kayak.

The blades are smaller than others on this list, giving them a smooth and easy going catch and release, making recovery easy too. When kids are starting out, it’s important to make things as straightforward as possible, and by giving them a paddle which is both easy to use and doesn’t tire them out, they’re more likely to stick with the sport for longer.

These are cheap, light and durable. Although the small blades are great for starting out, they might be time-limited. As your child starts to get more confident and wants to go further, or faster, the small blades may feel like they limit them slightly. 

What we like

  • Really lightweight
  • Small blades make it easier to grasp strokes

What we don’t like

  • Might be outgrown quickly

See Perception Hi Five on Amazon


Werner Sprite 

Werner Sprite

Shaft Material: Fiberglass
Shaft Options: Straight shaft. 0° or 45° (Left or Right handed)
Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Blade Dimensions: 5 x 18.5 in. (12.5 x 47 cm)
Blade Size: Not stated.
Lengths: 200 / 210 / 220 cm
Weight: 30 oz. (850 g)
USRP: $90

That’s right, Werner makes this list, too. Unsurprisingly, they’re the most expensive and technical option here. These aren’t really a beginner youth paddle, they’re unnecessary for splash around or recreational days out. 

Where the Sprite performs well is on short touring trips, where your young paddler wants to be fully in control of their boat, but needs a paddle which can perform as well as an adult touring blade.

The long, low angle blades are lightweight and sturdy enough to give a responsive catch and power stroke, but still strong enough that if they bounce off a few rocks along the way you won’t be needing a new paddle. 

The ferrule options here go to forty-five degrees either side, rather than sixty. This might be easier to get to grips with, but also potentially limiting in some conditions. 

What we like

  • Touring style blades are great for kids who have advanced beyond recreational paddling
  • Good balance of strength, power and weight

What we don’t like

  • Pricier than the other two options

See Werner Sprite on Austin Kayak


How to Choose a Kayak Paddle: Expert Advice

Paddles. All they do is push you through the water, right? Why is it that every time you get on the water with someone new, they have a paddle you’ve never seen before? And why, when you borrow someone else’s paddle which they so fiercely defend as “the best paddle they’ve ever used,” do you hate it? 

Simply put, a paddle is an extension of your arms; it’s the step up from sitting in your boat and swimming your way through the water.

Similar to how your boat needs to fit you perfectly for you to get the most out of it, your paddle needs to sit right in your hands or complement your body movement. The paddle chooses the paddler. 

This all sounds very spiritualistic and nonsensical. Of course, it’s possible to paddle with someone else’s paddles, much like how you can jump in someone else’s boat. It might even be the case that you realise you prefer their paddles and change your allegiance altogether. But how much difference and science can there really be in a stick with two flaps on the end? And what is it that makes them so different from one another? 

What a Paddle Does

To understand the difference in paddles, we first need to know exactly what a paddle does. Paddles are designed to grip the water and stay in place. As you twist your core and push through the stroke with your top hand, a levering motion takes place as the blade pushes against the water; this drives the boat forwards. 

Of course, there will be some ‘slippage’ of the paddle blade in the water. This is considered wasted energy as the transfer of power isn’t directly driving the boat, and it’s this ‘slippage’ which paddle manufacturers work so hard to minimise. 

The paddle is an extension of your arms; your primary means of transferring power from your body to the water and propelling the kayak. But what is it that makes it so personal? And why are there different paddles for each discipline? 

What Paddle Length Do I Need?

Maybe the easiest place to start is how long your paddle needs to be. For recreational kayakers, this is a straightforward decision involving your height and the width of your boat. The chart below gives a rough guide for recreational and touring kayaking. This can also be applied to disciplines such as kayak fishing.

Touring (Low Angle) Paddle Sizing Chart

Paddler HeightKayak Width
up to 23″23″ to 28″28″ to 32″over 32″
Less than 5′210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5′ to 5’6″215 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5’6″ to 6′220 cm 220 cm 230 cm250 cm
6′ and taller220 cm 230 cm240 cm250 cm
Source: https://www.wernerpaddles.com/fit-guide/

Low Angle Paddling

Low angle paddling is considered to be when the top hand stays roughly level with your shoulders throughout the stroke. This is a more relaxed approach to kayaking which relies less on technique and allows you to cruise all day as a beginner, without exhausting yourself. The downside is that because of the wider angle, your paddle is liable to arc away from the boat throughout the stroke and you may find yourself spending more time correcting your path. Low angle paddling is often suited to recreational kayakers in calm environments.

High Angle Paddling

High angle paddling relies on good form and effective paddling technique, using the core muscles rather than relying solely on your arms. Here, your top hand is likely to be level with your eye line rather than your shoulders, and your paddle will follow a straighter line down the side of your boat so that all of your efforts go into propulsion, rather than turning the boat. High angle paddling is more suited to experienced paddlers and challenging environments. Without proper paddle technique, this can be exhausting and you will quickly revert to low angle paddling. 

Cadence/Stroke Rate

When you start to look at paddles for more technical environments, such as white water kayaking or sea kayaking in rock gardens or rough conditions, there are other factors which determine your paddle length. One of the major influencers here is cadence or stroke rate.

Longer paddles spend more time in the water and accordingly more time out of the water as you set up for the next stroke. A shorter paddle equates to a shorter paddle stroke and faster recovery, therefore a much faster paddling rate. For cruising and recreational paddlers, this is not beneficial, you expend more energy even if you have perfect paddle form. However, in choppy sea conditions, rock gardens or white water, balancing propulsion and cadence is essential for success. 

In choppy sea conditions, rock gardens or white water, balancing propulsion and cadence is essential for success.

Sea kayaking in choppy conditions requires a paddle long enough to propel you effectively, but short enough to accelerate quickly and spend less time without the paddle engaged in the water. Meanwhile, sea kayaking in rocky outcrops and playing around in the surf requires a paddle you can use to accelerate quickly and recover from the water quickly to change your angle and position on the water. This means you’re likely to want a shorter paddle for both of these specific situations, especially playing around in the rocks; you’re looking at dropping about 5 – 10 centimetres on the above chart.

Lumpy water sea kayaking paddle size chart, taken from Werner paddles. https://www.wernerpaddles.com/fit-guide/

White water kayakers use the shortest paddles of all, looking to maximise stroke rate and put the power down in short, sharp bursts of speed. This is especially prevalent in playboating, where lateral movements and power bursts are timed with body movement and slight changes in the wave and paddles tend to be even shorter for this. River runners are likely to be dropping around 15- 20 centimetres from the above chart, while playboaters would be looking around the 20 – 25 centimetre range. 

White water river running kayaking size chart, taken from Werner paddles. <https://www.wernerpaddles.com/fit-guide/>

Blade Shapes: Symmetric or Asymmetric Blades?

As well as the overall length of the paddle, the length and shape of the blade play an important part in how a paddle interacts with the water. Most kayak paddles now have asymmetric blades, as opposed to the traditional blades which are symmetrical above and below the shaft. Kayak blades also tend to be curved, with a concave power face gripping the water more effectively than a flat blade. 

Top blade, asymmetric. Bottom blade, symmetric. Image is taken from Boat-ed. <https://www.boat-ed.com/paddlesports/paddlesports/studyGuide/Kayak-Paddles-Symmetrical-vs.-Asymmetrical-Blades/11109901_52045/>

Symmetric paddles can allow you to put down a lot of power, but there’s nothing smooth about paddling with them. The asymmetry allows you to plant the blade effectively and maximise the power face of the paddle all the way through your stroke. Different blade shapes, therefore, are suited to high and low angle paddlers as this will impact on how your paddle enters the water and flows through your stroke.

Once you get into the particular disciplines, this asymmetry will allow you to propel the boat differently. Longer blades work similar to longer paddles and can give you a more efficient cruising stroke, while shorter blades increase your potential cadence and manoeuvrability in tight settings. 

In even more nuanced situations, paddles generate power in slightly different ways and the shape of the blade will decide whether you have a smoother transition through linked paddle strokes, an ability to quickly plant and generate power and even how that power transitions through your boat in certain situations, such a boof strokes in white water. 

Paddle Materials: Plastic, Fiberglass, or Carbon?

The shape of the blade and the length of your paddle contribute to how it puts down power, but this is also affected by what it’s made from. 

The three most common materials for kayak paddles are plastic, fiberglass and carbon fiber.  Each of these has their individual benefits and drawbacks. 

Plastic Paddles

Plastic paddles are very robust and will probably outlast your kayaking career unless you do something drastic, making them perfect for playing around rocks and sharp coastlines. Besides that, plastic paddles are also much cheaper than alternatives, making them perfect for the beginner or recreational paddlers who don’t need the specific advantages of a fiberglass or carbon paddle.

The downside to plastic paddles is their flex, which you will often notice once you get into more progressive strokes or into high powered, high angle paddling. When you’re in a situation where every bit of effort matters, a flexible paddle isn’t particularly desirable. For this reason, experienced paddlers rarely use them. 

Fiberglass Paddles

In the middle of the road and probably the most common among sea kayakers and white water kayakers are fiberglass blades. These are much stiffer and lighter than their plastic counterparts and also tend to ‘slice’ through the water more effectively which makes them very capable of performing linked strokes. 

Fiberglass is prone to chipping and slowly wearing down over time and it’s not uncommon when comparing a heavily used white water blade against a brand new one to see a completely different blade shape and size. 

Carbon Paddles

If power transfer is key and you can’t afford to lose anything to flex, carbon is your friend. By far the lightest, stiffest and most expensive of the three, carbon is often considered to be unnecessary to all but those who need to maximise effort; slalom kayakers or sea kayakers on long multi-day trips. 

Carbon is even more susceptible to breaking than fiberglass and often splinters if you bounce it off too many rocks. In particularly rocky creeks you can watch your money falling away in front of your eyes!

Carbon blades also open up the possibility of having a core to the blade, usually either foam or air. This core not only makes the paddle lighter but means that when it comes to rolling in high-pressure environments, your paddle naturally wants to be on the surface of the water making the action easier and quicker.

The Shaft

Holding the two blades together is the shaft. Surely that bit’s easy right? It’s just a tube.

Not quite. The shaft is your direct feedback link to the water. Couple this with the fact that you wrap your hands around it for hours at a time, you want it to be comfortable.

Straight and Cranked Shafts

Most recreational kayak shafts are straight, but you may have seen people on the water with bent shafts, otherwise known as cranked paddles. The idea of these bent shafts is to put your wrists in a more ergonomic position and reduce strain through your wrists, reducing the risk of tendonitis. Bent shaft paddles are especially popular among sea kayakers who are most at risk of repetitive strain injuries from overuse, but have found their way into all disciplines. 

The idea of bent shafts is to put your wrists in a more ergonomic position and reduce strain through your wrists, reducing the risk of tendonitis.

The only way to fully decide whether they’re for you is to try them and see for yourself, but it can take a while to get used to a cranked paddle. 

Shafts also come in different widths, generally small shaft and regular shaft. Smaller framed paddlers benefit from the lower weight and easier grip they gain from the smaller shaft. 

Left-handed and Right-handed Paddles

Some companies also add a slight teardrop shape to the paddle where your hands will be positioned. Sometimes this is done for both hands, sometimes just for your primary hand. If you didn’t know that paddles come in left and right-handed, see the next section; ‘Feather’.

Shaft Materials

Materials differ, too, and you can often choose between fiberglass and carbon shaft. Asides from the obvious price and weight difference, these alter how much flex you will get from the paddle. A full carbon, non cranked paddle, for example, is extremely stiff and this can put you at risk of repetitive strain injuries in certain situations. By changing the shaft for fiberglass you can add just enough flexibility to reduce your likelihood of getting injured.

Feather

Have you ever looked at a kayak paddle and wondered why the blades are off at different angles and thought it would be a lot easier to paddle if they were both the same? You’re not alone. Most beginners wish their paddle wasn’t feathered, but soon the movement becomes fluid and the reasons become apparent. 

While one of your blades is engaged in the water, the other is moving through the air, ready to be planted again for the next stroke. Without feather, this top blade would be fully open, as it is in the water, and wind resistance would mean you had to work harder for each recovery; more wasted effort. This may seem menial on short paddles, but over long days and in windy conditions it becomes incredibly important. 

Initially, this was overcome by putting the blades at a 90° angle so that the top blade cut through the wind perfectly. This design survived for hundreds of years before recent design showed that this was putting kayakers at much greater risk of injury. Modern paddles vary between 15° and 45°. 

Some of this decision comes down to preference, but it’s often situational. White water and sheltered environments are less wind affected and a lower degree of feather is often adequate. Sea kayaking and open water touring often use a higher degree of feather as they have to recover their paddle strokes through rough winds and choppy conditions. 

As we said before, paddles are either left-handed or right-handed. This primary hand is the one which performs the ‘twist’ to position the blade, ready for the stroke, while the other acts as a guide. It’s important to know whether you’re left-handed or right-handed as it’s important to get your feather round the right way. 

Paddles are available with variable feather, so you can alter your paddle as conditions change. This can also allow you to change between left and right-handed paddling.

Some white water kayakers, especially playboaters, have made the transition to 0° feather, or flat paddles. This means that no time or effort is wasted twisting the paddle and you can maximise paddle cadence and, in terms of playboating, direct power through some moves. 

One-Piece vs Split Paddles

As well as one-piece paddles, you can get split paddles. These come in two, three or four pieces, depending on your needs. These paddles are much easier to fit in your car, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Split sea kayaking paddles usually have adjustable feather as we previously mentioned, but they also have adjustable length, too. Two-piece splits are often carried on the top deck of a sea kayak as a quick-to-deploy spare paddle. 

Split paddles for white water are becoming more adjustable and usually at least have the option of left or right-handed. These are usually only carried as an emergency spare, rather than a primary paddle. Even with modern split paddle design, it goes without saying that the more connections you put into a paddle, the more potential it has to break, but these are an essential piece of kit on more challenging rivers and multi-day trips. 

This is a lot of information, how do I pick my paddle? 

That’s a hard decision, unfortunately. All of these elements and nuances need to be taken into consideration when you’re picking your first or your fiftieth paddle, but there’s still that element we can’t account for; personal choice. Nothing quite beats trying a paddle out on the water, but this isn’t always an option. 

Now that you have read this guide and have an understanding of the different elements that make up a paddle, as well as the technology and design which go into them, you can look at a range of paddles more objectively and make a better decision about what might suit you and your paddling style. 

Moose started his paddling life on the ponds and rivers in the south east of England. He has slowly worked his way north and has spent the last few years working his way through all things Scottish. As well as being a very experienced and knowledgeable coach and guide across Scotland and the rest of the UK, he spent a summer in Norway and a month in Nepal; apparently they weren’t bad.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

PaddlingSpace.com
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0