The Ultimate Kayak Paddles Buying Guide

What could be better than starting your day on your favorite kayak with paddles in hands and absorbing all the beauty nature has to offer, and of course, fishing above everything else out on the water? It is always better to make a calm start on your fishing days, and that’s what paddles are going to offer.Kayak_Paddles_Buying_Guide

As long as you fish, you need to hold the paddles by your hands most of the time. So, you can understand how crucial they can be to influence your enjoyment. Your energy level and kayaking comfort are likely to be among your primary concerns. Well, the paddles you choose can make real differences in these areas.

Top 7 Kayak Paddles in 2016-2017: The best part you want to learn

By now, you may call yourself an expert of kayak paddles, but only theoretically. Here is a quick walkthrough of the best kayak paddles at present.

Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle

Features

  • Drip guards
  • Contour molded blades
  • Three position system
  • Foam grips
  • Two-piece shafts

Measurement

  • Length: 96 inches
  • Weight: 0.5lbs

Category

  • Budget/ Recreational

Pros & Cons

  • Comfortable handling
  • Easy propelling through water
  • Help with staying dry
  • Customizable
  • Small storage required for transportation
  • Reported issues with the two pieces staying tied
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Adventure Technology AT2 Standard Whitewater Kayak Paddle

Features

  • Full control grip
  • Dynell trimmed edging on blades
  • Carbon and aramid Kevlar shaft
  • Smooth core blades free from flutter
  • Blade offset at 30°

Measurement

  • Length: 191 centimeters
  • Weight: 2lbs

Category

  • Whitewater

Pros & Cons

  • Ergonomic design for added comfort and great wrist positioning
  • Not easily vulnerable to wear
  • Durable
  • Very expensive for a paddle
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring Kayak Paddle, Gold

Features

  • Fiberglass blades
  • Two-piece fiberglass shaft
  • A push-button joint
  • Color: Natural translucent gold

Measurement:

  • Length: Available from 220 cm up to 240 cm
  • Weight: 0.8lbs

Category

  • Touring

Pros & Cons

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Great power exertion
  • Inline feathering option or at 60°
  • Reported fragility on some occasions
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Intex Dual Purpose Paddle

Features

  • Combo paddle
  • Aluminum shaft
  • Oar retainer/drip rings
  • Ribbed blades
  • Large black blade

Measurement

  • Length: 96 inches
  • Weight: 3.5lbs

Category

  • Multi-purpose

Pros & Cons

  • Convertible to 48-inch oars to facilitate transportation
  • Lightweight but strong build
  • Double boat oars
  • Enhanced strength
  • Reported fragility
  • Not ideal for women
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle, 84-Inch

Features

  • Aluminum construction
  • Black molded plastic blades
  • Foam rubber grips
  • Floats

Measurement

  • Length: 84 inches
  • Weight: 2.3lbs

Category

  • Recreational

Pros & Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Strong and efficient design
  • Comfortable grip padding
  • Not curved
  • Not very efficient in pulling through water
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

SeaSense X-Treme II Kayak Paddle

Features

  • Feathered blades
  • Three locking positions
  • Support ridge
  • Two-piece shaft
  • Floats

Measurement

  • Length: 84 inches
  • Weight: 2.3lbs

Category

  • Touring

Pros & Cons

  • Added strength
  • Lightweight
  • Adjustable drip guards
  • Noisy and flimsy blades
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle – Polypro Blades/Fiberglass Shaft

Features

  • Blades made with glass reinforced polypropylene
  • Slightly spooned, asymmetrical blades
  • Fiberglass shaft
  • Colors: cloud, dark cherry and sunrise

Measurement

  • Length: Starting from 220 cm up to 240 cm
  • Weight: 2.45lbs

Category

  • Whitewater
  • Touring

Pros & Cons

  • Durable and lightweight
  • Capable of taking much pressure
  • Perfect blend of weight and durability
  • Reported water trapping inside the blades
  • Reported fluttering of paddles though on a very few occasions
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Why paddles and not pedal kayaks?

There is hardly any one-word answer to the question whether you should choose paddle or pedal. Paddles offer some obvious benefits, which might make you feel interested in them.

No worries about physical stress

Some might say paddle kayaking can be stressful, especially when you want to cover a long distance. We cannot deny the statement entirely. However, you are always blessed with other angling opportunities which do not involve prolonged kayaking. Also, do not ignore the physical benefits.

  • Paddle kayaking involves workouts which have a very low level of physiological impact.
  • Given that you use proper methods, you can work your shoulders, arms, core muscles and back. Moreover, you would consider buildup of muscle definition a plus.
  • Weight loss becomes stress free as your extra calories get burned.

An opportunity to enjoy company of others

If you are asked to fish alone all the time, you are sure not to enjoy the sport on most occasions. With paddle kayaking, you have little to care about the fitness levels of your fellow anglers. So, you can invite just about anyone you like to have some fun together fishing with paddle kayaks.

Once you are willing to make efforts to choose paddles; the next important things to know should be the factors you would bring under close consideration.

Factors to consider

Choosing a pair of suitable paddles is no easier than choosing a good kayak. As soon as you get a kayak, you need to start working on your choice of paddles. There are many aspects you need to consider, but you surely want to know which aspects are to be held with due attention.

Dimensions of kayaks and paddles

Types of kayaksWidth (Inches)Dimensional Features
Recreational26-30Short and wide
Touring22-25Narrower and longer with greater capacity
Performance19-22Long including a narrow hull
WhitewaterNot very relevant to the paddler’s height

Here is a brief to help you determine the critical parts quickly:

Kayak Width (Inches)Below 2324-2829-3334 or More
Paddler’s HeightPaddle Length Recommended (Centimeters)
5 feet 5 inches210-220220-230230-240250
5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 11 inches220230230-240250
Above 6 feet220-230230-240240-250250-260

A few relatable words

  • For a recreational kayaker, width of a kayak becomes the principal factor.
  • For touring kayaker, two factors, such as the paddler’s physical measurements and paddling style matter most.
  • For wider kayaks, you would want longer paddles. It is recommended that you have a measurement of your kayak at the widest edge.
  • For those with attention only on the widths of their kayaks, paddle sizes recommended in view of the kayak widths become important.

Your physical properties and fitness

As you go a little deep into your paddle selection process, the length of your torso becomes a critical factor. Torso indicates the length of your body excluding your limbs, neck and head.

Don’t know how to measure your torso length?

Well, sit up on a chair. Make sure you are sitting straight on a flat chair and do not assume a drooping posture. The distance from your chair between the legs to the nose is what indicates your torso length.

Here is a quick chart showing the right sizes of paddles for different torso lengths.

Torso Length (Inches)Paddle Size (Centimeters)
22Youth 180
24Youth 180-200
26190-210
28200-220
30210-230
32220-240
34230-250
36240-250
38250

How can you know whether or not you have the right size?

Hold out your paddle with the elbows bent at a right angle. If you see your hands reach two-thirds of the part between the shaft center and the blade’s shoulder, you are good to go with this paddle.

How fit you are can still be an important factor. But how?

  • If you call yourself an athletic angler, you need a shorter paddle that comes with a wide blade so that you can enjoy getting added horsepower.
  • If you are a little taller or heavier, you need a longer paddle that has a wide blade so that you can move your bodyweight adroitly.
  • If you are not very tall or not fond of speed or issues with shoulder or wrist, you need paddles that come with blades having a very little surface area.
  • If you love speed, you should choose paddles with larger blades.
  • With small hands or glove sizes, paddlers do well if they choose paddles with small shafts.

Selecting your paddles considering the type of outing you cover

Kayakers often tend to different types of outing distances. Sometimes, you may love to fish in rivers or lakes while sea touring or extended trips might also attract you. Also, whitewater fishing may also be your passion. Good for you, there are always paddles to meet your demands.

For lakes and rivers

Some anglers paddle on slow-moving water or lakes, and some of them might love to spend a lot of time in their kayaks. A key player in the lineup of kayak paddles, touring kayak paddles are suitable for those anglers. Whether you go for exploring and tripping or camping or river trips, touring kayak paddles will bring you joy. A kayak paddle that includes an ovular shaft facilitates kayakers’ efforts to orient the paddle blades without having to look. Also, they might enjoy having less fatigue and added ease holding the paddles.

For deepwater paddling, pay attention to the material and shape of the blade because these two things are responsible for your preferred stroke.

For shallow water, choose a paddle with plastic blade so that durability can be ensured. Plastic blades may hit rocks, sand or gravel. If the blade of your paddle is wider, it will offer more bite, no matter if you have the half of that blade above water.

Recreational kayak paddles are good for those with little love for being busy with water. Activities you will enjoy with this type of paddle include shore visits, small trips, exercise and fishing.

For sea touring and prolonged trips

Expect to paddle on either moving or flat water. You have two ideal options, such as performance or touring paddles, especially if you love to play on water for most of the time. As you put this type of paddles into use, they become lighter with your efforts.

If passion for kayaking runs through your veins, you will pick a paddle that comes with a stiff carbon shaft that is responsive and efficient. The reason is such a paddle will be of reduced weight and allow you to paddle for so long without breaking a lot of sweat.

Sometimes, you might need to deal with sand, gravel and rocks. So, you will wish your paddle offers a great combination of durability and weight. Choose a paddle with blade made of polypropylene or nylon. Make sure the blade is injection molded and reinforced with carbon fibers or glass.

If you have sore shoulders or panache for long trips, your paddle should be lightweight with blades made of carbon composites or fiberglass.

For whitewater kayaking

Probably, you know you will be paddling in rough conditions. So, your paddle should have the strength to take some tough knocks. For getting proper control, you can choose a paddle that has a length of 205 centimeters at most.

Kayak paddle features at a glance

Now that, you know which kayaks require what kind of paddles, it is time to look at the features and components different types of paddles offer.

Paddles for Performance KayaksPaddles for Touring KayaksPaddles for Recreational KayaksPaddles for Whitewater Kayaks
Modern paddles inducing up-to-date paddling innovationsDurable and comfortable for long tripsHeavy and highly affordable paddles availableMore bite ensured by wider blades
Super lightweightExtremely lightweight ensured by blade designs and special nylon resinsInjection-molded bladesComposite blades but not so much durable
Abate fatigue and reduce swing weightDurability ensured by blades made with reinforced carbon or fiberglassFiberglass or aluminum shaftsFiberglass or carbon shafts to ensure added strength to deal with solid obstructions
Stiff blades and offer more power with each stroke madeA long list of shafts including both carbon and fiberglassStraightforward ferruleDetail-oriented designs available to ensure a perfect balance between strength and weight
Extra feathering optionsExtra feathering options
Lightweight and ergonomic designs to reduce the likelihood of joint strainDifferent shapes for blades offering variegated experiences
Different shapes for blades offering variegated experiences

Paddling styles

While not involving much technical aspects, your paddling style is no less important than the above matters regarding the selection process. There are two common techniques of paddling, such as high angle and low angle paddle stroke.

People love to style their paddling in both techniques, but you will be amazed to know not so many people are aware of how they are paddling as they are riding their kayaks. Here is a short description to help you become aware of your own style.

Low angle paddling

This style requires anglers to have paddles with narrower and longer blades than the ones used for high angle paddling. This way, you will feel your paddling to be more relaxed and of a cruising fashion. This style is popular among North Americans.

As you paddle in this style, you keep your paddle almost parallel to the water. In other words, you paddle in a horizontal motion. Since the blades designed for this style are energy efficient, you can adopt this for longer trips which involve hours of paddling.

High angle paddling

Shorter and wider than those used for long angle paddling, the blades designed for this style feature a little more aggressiveness because you dip them much closer to the kayak. You keep the paddle shaft vertical as you make each stroke. In other words, your paddle remains in a perpendicular motion to the water.

It is technically an upright paddling style that allows for more athletic and powerful strokes. Your move will be much like a sprint. If you are fond of a speedy cadence, you will want paddles with wider blades and shorter shaft.

Considering the material

The material used for manufacturing paddles stays as one of the key factors to affect your overall paddling performance. Commercially manufactured kayak paddles are made with some specific materials, such as plastic,
carbon fiber and fiberglass. The majority of manufacturers choose their materials with one thing in mind; that is their paddles need to be simple and lightweight yet ready to perform heavily and withstand toughness.

A quick table showing the pros and cons of different materials:

MaterialsProsCons
AluminumMost affordable
Minimum care required
Durable
Heavier than most other options
Involving much fatigue
Plastic Cheap
Minimum care involved
Flimsy paddles
Potentially fragile
WoodAffordable yet less than aluminum/ plastic
Durable
Strong enough to take much pressure
Heavier than most options
Relatively difficult to handle
Carbon FiberSuper lightweight
Ideal for long distance fishing
Most expensive
Fiberglass
Lightweight
Available in different colors
Designed to take wear and tear
More expensive than aluminum or plastic

Design and shape of the blade

With little attention to the blades, you might think the different shapes of blades are meant only to bring in desired looks. Practically, the variety of designs has relevance to the productivity matter involved with each design.

Here is a list of blade designs that are not only common but also very popular in the market.

Feathered

Feathered blades are not designed to be on the same plane. Rather, these blades are offset at a specific angle to each other.

Non-feathered

Non-feathered blades are designed to be in line with each other.

Wing

The scoop-like design features an oval edge to provide lift along the blade’s backside. Functionality may seem much like the wing of an airplane. High performance paddling can be achieved with this design.

Symmetric

Symmetric designs render high, vertical strokes, and both types of exertions work the water almost evenly.

Asymmetric

Relatively narrow, asymmetrical designs are carried out to tolerate more horizontal strokes, meaning that you have to exert less energy.

In addition to the above designs, two other designs are also popular. They are the Touring and Square-ended shapes.

 

You need to put much care while faring these options so that you can save yourself from using a wrong design for your paddle blade. According to many expert kayak paddlers, flat blades are the ones you will not want to choose.

Thinking about feathering

Only a handful of anglers seem to know the real mechanics behind feathering, and the rest may not know how it works. Whether or not you choose to feather has an effect on your being safe without any physical strain.

Feathering typically indicates the way the blades of a paddle counterbalance each other. Paddling works in a way that one blade strokes the water while another is kept at such an angle for slicing through the wind. Understandably, the angle created between the two blades can be anywhere between 30° and 45°.

Both feathered and non-feathered paddles offer advantages and disadvantages.

Non-feathered blades

If your paddle blades are not feathered, they will remain parallel to each other. With a non-feathered paddle, you push the blade on top through the wind and pull the blade in the bottom through water. You will barely feel any stress on your wrists. The only disadvantage with this option is that you will face hardship while paddling against wind.

Feathered blades

With a feathered blade, you present the edge of the blade on top to the wind. If you have to paddle a lot against the wind, a feathered paddle will be in your choice. However, this option has its demerits. You may have sore joints as paddling with a feathered blade might not go easy on your wrists.

 

Here is a solution to the issue

Try to have the angle of your feather smaller since your wrists will not be affected if you have a feathered paddle with a smaller angle. However, choosing to get a larger angle for the feathered blade will allow you to paddle more efficiently.

In order to avoid the physical strains associated with feathered blades, you can pick a lightweight paddle that is built with carbon or fiberglass composites, especially if you are planning on making a long trip.

The actual mechanics

When a blade is feathered, one of your hands will be the hand to control the paddle mostly. That particular hand will handle the rotation of shaft in order to make sure the blades pull through the water at correct angles.

The mechanics does not work in a way that you have to be strong with a particular hand. It matters little whether you are right-handed or left-handed. You can always use both of them to see which one works best for you.

Knowing about the shaft

What is a shaft?

Well, if you want to know which part is the backbone of your paddle, the simplest answer will be the shaft. It typically refers to a particular structure that connects all parts of your paddle together, starting from the blade shape to the stroke styles.

Having straight shafts is common in most paddles, but nowadays, some curves are also available in many paddles. The goal is that the hands of the paddlers can be placed at a more stable and comfortable position or angle while making the strokes. Benefits include abated discomfort and fatigue. Some anglers have joint or shoulder injuries. A kinked section in a bent-shaft paddle will offer those paddlers great comfort.

There are three types of shafts available. Here is a list of those types with their features.

Two-piece shafts

These shafts are great as you have to store them.

Four-piece shafts

These shafts are ideal for using with inflatable kayaks. Also, you can break them down to smaller pieces. If you consider having a backup paddle, this type will serve you well enough since they will take up a very little amount of space.

Shafts with small diameter

Kayakers who have smaller hands will find this type useful. Also, for women, nothing can be as good a choice as it. Small diameter shafts involve less fatigue.

Shape of shafts

Shafts are available in two common shapes, such as oval and round.

Oval shafts

If you need a comfortable grip, oval shafts will give you that as they offer easier grip than traditional round shafts.

Round shafts

These shafts are the pioneer in the types of shafts. Some round shafts include oval hand sections so that you can stay equally comfortable. This particular shape is known as oval indexing.

Weight of your paddle

Weight matters! Yes, apart from all technicalities your paddle selection process involves, the weight of a paddle becomes critical as long as comfort is on top of your mind.

It is recommended that a paddle that is lightweight yet capable of delivering better control and resisting the water and wind flow efficiently should be your all-in-one solution. Fortunately, all these parks are available in a single paddle. All you need to do is choose the paddle after considering its building material carefully. Of course, you can take a repeated look at the material section in this article.

Reputable brands to look for

Well, this is an optional part in your selection process if you have already gone through all other sections of this article.

So, will you break your sweat once again for this part? No, you won’t. Just take a look at the following list that contains the top brands for kayak paddles.

  • Carlisle
  • Shoreline
  • Seasense
  • Adventure Technology
  • Intex

Why you should be careful about the brand is that a committed and reputable brand always tries to maintain a professional manufacturing standard and market their products in accordance with the demands of customers.

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