Best kayak paddle for beginners and different activities

ten kayak paddles
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A good kayak deserves an equally good kayak paddle. In this article, we’ll help you select the best kayak paddle for you. For that, we’ll review the best kayak paddle for beginners, kayak fishermen, people on a budget, and much more. In addition, we also share a kayak paddle buying guide by looking at five features of the kayak paddle. This will help you understand why the chosen kayak paddle is a good choice for you. So let’s get started!

IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…

What is the best kayak paddle?

Best beginner kayak paddle

The Poseidon paddle compares very favorably with all competing Aqua Bond models. It includes specially designed carbon fiber bending branches for a superior angle paddling experience. The included hook retrieval system makes it one of the very best fiberglass kayak paddles for low-angle paddling.

The aluminum shaft is what makes it one of the cheapest kayak paddles on the market. Yet, the aluminum shaft is also what makes it heavier than other types of kayak paddles. As such, this a great choice if you aren’t planning on covering a lot of distance with your kayak.

Also, the blade shape is narrow and long which will result in more strokes per mile but requiring less effort to paddle. Given the weight and blade shape, this 2 piece kayak paddle is a suitable choice for short to medium-distance coverage.

A nice feature is the adjustable drip rings that prevent water from running down the shaft coming from the blade. The extras include a patented Ferrule system with carbon fiber blades. The carbon shaft design includes rubber drip rings as part of the essential locking mechanism.

Pros
  • This 2 piece kayak paddle offers good solid quality making it well worth the money. If you are a beginner kayaker or looking for a spare paddle then this is a good option.
  • The kayak paddle can be broken down into 2 pieces making it easy for storage.
Cons
  • The kayak paddle doesn’t have hand cushions/soft grips for avoiding blisters.
  • The kayak paddle is on the heavy side for those looking to paddle long hours
  • The kayak paddle only comes in one size

Best kayak paddle for fishing

The new Aqua Bound Manta Ray paddle comes with a wide range of new features that make it one of the top-selling models on the modern market. The full carbon shaft not only reduces the weight of the paddle but also keeps your hand warm during cold conditions as opposed to an aluminum shaft.

The blade shape, which is short and wide, requires more effort to paddle but gives you more propulsion in return with every stroke. Thus, if you are stopping and going like when kayak fishing, this blade shape is suitable since it offers more grip, control, and power to speed up.

When it comes to kayaking adventures, you’ve got to play it safe. This is why the new Aqua Bound touring paddle includes a feather angle leash loop. This will give you the option of infinite feathering to ensure that your paddle won’t get lost in a mishap. Its two-piece ergonomic design and posi lok ferrule system makes it a clear favorite. The included drip guards make it one of the most durable whitewater paddles.

Pros
  • This 2 piece kayak paddle is surprisingly lightweight allowing you to paddle for over 5 hours without experiencing sore arms and hands.
  • The kayak paddle offers various degrees for feathering the blades. As mentioned before, this feature is helpful when paddling in windy conditions but also gives your wrist a more natural movement.
Cons
  • The wrap on the carbon fiber gives this kayak paddle shaft a texture that could be perceived as a rough grip or uneasy feeling and potentially causing blisters on longer rides.

Best kayak paddle under $100

The new Oceanbroad kayak paddle is an impact-resistant model with reinforced nylon blades. The full carbon shaft not only reduces the weight of the paddle but also keeps your hand warm during cold conditions. The model is comparable to any Aqua Bond paddle with carbon fiber bending branches that is currently on the market.

The top-quality paddle features a special design that includes low angle paddling and carbon fiber blades. The hook retrieval system enhances its value for beginners, especially in the realm of safety. Its angle paddling feature makes it one of the very best fiberglass kayak paddles for newcomers and experienced veterans alike.

Also, the drip rings at two ends of the shaft help stop water flowing from the blades. This way, the shaft, and your hands don’t get wet easily. The blade shape is long and narrow, which is ideal for casual and long-distance paddling such as sightseeing and touring. The material used on the blade ensures a stiff and durable kayak paddle while keeping the price low. All these features make it an excellent paddle for beginners.

Pros
  • The kayak paddle is very sturdy and lightweight for its price making it the best kayak paddle for the money.
  • The kayak paddle can be broken down into 2 pieces making it easy for storage.
  • The kayak paddle comes with a leash, which is a handy accessory for securing your paddle in case you capsize and the paddle starts to drift away through wind or waves.
Cons
  • The kayak paddle only comes in one size making it an ideal choice for average sized paddlers.

Best lightweight kayak paddle

This 2 piece kayak paddle is the lightest affordable kayak paddle on the market at the moment. The handy new carbon fiber shaft design makes this a paddle to be reckoned with. The carbon shaft features a rubber drip ring and a sturdy locking mechanism for safety. Furthermore, the paddle shaft has an ovalized grip area which makes it an ergonomic kayak paddle giving you a better grip.

The materials used on the blades make it not only contribute to the paddle being light, but the carbon reinforcing also makes the blade stiffer. As a result, you are able to apply more power efficiently with each stroke when out kayaking.

Finally, the paddle has two types of closing systems. The posi-lok ferrule system offers more feathering angles for the blade, while the snap-button system only offers two options (0° and 60°). Choosing which system suits you best will ultimately depend on your paddling style and environment. For example, in case you plan on wearing gloves, you need to ensure that the system you choose is easy to manipulate with padded fingers or cold hands.

It includes all the standard elements, including drip guards, a paddle leash, and a convenient leash loop. These comfort and safety features make it one of the best whitewater paddles to bring along on all your future kayaking adventures.

Pros
  • This is one of the lightest kayak paddle that comes at an affordable price.
  • The ovalized paddle shaft provides a comfortable grip.
  • The kayak paddle offers various degrees for feathering the blades. As mentioned before, this feature is helpful when paddling in windy conditions but also gives your wrist a more natural movement.
Cons
  • The ribbed texture of the shaft offers positive grips with wet hands, but can cause blisters on longer rides if not used to it.
  • The kayak paddle only comes in one color.

Best recreational kayak paddle

This collapsible kayak paddle comes with a shaft that allows for feathering your blade and adjusting the length as you see fit. Once again, feathering your blade is important when paddling in windy conditions. It makes the blade slice through the wind rather than being a drag in the wind. Also, the shaft breaks down into 4 parts with a packable length of 25.5 inches – compact enough to fit in suitcases, backpacks, and even beneath your kayak.

As for the blades, they are very tough thanks to the reinforcing which ensures that they don’t bend or buckle when in the water. Also, their asymmetrical blade shape increases the efficiency of your stroke, saving you energy for long-distance or recreational paddling. The drip rings on the end of the blades prevent water from running down the shaft that is coming from the blade. 

A combination of reinforced nylon blades and posi-lok ferrule system makes this an excellent new paddle for beginners. It also includes many of the patented design features that veterans have come to expect. For this reason, we can easily recommend the Advanced Elements Orbit 4 Part Kayak Paddle to a wide spectrum of kayak users.

Pros
  • This 4 piece kayak paddle packs down to just 25.5 inches long making it a suitable collapsible kayak paddle for storage or traveling.
  • This fiberglass kayak paddle has an adjustable shaft that not only gives you a choice of feathering the blades, but also to lengthen the size of the paddle for different situations.
Cons
  • The ferrules/ closing system of the paddle might need some lubing after use to avoid the button from seizing.

Best touring kayak paddle

This 2 piece kayak paddle comes packed with a wide range of top-quality features that make it ideal for long days of kayaking. The main reason for this is its lightweight and the blade shapes. The blades’ shapes are somewhere between long and narrow and wide and short. As a result, the kayak paddle is able to deliver more power than a standard recreational kayak. It allows paddling for a duration of 3 to 7 hours without feeling fatigued in your hands and arms. You should also note that the oval paddle shaft has been reinforced to give you a comfortable grip that you won’t grow tired of.

The included set of injection-molded abX II blades have been strongly reinforced with fiberglass fibers. This makes the paddle much stronger and more durable than any competing plastic model on the market. Also, the drip rings at two ends of the shaft help stop water flowing from the blades. This way, the shaft, and your hands don’t get wet easily.

Finally, the shaft has a posi-lok ferrule system which gives you tons of options for feathering the blades of the kayak paddle. The paddle is backed with a full warranty of guaranteed quality that comes straight from Aqua Bound.

Pros
    Cons

      Our Top Pick

      Our top pick for the best new kayak paddle is the Poseidon Paddle. This handy new model contains all of the features that newcomers, as well as experienced kayaking veterans, should be looking for in a paddle. One of its most distinctive features is the included carbon fiber bending branches that supply a superior angle paddling experience.

      The Poseidon Paddle compares very favorably with, and in many cases exceeds, the high standards established by the other models on our current list. The Poseidon model is durable, lightweight, easy to pack, and even easier to use. We should also add that its cost effective price makes it a bargain for people who are new to the sport.

      For sheer durability, you can’t beat the top-quality aluminum alloy construction. The hook retrieval system makes it an ideal choice for users who are conscious of safety. Meanwhile, the paddle itself is designed to resist the elements in order to last for many years to come. Pound for pound, this is the model we most highly recommend

      How to choose a kayak paddle

      Kayak paddles

      Picking a suitable paddle is as important as picking out the right kayak. In case your first or current paddle has proven to give an unpleasant experience when out kayaking, then think seriously about an upgrade. Nowadays you have manufacturers producing state-of-the-art paddles to satisfy any paddlers’ needs, so you have no reason to suffer. Before giving our recommendations regarding the best kayak paddles, let’s have a look at five factors that heavily influence how well a certain kayak paddle suits you. 

      We’ve written an in-depth article explaining how to choose a kayak paddle, so be sure to check it out! (Below is just a summary)

      Length


      A key factor in determining your overall kayak experience is the length of your kayak paddle. Choosing a kayak paddle that is too long will result in being less efficient when it comes to building up speed and keeping the kayak on track. At the same time, you risk ending up with banged knuckles. To avoid this, you need to take into account your height, the width of your kayak and your kayaking style when asking yourself how long the kayak paddle should be. The following chart shows the recommended kayak paddle length for you when comparing your height to the width of your kayak.


      Paddler Height

      Kayak Width

      Under 23"

      23" - 28"

      28" - 32"

      Over 32"

      Under 5ft.

      210cm

      220cm

      230cm

      240cm

      5ft. to 6ft.

      215cm to 220cm

      220cm

      230cm

      240cm to 250cm

      Over 6 ft.

      220cm

      230cm

      240cm

      250cm

      In addition, you need to consider the angle in which you will be paddling. Paddling with a high angle is usually done when you really want a lot of power to move forward such as when touring or facing windy conditions. In this case, you should aim for a shorter paddle than recommended on the chart above such as one in the range of 210cm to 220cm. Next, you have the medium angle which most kayak fishermen tend to apply. In this case, a paddle in the range of 220cm to 230cm should suffice. Lastly, you have the low angle which is often used for recreational kayaking for sitting back and enjoying the scenery while paddling. Here, you should aim for a kayak paddle with a length between 230cm and 250cm.

      Weight


      It is said that roughly 1000 paddle strokes are needed for every mile that you cover with your kayak. So if you think about it, paddling a mile with a 2lbs kayak paddle versus a 5lbs kayak paddle will have a big impact on whether you are tired at the end of the day or whether you managed to maintain good form throughout the whole trip. Fortunately, there are kayak paddles made of different materials with the lightest material also being the most expensive one. Here’s a list ordered from the cheapest to the most expensive material being used for kayak paddles.

      • Aluminium shaft with plastic or nylon blades: The aluminum kayak paddles are one of the cheapest but also one of the heaviest types on the market. They are a great choice if you don’t cover a lot of distance with your kayak. 
      • Carbon fibreglass shaft with plastic blades: Replacing the aluminum shaft with a carbon fibreglass shaft not only results in a lighter kayak paddle, but it also keeps your hands warm during cold conditions. Nevertheless, these paddles still have a heavy swing weight which is the weight of the paddle at the end of the blades. 
      • Full carbon shaft with reinforced blades: This is where the swing weight really starts to drop. The reinforced blades consist of a plastic or nylon blade that is reinforced with either fibreglass or carbon. They are the lightest paddles that you can have while still having a plastic blade and still spending less than $200.
      • Full carbon shaft with full fiberglass blades: For those seeking featherweight kayak paddles, here is where it all starts. The hand laid fiberglass blades drastically reduce the swing weight of the paddle. Although the price for these types of kayak paddles tend to be around $250.
      • Full carbon shaft with foam injected carbon blades: As final, we have the lightest and most expensive kayak paddles on the market so far. The blades of these paddles are made of carbon fibre with a foam core. That being said, you should expect this kayak paddle to be priced around $400.

      Blade design


      There are 2 types of blade designs namely a high angle and low angle blade. The high angle blade is short and wide and will therefore require more effort to paddle, but give you more propulsion in return with every stroke. The low angle blade is longer and narrower resulting in more strokes per mile but requiring less effort to paddle, which makes them a suitable choice for recreational and touring. On the other hand, if you are stopping and going like when kayak fishing and also need power to accelerate then the high angle blade is recommended because it offers more grip, power and control. For more information on the different types of blades, watch the following video: 

      Shaft design


      Lastly, you have the kayak paddle shaft to take into consideration, which is the part that you hold when kayaking. The paddle shaft comes in different sizes, shapes and features.
      In general, kayak paddles come in a small and regular shaft size and knowing which shaft size is suitable for you depends on the length between the bottom of your palm to the tip of your middle finger. If it’s 7”, then you should be using a regular shaft while a small shaft is recommended in case it’s 6.5” or lower. 

      bent and straight paddle shaft
      bent vs straight shaft

      With regards to the shaft shape, you have the option to pick between a bent or straight shaft. The idea with the bent shaft is that it’s putting your wrist in a neutral angle. This way you are not putting any strain on your wrist with each stroke that you take unlike with a straight shaft where you risk getting an overuse injury when paddling often. A useful tip for avoiding this on a straight shaft is a nice loose grip that still gives you control over the kayak paddle as opposed to a firm grip that leads to blisters and a strained body. 

      feathered blade
      feathered kayak paddle

      As a final point, you will also notice that you can choose between a one-piece paddle or one that breaks down into two or more pieces. The two or more piece paddle not only offers an easy way out for storing it when traveling, but also the option to feather your paddle. This simply means that you adjust the ferrule on the shaft so the blades are at an angle to each other rather than straight. This is especially helpful when paddling in windy conditions. As one blade enters the water, the one in the air can slice through the wind rather than be a drag in the wind. As a result, you experience less fatigue which was initially caused by wind resistance

      For more information regarding the design of the kayak paddle shaft, be sure to check out our extensive article on how to pick the right kayak paddle.

      Ally Mash
      Ally Mash
      Ally is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent most of his free time backpacking through South America, Iceland, Vietnam, and Europe. He loves sharing his experience through blogging. His mission is to get more people in the mindset of protecting our planet by sharing its beauty.

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