Ever heard the saying, “up a creek without a paddle?” Don’t let that be you. Find the right paddle for your kayaking adventures and your days on the water will be smooth sailing…well smooth paddling! All of the kayak paddles we’ve reviewed here are for flatwater, touring, or ocean paddling.
When purchasing a kayaking paddle, there are a few important factors to consider. Most important: What kind of boating do you plan to do? Long tours will require a different type of blade than mellow, recreational paddling.
The size of your boat and what type of paddling you do will in part determine the length of your paddle. There are lots of options out there, but don’t worry we will discuss what features you need to consider to find the best fit. Whether your budget is top-dollar or bargain buy, we’ve found the best kayak paddles on the market to choose from.
Basic Kayak Paddle Shapes and Information
There are several different kayak paddle shapes available including the flat and symmetrical paddles, the curved and asymmetrical paddles, and the Aleutian and Greenland style paddles.
Symmetric Versus Asymmetric Paddle Shapes
If the blade design on the paddle is the same on both sides, then you have a symmetrical paddle. This type of paddle tends to be the best choice for those whitewater kayakers because it helps enhance performance and provides the paddler with a bit more power. A symmetrical blade will work best for a higher and more vertical stroke.
If you are more into a leisurely stroke, then an asymmetric paddle shape will be suitable. The asymmetrical shape is also often used by touring kayakers, and they tend to vary in size and offer the paddler some power for their stroke. This type of blade is able to catch the water sooner which can increase the overall effectiveness of the paddle.
While there are several factors you should consider, including what we discuss at the end this review, it does not have to be a challenging and difficult task to choose the right kayak paddles.
As with any other gear or equipment, it is important to familiarize yourself with all the possibilities and even take the time to try a few of them out in person so you can get a better feel for the paddles. It also allows you the opportunity to try a few different styles and types out before choosing the one you think would work best. You never really know unless you try, and it will help the decision process go a lot smoother.
Basics of Paddling
There are many different types of paddling and styles when it comes to kayaking and canoeing. Kayakers tend to use a double-bladed paddle, while canoers may utilize only single blade paddles.
If you are a beginner paddler, you will definitely want to familiarize yourself with the proper way to paddle and learn the different strokes you can use while out on the water. Knowing this information will also be helpful if you try out a few paddles before you purchase them because you will know the kind of movements you will need to make while paddling in your kayak.
1. Carlisle Magic Plus
The Carlisle Magic Plus paddle provides the perfect blend of functionality and affordability. Constructed with a fiberglass handle and polypropylene coated blades, this paddle is built to be durable without breaking the bank.
The spoon-shaped blades and 60-degree feathering allow for energetic strokes, which also makes long days on the water a little easier to handle. While it may not the lightest paddle on the market, the Magic Plus balances durability and weight, all while maintaining just enough flex to keep your wrist joints happy. For weekend warriors and casual boaters alike, this paddle does the trick.
2. Werner Skagit FG
With a versatile, low-angle dihedral blade shape and an easily adjustable shaft, the Skagit paddle is suitable for a variety of paddlers and boats. A carbon blend shaft makes this paddle a lightweight option without a shocking price tag.
Fiberglass reinforcements in the nylon blades add durability without sacrificing a lightweight design, while an adjustable ferrule means you can switch up the feathering angle with ease. The Skagit is a best-buy option for a paddle with a light swing-weight and do-it-all durability.
3. Werner Camano
With a carbon blend shaft, durable fiberglass blades, and a smooth, light stroke, the Werner Camano paddle sits comfortably among the top of the line flatwater paddles. For those looking to save weight and energy on long distance kayak paddles, the Camano does the job and more.
An adjustable ferrule allows you to find the perfect feather angle, while a dihedral design makes each stroke easy and efficient. While the carbon construction makes this paddle pricier than most, when it comes to distance and long days on the water, you’ll be much happier plunging this featherweight into the water.
4. SeaSense X-1
For those new to the kayaking world, the SeaSense X-1 offers an incredibly affordable option. The aluminum shaft construction allows this paddle to remain relatively lightweight, while foam grips add a comfortable barrier for your hands.
With nylon blades, this paddle will not be as durable or customizable as some of the more expensive options, but it gets the job done for shorter days on the water. The SeaSense X-1 is the perfect paddle to get you a taste of the kayaking world!
5. Carlisle Day Tripper
The Carlisle Day Tripper paddle offers an affordable and sturdy option for the fair-weather paddler. The low angle, dihedral blade design makes for a smooth stroke while the lightweight aluminum shaft shaves unnecessary weight.
This paddle offers more durability and a smoother stroke than the SeaSense, but will not be as tough or lightweight as the carbon or fiberglass models on the market. Beginner boaters looking for a smooth and simple paddle, the Day Tripper is for you!
6. Carlisle Predator Angler
The fiberglass Predator paddle is specifically designed for kayak fishing, built with lightweight and durable materials. A hook-shaped notch in the blade allows you to lure your lines back in with ease while a longer shaft is compatible with wider fishing-style kayaks.
A step up from the Carlisle Day Tripper in it’s build, this paddle with remain durable for the long haul and offers a higher level of performance compared to budget paddles, along with the specially designed features to keep you catching fish all day long.
7. SEAFLO Afloat
The SEAFLO Afloat paddle is a budget-friendly paddle that offers features you would see on higher end paddles but without the higher end price. Built with an aluminum shaft and fiberglass reinforced blades, this paddle will not be as lightweight as models like the Werner Camano or Carlisle Magic Plus but will be more durable and versatile.
An adjustable shaft allows for moderate feathering, and the scooped, dihedral blade shape creates a smooth stroke. For those looking for more features in their paddle without the big price tag, this is a great option to get you started.
8. Shoreline Marine Propel
The Shoreline Marine Propel paddle is another budget-friendly option for new kayakers. This paddle is one of the most affordable on the market, and it will do the trick to get you out on the water and enjoying short day adventures.
Fiberglass reinforcements add some durability to the plastic blades while the shaft is made of lightweight aluminum. While this paddle won’t meet the weight and durability standards of higher-end kayak paddles, it will suffice for light recreational use.
9. Naviskin ALeader
This paddle is similar to the SEAFLO and Shoreline paddles, offering an affordable option for novice paddlers. Corrosion-resistant aluminum makes up the shaft of the two-piece paddle while the blades are constructed of a nylon/polypropylene material.
This paddle doesn’t offer high-end durability or lightweight features, but it doesn’t strike a high price tag, either. It is a symmetrical paddle with a high impact handle and allows the paddler to experience being able to travel the distances without experiencing as much fatigue.
10. Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Carbon
The Manta Ray carbon paddle sits at the top of the line for flatwater paddles. Designed to be as lightweight as possible with a carbon shaft and carbon reinforced nylon blades, this paddle also boasts incredible durability.
A dihedral shape and extra-large surface area in the blades maximizes power and minimizes fluttering while an adjustable ferrule allows you to customize the feathering angle.
The carbon model of this paddle is the ideal option for long distance paddles or kayak races. Like the style of the Manta Ray but don’t want to fork over the cash for the carbon? This paddle also comes in three other models: a hybrid paddle with a carbon shaft and fiberglass blades, a full fiberglass model, and an aluminum and fiberglass model.
How to Find the Perfect Paddle
It can be tricky to navigate the world of kayak paddles and find the right fit your kayaking style. It’s important to recognize the distinctive features available and understand which ones you need and which you can do without.
When it comes to the angle of your paddle, that is usually determined by the angle of your stroke. High angle strokes are more powerful and create more speed. A low angle stroke is more sustainable for long periods of time and is best for touring or recreational paddling.
Because of this, most flatwater paddlers will opt for a more low angle paddle. High angle kayak paddles will have a larger blade, providing more surface area to propel you, while low angle paddles will have smaller paddles with a light swing weight.
Most kayak paddles come in different lengths in order to accommodate different heights and type of paddling and boat widths. Wider boats will require longer paddles when it comes to flatwater kayaking and touring. The height of the paddler is also a factor. See the chart below:
|Kayak Width||Under 23”||24” – 28”||29” – 33“||34” and over|
RECOMMENDED PADDLE LENGTHS
|Under 5’5”||210 cm||220 cm||230 cm||240 cm|
|5’ 5” – 5’ 11”||220 cm||230 cm||240 cm||250 cm|
|6’ and over||220 cm||230 cm||250 cm||260 cm|
For those with smaller hands, there are kayak paddles made with small-diameter shafts, making the grip easier and more comfortable.
Blade Size and Shape:
Paddle blades are built in different sizes and shapes, specifically tailored for different types of kayaking. Larger blades naturally offer more surface area, allowing for stronger strokes and more power, while smaller blades save weight. Blades for high angle paddling will tend to be larger than ones for low angle strokes.
Blade shapes vary–flat, spooned, dihedral, etc.–and each shape offers different advantages. A dihedral shape to the blade allows for smooth strokes and minimal fluttering. Spoon shapes add more power to your stroke, without extra effort. Simple, flat-shaped paddle blades are typically the most affordable, and they’ll still get the job done.
Depending on the style or variety of your paddling adventures, adjustable feathering can be an important feature to consider with kayak paddles. If a kayak paddle is not feathered both blades are at the same angle. For a better visual, if you laid the paddle, with zero feathering, on the ground both blades would look the same, laying flat. Whereas on a feathered paddle, one blade would be flat on the ground and the other would sit on an angle.
Generally, with break-down paddles, you will also be able to adjust the feathering of a paddle. It is okay if it takes time to find the right angle for you. Typically, they are adjustable in 15 degree increments. Some paddles do not have the option to change the feathering degree, or they come with it pre-set. We recommend some feathering angle; 45 degree is popular and average, because it is easier on your wrists and is less tiring having to constantly switch the angle. A feathered paddle also has less resistance to the wind!
One of the most important features to consider with kayaking paddles is the material of the blades and shaft. Carbon fiber will be the top of the line and therefore the most expensive. Kayak paddles with carbon shafts and carbon paddles will be the most lightweight and the most durable on the market. For die-hard paddlers looking for incredibly light swing weight and durability over the years, carbon is the way to go.
For fairly avid kayakers who prefer not to spend as much on the paddle but still need something relatively lightweight and burly, fiberglass models offer a great middle of the road option.
Paddles built with aluminum shafts and full nylon or polypropylene blades will be the most affordable out there and make a great option for those who are new to the sport. These materials will not last as long or be as lightweight as caron or even fiberglass, but they will get you out on the water nonetheless!
Kayaking becomes all the more enjoyable once you find the perfect paddle for the job. And, with the right information, finding that paddle can be easier than you think. There’s nothing wrong with starting with the basics and moving up as you progress.
While there’s no need to go big on a full carbon paddle for your first time on the water, you may find yourself eyeing one someday after many days on the water!