Whether you’re completely new to the world of kayaking, or a watersports pro getting ready for next kayaking season, there’s no underestimating the importance of the right gear.
Of course, the most important piece of equipment is the kayak itself, but unless you make some other necessary purchases, you’ll quite literally find yourself up the creek without a paddle!
Choosing the perfect kayak paddle for your size and ability level can feel daunting if you’re new to the scene. However, this is a very important decision because the wrong paddle can seriously affect your performance and overall enjoyment of the kayaking experience.
Luckily, we’ve done the hard work and found the 5 best kayak paddles on the market so you don’t have to!
Remember to check out our buyer’s guide for information on the most important features to consider before you make your purchase. For now, though, let’s dive into the reviews!
OUR TOP PICK
Our top kayak paddle is the Bending Branches Angler Scout Kayak Paddle.
This paddle is actually intended for use while fishing, but it also works amazingly well for regular kayaking.
The construction of the Bending Branches Angler Scout paddle is impressive, constant for fiberglass-reinforced blades and an aluminum shaft. The blades are both highly durable and lightweight, while the shaft is resistant to both impact and corrosion.
Another huge advantage of this paddle’s shaft is that it can be dismantled into 2 halves, making it much easier to transport or store neatly away when you’re not using it.
The blade angles are also easily adjustable from 0° to 60° using the ergonomic snap button ferrule. This allows for better control in all weather conditions and minimizes strain on the arms and wrists while paddling.
This paddle is available for purchase in lengths ranging from 220 cm to 260 cm. This is a very inclusive range that works for most adult heights and kayak widths.
If you are planning to take this paddle fishing, however, you should be aware that the measurements along the shaft (designed for measuring your catch) wear off after repeated use. However, if you’re not into fishing, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
- Fiberglass-reinforced blades - Lightweight and durable
- Aluminum shaft - Strong and corrosion resistant
- 2-piece construction - Easily portable and storable
- 5 sizes available - 220 - 260 cm
- 0° to 60° adjustable feathering - Enhanced control
- Measurements wear off over time - Not reliable as a tape measure in the long term
The Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle is another great choice in terms of quality and functionality.
This paddle is made up of a wrapped fiberglass shaft and curved polypropylene blades.
The shaft is lightweight and resistant to all types of damage, although it’s on the thicker side, which may not work well for kayakers with smaller hands.
Meanwhile, the polypropylene used to make the blades provides excellent strength and impact resistance as well as smooth, ergonomic strokes in the water.
We also love the oval grip on the shaft because it helps to improve purchase and, as a result, overall control.
Speaking of control, the feathering on this paddle can be adjusted up to 60°, so you can set the angle of the blades to whatever feels easier for you to maneuver in the current conditions.
The size range for the Carlisle Magic Plus paddle goes from 220 cm to 250 cm, so no matter how tall you are or how wide your kayak is, you should be able to find a compatible length.
- Curved polypropylene blades - Strong and ergonomic
- Fiberglass shaft - Lightweight and wear-resistant
- Oval grip - Maximizes control
- Up to 60° feathering - User-friendly
- 220 - 250 cm size range - Suitable for most kayakers
- Relatively thick shaft - Not the best choice for kayakers with small hands
High-quality kayak paddles can be very expensive, but rest assured that there are plenty of budget-friendly options on the market that don’t compromise on durability or ease of use.
The blades are made from polypropylene but they’re reinforced with fiberglass, so they’re extremely durable. You can also adjust the blades to 3 different angles to make paddling easier in certain water and weather conditions.
Thanks to the aluminum alloy shaft, the paddle is both lightweight and resistant to impact, so paddling doesn’t require too much effort and you won’t have to worry about accidental damage either in or out of the water.
Oceanbroad’s kayak paddle comes with a polyethylene tube cover which acts as a grip and a protector for your hands. It will allow you to maintain your grip on the shaft more easily while minimizing the risk of painful blisters.
This paddle also comes with a leash, which is great for when you want to pause and take a break in your kayak. Now, you don’t need to worry about holding onto your paddle while taking in the view - just attach it to your kayak and enjoy!
- Fiberglass-reinforced blades - Highly durable
- Aluminum alloy shaft - Lightweight and impact-resistant
- Polyethylene tube cover - Improves grip and reduces blistering
- 3-angle feathering - Versatile and user-friendly
- Leash included - Ideal for rest periods
- Only 3 sizes available - 86, 90.5, and 90 inches
If you’re looking for a high-end kayak paddle that will enhance your performance for many years to come, we recommend the Hornet Watersports Graphic Fiberglass Kayak Paddle!
The blades on this paddle are dihedral in shape and are made of fiberglass. This means that they are very strong and wear-resistant as well as efficient and smooth in the water.
Because of the shaft’s fiberglass and carbon fiber construction, this part of the paddle is highly durable as well. The durability comes, in part, from its flexibility, which enhances impact-resistance by minimizing brittleness.
Something that really makes this paddle stand out is the fact that the shaft length is adjustable from 230 to 240 cm, which is the average size range for adult kayakers.
This means that the paddle is widely compatible and you don’t have to worry so much about purchasing the perfect paddle size.
In addition to the adjustable length, you can also alter the blade angle for feathering up to 60° in 15° increments. Because of this, you can use the Hornet Watersports paddle in all water conditions without over-exerting yourself.
As an added bonus, the fish scale design on the blades helps this paddle stand out from the crowd.
However, we recommend getting a leash to attach this paddle to your kayak because it doesn’t float very well and could get lost otherwise.
- Dihedral fiberglass blades - Strong and efficient
- Fiberglass and carbon fiber shaft - Durable and flexible
- Adjustable shaft length - Widely compatible
- 0° to 60° feathering - Versatile and user-friendly
- Fish scale design - Aesthetically pleasing
- Does not float - Leash purchase recommended
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
If you’re a beginner to kayaking, Bending Branches’ Whisper Kayak Paddle could be the ideal choice for you!
This paddle is built for durability and ease of use, both of which are extremely important for kayakers who are still learning the ropes.
The Bending Branches Whisper’s blades are made from polypropylene nylon, which is very resistant to wear and tear. In fact, it’s estimated to be up to 3 times tougher than other types of plastic.
Meanwhile, the shaft is made from aluminum, which is lightweight for ease of handling but also lightweight for an easier kayaking experience.
Also featured on the shaft is an oval grip, which both enhances the firmness of your grip for better control and reduces blistering on the hands (which is a common ailment in beginner kayakers).
The 2-piece construction allows for ease of transport and storage because the length can essentially be halved as needed.
In terms of feathering, you can adjust the angles of the blades on this paddle from 0° to 60°. This will allow you to cut through the water at the perfect angle to alleviate stress on your arms in the early stages of your kayaking journey.
However, the current available size range only encompasses 220 cm to 240 cm, which means that if you’re a very tall person with a particularly wide kayak, you might need to look elsewhere.
- Polypropylene nylon blades - Highly wear-resistant
- Aluminum shaft - Lightweight but tough
- Oval grip - Minimizes blisters while enhancing control
- 0° to 60° feathering - Reduces arm fatigue
- 2-piece build - Effortless storage and transport
- 220 - 240 cm size range - Not for very tall kayakers or very wide kayaks
Best Kayak Paddles Buying Guide
If you’re still unsure which kayak paddle would work best for you, don’t be discouraged! We’ve put together this buyer’s guide especially for you!
Read on to find out how to navigate factors such as paddle length, construction, feathering, and more!
The first thing you’ll need to make sure of is that the paddle you’re considering is available in a length that works for you.
Length is a crucial factor when choosing a kayak paddle because it should correspond to your own height as well as the size of your kayak. Getting a paddle in the wrong length can have a significant impact on your performance and experience overall, so it’s important to get this right.
If you have a narrow kayak (roughly 23 inches across) and are under 5 feet tall, a 200 cm kayak length will work best. However, if you’re between 5’ and 5’6”, 210 cm is the optimal length. For those 5’7” and up who own a kayak in this size, the appropriate length is 220 cm.
For wider kayaks, however, the measurements stated above increase proportionally with the kayak size. For example, a person under 5’ in a 30-inch kayak would need a 220 cm paddle instead of 200 cm.
There are plenty of resources available online that are dedicated to helping you find the perfect kayak paddle length, so we recommend checking some of these out before you finalize your purchase.
Once you know what length you’re looking for, the next step is to start considering the construction of your new kayak paddle. We recommend starting with the shaft construction since this is essentially the ‘backbone’ of the paddle.
Ideally, you want a kayak paddle to be lightweight and durable at the same time. If it’s too heavy, paddling will be exhausting, but there’s often a concern that lightweight paddles might be more prone to wear and tear.
Luckily, there are a couple of materials that comprise both of these qualities: aluminum and fiberglass.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly kayak paddle, aluminum should be your shaft material of choice. It’s lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant - basically, everything you could want from a kayak paddle!
Fiberglass, like aluminum, is durable, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant. However, aluminum is stronger and weighs less, so it’s the logical choice unless you like a bit more weight to your paddle.
While we’re on the subject of shaft construction, it’s worth noting that some paddles have a 2-piece build that allows the paddle to be dismantled into 2 halves. This makes the paddle more compact during transport and storage.
If you’re worried about being able to comfortably carry your paddle to and from the water or finding somewhere to store it between uses, we recommend prioritizing this feature.
We’ve already discussed the length of the paddle in our previous section, but it’s also worth taking into consideration the thickness of the shaft.
If you have particularly small hands, for example, it’s a good idea to make sure that the shaft isn’t too thick for you to grip comfortably. Similarly, if your hands are on the larger side, an extremely thin shaft could be impractical to work with.
If being able to maintain your grip on the paddle is a concern, look for paddles with grips either included or built into the shaft.
The construction of the blades on your paddle can make or break your kayaking experience, so make sure to give this some careful thought.
First of all, you’ll need to consider the material. Almost invariably, good-quality kayak paddle blades will be made of polypropylene or fiberglass. Sometimes, polypropylene blades will be reinforced with fiberglass for extra durability without the steep cost of full-fiberglass construction.
Polypropylene (a thermoplastic polymer) is the more budget-friendly choice, and it provides a good level of durability. This means that you won’t have to worry about rocks or other underwater obstacles damaging your paddle.
Like polypropylene, fiberglass is also a polymer, but it’s reinforced with glass fibers. This makes it more durable as well as more flexible, so if you’re really concerned about paddle damage, this is the material we’d recommend, although it is more expensive.
Once you’ve settled on your material of choice, it’s time to consider the shape of the blades. A shorter, wider blade will give you more control in terms of stopping your kayak or steering abruptly. However, longer blades typically deliver more efficiency.
If you’re new to kayaking, you might not be familiar with feathering as a concept. Feathering is when you adjust the ferrule on the paddle to set the blade(s) at a different angle.
Adjusting the angle of the blades can make a big difference to your kayaking experience. For instance, if your blades are facing straight into oncoming wind, you’re going to have a difficult time paddling efficiently. Feathering allows you to circumvent this problem.
Feathering also means you can set the blade angle to whatever feels most comfortable for you, minimizing strain on your wrists.
Most paddles that allow for feathering will have a range of 0° to 60°, but the increments in which the blades can be adjusted will vary between manufacturers, so make sure to verify this information.
Arguably the most important additional feature that comes with kayak paddles is a leash.
If you enjoy stopping to admire the view, eat lunch, or even do some fishing during your kayaking excursions, a leash is essential.
The purpose of a leash is to fasten your paddle to your kayak, meaning you don’t have to physically hold it or constantly watch it whenever you stop. This is especially important if your paddle isn’t designed to float.
If you use your kayak for fishing purposes, another useful feature is a tape measure along the length of the shaft.
This is basically a ruler painted onto the shaft that you can use to measure the size of your catch. However, be aware that it’s not unusual for these measurements to get worn away over time.
We hope that our guide to the best kayak paddles has helped you to find a paddle for your unique kayaking needs!
Remember to take the time to find out which paddle length is best for your height and kayak width before you make any decisions. It’s also important to consider shaft and blade construction, feathering features, and any additional items included with the purchase.