After the kayak itself, the paddle is the most important piece of equipment when kayaking. The best kayak paddle can make a huge difference in the water – it will make you fast and agile, all while preventing fatigue so you can paddle longer.
Choosing the right paddle comes down to its length, weight, materials, and blade design. To help you do this, we’ll explain everything there is to know about paddle design and how each of these aspects can affect its performance. In addition, our reviews will show you the best kayaking paddles currently on the market that are guaranteed to make your adventures more enjoyable.
How To Choose The Best Kayak Paddle – Buying Guide
When considering the paddle length, you need to take several aspects into account – your height, kayak width, and stroke style. As a general rule, the taller you are, the longer the paddle you require. In relation to this, most standard paddles are between 80 and 100 inches long. If you’re unsure, a paddle with an adjustable shaft gives you the most freedom and allows you to find the ideal length.
Depending on the type of kayak you own, its width can vary significantly. For example, a recreational kayak usually comes in a range of 26 inches to 30 inches in width. On the other hand, racing and touring kayaks are designed for speed, so they are much narrower. On average, their width ranges from 19 inches to 22 inches.
So, why is this important? Well, the width of your kayak has an impact when choosing the paddle length. If you’re on a wide recreational kayak, you’ll need a longer paddle so you can properly submerge the blade when stroking. On the other hand, a narrow touring kayak will require a shorter paddle.
While you may not think about it, your fitness level also influences the type of paddle you should choose. Generally speaking, athletic paddlers usually opt for shorter paddles with wide blades that provide exceptional power with every stroke.
On the other hand, people that are in less than optimal physical shape should get narrow but long kayak paddles that will cut through the water easily. While they may not provide speed, it will be easier to paddle a kayak and you will get tired much slower.
Depending on your skill level and the type of water you are paddling in, your paddle style is bound to change. Two main paddling styles exist – low-angle and high-angle.
Low-angle paddling is as style generally done in calmer water and your arms never go above the shoulder level. The paddle for this type of stroking often features horizontal thin blades that are generally longer. These kayak paddles help propel you through the water with ease, making them ideal for long distances and a perfect paddle for kayak fishing.
On the other hand, high-angle paddling is more used by experienced kayakers that are tackling challenging waters. It requires a wide and short paddle that can provide a powerful thrust and allow you to maneuver swiftly through the water.
While the blade is usually made from plastic, it can also be made from materials like fiberglass, nylon, and carbon fiber. The choice of materials can affect everything from your paddle style to your endurance. For example, carbon fiber kayak paddles are lighter than plastic ones.
While you may not think that a few ounces are significant, the difference will be very noticeable after a few hours on the water. So, let’s say a few words about each of them.
Fiberglass blades are among the most durable, lightest, and strongest that you can get. They perform better than plastic and aluminum and are ideal for kayakers who just want to have fun on the water.
If money isn’t an issue for you, a carbon fibre kayak paddle is the best you can get. It is the lightest option on the market, ensuring that you can paddle for the longest amount of time. Unfortunately, most beginners shy away from carbon kayak paddles because of their price.
On the other hand, beginners will appreciate the plastic and nylon kayaks paddles. While these are some of the heaviest kayak paddles around, they will give you a great understanding of the basics of the sport. You can get your technique right with cheap kayak paddles and then determine whether you need better gear.
As the popularity of kayaking has increased, the paddle shape has changed. The previously symmetrical paddle blades have been replaced with a more functional asymmetrical dihedral design. The scoop motion in this design is much more efficient and requires less energy, so fatigue won’t set in as quickly.
The shaft of your paddle is one more thing worth considering before you make your final decision. There are two different types of shafts available – straight and bent, and the choice ultimately comes down to what is more comfortable for you as a paddler.
Straight shafts are generally preferred by advanced kayakers because they allow more flexibility when maneuvering in less-than-favorable kayaking conditions.
Bent shafts, on the other hand, are preferred by recreational kayakers and people with less experience. This is because the bent shape adds comfort to the paddler’s wrists and reduces the strain during this repetitive motion.
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Q: What Paddle Size Do I Need?
Two factors determine the paddle size – your height and the boat width. So, for example, if you’re under 5ft 5in, it’s best to go with a paddle that is shorter than 84 inches. Similarly, a kayaker over 6ft tall should get a paddle over 90 inches. As for the boat width, a wider kayak requires a longer paddle.
Q: How Do I Hold A Kayak Paddle?
When you pick up the paddle, make sure the blades are facing the right way. You want the water to move behind you, so make sure the curved side of the blade is facing towards you. As for the grip, you should have your hands about shoulder-width apart (or 9 inches from the center mark of the paddle).
Q: How Do I Steer A Kayak?
You steer your kayak by simply using a wide sweeping motion with your paddle. This will cause the bow of the kayak to turn away from your stroke, pushing you towards the direction you want.
Q: Why Are The Best Kayaking Paddles Feathered?
They are feathered for improved performance. As one blade cuts through the water, the other sits at a 90° angle to cut through the air with minimal wind resistance. This is excellent for oceans, as you’re likely to experience powerful winds. While beginners will need some time to master the stroke with this type of paddle, it quickly becomes quite natural to use.
Q: What Are The Different Types Of Paddles?
Kayak paddles can be categorized into 3 different types - recreational, touring, and performance. The most common is the recreational style, which is great for beginners and occasional paddlers. On the other hand, if you enjoy longer kayaking trips, you should look into buying a touring paddle with smaller and symmetrical blades. Lastly, people looking to compete should get a performance-style paddle which is lightweight and fast.
Q: What Kind Of Kayaking Do You Enjoy?
This should be the first question you ask yourself when choosing kayak paddles. If you enjoy laid-back recreational kayaking or fishing, the best paddles for kayak fishing come with long and narrow blades that allow low-angle strokes. On the other hand, if you’re after speed and performance, the most excellent kayak paddle should have a larger surface area.
Q: How Much Weight Can You Handle?
This is very individual and varies from one kayaker to the next. If you have more upper body strength, a heavier paddle will feel better in your arms. On the other end, lighter kayak paddles are better-suited for smaller paddlers. For reference, kayak paddles usually weigh between 18 and 40 ounces.
Q: What Type And Style Kayak Do You Use?
You may not realize it, but different types of kayaks may require different paddles. Touring kayaks, for example, are long and sleek so you will require a smaller paddle. In contrast, beginner kayaks tend to be a lot wider and require a longer paddle to adjust for the additional width. If you want to switch seamlessly between different kayaks, it's better to buy a kayak paddle with an extendable and adjustable fiberglass shaft.
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The choice of a paddle has a huge impact on the overall kayaking experience. The most excellent kayak paddle will give you more balance and power in your stroke, allowing you to easily cover even larger distances. Hopefully, our guide and kayak paddles review have answered all of your questions so you can get a top-rated paddle that will make every adventure better.
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