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How to Choose a Kayak Paddle for Any Kayaking Lover?

How to Choose a Kayak Paddle
Written by Derrick Riley
Last Update: August 14, 2023

Imagine kayaking as your serious hobby. What seems to be the most important gear after a kayak? Of course, it’s the paddle, and obviously, you’ve got to make the right choice. Without the perfect size and the right type of paddle, your experience as either a kayak angler or adventurist should end up being poor, which is something you won’t appreciate. So, you need to know how to choose a kayak paddle, and this article focuses on it.

Understanding a Kayak Paddle

No doubt, kayak paddle is instrumental in the performance of your water sport. Paddles come in different shapes and sizes. Each design impacts on the manner and speed of your paddling.

You can start your kayak paddle selection procedure considering the length of the rod, the materials used in their construction, and the price. While other factors are important, the fundamental ones are the blade and shaft.

Generally, kayak paddles come in the following kinds:

  • Touring paddles
  • Recreational paddles
  • Whitewater paddle

You also need to realize that once you are out of the water, you don’t want the paddle to become an impediment. For ease of storage, a four-piece and two-piece oars are handy. These numbers mean that you can break down your rowing rod into either four or two parts.

Three Biggest Factors

You now know the factors that help you decide on the most appropriate kayak paddle. The design of the paddle is vital, and so is the texture of the rod as well as how long the shaft is.

Depending on the nature of your kayaking, you can settle for the various subclass of these three factors. Therefore, a recreational tour, a daylong marathon as well as cold weather canoeing all require different sets of paddles.

So, How to Choose a Kayak Paddle?

Choosing a kayak paddle is as tricky as choosing a kayak itself. You can now tell that the design and the size of your paddle can make all the difference in your canoeing excursion. As such, your adventure on the river could turn out to be either a pleasant one or a strenuous agony.

An inappropriate paddle length would either hinder your hands from making a perfect stroke or will have you straining to avoid delving too much in the water. Hence, the type of paddle you settle for could affect your padding speed, comfort, and level of endurance. Let’s now look closely at how to choose the right kayak paddle using each of these aspects.

Paddle Design

When you think of rowing, it’s a unique experience. Seasoned rowers will quickly concur that kayaking in an open sea, a slow-moving river, a swift ravine, or a lake all offer different water body mass. The water temperature also impacts on your rowing effort.

For these reasons, your paddle design is essential. Paddle varies in their lengths, blades, and shapes.

1. Blade Design

Blades are the tip that hit the water when you row your kayak. Therefore, efficient blade performance is paramount. Depending on your paddling style, you should consider the length and the shape of the blade.

High-Angle vs. Low-Angled Blades:  When you are inclined to paddle at a 90-degree angle above water, then you should consider picking an oar with a short but broader blade. This short length permits quicker but powerful strokes. These blade types are advantageous when rowing in fast water or doing marathon race.

The asymmetrical dihedral blades – as they are known – offer an advantage of paddling more water even though the depth could be shallow. They feature a rib at the center. This encasement allows for smoother water flow when rowing.

On the other end, if you are the type who enjoys rowing just above the water and keeping your paddle parallel to the water surface, perhaps you should consider using a low-angled blade.

In this particular move, the blade allows for more relaxed paddling but still punches the power to propel the kayak. The blades allow for longer strokes while maintaining the cruising speed.

Feathering vs. Straight Blade: When the two blades are feathered, they offer a greater wind and water resistance. Feathering denotes the angle at which the two opposing blades form. In this situation, a slight tilt to the corresponding blades offers better control.

As such, a feathered blade paddle allows you to strike water with less energy effortlessly. Simultaneously, the other edge – out of the water – is angled to slice through the wind. This skewed alignment saves you acute wrist strains in the process.

If you decide to select a flat blade, you are likely to encounter more wind resistance when rowing. Here, you fight both against water resistance while the top module is forcing through the wind. Furthermore, your wrist is under constant strain from acute angling you need for the paddle to hit the water.

2. Shaft Design

The paddle rod differs in many kayak dowels. There are two broad categories – the straight or the kinked rods.

Besides, the shaft design enables you to dismember the rod into many smaller parts. These small elements allow for easy storage.

Feathered vs. Matched Shafts: A feathered shaft denotes a slight misalignment on the ends of the rod. The corresponding blades are skewed a few degrees. This misalignment allows for a better rod handling as well as greater rowing power.

When the shaft is matched, they tend to be the same on both ends. This similarity, however, has a disadvantage in the way paddle works. You need more energy to make a perfect stroke in water. Hence you easily wear down.

3. Adjustable Lengths

Choose a Paddle that has adjustable heights. The adjustment is made possible by the inclusion of the ferrule. You can screw in an additional range to make the blade friendly when you opt for high-angle rowing. Similarly, you can shorten it by removing a segment of the rod for the short angled rowing. This will ensuring your safety during paddling.

Two-Piece vs Four-Piece: A two-piece kayak paddle features extractable blades and shafts. The two modules are attached to each half blade, joined in the middle making, this them two pieces. On the other hand, the four-blade paddle has each edge extracting and the shaft spitting into two. These make four pieces in total.

While the two-piece kayak paddle offers more stability when stroking, it presents a problem when the storage space is limited. On the other hand, the four-piece paddle aptly stows well within small confinement. However, it’s a bit flexible due to multiple joints which reduces the stroke performance in the water.

Thick vs Thin Shafts: A thick rod is more comfortable for your hand. The oars are typically made from fiberglass for more excellent durability. This allows for ease and comfortable hand grip, allowing you to perform thousands of stroke unstrained.

However, not all people have the same hand size. Ladies are also avid surfers but have smaller hands. Hence they prefer kayak paddles with thin shafts. Many find that a thin handled-paddle is lighter and offer a better grip. It’s also convenient to grasp even in shallow water. For tandem kayaks, thin shafts are ideal.

Straight vs. Kinked Rods: A wavy-shaft blade has a widely corrugated rod. The kinking allows for better handling and maneuvering. Again, the hand grip is much more comfortable, therefore, reducing handling stress.

The straight rod blade is more demanding on your wrist and elbow joints. The degree of manipulation is higher than the kinked paddle.

Paddle Materials

Kayaking paddle blades and shafts comprise mixed materials. There are polymers, carbon fiber, aluminum, polypropylene, and as well as carbon. You will also note that some paddles are made from composite materials blending two or more different compounds.

1. Blade Material

Paddle blade material affects the longevity and reliability as well as the cost of a kayak paddle.  

Kayak blades featuring plastic materials are the most popular types. They are cheaply priced making them the first preference for cost-conscious kayakers. However, the stuff makes the blade malleable. Stroking in water is difficult due to bending. Besides, it’s less durable and chips when extensively exposed to strong sunshine. 

These reinforced blades consist of several compounds. You may find carbon, the polymer as well as fiberglass. These elements retain the lightweight that plastics provide. However, they are toughened to withstand the harsh sunshine and cruel punishment. Still, they hold firm in the water making them perform better than the paddle with plastic blades. However, they cost slightly more. 

These are the best for endurance performance. The most prominent material here is carbon fiber. Even under intense heat and rough water, they maintain steady stroke with minimum effort from you.

They are light, hence relieve the rower from the fatigue associated prolonged strokes. Further, these materials help extend the durability of the kayak paddle. The only disadvantage of this kind of a blade is the steep prices.

2. Shaft Material 

Like the blade, the kayak paddle shafts are also available in many textures. These include aluminum and composite materials. 

These are cheap to procure. Further, they are durable. However, they are susceptible to weather vagrancies. When it’s cold, handling them is problematic due to the low temperature. Conversely, when it’s hot, they heat up quickly causing discomfort in your hands. 

The main compounds found in the composite shafts are fiberglass and carbon fiber. They are ultra-lightweight while highly durable. The main advantage they offer is the comfort in use even under extreme weather conditions. However, they are expensive.

Paddle Size

Another factor you need to consider when choosing the best kayak paddle is the paddle size. You need a kayak whose dimension would help you enjoy your water rowing. However, the width of your kayak, your height, the size of your hands, as well as your sitting configuration all determines the ideal paddle size.

1. Kayak Width

Kayaks come in many widths. They are designed for specific purposes. You will note that a recreational kayak is much shorter while the inflated kayak is longer. In between these two widths, you find the touring class, seafaring kayak as well as the fishing type.

When you are in a narrow kayak, you need a shorter paddle to access water well and perform the necessary strokes. But you require a longer paddle to strike water when you are in a broader kayak. Otherwise, the strike will be too weak to hit the water. Instead, you will be rubbing against the kayak gum.

Using an incorrect paddle size increases fatigue and joint aches besides sapping much energy.

2. User Height

Your height has something to do with the size of the paddle you require. For tall kayakers, the seat should be positioned at a greater distance from the water surface. Also, talle,r people feel the need for long kayak paddles.

In the event you are short, your stifled height will set you closer to the water surface. You, therefore, will find a shorter paddle just fine for your water sport.

3. Seat Height

Different kayaks have different seats. The height of a particular seat influences your distance from the water. This distance impact on how you row your kayak conveniently. When you are near the water surface, you tend to row in a lower angle. This acute rowing style forces you to select a shorter paddle.

Some kayaks feature two sitting positions – high and low. If you decide to seat on the higher platform, the height increment elevates you from the water, forcing you to make high-angled strokes. This needs a longer paddle.

Other Considerations

But your height, sitting position, and the kayak width are not the only factors that you’ll need to check before choosing the best paddle.

Other pertinent consideration like the need to carry with you kayaking accessories also matters. You will still note that your surfing location also helps you to select a suitable kayak paddle. There is so much difference when you paddle in a sea, a lake or white water. Each environment brings about different experience and hence requires a specific kind of paddle.

The more skilled you are at kayaking, the better off you are at how to use a kayak paddle for each of the sporting environment. You don’t need a thick paddle with a very wide blade to efficiently row your kayak, while you could use a paddle with a lighter shaft and asymmetrical blade for better strokes. You are just setting yourself to exhaustion if you chose this route.

Price is perhaps the most critical consideration. You need a quality paddle, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to have one. You, therefore, need to balance between performance, durability, and pricing, to get the best of both worlds.


From the above explanation, you will note that different factors you;ll need to consider before choosing. From the blade configuration, the shaft design, to the materials used to construct a particular paddle, you can sample diverse experiences.

You want to enjoy each excursion using your beloved kayak paddle. You realize that kayaking can be exciting and big fun. Selecting the right kayak paddle is all you need to experience the thrill, without the fatigue and ligaments inflammation synonymous with the wrong paddle selection.

About the author

Derrick Riley

I’m Derrick in my early 40s, but planning to bag from every saltwater source in America. In practice, I’ve explored over a dozen bodies of water that hosted almost all of the saltwater game fish. My personal favorites are brook trout and striped bass though. I don’t mind catching bluegill and white crappie either.

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