The paddle you use greatly influences your manoeuvrability, propulsion, ease of paddling, and overall enjoyment. It could literally make or break your trip.
The paddles that come as part of the kayak package are cheap, flimsy, and often break at the most inconvenient of times – like at the beginning of a three-day camping trip or halfway through navigating rapids.
If you’re looking to upgrade, our guide will ensure you get the best kayak paddle for your needs.
Our only request is that you don’t go cheap (if you can), and you take our advice on board (literally).
Kayak paddles can make the single biggest difference to your kayaking experience, and it’s worth spending the extra money on a high-quality paddle. But don’t worry, we’ve included a range of kayak paddles to suit every budget. Check ‘em out below.
Kayak Paddle Reviews Comparison Table
Aluminium / Plastic
Aluminium / PVC
Carbon / Nylon
Carbon / Nylon
Carbon / Fiberglass / Nylon
Scroll down to see full reviews!
What to Look Out For When Buying a Kayak Paddle
Kayak Paddle Length
Paddles that are too long or short are uncomfortable to use and lead to ineffective strokes that waste energy. Paddling is a hard enough workout without adding extra resistance.
The right length of paddle for you will depend on the kind of kayaking you are doing, your paddling style, the width of your kayak, and your height.
For touring, still water, or recreational kayaking, there often won’t be any obstructions and a longer paddle (82-95 inches) is better suited for building and maintaining speed.
For whitewater kayaking, the flow of the river will carry you downstream, and the paddle isn’t so much for building speed, but for helping with quick adjustments in direction and angle. Whitewater kayakers, therefore, opt for shorter paddles that don’t get in the way.
Your height has the most influence on kayak length. The taller you are, the longer your paddle. If you need help selecting a paddle length, check out our kayak paddle sizing guide.
Comfort and Ease of Use
Although paddle length will mostly determine comfort, there are a couple of features that can make a paddle so much more enjoyable and easy to use.
Hand Grip – You’re going to be paddling for hours on end, so you want to consider the feel of the paddle in your hands.
Shafts come in narrow and wide options. Narrow shafts are commonly used by women or by anyone with smaller hands. The shape of the shaft also varies with circular and oval sections available - the latter offering a more ergonomically fitting grip.
The hand rests range from nothing more than a few raised lines, to full on foam padding. This isn’t so much an issue, as comfort can be improved by adding removable hand grips or wearing paddling gloves.
Rotatable Shaft – Many paddles allow you to rotate the plane of the blades. When the blades are offset from each other (i.e. not in line with each other), they are said to be feathered.
The advantage of feathered blades is that they offer less wind resistance and don’t put as much strain on your wrist. By having one blade offset 30-45 degrees, the blade that isn’t in the water is angled so that it cuts through the wind.
Shafts that offer multiple rotation settings also allow paddlers to change to the control hand they are most comfortable with.
Drip Guards - Kayaking is a water sport, but it’s no fun sitting in a puddle all day. Make sure your paddle has drip guards that stay in position and actually work.
Materials and Construction
The perfect paddle is both lightweight and strong. Lightweight paddles won’t drain your energy as quickly, and you’ll be able to travel greater distances with less fatigue.
However, paddles that have both desired qualities come at a premium.
Cheaper paddles tend to be constructed from aluminium and plastic. They are the heaviest of all but are also easy to care for and fairly durable. They’re good for beginners, recreational kayakers, and also make great backup paddles.
Mid-range models tend to feature fiberglass construction which is lighter than aluminium but just as hard-wearing. The material also has a narrow temperature range and fiberglass paddles don’t get as cold as aluminium paddles – something you’ll be thankful for on a winter morning.
Carbon fibre is reserved for top-of-the-line paddles. The material has a superb strength to weight ratio and will stand up to rough treatment, but is also light enough that it won’t knacker your arms paddling with it all day. If you’re touring, or you want a paddle that will last a lifetime, go with carbon fibre.
If you have limited storage space or plan on using the paddle as a spare, be sure to check how many pieces the paddle comes in and the total disassembled volume.
Can it fit in the hull of your kayak if it’s used as a backup? Will it fit in your storage cupboard alongside your neatly-packaged inflatable kayak?
Our Pick of the Best Kayak Paddles
Now you know what to look for, hopefully buying a kayak paddle is that much easier.
Kayak paddles range in price wildly depending on material quality and which of the above features are included. Our kayak paddle reviews cover a wide range from budget models for the novice kayaker, to premium options that are more expensive, but are worth it considering their higher standard of performance, quality, and durability.
The following are our top five kayak paddles. Enjoy!
Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle
The Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle is a great entry level paddle suitable for recreational kayaking. It is a consistent best seller with purchasers vouching for its performance, comfortable fit, and great value - and at less than $50, this paddle offers seriously good value.
And while the Shoreline Marine is cheap, it certainly doesn’t sacrifice on quality or features.
It comes complete with drip guards, a three position system for maximum customization, foam grips for added comfort, and it also breaks down into two parts for easy storage.
The 96-inch aluminium shaft is lightweight and easily handled but also sturdy enough to take some knocks. The paddle has contoured, rounded blades for added speed and efficiency.
A couple of users have reported that the blade snapped when pushing off, however, these reports are few and far between, and Shoreline has been quick to replace damaged paddles.
The Shoreline Marine Kayak is a great beginner paddle due to its lightweight construction, comfortable grip, and low price.
SeaSense X-Treme II Kayak Paddle
The X-Treme II from SeaSense is a great option for the budget conscious paddler. It’s the cheapest paddle we would recommend that is still fit for duty.
The paddle is available in 84” and 96” and comes in all black, or with orange or blue blades (which look awesome by the way).
It disassembles into two pieces for easy transport and storage. The aluminium shaft is sturdy and doesn’t slosh about when the two pieces are connected.
The PVC blades aren’t the thickest, but still of decent quality.
The drip rings and foam hand grips provide added comfort while the three adjustable settings allow feathered and non-feathered options.
In all honesty, there are better quality paddles available. There’s no denying that the X-Treme II is a budget paddle. However, it’s a great paddle for the money and performs better and is more comfortable to use than paddles that are double its price.
So who is the SeaSense X-Treme II for? We would recommend it as an upgrade from the junk paddles that come as part of the package, as an inexpensive paddle for recreational kayaking, and as a reliable spare.
Seattle Sports Sea-Whisper Carbon Paddle
Stepping up from the budget options, is the Seattle Sports Sea-Whisper paddle.
The carbon fibre shaft makes this paddle light and ensures your effort goes into moving you forward and not holding up the paddle. The body is also extremely durable and able to withstand heavy-duty use.
The dorsal blades glide through the water effortlessly and are constructed from glass-reinforced nylon that is tough as hell.
The paddle also comes with a couple of innovative features that stand out when paddling.
Oversized, octagonal drip guards prevent water from freezing your hands and loosening your grip. The guards also glow in the dark, which combined with the luminous green blades, means you’ll be seen for miles whether sun up or sun down.
The 10cm quick and easy adjustment allows you to adjust the length and feathering angle to get the perfect fit. A leash hole at the adjustment buckle also means you never have to fear losing your paddle again. The paddle completely separates in the middle for easy storage.
Built-in louvers make it super easy to latch onto docking points, tree branches, or anything else you want to hold onto for a quick pit stop.
Exceptional quality combined with unique features all for an affordable price, make the sea whisper a winner in our book.
AquaBound Manta Ray Carbon Paddle
The AquaBound Manta Ray is extremely durable and lightweight due to a carbon shaft and blades that are a composite of nylon and carbon.
The oval shaft has the right amount of flex that it is reassuringly stiff, yet comfortable and easy to use. The oval shape provides superior grip.
The carbon construction makes this paddle stronger and lighter than previous AquaBound models, and you’ll notice that you feel less fatigued during long outings.
This is partly due to the Manta Ray blades having a slightly larger surface area than other paddles, giving greater propulsion with fewer strokes. Force is transferred effectively without feeling that you’re battling with the paddle.
The large blades make it great for sea kayaking and navigating lakes and large, open rivers.
The paddle is ideal for larger kayaks or high angle paddlers that want a strong paddle to really catch the water and push off with powerful strokes.
The paddle can be broken down into two pieces for easy storage. When joining the sections, the snap button ferrule makes it easy to offset the blades (0-60 degrees) for different feathering options and to adjust for right or left hand control.
Constructed with top quality materials, the AquaBound Manta Ray is a high-quality, efficient, and sturdy paddle that will help you glide effortlessly through the water. Without splashing a lot more cash, you would be hard-pressed to find a better paddle.
Werner Camano Carbon Paddle
The Camano is a head-turning, premium kayak paddle that is simply a joy to use.
The shaft is constructed from lightweight carbon which means easy movements and less fatigue.
The medium-size, dihedral blades are made from stiff, durable fiberglass. They offer a powerful bite and are perfectly proportioned for steady, forward momentum.
The size of the blade slightly favours shallow angle paddlers, but this paddle is of such a high-quality that all kayakers will find it comfortable to use and will be able to get a good bite from the water.
The ferrule adjusts in 15-degree increments for maximum comfort and personalization. Once locked, the two pieces of the kayak are held rigidly, and there is no slack.
The only drawback of the Camano is the price. Many beginners would baulk at the thought of spending $300+ on a paddle, but they haven’t felt the difference a premium paddle makes.
Is it honestly that great a difference?
YES! Without a doubt.
The Camano is lightweight, easy to manoeuvre, and makes paddling a breeze. It’s well-built and always feels solid, even when used by aggressive, deep paddlers that put a lot of thrust into their strokes.
If you’ve moved beyond the beginner stage and desire a superior-quality paddle that will last a lifetime, we highly recommend the Werner Camano.