Which kayak paddle is best?

While it makes sense to pay attention to getting the right kayak, finding the best paddle for you is a close second in its impact on performance and comfort. Finding the right water displacement capacity, weight and length can help make your kayaking experience smooth and comfortable. If you’re looking for an all-purpose kayak paddle that doesn’t break the bank, the Pelican Poseidon 89-Inch Paddle is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy a kayak paddle

Length

One of the main considerations when buying a kayak paddle is length. There are several things to take into account when choosing yours, including your height and arm length, as well as your kayak’s width. Taller, longer-limbed kayakers should opt for kayak paddles ranging from around 86-98 inches, with the longer side of the range being ideal for a kayak that’s over 32 inches. Scale down if you’re under 5 feet, 6 inches or have a kayak narrower than 23 inches.

Bent shaft vs. straight shaft

Bent shafts, also known as ergo shafts or sometimes crankshafts, are ergonomically designed to be easier on the wrists and arms and allow you to keep them in a more natural position as you paddle. If you tend to suffer from wrist fatigue or pain or plan to kayak for long hours or in choppy water, you may want to consider a bent shaft paddle. Straight shaft paddles are less expensive, tend to be lighter and you can shift where you put your hands as you paddle, allowing for more variety of movement. If you’re going to kayak recreationally for short stints, a straight shaft paddle is a great choice.

Blade shape

While there’s a lot of information you can consider when thinking about blade shape, it’s easily broken down into two basic shapes: low-angle paddles and high-angle paddles. Low-angle paddles are best for recreational paddling and are the least tiring of the two. These are meant to be kept below the level of your shoulder as you paddle. High-angle paddles tend to have shorter shafts and their blades are wider. They tend to give you more maneuverability and power but are recommended for more experienced paddlers since they can tire you out more quickly. 

What to look for in a quality kayak paddle

Material

Starter paddles are generally made of aluminum, which is inexpensive and relatively light. They’re a great choice for casual kayakers, with a few caveats. If you opt for aluminum, confirm it’s coated, or it may stain your hands over prolonged use. If you intend to increase your time on the water, you may want to consider a carbon fiber paddle, which is lighter and will cause less strain over time. The downside of carbon fiber is that it’s more expensive. 

Adjustability

Some paddles are solid construction, but others have break-down points that allow you to store them in a smaller space. The latter is convenient if you have limited storage space in your home or car.

Paddle leash or tether

Standard with some paddles but not with others, one of the best things you can get for your kayaking peace of mind is a paddle leash. The question is not whether but when you’re going to lose your grip on your paddle and having it tethered safely will make sure you’re not on a creek without a paddle.

How much you can expect to spend on a kayak paddle

Starter paddles cost around $40, while more sophisticated designs and lighter materials cost around $170-$200. 

Kayak paddle FAQ

How can I help my kayak paddle last longer?

A. Though even inexpensive paddles are constructed for long-term wear, taking basic precautions can keep your paddle in great working order for longer. A simple thing you can do to extend your paddle’s life is to rinse it after each use. Even if you’re kayaking in fresh water, it’s possible for contaminants to get on the paddle, so hose them off when you return home. If it begins to develop a film, wash gently with a mild soap and water (dish detergent works fine). While using the paddle, avoid heavy impacts to it and do your best to keep from scratching it. Store it in a temperature-controlled space such as a basement or garage for the winter to keep it out of freezing temperatures.

How do I keep my paddle from dripping water onto my hands as I paddle? 

A. Invest in a pair of kayak drip rings. These cupped rubber rings prevent water from flowing up the paddle’s shaft and onto your hands and arms. They cost less than $10 and can make your kayaking experience much more pleasant. 

What’s the best kayak paddle to buy?

Top kayak paddle 

Poseidon Paddle 89 inch

Pelican Poseidon 89-Inch Paddle

What you need to know: A versatile and comfortable starter paddle, this mid-length paddle is good for most kayakers. 

What you’ll love: Built-in drip rings make this a naturally comfortable paddle.

What you should consider: The plastic coating only covers about two-thirds of the aluminum, so you may get some staining if you regularly touch the uncoated part.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top kayak paddle for the money

Kuda Performance Sport 96 in Black Kayak Paddle with Wrist Tether

Kuda Performance Sport 96-Inch Black Kayak Paddle with Wrist Tether

What you need to know: This affordable option folds in two for easy storage and transportation. 

What you’ll love: The feathered spoon shape of the blades helps your strokes be more effective in the water, making for a less fatiguing kayaking session, plus the built-in tether makes sure you never lose your paddle.

What you should consider: At 96 inches, this paddle is on the longer side, so it’s not the best choice for kayakers with shorter limbs or narrow kayaks.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Worth checking out

Field and Stream Chute Aluminum Kayak Paddle

Field & Stream Chute Aluminum Kayak Paddle

What you need to know: The asymmetric blades allow for smoother strokes. The paddle feels light and maneuverable for ease of use. 

What you’ll love: This comfortable paddle comes in a variety of colors. It has built-in drip rings, although they’re on the smaller side. 

What you should consider: It may not hold up to heavy use, so opt for this one if you’re an occasional recreational paddler. 

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

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Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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