Next, to the kayak itself, the most critical element to any kayak trip is the paddle. It may not seem like much at first, but the paddle that you bring kayaking is essential. It helps determine your speed and power in each stroke. It can even decide whether water will splash on you with each stroke!
No one wants to be up to the river without a paddle, so it’s better to have the best paddle possible. For those who don’t know where to look, here are eight of the best kayak paddles for 2020.
How to Choose the Best Kayak Paddle
People should consider several things before they decide what paddle they want. Four big ideas should decide what paddle to get, and even stuff within them to consider.
This one is pretty simple. The bigger the kayak someone is using, the longer the paddle will need to be. A person’s height is also a factor to keep in mind. Hence, paddles get sized based on these two factors.
What can make it confusing is that paddles get measured in centimeters. Kayaks, though, get measured in inches. Different brands can have variations between specs, so keep that in mind. For people who fall between two sizes, go with the shorter one.
2. Low and High-Angle Paddles
Paddles are angled to provide for different methods of paddling. A low-angle paddle is for relaxed, recreational kayaking in calm water. The hand stays below the shoulder.
High-angle paddles have blades closer to the boats. It has a broader edge and needs more precision; if you don’t have that, then it will tire you out very fast.
The lighter a paddle is, the more expensive it will end up being. Focus stays on the blades, which will provide the most force or drag for the paddles. The type of material used determines the amount of energy that has to be put into each stroke.
The different types of materials for paddles are:
- Plastic – Kind of a blanket term. It’s cheap and used by a lot of recreational paddlers. It’s flexible enough to not snap in two, but that means less energy goes into each stroke.
- Fiberglass – Lighter than plastic, but more durable and rigid. It can chip, but it won’t crack all the way. It’s very efficient in the water.
- Carbon-Fiber – The high-end in blade materials. Its ultralight, ultra stiff, and great at getting the most out of each stroke.
- Shaft Materials – Most paddle shafts are made from aluminum. They’re able to get hot or cold from the weather, so keep that in mind when called for it.
For the most efficient paddle, pair a carbon fiber or fiberglass blade with a shaft of the same material. The efficiency will be worth the price.
4. Blade Design
Most paddle blades have an asymmetrical shape, short and narrow on one side. This makes it so that the surface of the blade is uniform when pushing in the water. The smaller leaves are better for long-term paddling. In contrast, more full bladed paddles will provide quick and powerful strokes. There are also fishing blades that have notches to retrieve lines and hooks.
5. Shaft Design
There are two kinds of shafts: straight and bent. Bent rods have positions for the hands the lessen the discomfort. The rods themselves can break down into smaller pieces, either with two or four parts.
Blades are either placed in two ways on a paddle. Feathered edges are offset by an angle to each other, while matched sides are aligned. They can adjust to suit the angle that is best for the user, though often in increments of only 15-degrees or so.
8 Best Kayak Paddles of 2020
Carlisle Magic Plus
Best for Touring
AQUA BOUND Sting Ray Carbon
Best Carbon Fiber
Carbon-reinforced abXII Nylon
Bending Branches Angler Classic
Best for Fishing
epX Engineered Polymer, Fiberglass Reinforced
Cannon Paddles Escape E
Best for Beginners
AQUA BOUND Manta Ray Carbon
Best for Whitewater and Sports
abX Carbon-reinforced Nylon
Carlisle Kids Saber Touring
Best for Kids
Carlisle Taboo Stand Up Adjustable
1. Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle – Best for Touring
For thirty years, Carlisle has dedicated itself to creating great kayak paddles. Built with touring watery locales in mind, they offered some of the best in recreational paddles and made from some of the most robust material there is, the Magic Plus paddle’s built for touring.
Measuring between 220-240 centimeters, or 86-94 inches, and weighing 35 oz., the Magic Plus is tough. The blade’s base is plastic, but it’s reinforced with fiberglass. The shaft’s also made from fiberglass, making it sturdy yet light as a feather. All the stiffness to get power in a stroke, but flexible enough to relieve joint stress!
The blades themselves are asymmetrical and contains minor spooning to grab the water. This lets paddlers get more power behind each stroke, making it ideal for the average kayak.
- Made from plastic wrapped in fiberglass
- Measures up to 94 inches
- Shaft is tough yet flexible, putting less stress on the joint areas
- Can bend when used in longer kayaks
2. AQUA BOUND Sting Ray Carbon – Best Carbon Fiber
Hand-built in Osceola, Wisconsin, the AQUA BOUND Sting Ray’s by paddlers, for paddlers. It’s a paddle that’s ready for adventure and willing to go the distance.
Ranging in length from 210-250 centimeters, or 81-98 inches. The Sting Ray weighs 28.8 oz. The blades are medium in size and asymmetrical and made from nylon reinforced with abX resin carbon fiber. They’re tougher than blades coated in fiberglass so that they can last for years.
The shaft’s made from seven layers of carbon fiber. The center’s got an oval grip area for a stronger hand position while paddling, and has a classic push button design. Press the button, split the paddle in two, or adjust it. It can adjust up to 60 degrees for those who want their blades feathered. While stuck together, the two parts of the shaft will stay secure and wobble free.
- Between 210-250 centimeters in length
- Blades made from nylon reinforced with carbon fiber
- Center has strong grip area
- Easy to separate push-button design.
- Can get water trapped inside
- Blades not made from just carbon fiber.
3. Bending Branches Angler Classic Kayak Paddle – Best for Fishing
For thousands of years, people have used kayaks for fishing. That tradition’s kept alive in modern times. Every fishing kayak needs a right fishing paddle, though, and the Bending Branches Angler Classic fits the bill.
Available in sizes from 220-260 centimeters, or 86-106 inches, this paddle is for those who want to catch the big one. The blades are regular nylon, but they’re reinforced with a layer of fiberglass. They’ll offer anglers smooth strokes from start to finish. Even better, one blade has a notch to retrieve hooks and bait, so anglers won’t have to worry about a bad cast.
The shaft, also made from fiberglass, has some cool features. Like many paddles, it can split into two pieces for storage and travel. It has the standard, three-hole snap button on it for adjusting the blade’s angle. As a result, both edges can move from 0 to 60 degrees. The center has ovalized grips for greater control, and the whole thing has a tape measure on its sides.
Even the colors the Bending Branches Classic comes in having the purpose. The orange’s meant to help people spot it anywhere, no matter how rough the waters may get. The green’s for stealth to sneak up on fish.
Bending Branches has been in business since 1982, and they’re the world’s largest producers of quality canoe and kayak paddles. They have a breakage rate or less than 0.03% in all that time. That is an impressive track record and guarantees the quality of what they deliver.
- Measures 220-260 cm
- Splits in two
- rotates from 0-60 degrees
- Shaft has tape measure and made from fiberglass
- Bending Branches has 0.03% chance of breakage
- Blades have hook retrieval
- Hook retrieval can get caught on rope and cords
4. Cannon Paddles Escape E Kayak Paddle – Best for Beginners
Everyone has to start somewhere, and the Cannon Escape E Paddles is an excellent place to start. Measuring 220-240 centimeters, of 86-94 inches, this lightweight, the aluminum shafted paddle has the standard bells and whistles. The nylon blades are reinforced by fiberglass, but the big draw is the shaft itself. Made with a heat-treated aluminum, it has the ovalized grips needed to reduce stress on the joints.
Like many paddles, the Escape E can split in two and comes with three blade angles that go from 0 to 60 degrees. Drip rings are present to keep water from running down the shaft and getting a person wet.
- Great paddle for beginners
- Measures 220-240 cm
- Nylon blades reinforced by fiberglass
- Ovalized grips
- Shaft made from heat-treated aluminum
- Amazon may not always provide the drip rings like it says it will
- No real innovations to be made.
5. AQUA BOUND Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle – Best for Whitewater and Sports
Another AQUA BOUND, the Manta Ray’s made for extreme rafting on whitewater. Available between 210-250 centimeters, or 82-98 inches, and weighing 29.5 ounces, this paddle’s lightweight but durable. It’s a master of high-angle paddling, and its nylon, abX blades can move in the water.
Aside from the standard features of paddles, the Manta Ray has a new ferrule system. The ferrule system is what connects the two halves of a kayak. The Manta Ray has the new Posi-Lok ferrule. To use it, all you have to do is press the button to separate the halves, then just put it back together. No need to touch anything. Same thing for feathering.
- Super easy Posi-Lok ferrule system
- Blades made from nylon reinforced with carbon fiber
- Center has strong grip area
- Blades not made from actual carbon fiber
6. Carlisle Kids Saber Touring Kayak Paddle – Best for Kids
Not every one of these paddles is for adults. Plenty of kids like to go out on the water as much as grown-ups. Since they’re still kids, though, they need a smaller paddle to fit them. That’s where the Carlisle Kids Saber Touring Kayak Paddle comes in.
Measuring 5 feet long and constructed from an aluminum shaft and two symmetrical blades, it’s the perfect size for kids. A low-flexing plastic/glass hybrid reinforces the edges. Since it’s for kids, this paddle won’t split in two. It’s a one piece paddle, but given its size, storing it won’t be a problem.
- 5 feet long, easy to store
- Two symmertical blades made from plastic/glass hybrid
- No need to split into two pieces. It’s too small for that, but doesn’t need it.
- Great way to teach kids how to kayak.
- It’s for kids.
7. Carlisle Taboo Stand Up Adjustable Kayak Paddle – Best Hybrid
This isn’t just a kayak paddle; this is for stand-up paddle boards! Carlisle Taboo SUP Adjustable Kayak Paddle can alternate between two roles. With it’s two T-Grip handles, it can become a 75 inch SUP paddle or an 82-inch kayak paddle.
In its kayak paddle form, the Carlisle measures 230 centimeters or 90 inches. At 39 to 42 ounces, it may be a little heavier than some paddles, but that’s just the aluminum-clad shaft. To protect against debris, the blades are made of high-impact plastic. They can take a beating and keep going.
- Hybrid between SUP and Kayak paddles
- 82 inches in kayak paddle form
- Blades made from high-impact plastic
- Can be heavy at times
- Better as a kayak paddle, anyway
8. Kwik Tek Kayak Paddle – Best Curveblade
Kayaking is all about trying to get as much power behind each stroke of the paddle. Paddle blades can come in various shapes and sizes to provide for optimal paddling at different angles. The KwikTek Curveblade, though, is meant to get as much energy out of a stroke as possible.
Split into two sections to allow for easy storage; the Kwik Tek is 84 inches from blade to blade. The shaft weights at 1.27 pounds, while the leaves are about 3 pounds each. Like many paddles, the Curveblade offers the ability to adjust the blade angle.
The blades curved shape makes this ideal for long, smooth strokes in the water. It’s lightweight enough to float on top of the sea; losing it in the water won’t be as big of a problem. The best part is, the shaft has drip rings, and foam hand grips for extra comfort!
- Curved blades great for strong strokes
- Has the standard features of a paddle
- Foam hand grips
- Floats on the water
- Heavier than what some people may be used to.
- Not as long as some people would want.
Kayak Paddle FAQ’s
Q: Why is a Person’s height and Width a Factor?
Your height and width/weight will affect the balance of the kayak. Someone who’s taller will need a longer paddle to move effectively in the water, just like they would need a longer kayak.
Q: Do all Paddles Float?
No, not all can float on the water.
Q: What Angle Should I Paddle In ?
That is up to your preference. The more experienced paddlers like to do high angle to get more movement, but that can tire out someone who’s not used to it.
No one wants to be up creek without a paddle. That’s neither as a metaphor or a very literal scenario. So, finding the right paddle for a kayak is just as important as the kayak itself.
The paddle will not only provide you with movement, but it will help you navigate through tough currents that you would be at the mercy of otherwise. In other words, choose the right paddle for your kayak trips!