Kayaking is a great sport for fitness enthusiasts who love being outdoors and who enjoy water sports. Kayaking is environmentally friendly too. Whether practiced on still water or white water, the equipment needed is relatively minimal — helmet, kayak (whether purchased or rented), life jacket and a paddle. Of course, you’re not going anywhere without a paddle. The type of paddle you choose will affect speed and maneuverability, so there are several factors you should consider before selecting one to buy.
Let’s take a look at the best one’s on the market today:
The Whisper II paddle is a reasonably priced paddle that appeals to beginners. It has a two-piece, easy-to-assemble aluminum shaft and the option to feather the blades on the left and right side according to preference.
Werner Paddles has been making its products since the 1940s and prides itself on “ultimate paddle performance.” The company makes lots of paddles at all kayaking capability levels and price points including its Baja fiberglass two-piece paddle.
This model is good for the budget-conscious and is suitable for kayakers of all skill levels. Fiberglass blades are built to last and its straight shaft has options for hand placement. A notable feature is a one-button adjustment system that changes the angle on the left or right side up to 45 degrees and allows kayakers to paddle unfeathered or feathered.
The Escape E paddle is also reasonably priced and versatile. The blades are composed of nylon that are reinforced with fiberglass, a composition that encourages a nice slice through the water, and an aluminum shaft.
One of the best features is that it also comes in two pieces so it can be disassembled for travel and easily stored. The Cannon Escape E can also be customized so it can be offset with three different angle settings (making the blades feathered) or used as an unfeathered paddle. It comes in lengths ranging from 220 cm to 240 cm and weighs just 39 ounces.
The Skagit FG paddle, also from Werner, is mid-priced and appropriate for recreational kayaking. The blades are composed of fiberglass reinforced nylon for low-angle strokes. The carbon-blend shaft comes apart in two pieces for easy storage and has the company’s Smart View Adjustable Ferrule System that is designed to customize blade feathering.
The shaft is also available as a one-piece system for those who prefer this more traditional type of paddle. The Skagit FG paddle comes in lengths ranging from 205 cm to 260 cm.
Also reasonably priced and suitable for casual kayakers is the Magic Plus paddle. The blades on this paddle are made of fiberglass-filled polypropylene and come in bright colors that pop on the water so the kayaker can be easily spotted.
The paddle shaft is composed of fiberglass, which provides some flexibility and sturdiness to accommodate kayakers with either a slow or swift stroke. The Carlisle Magic Plus paddle ranges in length from 220 cm to 240 cm. Its fiberglass construction makes it a lightweight paddle for kayaking.
Another paddle at a lower price point is the Tybee hooked fiberglass paddle that is designed for kayak fishing. It doesn’t take up too much space from fishing gear because it can be disassembled into two pieces.
It has a high-angle blade that provides superior maneuverability that’s good for moving through waters with rocky bottoms. In addition, it is lightweight, the better to carry home your fishing trophies.
Aquabound has been making kayak paddles in the United States since 1991. Its Sting Ray paddle has fiberglass blades and a carbon shaft, making for a paddle that’s very light. This composition also makes it a bit more expensive.
The shaft comes in two pieces. Assemblage is quick and the pieces are secured with the company’s Posi-lok system which promises that the pieces stay put. It is a light and strong choice for lakes.
At the higher-end price range is Werner’s Powerhouse Whitewater paddle. It comes with a one-piece shaft in natural bent or straight shaft models. The carbon blades on this paddle are made for power strokes and constructed of fiberglass.
If all this makes selecting a kayak paddle seem too complicated, don’t worry! You can find online charts that provide guidance for selecting the correct length of paddle based on your height and size of your kayak. On average, most recreational paddlers will do fine with a 220 cm paddle.
Finding a Paddle That’s the Right Fit at the Right Price
Choosing a kayak paddle that’s right for you often means taking two additional things into consideration — your height and the width of your kayak. This has to do with your breadth of stroke. For example, a shorter person requires a shorter paddle and a taller person a longer paddle. The width of the kayak comes into play because the blades on your paddle have to clear your craft as you move on the water.
Paddle lengths usually vary from 200 cm to 250 cm and, yes, they are almost always expressed in metric measurements. Below is a list of some of the kayak paddles that you will find are available online. Again, it’s worth noting that paddles at the lower prices tend to be constructed of aluminum and plastic, which is fine and often a sound choice if you are an occasional and recreational kayaker. Mid-price paddles are often made of fiberglass and are lighter in weight while heavy-duty kayak paddles for rapids and whitewater are often constructed of carbon and built to withstand rough and rocky waters.
Your Kayaking Activity and Experience on the Water Affects Your Choice of Paddle
Where you choose to kayak and how much experience you have kayaking will have an impact on the kind of paddle you select. Kayak paddles are equipped with either low-angle blades or high-angle blades. Are you a recreational kayaker, even a beginner? If so, you’ll find that a paddle with low-angle blades works best.
Paddles with low-angle blades are very suitable for people who have a slow, steady and relaxing paddling stroke. Paddles with low-angle blades also perform well when kayaking in still waters. Low-angle blades are flat and slim. You can find them in a variety of compositions from aluminum, nylon, plastic, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Beginners may find that they don’t have to spend a lot of money on a paddle that will get the job done.
As a rule of thumb, paddles made from aluminum, nylon or plastic are less expensive and stand up to the wear and tear of recreational paddling. These paddles at the lower end of the price scale usually have an aluminum shaft and blades made out of plastic or a composition of plastic and another material. One thing you should note is that aluminum paddles are often heavier in hand because they weigh more.
For some kayakers this can be reassuring as it gives a sense of greater control, but others may find they tire more easily because of the extra weight. Recreational kayakers will also generally benefit from a paddle that is longer is length. The extra length helps to increase speed.
Athletic, experienced, ambitious and competitive kayakers, on the other hand, will be better off choosing a paddle with high-angle blades to take their sport to the next level. Paddles with high-angle blades provide more precise navigation, especially in whitewater where speed and resistance are greater and you need that precise control. Paddles with high-angle blades require your hands to be placed higher on the shaft. This positioning requires more strength on the part of the kayaker to execute a stroke so you’ll get a more intense workout with a high-angle blade.
Those who enjoy kayak fishing are also bound to find that a paddle with high-angle blades works to their advantage just because it does navigate water so well, especially water where you may come into contact with rocks or sediment. A high-angle paddle is often made of material that is more lightweight such as carbon fiber. Those kayakers tackling rapids and white water may do well to consider paddles that are shorter as well because they enable them to better target their direction. In whitewater, it’s more important to control your kayak than build speed. The rapid water will provide most of the momentum.
Another thing to consider before buying a kayak paddle is to look at whether you need a feathered or nonfeathered blade. Nonfeathered blades are aligned with each other. Feathered blades are set at an angle to one another often somewhere in between 30 and 45 degrees. Blades that are feathered have ergonomic benefits and tend to be more efficient at positioning and speed.