Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Kayak Paddle

If you think all paddles are the same, you might be doing more work on the water than you need to do.

Woman kayaking over clear blue water
Having a paddle that’s meant for your kayak, experience level, and the conditions can make all the difference in the world.Overmont

Kayaking is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the outdoors. The feeling of independence and intimacy with a lake, river, or bay is something not found in a power boat or even paddling tandem in a canoe. Choosing a paddle that matches your boat, experience level, and budget can be confusing. Pay attention to these three criteria when shopping for some waterborne self-propulsion.

Shaft Material

BENDING BRANCHES Whisper 2-Piece Snap-Button Recreational Kayak Paddle
An aluminum paddle is lightweight, but not as light as paddles with carbon shafts.Bending Branches

Aluminum paddles are economical, durable, and usually two-piece construction. That makes them easy to stow in a hatch-back or kayak hull during transport. An aluminum paddle is perfect for entry level or flatwater paddling on lakes and rivers. Just make sure the grip section is coated so that the aluminum doesn’t stain your hands. If you are looking to reduce weight, a carbon fiber paddle is the lightest option. They are more expensive, but for those who rack up a lot of nautical miles, the reduced weight is worth the added cost.

Paddle Length

Best Marine Kayak Paddle Accessories
If you paddle a wide kayak, a long paddle is better, but if your vessel is narrow, a paddle with a short shaft is what you want.Best Marine and Outdoors

Choosing the right paddle length is generally a function of two things: your kayak’s beam, or width, and your height. Broader boats, such as those preferred by kayak anglers, require a longer paddle, while the narrow beam found in a touring or sea kayak calls for a shorter length. Secondly, paddle length increases with an individual’s height and reach. Beyond that, the vessel’s seat height and a kayaker’s personal paddling style (flatter versus more vertical strokes) influence paddle length. The flatter the stroke angle relative to the surface, the longer the paddle required to make solid contact with the water.

Blade Angle

Overmont Kayak Paddle SUP Stand-up Paddleboard
If you’re getting a paddle to share with other kayakers, one with an adjustable shaft length is best.Overmont

Some paddlers prefer blades aligned in the same plane, while others want a bit of offset in the blade angles to accommodate the natural wrist rotation on every stroke. No matter the preference, a multi-hole, push-pin attachment of the two shaft halves will allow blade configuration to suit any paddling style.