Choosing a Kayak Paddle




Choosing a Kayak Paddle

Choosing a Kayak Paddle


Kayak paddles are available in various materials, each with advantages and disadvantages. The choice depends on the type of kayaking you plan to do (touring, whitewater, or recreational), your skill level & strength, your budget, and your personal preference. 

Here are some common materials used in making kayak paddles:

Aluminum: These paddles are among the most affordable options. They’re durable and can withstand rough handling and rocky environments. They do tend to be heavier than paddles made from other materials, which can lead to fatigue during extended paddling sessions.

Fiberglass: These are lightweight and provide a good balance between durability and performance. They are stiffer than aluminum paddles, which means less energy is wasted in flexing the paddle. Fiberglass paddles are suitable for various paddling styles, from recreational to touring and sea kayaking.

Carbon Fiber: Known for their exceptional lightweight properties and stiffness, they are a top choice for performance-oriented paddlers and racers due to their efficiency in transferring power to the water. Carbon fiber paddles are more expensive but because of the responsiveness, you’ll feel less fatigued during long trips.

Wood: Appreciated for their aesthetic appeal and natural feel, they are often handmade and can be customized to suit individual preferences. Wooden paddles are relatively lightweight and offer good performance, especially in calm water conditions. They may require more maintenance to prevent warping or damage from water exposure.

Plastic: Typically budget-friendly and durable, they’re suitable for recreational kayaking and beginners. While not as lightweight or responsive as fiberglass or carbon fiber paddles, they’re a good option for casual paddlers.

Nylon: Similar to plastic paddles in terms of affordability and durability, they’re resistant to corrosion, making them suitable for use in saltwater. Nylon paddles are often used for kayak rentals and as spare or backup paddles.

Hybrid: Some kayak paddles combine multiple materials to offer a balance of performance and affordability. For example, a paddle might have a fiberglass shaft and nylon blades. Hybrid paddles can be a good compromise for recreational paddlers looking for a cost-effective yet functional paddle.

When choosing a kayak paddle, the right material will enhance your paddling experience and make your time on the water more enjoyable.


A properly sized paddle reduces fatigue and strain on your arms and shoulders while maximizing your paddling power. Here's how to determine the correct kayak paddle size for you:

Paddle Length: The length of your kayak paddle is a critical factor. The ideal paddle length depends on your height, the width of your kayak, and your paddling style.

High-Angle vs. Low-Angle Paddling: Determine your preferred paddling style. Are you a high-angle paddler or a low-angle paddler?

High-Angle PaddlingHigh-Angle Blade

This style involves a more vertical paddle stroke (perpendicular to the water). Paddlers typically use a shorter, wider blade and a paddle with a shorter shaft. This more upright paddling style creates a more powerful stroke. Paddlers who prefer a faster cadence (whitewater, racing, touring) usually choose this shorter shaft, wider blade paddle.

Low-Angle Paddling


With a more horizontal paddle stroke (parallel to the water), paddlers who use this more relaxed, cruising stroke often find that a paddle with a longer, thinner blade is the most energy efficient. The most common paddling style in North America, it’s used for recreational kayaking, touring, and long-distance paddling.

Most paddles have an asymmetrical blade, relatively narrow and shorter on one side. This is so the surface area of the blade is more uniform when it’s pushing though the water.

A rib down the center makes it a dihedral blade, allowing water to flow evenly over both halves of the blade. Blades lacking this feature will flutter more, making it more difficult to track straight.

Sizing Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines for choosing the correct paddle size based on your height and paddling style:

High-Angle Paddling: The paddle length is often shorter than for low-angle paddling. The paddle should generally be 190 cm to 210 cm (75 inches to 83 inches) long. Taller paddlers may prefer a slightly longer paddle.

Low-Angle Paddling: The paddle is typically longer to accommodate the shallower paddle stroke. The paddle should generally be 210 cm to 240 cm (83 inches to 95 inches) long. Taller paddlers may still choose a longer paddle within this range.

Testing Paddle Length: It's a good idea to try out different paddle lengths to see which one feels most comfortable and efficient for your paddling style. Experienced kayakers or paddle shop experts can help you out.

Kayak Width: The width of your kayak can influence the required paddle length. Wider kayaks may require longer paddles to reach the water comfortably.

Adjustable Paddles: Some kayak paddles have adjustable shaft lengths, allowing you to fine-tune the length based on your needs and the conditions you're paddling in.

Ultimately, the goal is to find a paddle length that allows you to paddle efficiently and comfortably without straining your body. Experiment with different lengths, test your paddling strokes, and adjust as needed until you find the perfect paddle size for your kayaking adventures.

A Bent Shaft Paddle

Instead of a straight, cylindrical shaft, a bent shaft paddle is bent or angled at specific points. This design can offer several advantages for paddlers in terms of ergonomics and efficiency.

Key characteristics and benefits:

Bent Shaft Design: The shaft of a bent shaft paddle typically has one or more bends or angles. These bends are strategically placed to create a more ergonomic and efficient grip.

Ergonomics: The primary advantage of a bent shaft paddle is improved ergonomics. The bent design allows your hands and wrists to be in a more natural and comfortable position while paddling, minimizing wrist rotation during each stroke. This can reduce strain and fatigue during long paddling sessions, making it a popular choice for marathon paddlers and those who spend extended periods on the water.

Increased Efficiency & Control: Bent shaft paddles are designed to optimize the angle of the blade in the water, providing better power and efficiency with each stroke and making it easier to maintain a consistent paddling technique. This is valuable for maintaining a straight course, navigating through obstacles, and executing precise maneuvers, especially in challenging conditions like white water kayaking.

Variability: Some bent shaft paddles offer adjustable bend angles, allowing paddlers to fine-tune the paddle to their preferred grip and technique.

Paddle Types: Bent shaft paddles are available for both kayaks and canoes, and they come in various styles, including those for touring, whitewater, and racing. The specific design and bend angles may vary depending on the intended use.

Some paddlers may prefer the feel and control of a straight shaft paddle, and the choice comes down to personal preference and comfort. If you're considering a bent shaft paddle, try one out to see how it feels in your hands and how it affects your paddling technique.

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