How to Choose a Recreational Kayak Paddle [Video]


There are 4 things to keep in mind when shopping for a recreational kayak paddle: Paddling style, blade size, shaft design and length, and the paddle materials.

Let’s look at each of these…

Your Paddling Style

There are two distinct styles of kayak paddling: High-angle and low-angle. The style you use most of the time is a major factor in the type of paddle that’ll work best for you.
As you can see from this screen shot, there’s a big difference between the two:
Low-angle paddling is a more relaxed style, where you keep the shaft relatively horizontal during each stroke. It’s great for long days on the water. High-angle paddling uses more of a powerful, vertical stroke that gives you more speed.

For more details on the two styles, take a look at: Kayak Paddles: Low-Angle vs. High-Angle.

The Blade Size

A smaller blade is best for responsive paddling, slow moving water and all-around efficiency. It’s also great for common paddling strokes.

On the other hand, a larger blade provides you with more horsepower for a workout. It enables a bigger bite and more control for high-angle paddling.

high angle and low angle kayak paddle blades

The Shaft Style

Kayak paddles come in both bent-shaft and straight-shaft styles. Some people prefer bent-shaft to help ward off potential wrist injuries. You’ll notice the difference most if you’re out for long days, or a few days in a row.

The shaft’s diameter is also something to consider. If you have small hands you may want to look at a smaller shaft size.

The Materials

Kayak paddles are made from a variety of different materials. These materials affect the paddle’s weight, stiffness and performance on the water.

Paddles can be made from plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon.

The further to the left you stay on this list, the cheaper the paddle will be. But it’ll also be heavier. As you move to the right, the materials get lighter and also stronger—as well as more expensive.
The highest-end paddles are made of 100% carbon fiber with a foam core in the blades. This allows for effortless paddling for long periods of time.

Our rule-of-thumb is to buy the lightest paddle your budget allows. It’ll mean less fatigue and soreness over many hours of paddling.

How to Determine the Length of Your Kayak Paddle

Once you’ve decided on a paddle based on the above information, you’ll need to determine the length of paddle you need. This will be based on your height as well as the width of your kayak.

Our Kayak Paddle Sizing Guide tells you all you need to know.

kayak paddler

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