How to Choose A Kayak Paddle: All You Need to Know

Choosing your kayak paddle is just as important as choosing your kayak. It is not a decision you want to make in a vacuum, as a wrong paddle can render whatever kayak you own useless. A poor choice of kayak paddle will not only make for an unpleasant kayaking experience but can also put you at the mercy of the elements. Avoid this as you continue reading to find out how to choose a kayak paddle. 

The following are considerations when choosing a kayak paddle:

  1. The Paddle Length
  2. High and Low Angle Paddles
  3. Kayak Shaft Materials
  4. Kayak Blade Materials
  5. Feathering
  6. Shaft Design
  7. Blade Design

7 Considerations when choosing a kayak paddle

It is one thing to learn to kayak and a completely different thing to have all your kayaking essentials. There is none more essential than the paddle, bar the kayak. As a result, it is crucial to get it just right by carefully considering the following: 

1. The Paddle Length

The kayak paddle length is arguably the most important consideration when paddle shopping. Other factors might improve the performance, but there would be no performance in the first place if you go out on the water with a wrong length kayak paddle. 

Three factors influence your choice of paddle length: your height, the width of your kayak and the type of kayaking. 

If you are taller, you would need longer paddles to adequately reach the water. as you will sit higher in the kayak relative to a shorter person. 

The width of your kayak and the purpose of kayaking are intertwined. Slimmer kayaks allow better tracking and are the go-to option for people looking to cover longer distances at great speed. Consequently, it becomes crucial to shed as much weight as possible, and one way to do this is with a shorter paddle. In contrast, recreational or yoga kayaking is more about maintaining balance than carrying speed, and their wider build makes for longer paddles. 

2. High and Low Angle Paddles

Another choice you must make is whether you would opt for a high-angle or low-angle paddle. However, it is not much of a choice as your paddle type chooses you. This is true because your skill level and style dictate whether you need a low-angle or high-angle paddle. 

Low-angle paddles are for kayakers looking to waddle on the water for recreational fun. The blades on these paddles are long and narrow, and it cuts into the water with the arm no higher than shoulder height. It is preferred by less technical kayakers and exerts relatively less stress on the muscles when kayaking. 

High-angle paddles are for experienced paddlers looking for better tracking in the water. The blades on this paddle-type are shorter but wider. It enters the water closer to the kayak at cheek height, allowing the kayak to stay steady in a forward motion. The downside is that it puts more strain on the muscles. 

3. Kayak Shaft Materials

The paddle shaft is the rod that connects both blades, and the material from which it is made significantly influences your performance. There are a couple of options for you to choose from, thy are: 

  • Plastic: This is a rare option but would go easy on your wallet. The only other option that is more budget-friendly is an aluminum shaft. 
  • Aluminum: Aluminum shaft is the most affordable option. If budget is top on your list of considerations, you might want to take a second look at the aluminum shaft listings. They are very popular at rentals because they can withstand heavy use and are relatively durable. You might want gloves when using aluminum shafts because it can get very hot or cold, depending on the weather. 
  • Carbon: Carbon shafts are the most expensive of the bunch, and this is because of the ultralight nature of the material. If your kayaking would require you to carry relatively more speed, then you need a light shaft. 
  • Fiberglass: Fiberglass shafts are about helping you find balance. If you want some of the performance from the carbon shafts without hurting your account balance, then this shaft is perfect for you. 

4. Kayak Blade Materials

There are a few options to consider when choosing your paddle blade material. You need little to no flex from the blade, so all your inputs are adequately transferred and used in paddling your kayak. Consequently, the different properties of the soon-to-be-listed blade materials mean the efficiency would vary. Let’s find out why and by how much. 

  • Polypropylene blades (Plastic): Plastic would be an oversimplification. These are usually blends of polypropylene and polymer. This paddle option is the most affordable because of its durability and versatility. Being plastic does not make it immortal, as it is known to snap after some use. Even when it does not crack, it can flex in water, which negatively influences your paddling efficiency.
  • Carbon Fiber Blades: This will cost you much more than other paddle options, but it would be worth it. Like carbon shafts, these paddles are lightweight and very durable. They are overkill for the recreational paddler but a must for anyone looking for some sporting, fast-paced action as they do not flex in water. 
  • Fiber Glass Blades: These are middle of the range, affordable enough to be friendly on your pocket and durable for versatile use. The blades are rigid and do not flex when used in the water. 

5. Feathering

Paddling already requires you to work against the water. The last thing you want is to worry about increased air resistance. One way to keep air resistance minimum is by using feathered paddles. The effect is negligible if you paddle at gentler speeds and more crucial in areas requiring you to carry more speed and change direction more quickly. 

A feathered paddle usually has both blades at different angles on the same plane. This ensures that when one blade is in the water, the water is horizontal and cutting through the air. Unfeathered paddles have both blades on the same plane, which could see you paddle through more air resistance. 

6. Shaft Design

There are many shaft design options for you to choose from, each with an advantage over the other. They are: 

  • Straight shaft: This is the most common. These are regular straight rods connecting both blades. It is relatively affordable but offers nothing special in terms of storage or comfort. 
  • Bent shaft: These have sections of the shaft that are warped to allow for better grip and more comfortable use. It minimizes discomfort and, in some cases, will enable you to paddle for longer. 
  • Two or four-piece shaft: These are shafts that you can dismantle into two and four pieces, respectively. This does not affect the performance in any way, as when assembled, they become straight or bent shafts when assembled. However, pulling them apart makes them easier to transport and store. 
  • Small diameter shaft: These are regular shafts but with a smaller diameter—a go-to for people looking for more comfortability options or people with smaller hands. 

7. Blade Design

There are two blade designs, Symmetrical and Asymmetrical designs. The former has the same shape on either side of the shaft center line, and either side of the blade has the same effect in the water, making it perfect for beginners. On the other hand, asymmetrical blades have different blade shapes on either side of the shaft center line. It is preferred by more experienced kayakers and allows you to transfer more power when paddling. 


Choosing a kayak paddle is more challenging than it might seem. Especially if you are an expert kayaker not looking to compromise on paddling efficiency, one way you can make your choice of kayak paddle easier is by following the considerations above. The right length, paddle angle, feathering, shaft and blade design material and design puts you on track to getting the right paddle for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a longer kayak paddle better?

The length of your paddle is determined by your height, width of your kayak, and purpose for kayaking. If you are between two different lengths, you should also go for the shorter option because it will be lighter and should offer more efficient paddling. 

What is the purpose of having wider blades in a paddle?

People think wider paddles are better because they can sweep more water and believe it will propel the kayak faster. While this might be true in a way, you need to focus more on your paddling technique as a wider paddle blade means more weight and less paddling efficiency.