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August 08, 2022 15 min read

Kayak Paddles

Man holding a kayak paddle with a red kayak blade

Did you know that different types of kayak paddles can make a huge difference to your overall paddling experience? There are aluminum paddles, carbon fiber paddles, paddles designed for low angle paddling, and paddles designed for high angle paddling. But, how do you tell which paddle is right for you? 

Well, we’re here to narrow down 10 of our favorite kayak paddles. And, don’t worry, we haven’t just included premium paddles that may be way out of your price range. We have also included high-quality budget-friendly paddles as we understand not everyone can or even wants to splurge large sums of money on one part of their kayaking gear.

If you are looking for a list of more premium paddles, then we have done a separate round-up over on The Top 8 Carbon Fiber Kayak Paddles to Enhance Your Next Kayak Trip. So, if you’re after the perfect paddle to enhance your days out on the water, keep on reading!

The Materials Paddles are Made From

Man holding a orange kayak and a black kayak paddle

Kayak paddles come in a few different materials, but the most popular are aluminum, plastic, fiberglass, and carbon. And, to make things slightly more confusing, the shaft and the blades can sometimes be a mix and match of these materials. 

For example, you could have a carbon fiber shaft paddle with fiberglass blades or a fiberglass shaft paddle with polypropylene (plastic) blades. This mixture of materials helps to improve quality while keeping the costs down. 

Aluminum

If you purchase a kayak, and a paddle comes included, then more often than not, it will be made from aluminum. Aluminum paddles are extremely affordable and also very durable, which is why they’re often used by paddle schools as they’re easy to replace if broken. 

The blades that are paired with aluminum paddles are usually either polypropylene blades or fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades, with the latter being slightly more expensive. 

Now, just by reading that, these paddles sound great. But, they do have one downfall, and that is their weight. When it comes to kayak paddles, weight is a huge factor you need to pay close attention. The reason for this is because if a paddle is too heavy, then you will get tired far quicker than if you were paddling with a light paddle. 

Although aluminum shaft paddles are heavy, if you’re only paddling for recreational reasons, then the additional weight may not cause any issues. But, if you’re paddling over long distances and you want to reach faster speeds, then you might need to opt for a fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is a step up from aluminum, and with that comes a lighter weight and a slightly higher price tag. Fiberglass paddles perform well in the water, and their lighter weight means you can paddle faster and cover more distance before you begin to get tired. 

As we mentioned previously, the materials used for the shaft and blade can be mixed and matched, so you can get full fiberglass paddles or fiberglass shaft paddles with fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades. 

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber paddles are the most premium type of paddle on the market, and their performance really makes up for the hefty price tag that comes with them. A carbon fiber shaft paddle with carbon fiber blades would be considered a high performance kayak paddle. 

These paddles are extremely lightweight, with some being as little as 23 oz. This low weight,  which I'm sure you can imagine, would be incredibly easy to paddle with for the entirety of your paddling trip. 

And, just because they’re lightweight, it doesn’t mean these paddles are flimsy. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Carbon fiber kayak paddles are extremely sturdy and durable, meaning they’ll remain in your kayak gear collection for years to come. 

Paddle Sizing

Woman on a yellow tandem kayak

Along with the materials your paddle is constructed from, you also need to think about its size. We have gone into extreme detail in our article How to Choose a Kayak Paddle, but we thought we would briefly mention it here for you as well. 

Paddle Length 

Your desired kayak paddle length will come down to your height and the width of your boat. Taller paddlers or those with wider boats will need longer paddles, and shorter paddlers or those with narrower boats will need shorter paddles. 

If your paddle is too long, you will find it difficult to move through the water, and if it is too short, you’ll find yourself having to lean into every stroke.

Blade Shape 

Something you may have never thought about in a kayak paddle is its blade shape. The shape of the blade actually does a lot more than you’d think. Some blades were designed to increase power in your stroke, and some work to improve tracking. 

  • Asymmetrical dihedral blade - Narrower and shorter down one side. Increases power and maneuverability.
  • Dihedral blade - Distinctive rib down its center. Improves tracking. 
  • Narrow blade- Lightweight and great for long days on the water.
  • Wide blade -Large surface area to improve power in each stroke.

Along with these blade shapes, kayak paddle blades also come in a low angle or high angle variation. A high angle paddle blade is best for racing or whitewater paddling, and a low angle blade works well for touring and flatwater paddling. 

GILI’s Top Picks: By Budget

Best Budget
Pelican Poseidon Angler Kayak Paddle, Brown
Pelican Poseidon Angler Paddle

The Pelican Poseidon Angler Paddle may have originally been designed for anglers, but this paddle also works well for paddlers on the taller side as it is 250 cm in length. The Poseidon features an aluminum shaft, fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades, an oval shaft design for comfort, and a ferrule system.

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Best Mid-Range
Best Marine Kayak Paddle, Orange Cloud
Best Marine Carbon Fiber Shaft Paddle

Best Marine’s Carbon Fiber Shaft Paddle made our mid-range pick thanks to its carbon fiber shaft, fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades, and ferrule system that can feather the blades to three different angles.

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Best Premium
Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle, Galaxy
Wilderness Systems Pungo Caron Fiber Paddle

As far as premium paddles go, the Pungo by Wilderness Systems is one of the best. This 25 oz paddle is incredibly lightweight, adjustable from 220 cm to 240 cm, and has a fully adjustable ferrule system at the end of its no-slip grip paddle shaft.

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10 of the Best Kayak Paddles

Wilderness Systems Pungo Caron Fiber Paddle

The first kayak paddle to make our list is the Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle. Now, this is the most premium high performance paddle we have today, and it does come with a price tag that may make your eyes water.

Nevertheless, this paddle excels when it comes to power. Wilderness Systems designed the Pungo to deliver powerful strokes while also allowing you to have full control over your kayak. 

At checkout, you have the option of pairing the full carbon fiber shaft with either carbon fiber blades or fiberglass blades. As you now know all about the materials paddles are made from, you will understand that the carbon fiber blades will be slightly more expensive but better quality. 

Something we particularly love about the Pungo is that the length of the paddle is adjustable. Its base length measures in at 220 cm, but you can adjust it to add another 20 cm on top to give you a total expanded length of 240 cm. This feature is part of the reason it made it onto our best kayak paddle list, as tall and short paddlers were carefully thought about in the design process. 

The position of the blades are also adjustable with a ferrule system. If you are unfamiliar with a ferrule system and feathered blades, then we’ll give you a quick rundown. Matched blades are where the blades are aligned with one another. This means both blades are facing the same way at the exact same angle. 

Feathered blades, on the other hand, have an offset. This means that one blade is at a different angle to the other. The offset in the two blades helps to reduce wind resistance when the blade is pulled out of the water. The ferrule system in paddles, like the one in the Pungo, allows you to twist the blades to be in a matched or feathered position. 

In the final design stages, Wilderness Systems also added a no-slip grip to the paddle shaft to prevent the paddle from moving in your hands when wet. They also added drip rings to stop any water from flowing down the blade to the paddle shaft. 

Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle, Galaxy

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Carbon fiber foam core
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Carbon fiber
  • Kayak paddle length: Base length 220 cm but adjustable up to 240 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 25 oz

Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Paddle

The Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Paddle is a huge price drop from the Pungo Carbon Fiber Paddle, and by huge, we’re talking nearly $200. 

Our list today actually features two paddles from Aqua Bound because we think their paddles are extremely high quality without being overly expensive like some others on the market. 

The first is the Manta Ray which features a 100% carbon fiber shaft that Aqua Bound constructed out of seven layers of carbon. This construction produced a strong and lightweight paddle that is excellent for paddlers of all abilities. 

Both blades on the paddle are made from a nylon core with a carbon fiber outer layer, so although they aren’t full carbon fiber, they’re the next best thing. These blades can be adjusted with a ferrule system, and regarding their design, Aqua Bound went with a dihedral design and a high angle to make the paddle a great option for racing or whitewater paddling. 

Some other mentionable features include drip rings to prevent water from entering your boat, a ribber carbon shaft to prevent the paddle from slipping, and a 12% oval grip that aims to improve the paddle’s overall ergonomics.

Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Nylon core with a carbon fiber outer layer
  • Blade style: High angle
  • Shaft materials: Carbon fiber
  • Kayak paddle length:  Available in five sizes from 210 cm - 250 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 29.5 oz

Aqua Bound Eagle Ray Carbon Paddle

As mentioned previously, there are two Aqua Bound paddles to make our list, and the second is the Eagle Ray. Now, there aren’t too many differences between the Eagle Ray and the Manta Ray, but their biggest difference is their blade design. 

The Manta Ray, which is great for racing and whitewater paddling, has high angle blades; the Eagle Ray, on the other hand, has low angle blades to make it suitable for touring and flatwater paddling. We think so highly of these paddles that we had to give you both options depending on your paddling preference. 

Apart from their blade design, the Eagle Ray and Manta Ray share some of the same characteristics like the adjustable ferrule system, drip rings to catch any water from the blades, a ribbed shaft design, and an ovalized grip area.

The Manta Ray, however, is the lighter paddle of the two, with the Eagle Ray weighing 0.7 0z more.

Aqua Bound Eagle Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Nylon core with a carbon fiber outer layer
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Carbon fiber
  • Kayak paddle length: Available in five sizes from 210 cm - 250 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 30.2 oz

Best Marine Carbon Fiber Shaft Paddle

The paddle to make our top mid-range pick is the Best Marine Carbon Fiber Shaft Paddle. The shaft material of the Best Marine paddle is strictly carbon fiber, whereas the blades are constructed from reinforced fiberglass to help keep the price of the paddle down. 

In total, the Best Marine paddle weighs 33.5 oz, and if you compare that to the full carbon fiber paddles, we listed above, the reinforced fiberglass blades make a big difference to the paddle's weight. 

Regardless of its additional weight, the Best Marine Carbon Fiber Paddle is a fantastic option for new and experienced paddlers. The paddle’s shaft can be broken down into two pieces to make transportation easier, and it has a ferrule system, which you can adjust to three positions to feather the blades if you so wish. 

Best Marine even went the extra mile and included a 5 foot long paddle leash so you can securely strap your paddle to your kayak at all times. And, don’t worry, your paddle will float on the water regardless of whether there is a leash attached or not. 

Best Marine Kayak Paddle, Orange Cloud

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades 
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Carbon fiber
  • Kayak paddle length:  Available in sizes 220 cm, 234 cm, 250 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 33.5 oz

Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle

The Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle features a fiberglass shaft and fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades. 

Similar to the other paddles we’ve discussed today, the Carlisle Magic Plus has a ferrule system to adjust its blades. Carlisle also wanted to improve the power within each stroke, so designed the blades in an asymmetric dihedral design. 

If you drop your Magic Plus paddle overboard, then need not worry; it will float on the surface of the water. This feature is especially handy in kayak paddles, as if you do capsize for any reason, you’ll be able to retrieve your paddle fairly quickly. 

Carlisle designed the Magic Plus shaft to have an ovalized grip which helps to improve comfort during touring and recreational days out on the water. They also included drip grips because no one enjoys getting wet while paddling, especially in cold conditions. 

Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle, Surf

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene 
  • Blade style: High angle
  • Shaft materials: Fiberglass
  • Kayak paddle length: Available in sizes 220 cm, 230 cm, 240 cm, and 250 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 35. 6 oz

Bending Branches Sunrise Glass Kayak Paddle

Bending Branches have a range of kayak paddles that could have made our best kayak paddle list, but we chose then Sunrise Glass which features a fiberglass shaft and polypropylene blades. 

Compared to some of their other paddles, like their most popular Bending Branches Whisper, the Sunrise Glass is lighter in weight thanks to its fiberglass shaft. These few ounces may not seem like much, but during a long day on the water, you’ll definitely see a difference. 

Bending Branches wanted their fiberglass paddle to be noticeable, so decided on highly visible yellow or green blades. Let’s face it, if you’re far out in the water and in need of assistance, then people are more likely going to see green or yellow blades waving in the air than black or grey. 

Their polypropylene blades may not be the most premium and lightweight option, but their durability does mean that you can push off from rocks, sandy beaches, or even barnacles without causing any damage.

Like its more premium rivals, the Sunrise Glass also has a ferrule system to feather its blades to 0° or 60°, and its shaft is ovalized to improve overall comfort. 

Bending Branches Sunrise Glass Kayak Paddle, Green

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Polypropylene
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Fiberglass
  • Kayak paddle length: Available in 220 cm, 230 cm, and 240 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 35 oz

White Wolf Carbon Kayak Paddle

The carbon fiber shaft kayak paddle from White Wolf has two polypropylene and 20% glass fill blades. Even though this isn’t a full carbon paddle it is still extremely lightweight at only 28 oz. 

White Wolf added a slip-resistant grip to the paddle shaft, so you don’t have to worry about it slipping out of your hands during your journey. If your paddle does fall into the water for any reason, then it will simply float on the water next to you instead of sinking to the bottom as it is extremely light and buoyant. 

The final notable features of the White Wolf Carbon Shaft paddle is its ferrule system which can be adjusted to three different angles to suit your style of paddling, and its large blades that help you put power into every stroke. 

White wolf kayak paddle carbon fiber blue blade

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Polypropylene and 20% glass fill
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Carbon fiber
  • Kayak paddle length:  224 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 28 oz

Pelican Poseidon Angler Paddle

As we’re edging down the list, we’re getting into the more affordable kayak paddles, and the Pelican Poseidon is a perfect example. This paddle, which is made from an aluminum shaft and fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades, was designed with fishing in mind.

And although Pelican had the idea of anglers using this paddle, this isn’t to say recreational paddlers can’t use it too. You see, the only things that really categorize this paddle to be an anglers kayak paddle are the integrated hook retrieval and a high visibility measurement tape down the paddle's shaft. 

If you’re a taller paddler, or if you have a wider kayak, then you’re going to love this paddle as it measures in at 250 cm long. Pelican also wanted you to be able to adjust it to your needs, so they included a ferrule system that allows you to adjust the blades to a 0° or 65° angle. 

Comfort was also thought about, and Pelican designed their paddle with the popular oval design to reduce wrist fatigue over long distances. 

But, what we will say, is this paddle is pretty heavy compared to the others on our top 10 list. To make it more buoyant on the water, Pelican added two additional flotation blocks that will keep the paddle at the water’s surface if it happens to fall in the water. 

Pelican Poseidon Angler Kayak Paddle, Brown

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene 
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Aluminum 
  • Kayak paddle length: 250 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 42 oz

Pelican Aluminum Kayak Paddle

If you’re shopping on a budget, or if you aren’t too worried about performance or speed, then the Pelican Aluminum Kayak Paddle may be a great option for you. 

This durable aluminum shaft paddle comes in at under $50, making it an extremely budget-friendly option for beginner paddlers or for those who don’t take their kayaks out much. Along with its aluminum shaft, the Pelican aluminum paddle has two polypropylene blades that can be adjusted to a 0˚ or 65˚angle.

This paddle comes in three colors and features drip rings to stop any water from flowing down the shaft.

Pelican Aluminum Kayak Paddle, Orange and Black

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Polypropylene
  • Blade style: Low angle 
  • Shaft materials: Aluminum
  • Kayak paddle length: 220 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 34 oz

SeaSense X-2 Kayak Paddle

The final paddle to mention today is the SeaSense X-2 Kayak Paddle, that comes apart in a two-piece design. 

SeaSense wanted their X-2 paddle to be affordable, so constructed the shaft with aluminum and the blades with polypropylene. As with all things, you get what you pay for, so although this may not be the most amazing paddle on the market, you haven’t forked out an arm and a leg for it. 

Some interesting features include the ferrule system that allows you to lock the blades into three positions,  the drip grips to prevent the water from running up the shaft, and foam rubber grips to help your hands stay in place while paddling.

This paddle is aimed at beginner paddlers that don’t want to invest in a more premium paddle, so keep that in mind. 

SeaSense X Kayak paddle

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Blade materials: Polyproylene
  • Blade style: Low angle
  • Shaft materials: Aluminum
  • Kayak paddle length: 213 cm
  • Kayak paddle weight: 33.6 oz

FAQ’S

🏆 Do better kayak paddles make a difference?

You may think that all paddles work the same, but actually, the materials the paddles are made from play a huge difference in their overall performance. Kayak paddles are usually constructed from one of three materials and those materials are aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. 

Aluminum paddles are the cheapest of the three, but they’re also the heaviest. This extra weight can cause you to tire out far quicker on the water than some more premium paddles. 

Fiberglass paddles are in the mid-range budget and are lighter than aluminum paddles. And finally, carbon fiber paddles are the lightest of the three. 

Having a lightweight paddle really makes a difference when paddling. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, paddling with a heavier paddle will make you more tired than paddling with a lightweight paddle. 


👍 How do you pick a kayak paddle?

There are a few things to consider when picking a kayak paddle. First, its size, then your ideal budget, and then its material build up.

Your paddle size is important because having a paddle too long will cause it to drag in the water, and having a paddle too short will mean you’d have to lean into each stroke. Your height and your kayak’s width will ultimately decide how long your paddle should be.

The next thing you should consider is your budget. It’s important to set a budget before any purchase, so you don’t spend more than what you’re able. So, think of a realistic budget, and then decide on the materials the paddle is made from.

If your budget allows, then you should opt for a carbon fiber paddle with carbon fiber blades. These are the most expensive paddles, but this price reflects in their quality and performance. If you need a slightly cheaper paddle, then a carbon fiber shaft with fiberglass blades is still a fantastic paddle option. 

Even lower down the price list would be a fiberglass shaft with fiberglass blades, then an aluminum shaft with fiberglass blades, and finally an aluminum shaft with polypropylene blades.


🏝️ What Is better aluminum or fiberglass kayak paddles?

A fiberglass paddle is better than an aluminum paddle as it is lighter and more durable. Fiberglass paddles are in the mid-range of the price scale and are excellent paddle options for both beginners and more experienced kayakers. 


❓ Is it better to have a longer or shorter kayak paddle?

The length of your paddle will come down to your height and your kayak’s width. If you’re a taller paddler or if you have a wider boat, then you’ll need a longer paddle. But, if you’re a shorter paddler, or if you have a narrower boat, you’ll need a shorter paddle.

Having a paddle that is too long will make it difficult to paddle through the water. And on the other hand, having a paddle too short will mean you’d have to lean into every stroke, which will get incredibly annoying over long distances. 

Check out our article How to Choose a Kayak Paddle for a more in-depth explanation of paddle sizing.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan


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