How To Choose A Kayak Paddle Or An Oar That Suits You?

The Best Kayak Oars – Buyer’s Guide to The Best Kayak Paddles

Kayaking is a fantastic way to spend a day relaxing your mind while you move your body.

However, to truly get the most of our kayaking, you need the right gear. Firstly, you need a solid kayak that fits your needs, and you can click here to learn about the latest kayak types and which one is for you. Then, you need an excellent paddle that will you allow you to kayak fast and far without tiring your hands too much.

Because you see, that is key to a splendid kayaking experience. Getting to go far and explore the most you can without too much hassle.

So, with that said, let’s explore the world of kayak paddles or oars, as they are also known.

Other interesting articles:

Kayak paddles guide

If you are just starting out and you don’t know much about kayaking in general, and you feel lost with all the options to choose from, no worries! We have all been there, and I promise by the end of this buying guide, you will be able to pick just the right paddle for you.

Basically, the best kayak paddle for you is the one that feels the most comfortable in your hands when paddling and also the one that meets your requirements of kayaking based on its specs.

Of course, here the price will play a significant role, but that’s more subjective, so I will leave that up to you to decide.

Now, speaking of the best oars one piece for you, note that just like with the kayak, buying a paddle is also an important thing to pay attention to because it’s not just a tool but your best friend when kayaking. It can literally make or break your kayaking experience.

For instance, if your paddle is too heavy, which is the case with some of the cheapest ones, you will get tired more often and likely to give up kayaking too soon.

So, without further ado, here are the most critical factors that will determine the purchase of your kayak paddle.

kayak-paddles
A friendly meeting of kayak paddles / oars

The Size

While there is an array of kayak oars on the market, the most produced length ranges from 210 to 260 centimeters. There is a big difference between these paddles, and they will influence how you handle your kayaking in general.

For instance, if you have a wide kayak, you will need to buy a longer paddle that will reach the water on both sides easily.

But, if you have a sea kayak, then the paddle needs to be a bit shorter because of its built.

Additionally, you need to take your torso height into consideration. How so? Well, you should sit on a chair, and like that, you should measure the distance between your nose to the level you’re on the chair. The number you get is your torso height, and based on this, you will choose the right paddle length for you.

However, another thing to put into consideration is whether you paddle at a low angle or you do high angle paddling. This also affects the size of the kayak paddle. Because if your hand is positioned below your shoulders while you paddle, then you do low-angle paddling, while if your hand is higher than your shoulder, then you are a high-angle paddler.

If you do low-angle paddling, then you need to buy a longer paddle, and if you are a high-angle paddler, then you need a shorter paddle to use.

kayaking-woman

The Blade and Shaft Type

Another important thing about picking just the type of kayak paddle you need is the blade type.

However, this is where most folks get confused because of the wide variety on the market. Don’t let that confuse you because for kayaking you only need the double-bladed type that when it comes to both performance and price.

You see, when kayaking, you usually are raising the blade higher throughout the tour. So, a double blade will perform best.

Also, you will find many different materials that blades are made. Predominantly these are plastic blends or polymer into which fiberglass nylon is infused

So, if you are looking for a more affordable kayak paddle, then pick nylon or plastic blade.

On the other hand, the fiberglass blades are great performance-wise because they are lighter, BUT there are more expensive.

Also, manufacturers use aluminum material for the shafts and blades as this material is pretty cheap but quite durable. These types of paddles are great if you are just starting out with kayaking, and you are looking to try out and experiment with different types of paddles.

Best-Marina-Carbon-Kayak-Paddle
A very light carbon-fiber kayak paddle gives you the very best performance

However, if I were to say which one would be optimal, then I would go with the most lightweight blades made of carbon-fiber. Indeed, these are the most expensive, but they are suitable for all types of kayakers, and I would say, bottom line, they are worth it.

Especially if you are a passionate full-time kayaker who paddles multiple times a year in all seasons, then investing in a carbon fiber blade is absolutely great because they are not only the lightest, so they’ll tire your hands less, but they are also the most durable.

Before we go into the shaft designs, there’s another thing to pay utmost attention to, and that’s the blade shape. The blade shape affects your paddling performance significantly, so pay attention to this too!

Namely, on the market, we have two main types of blade shapes: the long skinny blades and the short flat blades.

The long skinny blades are great if you are a low-angle paddler, and they are perfect for deep and calm waters. On the other hand, the short flat blades are for situations in which immediate power is needed for stopping or steering. These are great if you are a high-angle paddler because you will need the extra energy to each stroke that they deliver.

The Different Shaft Designs

STRAIGHT VS BENT

If you don’t know, the shaft of a blade is the part that runs between the blades in a line, and it gives you the ability to control the paddle and create all the different strokes.

With that said, they all come at different pricing, starting with the straight shafts being the cheapest ones on the market while the bent shafts are a little pricier, but I would say worth the investment because they put less strain on the hands, especially on your wrists.

However, the straight shafts will be great for more vigorous strokes and beating off strong currents while the bent shafts are great for providing you with a smoother paddling stroke and less fatigue on the hands.

kayaking-sunglasses
It is most common to find a kayak paddle with a straight shaft

The Feathering

If you are a devoted kayaker, chances are you will be kayaking through some nice and warm weather conditions but also through some rough and challenging weather conditions. So, when there are strong winds, the blade offsetting will help you reduce the wind resistance.

By reducing this, you have a higher efficiency of the paddle, and it is much more comfortable on the hands too. The matched blades are aligned by contrast, and each paddle on the market is made so that you can choose between feathered or matched blades, and you can even decide what hand rotates in the stroke for the best experience.

1 PIECE, 2 PIECE AND 4 PIECE

The single-piece set offers the lightest possible weight and has a strong shaft too. If you go for kayaking on a daily basis, you’ll find the single piece set more comfortable. The standard paddles are available in 2 parts while the 4 piece set is the one that is further broken down. 4-piece paddles are available in smaller sizes, and they are useful if you want to save space and have a greater number of kayakers on board.

THE DIAMETER OF THE SHAFT
When you have a standard-diameter shaft, you have one that’s good for most of the kayakers out there. However, if you have smaller hands, then you will be much better off with a shorter shaft diameter for utmost comfort.

child-kayak-paddle

The Adjustable Paddles

If you have multiple kayaks that you will be touring in and you want to get a single paddle for them all, then getting an adjustable one with a length adjustment of 15 cm will be the most practical option.

These adjustable paddles are also great if multiple users of different heights will be using the same paddle.

The Design of the Kayak

The design of your kayak is also essential when it comes to choosing your paddle because, as I mentioned earlier, wider kayaks need longer paddles so that you can reach the water on both sides.

However, here are some scenarios where most people make mistakes:

  • A tall person with a narrow kayak will need to have the same paddle length as a short person with a wide kayak
  • Solo kayaks require shorter paddles as compared to the tandem kayaks
  • When there are two people of the same torso but different seat height, they will need different paddle lengths

Proper paddling is what you need to maintain at all times so that you can keep the blade placement in the water properly. You won’t feel comfortable at all if you bend your knuckles on the deck, and you won’t even want the blade to face too much or too little power in the water.

tourists-kayak-landscape

The Body Stature

When it comes to personal experiences, sometimes people, even if they have the same heights and same overall body stature, they might prefer a different paddle type. This is because paddling is a subjective experience, and each person’s level of comfort is different.

Here the torso length is also important as it determines the best and the most suitable length that will work for your kayak paddle.

The Type of Water

While picking a paddle according to your built is the most reliable method of getting it right, these additional categories will help tremendously. The following will also help you narrow down all the choices you are presented with.

Plus, perfecting your kayak paddle for the type of water you will mostly be in only upgrades the whole experience. So take a look at what paddles are needed for the different bodies of water.

LAKES AND RIVERS
If you are going to kayak in lakes or rivers mostly, then touring kayaks are perfect because you will probably spend most of your time in it.

If you like camping, exploring, day tripping, and river running, then touring kayaks with a recreational paddle will be what you need for the best experience in water as well as optimal performance.

However, if the water is shallow and fast, you need to pick a paddle that’s durable, too, especially if you come across rocks, gravel, or sand. Also, choosing a paddle with a wider blade is good in shallow water with many obstacles.

kayaking-sunset-beautiful-landscape

SEA TOURING OR FLOWING WATER
If you are sea touring most of your time, then what you will need is a lightweight paddle.

Touring paddles and performance kayak paddles are great for these kinds of extended trips because they won’t tire your arms as much.

Most pro paddlers will agree that responsive paddles with a carbon shaft are an excellent choice because they reduce the weight during the journey.

Also, fiberglass blades or compression molded carbon is quite lightweight and delivers higher power strokes.

While those are most expensive, obviously, if you get sore shoulders from long trips, then investing in such a paddle is mandatory!

HANDLING THE WHITEWATER
Regardless if you are going into whitewater kayaking or not, there are types of kayak paddles called whitewater paddles that are durable, efficient, and can really cut off the water.

They are made of fiberglass or carbon, both lightweight but durable materials that give you extra strength and flow control in fast streams.

The reason why it’s essential to pay attention to the type of water you need the paddle for is that whitewater, for instance, tends to be rugged, and you need to fight them with a paddle that can take some hard knocks and still be useful for further use.

For extremely unsettling waters, the 4-piece paddle comes really handy because it is easy to store and can help you in adverse situations.

whitewater-kayaking

The Different Types of Kayak Paddles

One step closer to choosing the ultimate paddle for you is this last step, and that’s the different types of kayak paddles.

While they come up with everything and anything these days, these 4 types of kayaks are the most commonly used ones and promise the most in suitable kinds of waters.

TOURING KAYAK PADDLE
These are very comfortable to use since they are made for long trips. Their design is light, ergonomic, and durable and is most suitable for calm rivers and lakes, or even the sea.

THE RECREATIONAL KAYAK PADDLE
These paddles are a bit heavier but are made for shorter, recreational trips and are relatively inexpensive. If you are just starting out, this is a great starting point.

THE WHITEWATER KAYAK PADDLE
These are some of the most durable paddles made to withstand impacts of any kind. If you are a pro kayaker who likes adventures in whitewater where you come across a lot of rocks, sand, and sediments, then with a paddle like this, you are able to fight against strong currents easily and quickly cut through them.

These kayak paddles are made with thicker shafts and wider blades so that you can control the intense situations more easily.

THE PERFORMANCE KAYAK PADDLE
The performance-focused kayak paddles are durable and are extra light made to enable you to control strong waves and currents.

They can improve your performance if there is low wind resistance and give you more power and speed overall. Of course, they also reduce hand fatigue with their ergonomic design.

So, ladies and gents, that’s it for today’s lesson on choosing the right kayak paddle for you. I truly hope I was able to help you with your choice. Let me know in the comments what is your pick and why. I’d love to know your opinion. Also, don’t forget to visit my Facebook and Instagram account for more cool tips and recommendations on kayaking and paddle boarding.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)