Best Kayak Paddle in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide


We like to think that a paddle is the most important piece of gear for a kayaker because right, you got the best vessel, but how are you going to move it? 

From experience, we know that the wrong paddle can ruin your day. Sometimes it’s longer than needed or just not strong enough to propel your yak through rough water or against the tide. 

Whether you’re touring, fishing, venturing across oceans, or exploring new whitewater, we put ourselves in your shoes and gathered the best kayak paddles for all situations. So, get ready to meet your next kayaking buddy that’s going to take you to the furthest distances without breaking a sweat.

Comparison Table:

ModelWeightLengthBlade materialShaft material
Werner Camano Premium 28 oz.220-260 cmFiberglassCarbon blend
Aqua Bound Sting Ray 28.8 oz.210-250 cmCarbon-reinforced abXII NylonCarbon fiber
Attwood 11768-240 oz.213 cmPlasticAluminum
Bending Branches Whisper37 oz.210-240 cmFiberglassAluminum
SeaSense X-TREME 36.8 oz.213 cmMolded plasticAluminum

The 5 Best Kayak Paddles in 2020

1. Werner Camano Premium – Best Overall

Werner Camano Premium

We’ll begin our reviews with one of the best kayak paddles for lake or ocean touring. This bad boy boasts a carbon fiber shaft and fiberglass blades for ultimate strength and lightness. The blades have a dihedral shape, meaning they feature a slight curve to provide smooth and stable stokes. 

The paddle cuts through water like a knife through butter, so it’ll provide you with powerful strokes together with an all-around relaxing experience. Wind, aggressive waves, and even crazy motor boaters won’t be able to slow you down.

Weighing only 28 ounces, it’s the lightest model on our list. Even people with wrist pain or shoulder injuries will have no problem paddling for miles and will enjoy themselves throughout the whole trip.

It comes in lengths ranging from 220 to 260 centimeters, so you can choose whatever fits you better according to your personal height and kayak measurements. 

Apart from the unmatched quality and smooth performance, it comes in an array of colors and designs to not only match several tastes, but also to enhance your visibility on the water. 

Although the paddle comes at a hefty price, it’s worth every penny, and it’s suitable for all skill levels. If you’re a beginner, you’ll finally be able to keep up with others, and if you’re a professional, it has got everything you need. 

Pros:

  • Featherweight  
  • Unbreakable blade and shaft
  • Beastly performance
  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Efficient for long distances
  • For beginners and advanced kayakers

Cons:

  • Hefty price tag

Bottom Line

Werner Camano Premium is the kind of paddle you won’t trade for anything. If you like going on long touring trips, go for this choice, as it’ll provide you with a smooth and powerful performance to slice through water for hours with no resistance.


2. Aqua Bound Sting Ray – Best All-carbon Paddle

Aqua Bound Sting Ray

What makes this model stand out is its premium construction. Made of top-notch carbon fiber, the shaft and blades are lighter, stiffer, and sturdier than those of any other models. They’re built to last and can take a beating and come out unscratched.

In addition to their durable construction, they boast unique shapes, rendering the paddle ideal for pros and amateurs alike. The shaft is slightly curved in the grip areas, making it easy to handle no matter where you position your hands. 

But that’s not all! The blades are adjustable, allowing for unlimited feathering angles. This way, you can adjust the angle of attack easily and get powerful strokes or relaxed swings, depending on your paddling style at the moment.

To further add to its versatility, it comes in a wide range of lengths starting from 210 to 250 centimeters, so you can choose a shorter paddle if you’re looking for speed or a longer one for slow and efficient strokes. It also breaks into two pieces to facilitate storage and portability.

Despite being designed for flat waters and slow-moving rivers, it’ll perform great in whitewaters and seas as well, and the fact that it’s corrosion-resistant is a plus.

At a weight of 28.8 ounces, it’s nearly as ultralight as Werner Camano Premium. Hence, you can rely on it when going on super long trips, as there’s zero chance you’ll get the achy shoulders that you suffer from after an hour of paddling with aluminum or plastic paddles. 

To provide a dry and enjoyable experience, it comes with dip rings that you can attach to the paddle’s ends. These will prevent the water from dripping down the shaft and onto your lap.

As for the price, we can’t say it’s inexpensive, yet for an all-carbon model, it’s the least pricey in the category of high-end paddles.

Pros:

  • Two-piece design for portability
  • Comfortable grip for long trips
  • All-carbon construction
  • Ultralightweight
  • Powerful strokes
  • Excellent durability and longevity
  • Many feathering angles

Cons:

  • More on the pricey side

Bottom Line

With a two-piece carbon fiber build, adjustable blades, and an ergonomic grip, Sting Ray will make you spend more time on the water. If you can spare the expenses, this model is your way to go.


3. Attwood 11768-2 – Best Entry-level Paddle

Attwood 11768-2

This model from Attwood is packed with features that will make paddling a joyous experience for beginners and amateurs. 

First of all, it incorporates a rugged aluminum shaft and plastic blades to hold up to the clumsy hands of newcomers. Although they’re exceptionally sturdy, the tradeoff is that they add to the model’s weight. 

At a weight of 40 ounces, you need to be athletic, or else it’ll make your arms burn after a couple of hours. However, since the blades are asymmetric with curved edges, they provide efficient strokes and deliver well when more power is needed.

The company offers only one model that’s 213 centimeters long. Despite the lack of options, this length will make your ride faster, more comfortable, and less tiring. It’s suitable for a person whose torso length is between 76 and 82 centimeters. Besides, the short length will compensate for your lack of skill and make you keep up with fast paddlers. 

On top of that, it’s outfitted with padded grips to protect your hands from callusing and elongate your time on the water. The drip rings will not only block water from sliding down your arms, but also prevent the grips from getting slippery and falling from your hands.

The paddle is so cheap that you won’t have to constantly worry about it getting broken or stolen, wasting your hard-earned cash.

Furthermore, it can be split into two pieces, so you can store it safely in your kayak or carry it around in your luggage. The two pieces fit quite well, but unfortunately, with a little wiggle at the end.

Pros:

  • Padded and ergonomic grips
  • Dihedral blades for smooth strokes
  • Travel-friendly two-piece design
  • Pocket-friendly
  • Sturdy build
  • Dip rings for dry paddling

Cons:

  • Heavy weight
  • Available in one length only
  • The connection point between the two parts is a bit shaky

Bottom Line

With a price that won’t put a burden on your wallet, Attwood 11768-2 is a good start for novices and a worthy backup paddle for professionals as well. 


4. Bending Branches Whisper – Most Ergonomic 

Bending Branches Whisper

Every inch of this paddle is designed with the kayaker’s comfort in mind, so let’s break it down and see what it offers.

Made of aluminum, the shaft is built to last with fantastic durability and strength. The slight bend at the oblong grip areas provides a confident hand control even for people with wrist or shoulder injuries. The padding protects your hands from blisters and gives you a firm grip even in wet weather.

As for the blades, they’re crafted from fiberglass, which is known for its lightness and sturdiness at the same time. They offer better swings with less effort on each stroke, making it suitable for recreational kayak trips on lakes or rivers. You don’t have to be a skillful paddler to row your craft as the whole paddle is ergonomic and flutter-free. 

Because the climate can be unpredictable sometimes, it comes with a snap-button ferrule that has multiple adjustments for feathering. This allows you to change the blades’ angles so that you can paddle for hours on windy days with zero resistance.

It comes at a weight of 30 ounces, which isn’t the lightest, but will give you less fatigue during strenuous paddling. Moreover, the splash rings are an extra feature to prevent the grips from getting slippery.  

Unlike Attwood, the company here offers several models ranging from 210 to 240 centimeters in length, all of which can be broken into two pieces to facilitate their storage and portability. Besides, when the two parts are connected, there’s no hint of wiggles. 

Finally, the price tag represents a middle-ground between high-end and cheap paddles, which is another point in this model’s favor.

Pros:

  • Comfortable padded grips
  • Multiple feathering angles 
  • Adjustable and detachable design
  • Reasonable price
  • Quality build

Cons:

  • Not the lightest model
  • The grips leave black residue on the hands

Bottom Line

If you like paddling and exploring for hours and many days a week, go for this model. Its comfortable grips and ergonomic design render it a joy to use when touring for long distances.


5. SeaSense X-TREME – Budget Choice

SeaSense X-TREME

Should you be an old kayaker, you’d know that paddles break when transported, get lost at campsites, or swim to oblivion if they fall into the water. That’s why we hunt cheap models to be our backup in such situations. 

You can get SeaSense X-TREME without breaking the bank, yet that’s not the only ace in the hole. 

Constructed from aluminum, the shaft is strong enough to withstand pushing off any rocks or broken branches in your way. The symmetric blades are made of solid molded plastic, which is equal to the shaft in strength, resulting in an overall bulletproof build.

The blades lack the rounded edges on the other models, so they can make you exert extreme energy to row the yak. Although the model would make a better spare than a primary paddle, you can rely on it in swift-moving waters, as its 213-centimeter length allows for high-angle paddling.

Furthermore, you can adjust the blades on one of three positions according to the amount of headwind you’re facing. The paddle is fairly light at 38.8 ounces, and the design offers an on-point balance.

Equipped with foam rubber grips and drip guards, the model guarantees you endless comfort when rowing. What’s more, the two-piece construction allows for easy storage when the season finishes.

As for the drawbacks, we found that the foam grip pads tend to slide down when they get wet. This can be irritating, especially when they block the joint in the middle, making it hard to separate the two pieces.

Pros:

  • Low-priced
  • Collapsible design
  • Lightweight and balanced
  • Robust construction
  • Drip guards for dry paddling

Cons:

  • The foam rubber on the grips sometimes slips
  • Not suitable for long distances

Bottom Line

Whether you need a spare paddle or a cheap one to start learning on, SeaSense X-TREME is the best paddle you can get at this crazy competitive price.


Factors to Consider When Buying a Kayak Paddle

The thing about kayak paddles is that it’s hard to find two people agreeing on the same product. Some people look for the best price, some seek durability and performance, and others are just good with a light one. To decide for yourself, you need to understand the factors to look for when you’re shopping around, so take a look at this comprehensive yet practical guide.

Paddle Length

Paddles come in an array of sizes, starting from 180 to 260 centimeters. When you’re choosing your paddle’s length, there are three factors that come into play: 

Height and Fitness Level

The rule of thumb is the taller you are, the longer the paddle you’ll need.

Measure the length of your torso at first. If it’s shorter than 60 centimeters, opt for a paddle less than 200 centimeters in length. If it’s anything between 66 and 86 centimeters, a paddle between 200 and 250 centimeters is your way to go. Paddles longer than that are reserved for kayakers whose torso lengths are more than 71 centimeters.

However, your fitness level matters as well. Athletic kayakers should strive for shorter paddles, as they provide more power and speed. On the other hand, overweight paddlers will make use of the slow and sufficient strokes of longer ones.

Kayak’s Width

Normally you’d want a paddle that’s longer than your yak’s width to reach beyond your vessel’s gunwales without banging your knuckles on the deck.

Professionals kayakers recommend that if you’re using a recreational or touring craft whose width is anything between 56 and 76 centimeters to choose a 180 to 230-centimeter paddle. 

Nevertheless, if you own a narrow performance or whitewater craft, pick a 230 to 250-centimeter paddle.

Paddling Style

Depending on the type of water you are embarking on venturing across, you can choose either high-angle or low-angle paddling. The former is the technique you adopt in fast streams and oceans while the latter is the one used in flat waters like lakes and calm rivers.

Suppose you do low-angle paddling when leisure kayaking or go on long trips, you’d want to look for a longer paddle. It’ll provide you with powerful strokes with less fatigue.

High-angle strokes require shorter paddles, as they’re used in less predictable water where they’ll help you sift through high waves and strong wind with speed. 

Blade Material

Generally, you’ll find four materials on the market: plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. 

Plastic and aluminum are the cheapest, so you’ll find them on lower-end blades. If cash isn’t a problem, try to avoid them as they’re the most liable to cracking and deteriorating under the sunlight. Plus, they’re significantly heavier than their counterparts.

Since nobody wants to end up splitting their blades into two halves, fiberglass is the most popular choice. It combines both strength and lightness within a semi-affordable price.

Finally, carbon fiber carries the heftiest price tag. Hence, you’ll find it on top-of-the-line blades. It’s the lightest and most durable, so serious kayakers and racers prefer it for its excellent energy transfer.

Blade Shape

Blades can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. If the blades on both sides of the paddle are mirror images of each other, then the blades are symmetrical. On the contrary, if one blade is narrower and shorter, they’re asymmetric. 

The latter requires the paddler to exert less energy, as it allows water to flow evenly and smoothly over the blades. 

Another high-end feature you’ll find is feathering. It’s when one blade is positioned at a right angle to the other so that they’re perpendicular to each other. This allows for less resistance to the wind, enabling you to pick up speed. 

Shaft Material

The shaft is the paddle’s balancing point, so you’ll want to find yourself the strongest one to avoid unpleasant hazards when kayaking.

Generally, plastic is the most pocket-friendly material, but it has become rare to find. Aluminum is an interesting choice, as it holds up well to the rigors of paddling without adding much to the price. However, it tends to heat up and cool down quickly, so it’s not the most comfortable for people who like paddling without putting on a pair of gloves.

Ultimate shafts are made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. They provide outstanding performance, as they’re sturdy, lightweight, and robust.

Shaft Shape

Because it’s going to be in your hands most of the time, the shaft should feel right. While advanced paddlers prefer straight shafts for their flexibility and maneuverability, they recommend that people who’re using the paddle for the first time should choose a bent shaft.

The angle will take the wearying pressure off their wrists, and they’ll have fun using it when traveling in a straight line until they upgrade to a more maneuverable one.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Happens When You Kayak with a Paddle That’s Too Long?

If the paddle is too long, it’ll add strain to your shoulders and wrists due to the heavier weight, and thus exhausting you after a few strikes. Besides, it’ll be harder to control the kayak, build up speed, or keep it on track. You’ll find that it keeps zig-zagging, and your hand will repeatedly rub against the shaft, resulting in the development of blisters and wounds.

How Do I Hold a Kayak Paddle?

Sit back straight in the seat and open your arms slightly broader than your shoulders. Grasp the paddle, but make sure to lighten your grip. Squeezing your hands means you’ll bend your wrists, and that will tire you quickly, so avoid doing that. After lining up your knuckles with the edge of the blade, reach forward and stroke the paddle using your shoulders and core together.

Why are the Best Kayak Paddles Feathered?

Because they’re designed in a way that lets you slice through heavy wind without being dragged back. Basically, the two blades are placed at different angles so that when one is striking the water, the other is parallel to the wind, thus reducing the resistance. Generally, they are preferred by ocean kayakers and people who are looking for speed more than anything. 

Final Verdict

We hope we’ve provided you with some valuable information that would help you pick your next paddle. If you’re still contemplating your choices, here are our recommendations:

From what we’ve seen on the market, Werner Camano Premium is by far the best kayak paddle out there. It’s available in a multitude of lengths for racers and recreational kayakers to choose what they prefer. Whether you’re touring in a calm lake or venturing across a crazy river, you’ll love how light, smooth, and responsive it is.

Sting Ray is capable of turning you into a snob paddler. Pick this all-carbon paddle if you want to row your yak better than a professional. 

Finally, if a cheaper route is what’s in your mind, look no further than Attwood 11786-2. In addition to being comfortable and as sturdy as a rock, it’s cheaper than chips.

Categories Gear