Has this ever happened to you: you buy a new kayak that comes with paddles only for the paddles to disappoint when you take them out?

They either turn out to be flimsy or too short or both!

You have two options at this point: write a complaint to the company and hope that they improve the quality in future or silently fume and pack them away.

But you do not have to keep using horrible paddles just because they are part of the kayak package.

Here I want to bring you 5 excellent paddles for kayaking that you can buy separately and also give you detailed information about how to identify a quality kayak paddle.

Why do Companies provide Paddles as Part of their Package?

Granted some paddles may not meet your needs, here is some insight into why some companies provide them:

They are Giving Buyers an Incentive to Buy their Equipment

There is no better way to beat the competition than to offer more in your package than they do.

Most people, especially beginners with no experience with paddles, will tend to buy a kayak that comes with paddles because they believe it to be value for money.

Of course, you learn as you go that you may be better off investing separately in paddles than relying on those that come with the kayak.

Kayakers are Able to Use the Kayak Right out of the Box

Beginners and seasoned kayakers both love being able to take their kayak out the minute they receive it.

Some companies facilitate this by adding paddles so that if you don’t have your own you can still have the excitement of immediately trying out your new kayak.

Debuting a New Product

Now, more companies are realizing that buyers would rather invest in paddles separately so there is a shift in the quality of paddles included with the kayak.

Companies that also manufacturer kayak paddles can sometimes debut their new paddles as part of the package deal for a limited time only. For example, Advanced Elements also manufacture kayak paddles like the Advanced Elements compact touring paddle. They may decide to place the paddle for a limited time only in some of their kayaks as part of the package to get consumer reviews of how it works or to build hype about it.

I personally tend to steer clear of paddles that come with kayaks because even when they are high quality they tend to be compatible only with a particular kayak brand and can’t be used with other models.

A Detailed Guide on How to Spot a High-Quality Kayak Paddle

You know the score. You walk into a store and everything looks great if not the same especially if you are an amateur.

That is where this guide comes in handy. Use it as a checklist of these qualities and you will end up with an excellent paddle.

To begin with, you must identify what type of paddler you are.

There are two types of paddling styles: high angle or low angle.

High angle paddlers are more aggressive because they use their kayaks in more extreme conditions so they have to apply powerful strokes.

Low angle paddlers use relaxed strokes since they are usually in calm smooth waters.

Choose the Best Blade Size and Shape according to Your Paddling Style

If you are a low angle paddler choose a paddle with a narrower and longer blade. It will give you languid strokes suitable for recreation ventures like touring or fishing. You notice that you also do not apply too much energy to the paddle.

High angle paddlers should choose the wider and shorter blade because it allows you surface area to push back the water more determinedly.

Once you have chosen one of the above blade sizes, check the shape to see whether it is a spoon or dihedral and also check the symmetry.

If it has a spoon shape on the blade it will scoop water but it will also flutter during the stroke, reducing its efficiency.

On the other hand, if it has a spine in the center the water runs off it and it doesn’t flutter. This shape is dihedral.

When choosing between the symmetrical and asymmetrical shaped blade pick the latter which has a wider top that tapers to a slim bottom.

These distribute the water pressure evenly at the top and bottom despite the shape.

Consider Your Height and the Kayak Width

Taking these two issues into consideration helps you to choose the right length paddle for you.

Here is the thing:

The taller you are or the wider your kayak, the longer the paddle you need to use.

The good news is, stores that sell paddles usually have a paddle size chart that will help you find the right length depending on your kayak or height.

It will usually look something like this:

Kayak WidthUnder 23"24" to 28"29"-33"34"+
Paddler HeightRecommended Paddle Length
Under 5'5"210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5'5" - 5'11"220 cm230 cm240 cm250 cm
6'+220 cm230 cm250 cm260 cm

Your paddling style also influences your paddle’s length.

Low angle paddlers are comfortable with longer paddles while high angle paddlers find shorter paddles work well for their needs.

Obviously, if your kayak is a sit on with a high seat you need good length on your paddle.

Buy Paddles made from High-Quality Durable Materials

There are several materials that are favored when it comes to constructing kayaking paddles because of the rigidity they offer the paddle.

The more rigid the material the better the performance.

Paddles made from carbon fiber are hands down the best paddles all round.

The material is very lightweight and also has the perfect level of rigidity so your strokes have the necessary amount of momentum.

Fiberglass on both the blade and handle is also quite popular. This material also offers high performance and is very durable.

Carbon fiber and fiberglass paddles do have some flexibility allowing beginners to get their paddling technique right and they also take impact quite well.

Plastic can be mixed with nylon and is the poorest performer of the batch. It is too flexible which compromises the efficiency of your stroke.

Although its flexibility prevents it from cracking, you may still have your plastic paddle crack because of being overly exposed to the sun which degrades the polymers within.

The top 5 Best Kayaking Paddles on the Market

Werner Kalliste Bent Shaft carbon kayak paddle

https://www.amazon.com/Werner-Kalliste-Shaft-Carbon-Paddle/dp/B00CSUIWC8

This 2 piece blade kayak has a dihedral face which guarantees an efficient performance.

The blade and shaft are both 100% carbon fiber and the shaft has a foam core which makes it extremely lightweight.

This combination eliminates the strain on your wrists which can develop into a serious bother over time.

The Werner Kalliste bent shaft carbon paddle is typically a sport kayak paddle geared towards the sporting kayak crowd.

However, if you are out on the water frequently it is also the perfect fit for you because of its high performance.

It is best suited for low angle paddlers.

Pros:

  • It can power through the most demanding water conditions you
  • It is durable
  • It is lightweight

Cons:

  • Mostly recommended for professional or seasoned paddler

Aquabound Manta Ray Carbon Posi Lok 2 Piece Paddle

https://www.amazon.com/Aqua-Bound-Carbon-Posi-Lok-2-Piece-Paddle-SS-250cm/dp/B00B1QS85G

The pieces on this paddle can be adjusted by splitting them in the center which allows it to adapt to the weather conditions you use it for. The Posi-Lok ferrule technology makes this possible and locks the pieces down effectively after the adjustment.

It is lightweight but really carries the strength in your strokes. This is because the carbon fiber gives it impeccable rigidity.

It has a great locking mechanism that complements your strokes.

Here is the best part: with this paddle, you will experience far less fatigue than you would with a full fiberglass or fiberglass-reinforced paddle. The carbon abX resin blade is exceptional in performance.

It performs exceptionally in the ocean where you experience lots of surf and is perfect for people with a wide kayak and high-end paddling style.

Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight and easy to handle
  • It is corrosion resistant
  • Very durable and sturdy

Cons:

  • It has some rough lines that can cause blisters

Cannon Paddle Nokomis Carbon Touring Kayak Paddle

https://www.amazon.com/Cannon-Paddles-Nokomis-Touring-Reinforced/dp/B00PUDPMVY

The blade on this paddle is made from carbon fiber that has been reinforced with nylon.

The shaft, however, is 100% carbon fiber. It is lightweight and comfortable allowing you to paddle for hours without feeling fatigued.

The materials used in its construction ensure that it is incredibly durable. It offers a smooth paddling experience and handles beautifully whether you are an amateur or expert.

It has drip rings that prevent water from running off the blade and onto the paddle shaft.

You get a 1-year warranty when you purchase it but most users find they do not need it.

It is perfect for low angle paddlers and it even performs pretty well on class III rapids.

Despite being a low angle paddle predominantly, you can comfortably use it in a river with a strong current.

Pros:

  • It is lightweight and durable
  • The blade has minimal flutter in the water
  • Great for long distance paddling because its construction reduces fatigue

Cons:

  • It cannot withstand heavy use
  • Some users do not like the mix of carbon fiber and nylon

Aquabound Sting Ray carbon fiber kayak paddle

https://www.amazon.com/AQUA-BOUND-Aquabound-Carbon-Posi-Lok/dp/B07BR4YH98

The first thing you will notice on this paddle is the lightweight feel it has. It is barely there!

It is super light even though the blades are reinforced with abX resin. The resin makes the blade stiffer so your stroke has a powerful push but does not compromise the general weight of the paddle

The blade is dihedral and asymmetrical which makes it extremely firm and effective.

The shaft perfectly fits smaller hands allowing even younger kayakers like pre-teens and teens to use it comfortably.

The adjustability of both the shaft and the blade are two of its top selling point.

It works well for low angle paddler making it an ideal paddle for recreation, touring and fishing.

The Posi Lok ferrule snaps in and out of place with ease. To eliminate the issue of ineffective ferrules, always clean and wipe down the paddle especially after using it in salty water.

I love the minimum effort you have to apply to this paddle for it to function. It really makes paddling for recreational purposes more pleasurable and also allows you to take in the scenery without feeling pressured to keep paddling.

Pros:

  • It fits all users, adults and children alike
  • The blade’s rigidity makes it perform very well
  • It is lightweight and durable

Cons:

  • The blades can’t be removed
  • Some users are disappointed that the blade is not 100% carbon fiber

Werner Cyprus carbon fiber paddle

https://www.amazon.com/Werner-Cyprus-2-Piece-Paddle-Carbon/dp/B01EOOOYDQ

Professional and seasoned kayakers love this paddle for two important reasons: it is lightweight and the blades are shaped to ensure it provides high performance.

If you put in thousands of strokes a week you understand the fatigue that sets into your joints.

When you use the Werner Cyprus you actually paddle for longer without feeling that strain on your wrists and other joints.

It is a midsized blade that provides high angle paddlers with powerful strokes without requiring too much bracing and straining of the muscles.

The blade slices the water clean and provides a solid pull with each stroke. And just the same clean way it entered the water, it exists the strokes just as cleanly, almost jumping out of the water.

If you have powerful strokes the Werner Cyprus will easily sustain and transfer the energy smoothly onto the water.

It is perfect for high angle paddlers and you can adjust the feather in either direction of the paddle blade.

People who love to tackle choppy waters will find that this paddle will give them a smooth paddling experience despite the water conditions.

Pros:

  • It is tailored for high-performance conditions
  • It is well balanced and lightweight
  • It responds extremely well

Cons:

  • It is ideal for seasoned kayakers

Which Paddle Will Complement Your Paddling Style?

I must say I love all the kayak paddles I have talked about above but I understand one must be the ultimate go-to paddle.

I found the Aquabound Manta Ray to be so light and incredibly efficient. It takes the water in stride and feels almost like an extension of your hand. So does the Sting Ray by the way.

The Cannon Paddle Nokomis fits the bill of functionality without too many frills and it seems best suited for a beginner or someone who doesn’t expect too much from their paddle.

I, however, must choose the Werner Cyprus. This paddle is extremely responsive in waters that require a high angle paddling style.

It doesn’t have a ridge in the middle of the blade which makes the blade more responsive. This quality is very important in white water rafting and other extreme water paddling conditions because you can easily sense what the blade is doing and adjust the stroke accordingly.

It is excellent for kayakers with aging joints because it is light.

The only thing I would have loved to see on all these paddles are reflectors that make the blades visible when in the water.

This shows the level of discernment and consumer care from the manufacturer’s end considering some of these paddles are used in extreme weather conditions.

It may seem basic but if you are in choppy water it comes in handy and most companies overlook this safety feature.


Phil Mansbridge
Phil Mansbridge

Phil is a retired Sport Fisherman from Florida. His passion for the last decade has been kayaking and canoeing. He spends his summers in Canada and most of the winter in California. He loves reviewing equipment for his avid readers and hopes that everyone's time out on the water as enjoyable as possible.