How to pick a quality paddle to have fun kayaking

William Adams
 min read

If you’ve decided which type of kayaking you’re going for, you will need to choose the right kayak, clothes and equipment. How to pick a quality paddle is a frequently asked question in this context so we’ve decided to give you some tips.

how to pick a quality paddle to have fun kayakingYour choices need to allow you to paddle with maximum efficiency.

You’ll want to make sure no energy is wasted, so you will be able to kayak for longer periods.

After your high load capacity kayak which is suitable for big people, your second most expensive purchase will probably be your paddle.

Heavy VS lightweight paddles

So many make the mistake of buying the heaviest one available, thinking that this will add power to their stroke…

Actually, a stiff albeit lightweight paddle is essential to enjoy your time on the water.

A well-designed blade slides seamlessly in and out of the water, making it an extension of your upper body.

Price indication of different types of paddles

Top-of-the-line paddles usually cost between $190 and $280, while basic variations are between $140 to $225.

The most inexpensive paddles might cost $45 to $110. These low-cost paddles have an aluminum shaft and a plastic blade.

They are practically maintenance-free, but we must point out that they don’t feel very strong in the water.

What is a kayak paddle made of?

There are two kinds of paddles: wooden or synthetic (plastic or fiberglass) paddles.

Wood paddles

If you opt for a wood paddle, then you will enjoy an incredible sensation!

How to pick a quality paddle if you want to paddle comfortably? By focusing on a wooden paddle!

Wood paddles tend to react almost spontaneously and seem to mold themselves to you.

Nevertheless, wooden paddles need regular varnishing and sanding and are more expensive than synthetic paddles…

Synthetic paddles

Artificial, synthetic paddles have plastic, aluminum or fiberglass shafts and usually boast fiberglass blades.

There is an extensive choice for this type, with different prices to suit most pockets.

We do advise caution, however, as the cheapest ones can be weak.

The best ones can easily measure up to the finest wood paddle.

Cost indication of the different materials

Plastic kayak paddles

Plastic paddles cost between $50 and $100 and are often rather uncomfortable to work and kayak with.

Fiberglass kayak paddles

Costing between $140 and $210, you’ll find that this choice gives you the feel of having a firm grip.

However, they have an awkward shaft shape which could potentially hinder you.

Carbon kayak paddles

A carbon paddle will set you back between $180 and $300 and while they are lightweight and easier to handle, they are also more fragile.

Wooden kayak paddles

We cannot stress enough the incredible sensation of kayaking with wood paddles.

Costing anything between $140 and $275, they will enhance your experience on the water!

But beware: They do require regular maintenance.

How to pick a quality paddle if you absolutely want to avoid regular maintenance? By avoiding wood paddles!

What kayak paddle size do you need?

To determine your paddle size, hold it over your head with your arms straight up, at right angles to the shaft.

Whitewater kayakers need to have the same width as their fist, 4 or 5 inches, between their hands and the blades.

In comparison, sea kayakers need to hold their hands slightly closer and should have 10 to 20 inches between their hands and the blades.

Correlation between body height and paddle size

Let’s explain the connection between your body height and arm span with the paddle length.

If you are less than 5 feet tall, then you should opt for the following:

  • Sea kayak paddle: 210 cm (83 inches)
  • Whitewater paddle: 190 cm (75 inches)

If your height is between 5 feet and 5 feet 6 inches, then choose the following paddle size:

  • Sea kayak paddle: 225 cm (89 inches)
  • Whitewater paddle: 196 cm (77 inches)

If your height is between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet, then pick the following paddle size:

  • Sea kayak paddle: 230 cm (90 inches)
  • Whitewater paddle: 204 cm (80 inches)

For anyone taller than that:

  • Sea kayak paddle: 235 cm (93 inches)
  • Whitewater paddle: 206 cm (81 inches)

When looking for a paddle, expect to find paddles sized in centimeters. That’s why we’ve given you both measurements.

How to pick a quality paddle if you have smaller hands

Shorter people need to take note of the shaft’s size. A lot of standard shafts are sized to fit the average male adult hand size.

Individuals with smaller hands, including most children and women, should buy paddles with smaller blades and shafts to avoid wrist problems or mild tendinitis.

What about the blade shape?

The blade shape determines the efficiency of your stroke and must allow simple slicing through the water and a secure stroke.

Both whitewater and sea kayak paddles typically have a curved blade.

The side within the curve is called the power face. Some blades have a convex spoon shape that improves the blade’s efficiency.

Sea kayaking paddles are developed with a narrow, long blade, and frequently have drip rings on the shaft to keep water from dripping on your lap during each stroke.

Larger blades are for power while smaller blades are for longer ranges.

The most efficient blades for flatwater are called wing paddles. Created for Olympic sprint races, wing paddles have a highly effective forward stroke.

Many kayak paddle blades offset: the blades point in different directions when you lay the paddle on the ground.

This is called blade feathering and makes the paddle much easier to utilize in a headwind, giving more power to a variety of strokes.

Nowadays, paddles are offset by about 70 degrees. In the past, practically all paddles were offset 90 degrees.

Adjustable and incremental offsets are becoming more commonplace, as most kayakers believe this is much easier on the wrist.

Extra kayak information

  • If you need to buy a suitable kayak in addition to a paddle, read our ultimate buying guide on big man kayaks.
  • If you’re tall and/or overweight, the following list of plus-size kayak clothing (and handy accessories) will help you determine what you really need!
About William Adams

I’m an engineer and a happy plus-size individual myself. I love to blog online if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. I help other plus-size people with in-depth product guides to make shopping for products and services less stressful in their busy lives. Read More