When you are searching for a kayak paddle, it can be overwhelming. How much paddle do you really need? How much do you really need to spend? And how big of a difference does a paddle actually make?
Different types of kayak paddles
You can find a kayak paddle for under $100. You can also find one more than $500. And you might wonder what the difference is and what on earth would make one worth $500 to you.
As with most things in life you can break kayak paddles down into good, better and best. It bears mentioning that you often get what you pay for and if you opt for the cheapest kayak paddle you can find, you will likely not even fall into the “good” category. Paddles that are extremely heavy, very flexible, or don’t float aren’t even worth a second look.
Good kayak paddles
Depending on your paddling goals, you may not need more than a “good” kayak paddle. A paddle falling into this category will likely be aluminum and/or fiberglass. That means it will not be the lightest thing around. It will also generally have plastic blades which flex more than is ideal for efficient paddling. But they are usually very reasonably priced and fairly durable. If you don’t paddle often, aren’t interested in covering much ground when you do go out or have a lot of different people using your paddle (who may, or may not, take good care of equipment) then a “good” paddle might be just fine for you.
Paddles in this range will generally be in the $100 area give or take.
The Werner Baja (pictured on the left) is an injection molded blade with a standard diameter shaft and a 3 position ferrule adjustment. The Skagit FG (pictured on the right) is fiberglass and nylon injection molded with standard and small shaft options and Smart View Adjustable ferrule. It is lighter and provides better fit and performance for approximately $30 more.
Better kayak paddles
As you move up the kayak paddle spectrum, you will see the introduction of different materials to make the paddles stiffer and lighter. Moving to the “better” category is usually the quality jump that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Paddles in this category will usually be fiberglass possibly with the introduction of some carbon.
These new materials give you much lighter swing weights and a stiffer paddle for more power when you paddle. Durability is usually still very good in this category, and you will be able to paddle further and longer for the same amount of energy. You will tire less quickly and be able to get out and see a lot more
More paddles fall into this category. It should be the largest category because most people can probably find a good fit in this range. “Better” kayak paddles range from approximately $150-$300.
The Werner Skagit CF (pictured on left) is the same design as the Skagit FG above but has carbon reinforced nylon injection molding for lower swing weight and increased performance. The Werner Camano (pictured on right) moves away from injection molding to a full fiberglass blade for increased stiffness and performance at a lower weight. These are available in more size options for a more customized fit.
Best kayak paddles
Your top of the line kayak paddle will be all carbon. These are going to be the lightest, stiffest, most efficient, and also the most expensive kayak paddles you can buy. Generally, everything about these paddles is a little nicer, and their light weight will let you go much further before tiring. Better blade design, lighter and stronger materials, and more adjustability/options are just three of the biggest benefits you will reap from investing in a top of the line kayak paddle .
The Werner Kalliste is a full carbon paddle optimized for strength and stiffness. Its more advanced blade design provides quieter entry and exit for paddlers more interested in performance.
It’s not all about the materials
There is more to a kayak paddle than just what it is made of and what it costs. Subtle differences in blade shape and design can make a marked difference. And extra features like available sizes can make a price leap worth it for you. Lower end paddles typically come in one shaft diameter and may or may not have feathering options. Higher quality kayak paddles generally have the option of a standard diameter shaft or a smaller shaft for those paddlers with smaller hands to reduce hand fatigue. You might also go from three (or no) feathering options to a paddle with nearly infinite adjustability. Bent shaft paddles are another option on the higher end of the spectrum. These are also easier on your body than straight paddles. These are features that may or may not matter to you, but it’s good to know that they exist should they benefit you and your paddling.
What do you need?
That really depends on your paddling goals. Your kayak paddle is your tool and your connection to the water. It is also the item that you swing through the air hundreds of times/hour. Consider swinging a shovel or swinging a broom…one or two times you might not think much of the difference. After swinging them hundreds of times, you certainly will.
If you want to get more into paddling, you go on long tours, you are interested in performance, or you have suffered from injuries, chances are full carbon (or at least carbon blend) kayak paddles will be well worth your money since they put less wear on your body by being lighter and more efficient.
You are better off investing in as good of a paddle as you can and as makes sense for your paddling intentions. You will not be sorry. A good quality kayak paddle will serve you well for many years.