How to Choose the Right Kayak Paddle


You have now chosen your kayak but what is next? The second most important asset to kayaking is the paddle. To have an enjoyable experience on the water then you need to choose the perfect paddle that fits your needs.

Before you pick a paddle, you need to know the type of kayaking you are going to be doing, which you should have already determined if you have picked out or bought a kayak. Also, too short a paddle will have you hitting your hands on the edge of your kayak, but too long of a paddle will have you putting an extra strain to your shoulders and struggle to stay in a straight line, which will tire your body out quicker than with a proper-sized paddle.

Since choosing the correct paddle is so important, we have put together a complete guide to help you make the perfect choice for you. This guide will help you determine the right size of a paddle, the correct type for your lifestyle need, and what blade shape and what paddle shaft is perfect for you. For a guide on our top recommendations visit our guide on the best kayak paddles

Kayak Paddle Length

Determining what size of a kayak paddle you will need is a pretty easy decision. The two things you need to determine is your kayak’s width and your own height. To determine your kayak’s width, measure your kayak at the widest part.

Paddler HeightKayak Length
Under 23''23'' to 28''28'' to 32''Over 32''
Under 5' Tall210cm220 cm230cm240cm
5' to 5'6'' Tall215cm220cm230cm240cm
5'7'' to 6' Tall220cm220cm230cm250cm
Over 6'1'' Tall220cm230cm240cm250cm

Low-Angle Stroke or High-Angle Stroke Paddle Blade

Now that you know the size of your kayak paddle it’s time to decide on your paddle type. Firstly, you will need to determine is if your paddle blade needs to have a low-angle stroke or high-angle stroke. On a low-angle stroke, the blade is tilted slightly which is ideal for kayaking in smooth water conditions.

If you are looking for a paddle that is going to give better performance and speed, then you want a high-angle stroke paddle blade. With this blade type, paddlers prefer a shorter, wider blade with a shorter shaft. This allows the paddler to get a more powerful stroke.

Kayak Paddle Blade Materials

When it comes to paddle board blade materials, the reasoning for needing to determine your ideal blade materials is because saving weight helps boost your paddling performance. Heavier blade materials can result in fatigue coming on quicker because when paddling you raise your paddle blade higher than the paddle shaft. That is why you want to choose lightweight materials that will fit the style of paddling you will be doing.

Plastic/Nylon Blades

These will be your most cost-effective option but just because it is the cheapest doesn’t mean it is the best option. These types of paddles tend to break easier than other options and the flexibility of a plastic paddle blade can negatively affect your paddle stroke efficiency.

Fiberglass Blades

This blade is not the cheapest option but also is not your most expensive options. These blades are more lightweight than plastic blades and may still chip or crack, but most cases it will not crack completely through the blade.

Carbon-Fiber Blades

This is normally your most expensive option but its superior performance is well worth the higher price. It is extremely lightweight allowing you to paddle further and faster before fatigue sets in. Plus, the stiffness of the blade allows you to get more power out of your stroke and gives you more control of your direction.

Kayak Paddle Types

Adjustable Paddles

This type of paddles can be sized to your exact needs so if you are not the only one that will be using the paddle then you can adjust the size to the paddler’s height. It is perfect for families that will share the paddle or just as a spare for if a friend joins you on your paddle. Most of these paddles also include a drip ring, which prevents water from dripping into your kayak.

Recreational Paddles

These types of paddles are ideal for short trips, fishing, or exercise. They are normally made with plastic or nylon blade materials so are heavier than most paddles, but are the least expensive. If you determine you won’t be on the water long then this paddle type will work fine for you.

Kayak Paddle Shaft

There are two options here and is easy to determine which one you need. First, there is a bent kayak paddle shaft. This shaft has two grooves near the middle that gives you a place to put your hands. This ideal for beginners because you will not have to give it much thought on where to place your hands. Plus, this design gives you more comfort when going into your stroke.

Next, there is the straight kayak paddle shaft. This is for more experienced paddlers because the shaft design takes more precision and strength to get in a good paddle stroke.

Kayak Paddle Blade Feathering

This will not require much decision on because the only difference between a feathered shaft or a matched shaft is the strain on your wrist and wind resistance of the blade. A feathered blade, meaning the blades are offset, will save you strain on your wrists and use less energy in your upper body. Matched blade’s edges are aligned which will cause more strain on your wrists and be less wind resistant when paddling into the wind.


As you can see why your kayak paddle is the second most important decision you will make before hitting the water. The first thing you must do is to determine your height then pick your paddle length based on our chart above then you move on to deciding the type of kayaking you will be doing. If you have a kayak selected then you already know this answer and can easily make a decision. Picking the correct paddle will help maximize your enjoyable experience out on the water.

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