Now that you have the perfect kayak, its time to find the best kayak paddle for the money. You exercised your due diligence on the kayak you purchased, scouring articles, asking friends who own them what they like and don’t like about theirs, reading online reviews.
You should pay no less attention to the paddle you’re going to need to accompany your new joyride/mode of exercise/method of enjoying the great outdoors.
After all, your paddle is THE next most important purchase after your kayak. And which one you choose, has as much significance as the kayak you’ll be paddling it with. So how do you know which is the best kayak paddle for the money? Let’s make this process as painless as possible.
Here is a quick look at the top 5 kayak paddles that will give you the most bang for your buck.
|Length||Price Point||Our Rating|
|84 or 96 inches||$-$$|
|84, 96, or 108 inches||$$|
Let’s Get Educated…
Terms to Learn:
If you’re going to be a kayak owner, there are some terms you need to become familiar with to better educate yourself on your equipment AND so you know what others in your kayak circle might be talking about. Getting down a few basics where the paddle is concerned, will also help in your hunt for the perfect one to get started with.
1. The Shaft
The shaft is the straight part of the paddle where you grip.
A) Low end material is aluminum
(durable, a bit heavier, least expensive)
B) Middle of the road material is fiberglass or wood
(midweight, midrange for price, great performance)
C) High end is made from graphite or carbon fiber
(lightweight, not as durable, most expensive)
Shafts can be straight from one end to the next, or they can be indexed.
Indexing is when the shaft goes from round to slightly oval, indicating where to place your right hand during paddling. With indexing, you can grip firmly with your right hand and loosely with your left, which lessens fatigue and may be easier on your wrists.
Shafts that don’t offer indexing can leave you sore and not looking forward to returning to the water. Indexing does not make the paddle more expensive.
On the shaft, you will also find the ferrule, which is where the two pieces of the shaft are connected, usually with a snap-button. Being able to disconnect the paddle at the middle, you’re able to store it in a smaller space or inside the kayak.
There are ferrules (on lower-end paddles) that give options to feather from 0-65°. Some paddles (the more expensive ones) have ferrules that provide unlimited angle feathering.
Feathering is a term that means adjusting the blades so they’re at an angle to each other instead of straight across. When blades are feathered, wind resistance is reduced when the upper blade is moving through the air.
This is especially advantageous in high winds. When the wind is at your back, it’s better to keep the paddles unfeathered. For beginning kayakers, you’re totally fine to have limited feathering angles (meaning, a less expensive paddle is perfectly fine!)
Another part of the shaft is the throat. There is a throat on each end where the shaft meets the blades. The throat area is roughly where your drip rings will be positioned. Drip rings do just what their name implies. Typically rubber rings, they help to keep water from dripping on your hands while you’re paddling.
Your stroke definitely influences the amount of water that can fall onto your lap or into your boat, but the drip rings help. These should come standard with whatever paddle you choose, but should they wear over time, replacements can be purchased.
Hand grips come with most paddles, but not all. They can be ordered separately. Hand grips not only add comfort for gripping, but also keep the temperature on the shaft from being too hot from the sun or too cold from the water. These are adjustable so you can slide them up and down the shaft to fit your arm length and paddling technique.
Paddle Leash: Although not a necessary component to your paddle, some might argue that it actually is. Many paddles (especially the lower cost ones), don’t come with a paddle leash, so you may want to consider purchasing one for these reasons: if your kayak overturns, and trust me, no one PLANS on this happening, your paddle will stay attached to your boat and you won’t have to swim after it.
If you’re fishing, you have enough other equipment to deal with that you don’t want to have to worry about dropping your paddle or it accidentally going over the edge. The paddle leash is basically insurance for your paddle, and well worth the “extra.”
2. The Blades
Blades have a power face, which is the side of the blade that catches the water when you take a forward stroke. They also have a back face, which is the back of the paddle.
A) Plastic blades
(often paired with aluminum shafts, least expensive, durable but heavier)
B) Fiberglass blades
(often paired with fiberglass shaft, midrange price, durable, lighter in weight)
C) Nylon blades
(often paired with carbon shaft, most expensive, ultralight and ultra-stiff)
For beginners, just like the recommendation of a “lower end” shaft, the blades as well can be lower to mid-range and provide everything you need to get started. Blades can have a low angle or a high angle. Does the angle matter for beginners?
According to Rei.com and their article How to Choose Kayak Paddles, if you’re planning to kayak on flat water with a nice, relaxed stroke, a low angle paddle would be ideal. A high angle paddle is more for speed and requires a precision stroke. Fatigue can set in if you’re lacking experience. Unless you’re super competitive and speed is your goal, low angle blades should be great for a novice.
As you’ll see in the review section, paddles built for anglers have a couple of extra features, including a hook retrieval cut-out on each blade, as well as a scale or measurement system along the shaft.
When it comes to finding the best kayak paddle for the money, you definitely want to consider length. Typical lengths for kayak paddles are from 84” to 96”, but can be found in 108” options as well. The length of your paddle is going to be determined by a couple of main factors: your height and the width of your boat.
A) Not always the determining factor, your height may play a part in the length of paddle you decide to purchase. “Taller” paddlers may want to select a longer paddle so they’re not banging their hands on the side of the kayak and those under a certain height may opt for the 84” paddle to save strain on the back and shoulders.
But that’s not a hard and fast rule. Paddling.com contains an article Kayak Paddle Length – How to Pick the Right Size that walks you through the steps to determining the length of paddle you should select based on your own personal physical features.
B) A major factor in the length of your paddle should be the width of your kayak. The wider the kayak, typically, the longer the paddle. Charts are available to help determine length based on both your height and the boat’s width. This is an example of a typical reference chart. https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kayak-paddle.html
The Reviews Are In…
The Standard Paddle, Under $50:
Seriously there are so many great options if you’re seeking out the best kayak paddle for the money. Just because these are less expensive, does NOT mean they are cheaply made. The overriding theme is that yes, you can absolutely buy a better, more durable, more everything paddle.
But for the price, these options are an AMAZING value for what they have to offer, which happens to be a lot! And if you’re a beginner recreational kayaker, spending more than $50 on a paddle, just doesn’t seem to be necessary.
Here’s a few of the top picks…
1. Pelican Poseidon
|Pelican Poseidon||Length||Color(s)||Best Feature|
|89 inches||Black||Lightweight & Sturdy|
- Aluminum shaft with a push-button connector
- indexing, fiberglass reinforced blades that are impact resistant and are also low angle
- adjustable drip rings
- The drip rings really cut down on water running down the handle, therefore keeping your hands dryer and improving your grip.
- This paddle propels your kayak easily through mild currents
- Lightweight, and sturdy and easy to maneuver
- The shaft comes apart for easy storage and is also adjustable to be able to angle your paddles to varying degrees.
- This paddle doesn’t come with hand grips, so the bar can get quite hot from the sun or cold from the water or air temp. An easy solution would be to order a set of hand grips.
- This paddle may not be long enough for someone who is considered tall or who might have a wider kayak.
2. SeaSense Kayak Paddle
|SeaSense Kayak Paddle||Length||Color(s)||Best Feature|
|84 or 96 inches||Blue, Green, Orange, Red, Yellow/Blue, White, Black||Hand Grips|
- Aluminum shaft with a push button connector
- Hand grips
- Fiberglass filled nylon blades
- Drip rings
- Available in 84” and 96”
- This lightweight and durable paddle has no flex or play in the shaft, with good balance.
- Can disassemble for easy storage and seems to work well in all water conditions.
- Padded hand grips help with temperature control and grip, and the drip rings do a good job of keeping your hands from getting too wet.
- The 96” option is not only preferable to taller people, but to those with wider or inflatable kayaks and some of average height who like the ability to take longer strides.
- The blades are sturdy enough that you can push off a dock, rocks or river bottom without breaking or chipping them.
- There is some concern about the connection being loose when assembled and also the hand grips twisting when wet. But that doesn’t keep this option from being an excellent beginner and go-to paddle.
3. Airhead Kayak Paddle
|Airhead Kayak Paddle||Length||Color(s)||Best Feature|
|84 inches||Red||Improves Paddling Efficiency|
- Aluminum shaft with foam handle grips
- Disassembles into two pieces
- Curved blades
- Adjustable blade angle
- Drip rings
- Because of the size and angle of the paddle blades, it moves a lot of water faster, with seemingly little effort.
- It’s comfortable for longer trips due to the hand grips and drip rings.
- It has greater paddling efficiency, and is durable and easy to assemble.
- It seems heavier than some “lightweight” paddles and may not be long enough for “taller” kayakers or for those with wider kayaks.
The Fishing Paddle, Under $100:
Is there a difference between a standard Kayak paddle and a paddle you would use if you were fishing from a kayak? YES! Although there aren’t necessarily drastic differences in design or materials used to make the paddles, designated fishing paddles have a few extra features that fishermen will love and appreciate.
These features include an integrated hook retrieval system and a tape measure either lasered or painted on the shaft. So if you’re a fisherman looking for the best kayak paddle for the money, here are a couple of finds:
4. Pelican Boats-PS1129-Poseidon Angler Fishing Lightweight Kayak Paddle
|Pelican Boats-PS1129||Length||Color(s)||Best Feature|
|98 inches||Sand||Hook Retrieval Groove|
- Fiberglass reinforced blades
- Adjustable drip rings
- 0-65° angle adjustment
- Aluminum shaft with indexing
- Hook retrieval system on the blades
- “tape measure” along the shaft
- Very Affordable
- The shaft has a gritty feel which gives a good grip without leaving callouses.
- There’s not much spill back down the handle from the drip rings.
- The groove for hook retrieval works well not only for retrieving lines and lures that may be lodged in logs and debris, but also for helping to grab the dock to pull yourself back in.
- Strides are smooth and give more thrust per paddle because it’s a bit heavier.
- The longer length is perfect for “taller” fisherman or if using a wider or inflatable kayak.
- For the price, there’s lots of great features.
- Some people may not appreciate the heavier feel.
- The length may be too long for some.
5. Crooked Creek Co. C11390 Tournament Angler Fishing Kayak Paddle
|Crooked Creek Co. C11390||Length||Color(s)||Best Feature|
|84, 96, or 108 inches||Green/tan||Reinforced Blade Tips|
- Fiberglass shaft
- Laser engraved scale
- Poly-fiber composite blades with reinforced blade tips
- 3 blade angle adjustments
- Hook retrieval system
- Feathering system
- Drip rings
- Paddle leash
- Contains a strong push button system for assembly, creating a solid fit.
- Comes in several lengths to fit your height and the width of your kayak.
- It balances nicely and is not too heavy.
- Comes with a paddle leash, which normally has to be purchased separately.
- Because the blade tips are reinforced, pushing off a dock, rocks or the lake bottom should be done with the confidence that the blades won’t crack or break.
- The notch in the blades is very useful for pulling yourself to the dock, as well as for retrieving line and lures.
- Paddle movement can be kept much lower to the water and much slower, making it a “stealth” paddle.
- If the blade angles are offset, the tape measure no longer lines up.
- The blades may be too small for some or perceived as poorly shaped because of the amount of cup in the blades.
Seriously, when trying to find the “perfect” paddle for beginners, there were SO MANY ridiculously great options to fit any budget. And it was clear from the hundreds of reviews, that many of the less expensive paddles were some of the favorites in many households, regardless of the experience of the paddler.
Q: Will a paddle come with my kayak?
A: Typically no. For all the reasons listed. The manufacturer or store selling the kayak would have no way of knowing the height or other physical make-up of the purchaser.
When paddles do come with kayaks, they often aren’t the best quality. You’re probably better off spending a little extra money and time to find the best kayak paddle for the money. However some stores may offer a deal to purchase a paddle with your kayak. In that case, use the tips listed to find the right fit for you.
Q: Do I really need to research paddles, or can I just pick one that matches my kayak?
A: If you’re planning to enjoy kayaking at all, it’s highly recommended to do a little research, know what you’re looking for, and spend some time finding a paddle that fits to you physically and will meet the needs of your kayak and your paddling style (which you won’t even know about yet).
The results from NOT doing this could be a miserable experience, leaving you with sore shoulders and back, banging your hands on the sides of the kayak, or getting calluses on your palms, amongst other things. You wouldn’t buy a life jacket without first trying it on. Don’t buy a paddle without first making sure it fits you as well.
Q: Can you really get a decent paddle for under $50? Or will it just break the first time out?
A: The paddles listed in the review had overwhelmingly positive comments about their durability and quality. Consumers seemed almost shocked that you could get a quality paddle for this price, so it makes sense you’re skeptical.
You definitely don’t need top-of-the-line when you’re starting out and you can be assured via the experience of others, that under $50 doesn’t mean it’s a cheaply made paddle. Many people have these “cheap” paddles as their consistent go-to paddle, and would agree that the best kayak paddle for the money isn’t always the most expensive one.
Q: Are hand grips a necessity when seeking out a paddle?
A: They don’t necessarily come standard on all paddles, but many companies do have them on all of theirs. You could try an outing without hand grips and see how your hands feel. The drawbacks are the potential for the bar to get hot in the sun or cold from the water that may run back, or your grip isn’t as good because your hands could slip. Calluses may also be an issue.
Q: If I’m using a kayak for fishing, do I need a special paddle?
A: Turns out, there are special angler paddles that definitely can benefit the fisherman! The main feature is the cut out on each blade that’s referred to as the hook retrieval system. It not only can help you detangle line and lures if they’re caught in logs, rocks or other debris, but this hook, can also help you snag the dock to pull yourself in. Another cool feature is the tape measure that’s painted or lasered on the shaft for easy measurement of your fish.
Q: What if we have a tandem kayak?
A: If you have a tandem kayak to use with your significant other or your child or a guest, you’ll still want to use the same guidelines for outfitting everyone with a paddle. You’re not going to want your child using the same size paddle as you. Use the guidelines above to make sure you find the best kayak paddle for the money for everyone in your group.
This YouTube video gives instructions on tandem paddling, as there definitely is an art and skill to it. Most in the video have what appears to be matching paddles, if they’re of a similar height.
Q: What about kids’ paddles?
A: Absolutely there’s a difference! The biggest ones being with the length of the shaft and the size of the blades. But just like adult paddles, you can find good quality cheaper paddles, all the way to super expensive and ultra lightweight ones. The objective is to get kids paddling without muscle and joint pain. So the paddles are smaller and lighter than an adult version. Children too need to be sized for the correct paddle.
Q: Can you use paddles for “regular” kayaks as well as inflatables?
A: You would use the very same paddles for all types of kayaks, with the determining factor being width. Often times, inflatables are wider, and therefore would require a longer paddle. Be sure to know the width of your inflatable when you’re shopping for a paddle.
Equipped to Purchase the Best Kayak Paddle for the Money
When you first realized that your kayak didn’t come with a paddle, you may have been disappointed to know you were going to not only have an additional expense, but you were also going to need to spend some time finding the right one for you.
But this is a GOOD thing! Assuming you’ve purchased a kayak to get out into nature, maybe get a little exercise, and just ENJOY yourself and the company you may be in, you’re going to want this to be a positive experience! If you’re physically miserable because the length of your paddle is too long or too short, or because it’s heavy and your muscles are fatigued, this is not going to make you want to get back out there in your kayak.
AND as it turns out, you really don’t need to spend much money at all to get yourself a lightweight, durable and great-fitting paddle. Who knows, maybe the best kayak paddle for the money will be way less than you were planning on spending!
So spend some time and a little money and find the perfect accessory for YOU to make your kayaking experience not only enjoyable, but something you look forward to doing over and over again.