Ultimate Review of The Best Kayak Paddle in 2020

I’m an avid kayaker, and throughout my kayaking escapades, I have met plenty of folk who take great pride in their kayaks. Fishers who boast that even rocks can’t scratch their kayaks. I’ve also met fishers adamant their vessel doesn’t make a single ripple and boaters claiming their kayaks slice through water like a hot knife through butter.

Rarely, though, do people brag to me about the quality of their kayak paddles.

Understandably, most kayakers consider kayak paddles as simply handy accessories; a necessary add-on for their kayaking investment. And this is the assumption that gets them severely underrated.

Agreed, at first glance, kayak paddles may look alike, and they all, indeed, have the same basic parts.

It’s also true that paddles are included when purchasing a kayak. However, while the manufacturers pay a great deal of attention to the vessel’s material and design, there’s alot less effort spared on the paddles.

Now, any seasoned kayaker can tell you that beyond your choice of a kayak itself, there’s nothing more important than the yak paddle.

You see, the paddle is the engine of your kayak, connecting your muscles to the water and transferring that power with every stroke. A paddle is as essential to a kayak as an engine is to a car.

Having the right paddle increases your stroke efficiency, so you get going faster and straighter will less energy. On the other hand, the wrong paddle can make a fun day out feel more like a chore.

Now, whether you’re trolling in the shallows, making your way to an isolated fishing spot, or simply out for a leisure paddle, we’ve whittled down a comprehensive guide outlining the best kayak paddles on the market.

Table of Contents

Quick Comparison Table!

Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass

4.8

4.8/5
Werner Paddles Kalliste Kayak Paddle

4.6

4.6/5
Carlisle Magic Plus

4.5

4.5/5
Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon

4.3

4.3/5
SeaSense X-Treme II

4.0

4/5

The Best Kayak Paddles For The Money

The Best Kayak Paddles For The Money

#1 Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass - EDITOR'S CHOICE

4.7/5
4.2/5
4.8/5

Topping our list of the best kayak paddles is a versatile, lightweight, and reliable option delivering a superb performance on all metrics.

The Wilderness System Pungo Glass, a composite fiberglass paddle, excels in performance and durability while keeping the price down.

A game-changer feature on the Wilderness Pungo Glass is the Leverlock ferrule, which joins the two pieces seamlessly to form a single, robust unit.

Features and Benefits

Durability

While the wrapped graphics are prone to scratching and peeling over time, the blades themselves show no flimsiness

Despite developing a less pristine appearance, the blades don’t wear out at all, and their performance doesn’t falter either.

Locking mechanism security

A notable attraction of this kayak paddle is the Leverlock ferrule system, which offers an infallible connection.

Contrary to more rickety, multi-piece kayak paddles, the Wilderness System Pungo Glass doesn’t wiggle or creak, even when put under stress.

When extended to its full length, it doesn’t feel weak either; instead, it offers reliable and strong performance.

If anything, most users cannot tell the Pungo apart from a standard one-piece as it feels so solid.

Performance

The Pungo Glass delivers a top-end performance at a price that will satiate even the most discerning kayakers.

The fiberglass blades are lightweight and offer a gentle, proprietary blade curvature to deliver smooth, flutter free strokes.

Additionally, it offers a practical paddling session as it doesn’t flex and provides a predictable flow of power, even when pushed to the limit.

The only issue with the paddle’s performance is that the lever on the shaft can get in the way of the paddler’s hand when the paddle is extended, so it’s not as low profile as we would have liked. This doesn’t affect the performance, but might impact the comfort level for some.

Ease of adjustment

The Leverlock ferrule system is an instant hit; not only by how it exemplifies the performance, but also on its ease of use.

By flipping a simple lever on the center of the shaft, it’s easy to adjust and alter the paddle’s length.

The intuitive mechanism is equally easy to use, even if your fingers are a bit numb. It is, in fact, an inspiring option for kayakers with limited dexterity.

Weight

The Pungo blades are fiberglass, while the shaft is a blend of carbon and fiberglass, giving the paddle an overall lightweight feel.

While the Pungo doesn’t make it to the ultra-lightweight category, careful design and balanced weight distribution mean it’s a joy using it, even for extended periods, without getting tired.

Pros

Cons

#2 Werner Paddles Kalliste Kayak Paddle - Best for Performance

4.6/5
4.3/5
4.6/5

The Werner Paddle is a featherweight, fully-carbon paddle tailored to offer an exceptionally smooth yet powerful performance.

Featuring an all-carbon construction, the Werner will surely make you fall in love with kayaking all over again as it feels light, with the buoyant blade making it feel even lighter.

Performance-wise, the meticulously designed blade’s full gloss finish helps with the effortless entrance and exit of the blade into and out of the water.

Beginners will also love this kayak paddle and will instantly notice the transformational effect on their kayaking stroke.

Features and Benefits

Durability

While the smooth finish of the carbon blades is beautiful to behold, it easily takes on surface scratches.

But this doesn’t hamper the performance, because the blade edges are reinforced with dynel and impact and abrasion-resistant material. The roping helps to protect the blades from wearing down quickly.

Nevertheless, the roping doesn’t make the blades invincible, and careless transportation or mishandling could cause significant damage.

Locking mechanism security

The Werner Paddle uses a Smart View locking system, eliminating the feeling of a multi-piece design.

However, if you don’t need to dismantle the paddle for storage or transport, I would highly recommend you invest in the one-piece version of the paddle.

Performance

Like its durability, the performance is also fantastic, with the careful design and high-end materials combining to offer a lightweight, polished feel.

The dihedral blade design gives some oomph to the overall performance, ensuring the water flows evenly to deliver flutter free strokes.

Additionally, the dihedral blade easily cuts through the water like a knife through hot butter, giving you the confidence to achieve a consistent rhythm.

The paddle’s smooth back face also helps with performance, ensuring the paddle enters and exits the water efficiently, generating an effortless feel for every stroke.

Ease of adjustment

The Smart View system utilizes a single button to unlock the paddle for adjustment.

It also comes with a small viewing hole to make it easier to identify your chosen blade angle.

While operating the paddle, it can feel a bit clumsy and isn’t really a match for the Wilderness Pungo Glass’s ferrule system, however, it’s by far superior to the snap button options on many paddles. The Smart View is less prone to sticking, and the button’s low profile design means it won’t interfere with a smooth operation.

Weight

With a solid carbon construction, the Werner Kalliste weighs under 700 grams.

It’s so light, you’ll be surprised when you first pick it up. 

And for first-time users, it’s not uncommon to feel like you are “air-swooshing” your strokes. But, once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize how capable the paddle is.

The blade itself has a lightweight feel while also providing floatation, thus reducing the overall impact on your shoulder.

Pros

Cons

#3 Carlisle Magic Plus - Value Option

4.4/5
4.5/5
4.5/5

If you find the Pungo Glass and Werner a bit prohibitive on their pricing, you can pick the Carlisle Magic Plus, which demonstrates equal performance.

While it doesn’t stand out for any unique features, it beats the competition by scoring more than adequately in every department.

This mid-level paddle might not have the bells and whistles of some of the reviewed models on the list, but it’s still a good option for beginners and intermediate users.

Features and Benefits

Durability

The Carlisle Magic Plus fiberglass blades reinforced with polypropylene offer reliable and rigid performance, enough to weather whatever mother nature throws in the way.

Nevertheless, for a budget option, expect some compromises, which is evident through the grit which built up on the Magic Plus snap button.

But, overall, we feel the folks at Carlisle have done a pretty great job with the durability, especially considering the price point.

Locking mechanism security

The snap button, a standard among kayak paddles, is not very promising in performance.

It might feel relatively secure at first, but with time the joints start to loosen, creating some wiggle room, which might ultimately affect your paddling performance.

Performance

The performance of the Magic Plus is impressive, especially considering it’s a budget option.

The slightly scooped blades deliver a smooth and powerful stroke, while the reinforced polypropylene eliminates the blade’s fluttering, even when under pressure.

The Magic Plus’s fiberglass shaft is a takeoff from the standard aluminum as in other budget options, delivering a lighter and more durable experience.

Plus, the shaft is more responsive to the transfer of power and offers a textured grip for enhanced control.

Ease of adjustment

The snap button system employed by Carlisle is simple to use and effortless.

When new, it’s a doddle to adjust, but with time it wears outs.

The connection points are prone to collecting residue and dirt, and it easily develops rust, especially when it makes contact with salt water.

To avoid this, we recommend that you regularly clean the connection points.

Weight

The fibreglass is reinforced with nylon and this makes the blades bulk up the weight of the Magic Plus.

Carrying the kayak paddle is a little cumbersome and will likely cause increased arm fatigue and deteriorate your paddling performance.

Pros

Cons

#4 Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon - Premium Option

4.3/5
4.5/5
4.3/5

The Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon has consistently delivered impressive performance across all departments, and it was not difficult to select this paddle as our premium option.

The paddle is a joy to use, cutting through the water easily and eliminating any fluttering from the blades.

Advanced kayakers will enjoy this paddle, especially over long distances, while beginners and intermediate users will love its low weight and ease of adjustment.

Features and Benefits

Durability

Right out of the box, the Sting Ray screams quality and durability.

From the paddle’s choice of material, to the construction style and the manufacturer’s history of making quality paddles, the Sting Ray is certainly going to last for the long haul, even with frequent use.

The Posi-Lok system is also built with durability in mind. We love how incredibly easy it is to adjust and dismantle the paddle even after extended use in sandy conditions.

Locking mechanism

The Posi-lok is incredibly secure, performing more like a one-piece paddle.

It eliminates play or creaking on the paddle, and despite the extensive use, it doesn’t deteriorate or show signs of wear.

Unlike the snap button on the Budget Magic Plus, this option doesn’t collect grit on the connection point and will rarely pose a challenge during adjustment.

Performance

The Carbon Sting Ray knocks the ball out of the park when it comes to performance.

The mid-size blade sport abX resin, further reinforced with carbon fibers, delivers an ultra-smooth and effective catch and transfer power with every stroke.

Additionally, the dihedral blade design we saw earlier on the Werner helps with efficient water flow across the blade’s surface. It eliminates fluttering, even when subjected to pressure.

Finally, the carbon shaft features a textured feel, offering more grip to contribute to effortless paddling.

Ease of adjustment

The Posi-Lok is among the most straightforward systems to use. In particular, it provides a quick dismantle process, a handy feature when you need to transport the paddle into two pieces.

When it comes to assembly, the paddle’s clear markings make it easy to identify the blade angles.

Weight

The Sting Ray is relatively lightweight and by far lighter than most of the paddles on the list.

The weight is also well-distributed, giving the paddle a balanced feel to help achieve a smooth and relaxed cadence.

Pros

Cons

#5 SeaSense X-Treme II - Budget Option

4.2/5
4.6/5
4/5

The SeaSense comes at a substantially lower price tag than the other paddles on our list and would be a tempting option for anyone looking to invest in an inexpensive kayak paddle .

It’s not the most performance-oriented paddle and we would recommend it for anyone simply looking for a backup paddle for multi-day touring emergencies.

Features and Benefits

Durability

The polypropylene blades are durable and built to last. However, we had issues with the longevity of the riveting because it tended to feel flimsy.

Additionally, after some kayaking outings, users reported that the foam grips on the paddle got slippery, ultimately impacting the overall kayaking experience.

Locking mechanism

The looser snap button isn’t secure and often resulted in a shaky and inefficient paddle stroke.

The SeaSense might not be the right option for those looking for greater efficiency in their paddle strokes.

Performance

The performance of the SeaSense isn’t the best, and easily becomes compromised once the grips start to move around.

The narrow shaft and shaky adjustment point also impacted the performance.

Nevertheless, the paddle will get you going, and while it might not be a joy to use, it’s acceptable for the price point.

Ease of adjustment

The snap button is a doddle to use, and the adjustment is far easier to make than on most.

It takes less effort to dismantle the paddle than other options, and adjusting the length is super easy, too.

Weight

The aluminum shaft increases the weight of the paddle substantially.

While it’s unlikely to cause concern for those planning to make short journeys, it may not be great to use if you’re kayaking for long distances.

Pros

Cons

Best Kayak Paddle Buying Guide

Best Kayak Paddle Buying Guide

Purchasing a kayak paddle is a big decision, almost as crucial as investing in the kayak. This is because it’s what makes everything happen when out on the water.

If you’re planning to purchase a paddle for your kayak, we shall share some of the critical features to consider in your next purchase.

But, before I share the tips with you, let’s look at the different types of kayak paddles on the market.

Types of kayak paddles

There are different types of kayak paddles, but here we shall only look at the four common types:

Touring kayak paddles

Comfort takes a front seat with the touring kayak paddles.

The touring paddles are lightweight, ergonomic, and won’t tire you out, even after hours or days of use.

Recreational kayaks

Aptly named the recreational kayak paddles, these options are designed for recreational use.

They’re inexpensive and heavier, so ideal for those who make short trips and those who don’t kayak often,

Whitewater kayak paddle

The white water kayak paddles are heavy-duty and can withstand impact without breaking down.

They’re suitable for those who plan to go kayaking in white waters where there are lots of rocks, and also sand and sediments.

These paddles are reliable and will easily fight strong currents.

Performance kayak paddle

The performance kayak paddles are designed to boost kayaks’ performance.

Along with durability and lightness, the performance kayak paddles come with advanced features to withstand strong waves and currents.

Features to consider when selecting a kayak paddle

Now that we know about the different types of kayak paddles, let’s look at some of the features to consider when making a kayak paddle purchase.

Size

The length of your paddle depends on several factors, and two of the most important are the width of your kayak and your height, or, more specifically, the length of your torso.

Materials (blade & shaft)

Kayak paddles are available in an array of materials, each with different benefits.

Starter paddles tend to feature aluminum shafts with plastic blades, and while they’re inexpensive and durable, they tend to be a bit bulky.

  • Blade

The inexpensive beginner blades are often made from plastic, aluminum, or even nylon.

Fiberglass is also a popular option, offering fantastic durability and lightness. It’s an inspiring choice for both recreational and touring kayaking.

Carbon fiber blades are ultra-lightweight but a bit expensive. They’re best suited for use on performance paddles as they promote greater efficiency and minimize fatigue.

  • Shaft

Many shafts are wooden, though the wood is often coated with a protective layer for greater resistance and durability.

Aluminum is also a popular material for shaft construction, though heavier. However, they both offer excellent durability and strength.

Paddle shaft shapes and pieces

When it comes to the blades on a kayak paddle, double-bladed paddles are the best for performance. This is because kayaking requires you to raise the blade higher throughout the tour.

The shaft can either be round or oval-shaped. The round one, offering a more traditional shape, isn’t quite as comfortable as the oval one.

On the other hand, the oval shaft is easier to hold, offering better grip and efficient paddling.

Shafts can also come as one-piece, two-pieces, or more.

We prefer the multi-piece shafts since they can be taken apart and allow for feathering, thus promoting a more personalized paddling style. The multi-piece paddles are also easier to carry and store.

Further, shafts are also available either straight or bent. The cranked or bent shafts are ergonomic, making it more comfortable and easier to paddle, thus minimizing your wrist strain.

Wrap Up: Our Choice

wrap up our choice

After careful consideration, we feel the Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass takes the crown for the best kayak paddle.

The Pungo Glass plays offers various unique and practical features, all promoting efficient and high-quality paddling.

The fiber/carbon construction offers a lightweight yet reliable paddle that easily takes on the water with great efficiency.

The blades are equally responsive, with their slight curvature helping to eliminate fluttering, even when kayaking under pressure.

However, we feel the Leverlock ferule system is the greatest asset, offering an infallible joint that doesn’t creak or wiggle, and is more like a one-piece paddle. 

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