Finding the best paddle for your paddling style is almost as important as finding the right kayak. But often, we see paddlers giving preference to kayaks and neglecting the paddle.
While kayaks and canoes are important, a paddle, with all its modesty, is essential to a kayak as an engine is to a car.
See, your choice of the paddle can either make or break your paddling experience.
Choosing the wrong paddle can make a fun day out on the water feel more like a chore. I’ve been there, and I know how a wrong length or even a too heavy paddle will give you a difficult time maneuvering your kayak.
On the other hand, choosing the right paddle will increase your stroke efficiency so that you go faster and straighter while expending less energy.
But just like there’re different types of kayaks, surfboards, and canoes for different applications, there’re also paddles designed for different purposes.
Some are better for whitewater; others serve the SUP boards better, while others excel in canoeing.
Fortunately, we shall review five of the best paddles in this guide and discuss the vital consideration when choosing a paddle.
Table of Contents
The Best Paddles For Water Sports For The Money
#1 Leader Accessories Paddle - Best for Beginners
Topping our list of the best paddles is the Leader Accessories Kayak Paddle.
It’s a fairly lightweight paddle, and while it lacks some of the bells and whistles of some of the premium choices, it’s a practical choice for beginners.
This fantastic paddle is available in five awesome colors to suit your style and personal preference. I know color is inconsequential to a paddle’s performance, but if aesthetics is a priority for you, Leader Accessories is sure to have you covered.
Beyond aesthetics, Leader Accessories has much more to offer. From the word go, you can tell this paddle is going to be a power paddle.
I love that the whole thing splits in two and ends up small and easy to store. When collapsed, you can even tuck the halves inside your kayak and carry it to the water without anything getting knocked around. The compact design is also easy to stash into your car’s trunk and still leave extra space for additional baggage.
The two-piece aluminum construction of the Leader Accessories promotes durability, ensuring you don’t have to worry about the oar breaking or bending on you, even when subjected to some rough waters.
Another great feature of the Leader Accessories is its lightweight, molded plastic blades. The blades don’t feel heavy, roughly about average, but without paying mad money for a carbon fiber type paddle. The blade cuts through the water with relative ease and has a decent amount of push, and I can guarantee you’ll have no problem controlling the paddle.
The lightweight design also makes the paddle a fantastic backup paddle if you decide you need an upgrade in the future.
Leader Accessories Paddle also provides easy feathering for left or right-handed control to suit your paddle style and to allow paddlers to practice all of those awesome techniques for greater efficiency.
Overall, this paddle is something I would recommend to anyone looking for a simple yet durable and reliable oar that doesn’t hurt your wallet.
It’s particularly a wonderful option for beginners.
#2 Carlisle Day Tripper Aluminum Paddle - Heavy Duty Option
There’s a lot to love about the Carlisle Aluminum Kayak Paddle, and it’s not a surprise this kayak paddle is suitable for both beginners and experienced kayakers.
The pricing for this paddle is a tad higher than others on my list, but don’t let the price dismay you as you’re sure of getting the most value for your money with this product.
You’ll love how this paddle cuts through the water with ease and never seems to be heavy. Of course, with an aluminum shaft, we were concerned with the weight. Still, surprisingly, the aluminum shaft is lightweight and didn’t fatigue us even after using it for a continuous two hours.
In addition to lightness, the paddle breaks into two for easier transport and storage. And the good thing is the locking system between the two pieces is sturdy and doesn’t feel flimsy or wiggly like most of the multi-piece paddles feel. It also doesn’t take elbow grease to adjust the length of the paddle.
The tempered aluminum shaft is durable, and it works great on rivers and class I & II rapids. It will get you from some of the tight situations without bending or breaking. It offers some extra speed when you need it and is strong enough for you to push off of rock and land confidently, knowing it’s not going to break.
The slightly angled Carlisle Day’s blades are stiff, and their polypropylene construction ensures they’ll stand up to the toughest conditions they may be subjected to.
Though they’re a bit angular, they cut water easily and with great precision, and I’m able to move forward with my kayak as expected. However, note that the blade’s broader blade design is best for maneuverability rather than for speed, and my fishing kayak was a great option for paddling around vegetation, with quick stops and starts and taking the tight turns.
It’s also nice that the Carlisle paddle floats over water, so you won’t have to worry about losing the paddle if you accidentally let it go.
The paddle is also easy to use, with the push-button two-piece design allowing paddlers to feather the blades at 60-degree for right or left hand, a nice feature for paddlers who like to change their paddling style.
Overall, the Carlisle is something I would recommend for both hobbyists and seasoned paddlers looking for a quality paddle.
Sure, it runs a bit expensive, but it’ll guarantee you get the best bang for your buck.
#3 Intex Dual Purpose Kayak Paddle - Multi-Purpose Option
If you’re looking for a multi-purpose kayak paddle, you can’t go wrong with the Intex Dual Paddle.
It’s a dual-purpose paddle that can be used for kayak or as double boat oars. The 96-inch paddle is connectable, easily transforming into two 48-inch oars that are perfect for boating. The 2-in-1 paddle is perfect for any outdoorsman that engages themselves in an array of different water-oriented activities.
Because of the Intex’s versatility, these paddles are a good buy for those who love spending their time on the water as they can be used for rafts, rowboats, paddle boards, and kayaks.
The aluminum shaft is sturdy and suits my paddling needs on both the calm lakes and rough rivers, including white water rafting. Intex’s paddle holds up to pushing off rocks and timber and poling your yak off the bottom or thick weed.
It’s also a lightweight option, and while it can’t compete with the carbon fiber option, it’s light for extended use without fatigue.
The drip catchers offer a nice touch to the overall design, and though they tend to slide down towards the blades, they keep you drier than before. This way, it’s easier to concentrate only on your paddling and not worry about water running down your arms.
They also float well, so there’s no possibility of losing the paddle even when you accidentally knock them off your kayak. However, we still insist on attaching the paddles, especially when working your way through the rapids or river with a current that could sweep the paddles away.
Our only nitpicking with the Intex paddles is the coupling that joins the two pieces tends to get loose if you don’t ensure it’s correctly and tightly screwed on. However, you’ll only need to do this once or twice before it becomes muscle memory.
Otherwise, Intex is a fantastic paddle and the ultimate budget option for those searching for a multi-purpose paddle.
#4 Bending Branches Whisper - Budget Option
The Bending Branches Whisper is popular with kayak rental shops, and not because it’s a performer, but it has the alternative benefit of being affordable and durable.
Though the plastic blades have more flex than other quality paddles, the polypropylene construction ensures more strength and durability. True to its name, users noted that the paddle flexed under pressure, delivering a light flutter when kayaking at speed.
Despite the drawback, the Whisper performs adequately, and the novice paddlers are less likely to notice the difference when they first get to maneuvering their kayak.
The blade’s dihedral shape allows you to pull through the water with relative ease while maintaining a flutter-free stroke. With the paddle, you’re sure to attain full control over your paddling and maneuverability.
With an aluminum shaft, the Whisper is designed to withstand getting thrown in the back of your truck or U-Haul. While the plastic offers unmatched durability, its flexibility takes a toll on the structure as you’re likely to notice a permanent curve to the blade over time.
Whisper is a simple, no-frills paddle, which even first-time paddlers can use the snap button system without guidance.
Additionally, the paddle comes with three different blade angle options to suit your paddling style. While some paddlers prefer paddles with many options, we found the three options adequate for beginners and, more importantly, a budget option paddle.
Even better, the Whisper relies on a ferrule locking system, rather than the basic snap button alone, which makes the paddle more secure than other systems. Still, some user complains that the system offers a slight give, especially when it is torqued under pressure.
Bending Whisper Paddle might have some limitations, but for the price, we feel the performance is acceptable by any means. The board is particularly a fantastic option for the introductory kayakers on a tight budget.
Families will also be happy with purchasing a couple of these so that everyone can enjoy being in the water.
#5 AIRHEAD AHTK-P3 Asymmetrical Blade Kayak Paddle - Ultra-Portable
The Airhead is by no means a premium paddle, but numerous features separating this paddle from the standard boards.
One thing that sets this paddle apart is that it can break down into four sections instead of the traditional two. This way, it’s easier to stash the paddle into the hull of your kayak without knocking it around, or even your car’s trunk, and still love some extra space for other stuff.
Beyond the ability to fold into our sections, the blades on this paddle are shaped asymmetrically to equalize the force on both sides of the blade when paddling, resulting in less twisting on the paddle.
The blades cut through the water with greater efficiency and require the least effort to get you through the rough water conditions. Their adjustable angulation also makes it easier for a paddler to pick a paddle to suit their paddling needs.
Adjusting the blades to different angles is a doodle, and even beginners will make the changes on the spring-loaded pin without the need for a manual.
Durability on these paddles shouldn’t be a concern anymore, as the anodized aluminum shat and fiberglass-reinforced plastic blades can handle anything you throw at it. From the rough water to the whitewater abuses, this paddling holds strong in any condition.
Best Paddles Buying Guide
With plenty of paddle options to choose from, picking the right paddle for you can feel intimidating, but we’re here to help.
In the section below, we shall share everything you need to know about selecting the best paddle with you.
But first, let’s look at the different types of paddles.
Types of Paddles
Touring paddles are designed with comfort in mind. They’re lightweight, ergonomic, and comfortable to use even after long hours in the water.
The recreational paddles are designed for recreational use and are inexpensive.
They’re heavier, though, but durable.
The recreational paddles are suitable for short trips and suitable for those who don’t paddle often.
White water paddles are durable and built to withstand impact easily.
These paddles are suitable if you often go paddling in white waters with lots of rocks, sand, and sediments.
The whitewater paddles will easily fight against the strong currents, with their thicker shafts and wider blades allowing them to come out easily in the intense condition.
The performance paddles are designed to enhance the over performance of the paddlers.
They’re durable and ultra-light. The paddles feature advanced features to withstand the strong waves and currents.
Factors to Consider when Selecting the Best Paddles
Here are the factors to consider when selecting the best paddle;
Paddle shafts are classified into two different options, but the main design includes:
Straight vs. Bent
Straight shafts are inexpensive and more popular because of their affordability.
They’re ideal for paddlers who need to make powerful strokes to fight the strong currents.
On the other hand, the bent shafts are more expensive but put less strain on the hands, especially on the wrist area. These shafts offer a natural grip and reduce fatigue on the hands.
Some paddle designs allow blade offsetting to reduce the wind resistance while the upper blade is in the air.
Blade offsetting improves the overall paddling experience and is comfortable to the wrists, too.
1 piece, 2 pieces, and 4 piece
The single-piece kayaks offer the least possible weight for a kayak and have a strong shaft, compared to the multi-design shaft of the same weight and length.
While most of the designs are available in a one-piece design, the 2-piece shaft design is also becoming popular.
The 4-piece shafts are further broken down into 4 pieces and are suitable for paddlers who need to save space and have a greater number of paddlers on board.
The diameter of the Shaft
While most of the shafts come with a standard diameter, which is good for most hands, you might want to look for a shaft with a smaller diameter, especially if your hands are small.
If you’ll be using your kayaks of different widths, it would help if you choose a paddle shaft with a length adjustment to suit your paddling needs.
Paddles are available in different lengths, but most range from 210 to 26o centimeter.
Finding the right length of your paddle depends on many factors, including your height, paddling style, and the width & length of your kayak.
As a general rule, the taller you’re, the longer the paddle you’ll need. Also, if your kayak is wide, it’s better handled by a long paddle.
After the shaft, the next critical factor to consider is the blade.
Three of the vital factors affecting the blade are material, blade weight, and blade shape.
The three common materials used in paddle blades are:
Most fiberglass blades are aesthetic and fall within the medium price range.
The fiberglass blades are semi-light weight and built for strength.
They’re a wonderful option and popular with recreational and touring paddlers.
Carbon fibers are top of the line blades, sporting an ultra-lightweight material and built for power.
Though expensive, these blades are serious performers and suitable for serious paddlers or those taking a long trip.
Nylon, Plastic, or Aluminum
The paddles are considerably heavier than the carbon of fiberglass blades, but they’re strong and inexpensive.
Additionally, they require little upkeep, so they might be a perfect option for recreational paddlers or beginners.
Traditionally, symmetrical blades were popular among kayakers, but today, the asymmetrical dihedral-designed blades are becoming a preferred choice.
The latter is ergonomically-shaped, designed for paddlers to expend less energy. They resemble the wing of an aircraft, allowing water to flow along each side of the blade effortlessly.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
To the untrained eye, all the listed paddles look similar. But a seasoned paddler will tell you some of the options are better suited for certain paddling styles or conditions than others.
While all the listed paddles are awesome and performance-oriented in their own right, we feel the Leader Accessories Kayak Paddle has a slight edge over its competitors.
Not that it’s any better by miles, but by a whisker.
It’s a fantastic option, blending the performance of a lightweight, durable and comfortable paddle.
The paddle is also easy to use, and though it might be a bit expensive, we feel it comes with everything you would need for a successful and fulfilling paddling experience.