Kayak Paddle – Does Material Matter?

The most important piece of kayaking equipment is of course the kayak itself. Second to that is the kayak paddle. A kayak paddle can make a big difference as to what kind of paddling experience you have.

For many of us our first kayak paddle is simply one that we can afford. However, as you become more experienced you may start to look into the different kinds of kayak paddles and how the different materials can affect your stroke, speed, comfort and overall experience.

The most common features to look for in a kayak paddle are weight, length and ergonomics. They are usually double-bladed and are typically made from lightweight materials.

Common Kayak Paddle Materials

The most common lightweight kayak paddle materials are:

Aluminum

Aluminum paddles are one of the cheapest types but they also happen to be one of the heaviest. Many people will start off with an aluminum paddle because they are so inexpensive, but will upgrade to a far lighter material once they become more serious about their kayaking.

As you can imagine a heavier paddle makes for a much more exhausting experience. An aluminum paddle however is great for starting out and makes a good spare for down the road once you own a better paddle.

Plastic

Plastic paddles are also one of the cheapest kinds and often will come with the kayak you purchase or else can be bought for a very inexpensive price. Also popular with beginners, a plastic paddle will be fine for a recreational kayaker but most people will want to upgrade to a lighter paddle after a short while.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is extremely popular because it is lightweight as well as inexpensive. They tend to be quite strong and can withstand a fair amount of abuse.

Wood

Similar to fiberglass paddles, a wood paddle is lightweight as well as inexpensive. Many people prefer the look of a wood paddle although they are much less commonly seen. Wood paddles are tough and rigid and can last for a very long time.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber paddles are not as common as fiberglass paddles because they are much more expensive. In fact they can cost two to three times more than a fiberglass paddle. However they are very lightweight… some can even be a few ounces lighter than a similar sized fiberglass paddle. When you are making thousands of strokes, a few ounces less can go a long way as to how you feel and how fast or far you can power your kayak.

Choosing your Kayak Paddle

When you are choosing your kayak paddle I would suggest two things:

  1. Choose the one you can afford… you can always upgrade down the road.
  2. Consider how often and how far you intend to kayak.

If you will be going out more than a few times a year you might want to consider budgeting for a better paddle. Don’t go for a carbon fiber paddle unless you are REALLY serious about your kayaking experience… meaning that this is a sport that is going to become part of your daily life. They are simply too expensive for most recreational kayakers (at least in my opinion, though others may disagree).

A good fiberglass paddle is usually the best way to go and can still be purchased for a fairly reasonable price. However if you have only ever used a plastic or aluminum paddle you simply won’t know the difference unless you happen to pick up a lighter paddle in a kayaking store… in which case you may begin to think of upgrading.

All kayaking stores will sell kayak paddles. Some of the best online sources are:

Find more great kayaking tips and advice.