Best Kayak Paddles: 2023 Edition

Like kayaks themselves, kayak paddles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. Some are geared towards speed while others aid paddlers in nimble movements on the water.

If you’ve ever owned a kayak paddle that you just love, you know the difference it can make!

Every year, kayak and paddle manufacturers up their game and come out with new technology and designs that make paddles more durable, sleeker, and perform better.

Here are some of the best kayak paddles to keep your eyes on in the new year.

Best Kayak Paddles on the Market in 2023

Paddles are more than just a kayak accessory. They’re key to the overall performance and enjoyment that you’ll have out on the water.

Here are five of the best kayak paddles that you should consider in 2023:

Best Recreational Kayak Paddle: Bending Branches Whisper

Recreational kayakers are typically looking for a paddle that will give them good performance at an affordable price point.

For day-trip paddles out on a quiet river or lake, you don’t need to worry about reaching top speeds or maneuvering around obstacles quickly. What you’re looking for is a lightweight paddle that is durable, rigid, comfortable— and won’t break the bank. 

The Bending Branches Whisper gives the casual kayaker control, comfort, and quality for less than $70. It’s definitely a step above flimsy budget paddles, which is perfect if you’re looking for something solid without going all in. 

The two-piece aluminum shaft is equipped with black grips for increased comfort. The three-hole snap button allows you to feather your paddle 0° or 60° on the right or left. The blade is made from durable polypropylene.

Bending Branches builds all of their paddles to order, which means yours will be brand new when you get it.

The Whisper paddle from Bending Branches
The Whisper from Bending Branches

Best River Running Whitewater Kayak Paddle: Werner Powerhouse

It’s a little harder to narrow down the best whitewater paddle out there, simply because there are so many different styles of whitewater kayaking.

Still, there are a few standouts, including the Werner Powerhouse. This paddle, which is optimal for river running, has several design options.

Paddlers can choose between a bent or straight shaft design, a one or four-piece construction, and blades made of fiberglass or carbon.

Paddlers can also choose between shaft diameters, length, and feather angle. These options allow you to customize the paddle to fit your paddle style and needs.

The advanced design offers a perfect combo of light swing weight, stiffness, and durability. The dihedral blade shape directs water evenly off each side of the blade, which creates a smooth and stable stroke. The asymmetrical design gives paddlers a balanced forward stroke and reduces flutter.

Best Touring Kayak Paddle: Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon Paddle

When it comes to touring kayak paddles, you’ll want something lightweight. Heavy paddles will cause you to fatigue quicker and affect your overall kayaking performance.

On dry land, you may not be able to tell the difference between a few ounces in paddle weight. But after your thousandth paddle stroke, you’ll be feeling it.

This is what makes the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon Paddle a great option. The 100% carbon shaft and mid-sized carbon-reinforced blades deliver a superior performance. The Posi-Lok Ferrule System gives you flexibility on the fly with 15° adjustments, a strong fiberglass insert, and a tight fitting connection.

Learn more about the Posi-Lok in the video below from Aqua-Bound.

Video source: Aqua-Bound

Best Compact Kayak Paddle: The Oru Paddle

Oru makes great folding kayaks, and they created a compact paddle to fit right in.

Of course, you don’t need a folding kayak to want the convenience of a paddle that breaks down into four pieces. You can easily throw your paddle in your bag and snap it together once you get to the water, no matter what type of kayak you’re in.

The lightweight fiberglass shaft and durable ABS plastic blades make this paddle perfect for recreational kayakers or those looking to incorporate kayaking into their workout routines.

Oru Paddle
The Oru Paddle

Best Fishing Kayak Paddle: Werner Shuna Hooked

When you’re out fishing on your kayak, you want a paddle that can help you move efficiently, track straighter, and maneuver into the right position.

The Shuna Hooked from Werner offers premium performance that gives fishermen the perfect combo of stiffness and a light swing weight.

The mid-sized blades fit the widest range of paddlers, and the adjustable LeverLock system allows for 20 cm of adjustment on the fly.

You can order the paddle in one of three different ranges: 220-240 cm, 240-260 cm, or 260-280 cm. This makes it great for those with multiple kayaks or different seating positions on the same kayak.

Choosing the Best Kayak Paddle for You

Remember, when it comes to picking out the right kayak paddle, there’s more to the equation than brand and type.

Your height and kayak width will play a role in the length of the paddle that you need. Be sure to have those numbers on hand, because most kayak manufacturers have a size guide to help you determine the right fit.

Happy paddling!

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