The Ultimate Guide for Choosing the Right Kayak Paddle

Choosing the right kayak paddle is crucial when it comes to your comfort and performance on the water.


There's no better way to spend a summer afternoon than with the sun warming your skin and a paddle in your hands. Whether you’ll be quietly enjoying the waters or finding the best fishing spot, choosing the right kayak paddle is crucial when it comes to your comfort and performance on the water. With so many options to choose from, things can get complex. That’s why we made this handy guide to make finding the right kayak paddle easier.

Next to the kayak itself, your paddle has the biggest impact on your performance on the water. While many features in a kayak paddle can come down to personal preference, you should at least consider a few basics:

Paddle Length

Your boat width and your height determine your paddle length. In most cases, Inflatable Kayaks are typically wider than hard-shell kayaks, so they require a longer paddle length. In our experience, a paddle length of at least 230cm works well for paddlers 5’2” up to at least 6' 6” in height when paddling our kayaks. This is why nearly all of our paddles are set at a length of 230cm. If you feel that you may need a longer paddle, you’ll want to consider the Advanced Elements Orbit 4-Part adjustable length paddle.

Blue Pelican Symbiosa adjustable kayak paddle 230-240 cm

Blade Design

The size and shape of your paddle’s blade influence the power and efficiency of your stroke. Wider blades lend themselves to quick, powerful strokes that let you accelerate quickly. In turn, narrower blades are more comfortable for occasional and long-distance paddlers. Narrow blades also help reduce fatigue through the shoulders, allowing you to cover longer distances with less effort.

When choosing a blade, the size and shape affect its overall efficiency in the water. Most Pelican paddle blades are very similar in size and shape and have been designed to strike a balance in paddling efficiency by using an asymmetrical-dihedral shape. The resulting design provides a paddle that guides the water flow across the surface of the blade, reducing flutter in the paddle by directing that flow along the face to the outer edge. Additionally, an asymmetric blade will “catch” the water sooner on the entry phase of a stroke thereby increasing the efficiency of the paddle.

Shaft Design

A bent shaft or straight shaft impacts performance and comfort on the water. Bent shafts have several bends on either side of each hand grip area whereas straight shafts, as the name suggests, are straight. Bent shafts keep your wrists at a neutral angle to your forearms throughout the stroke, which is more comfortable and minimizes wrist discomfort and fatigue. Straight shafts don’t offer as much performance as bent shafts, but they are less expensive.

Aside from the material concerns, the option to “Feather” a paddle is an important one to consider. Matched, or unfeathered, paddle blades are even along the central axis of the paddle while feathered blades are not. Instead, feathered blades are offset at an angle to each other which improves a paddle’s effectiveness by reducing wind resistance. Nearly all our paddles are featherable so you can use the paddle either “Matched”, “Left-hand Feathered”, or “Right-hand Feathered”.

Green Pelican Catch Fishing Kayak Paddle

Materials and how they affect performance and price

Lightweight materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber improve performance by reducing fatigue but also add to a paddle’s price. Additionally, both materials tend to be more rigid which reduces flutter and translates into better energy transfer.

Here are some material considerations:

  • Plastic/Glass-filled Nylon Blades: Budget-friendly material that is also the most durable. Glass-filled Nylon blades are the heaviest compared to fiberglass or carbon fiber.
  • Aluminum Shaft: Very durable and typically weighs more than other shaft materials. Aluminum can tend to build up corrosion in salty or brackish water and should be rinsed with fresh water after each use. Aluminum can heat up fast in warm weather and be cold to touch in cold weather. The best option if price-point is a concern.
  • Fiberglass Blades and Shaft: A durable, rigid, and fairly maintenance-free material that typically weighs more than carbon fiber but is lighter than Glass-filled Nylon/Aluminum combinations. Fiberglass is a good mid-price option and does not really corrode in salt water nor does it get too hot or cold in varying temperatures.
  • Carbon-Fiber Blades and Shaft: Very durable, extremely rigid, and the lightest in weight. This material will also not corrode in salt water and maintains a comfortable feel in the hand when temperatures reach extremes. The old adage “you get what you pay for” really applies here as you are getting the best weight and rigidity for your money with carbon fiber.
Blue Pelican Symbiosa adjustable kayak paddle 230-240 cm

Whether you’re a recreational paddler or an angler, our kayak paddles are designed with your comfort in mind. Our paddles allow you to maintain an easy, steady pace without having to worry about your technique. Low-angle paddling also means that your hands are always at or below shoulder height which puts less strain on your shoulders. No matter how you like to enjoy your time on the water, our kayak paddles ensure your comfort from sunrise to sunset.


Pelican Symbiosa Paddles

For the everyday kayaking enthusiast, ​​we recommend the Pelican Symbiosa paddle. Carefully designed for paddlers of all skill levels, this adjustable kayak paddle offers superior quality and versatility at a great price. The low-angle design allows you to cover greater distances while reducing shoulder fatigue. Thanks to its adjustable length, this fiberglass kayak paddle is ideal for those with multiple kayaks or those who want a paddle that can accommodate all their friends and family.

Blue Pelican Symbiosa adjustable kayak paddle 230-240 cm

Wilderness Systems Origin Paddle

The Wilderness Systems Origin Angler paddle has a powerful blade that is ideal for maneuvering larger sit-on-top fishing kayaks or covering ground quickly to reach remote spots and fish all day. Anglers who use different seat positions will appreciate the built-in adjustability (240cm to 260cm) and the ease of operating the Leverlock® adjustable ferrule. Paddlers can customize both the length of the shaft and the degree of feathering with the simple flip of the lower-profile lever.

Grey Wilderness Systems Origin Glass Angler Kayak Paddle 240-260 cm

Advanced Elements Adventure Voyage 4-Part Paddle

The Adventure Voyage 4-Part paddle from Advanced Elements is a durable, portable, and very lightweight touring paddle. With its nylon/asymmetrical-dihedral blade and Aluminum Alloy shaft materials, this paddle is a great option for an expedition and touring kayakers.

White Advanced Elements Adventure Voyage-4 Part Touring Paddle

Pelican Kid Kayak Paddle

Pelican’s kids kayak paddle is perfect for young, first-time kayakers — the three-piece assembly is ideal for compact storage while kid-sized ribbed blades help maintain a good tempo on the water. It’s an excellent fit for small, eager hands and is free from heavy metals and phthalates.

White Pelican kids kayak paddle 152 cm (60")

Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass Paddle

The Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass paddle is specifically designed to deliver an enhanced paddling experience with Wilderness Systems Pungo kayaks, while being an exceptional paddle for other rec and touring kayaks. The paddle’s shape, size, and proprietary blade curvature deliver the optimal angle of entry and stroke depth for smooth, efficient, flutter-free strokes regardless of paddling style or experience level. With a simple flip of a low-profile lever, this paddle can be adjusted to fit virtually any paddler, model of kayak, or stroke style.

Green Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass Kayak Paddle 220-240 CM

Pelican Poseidon Paddles

For the avid fishing enthusiast, the Pelican Poseidon Paddle is a great paddle for your everyday adventures. The low-angle paddle design reduces shoulder fatigue and helps you cover greater distances with less effort. The anti-slip grip aluminum shaft and fiberglass reinforced polypropylene blades ensure better durability and performance on the water. The two-piece design makes storing and transporting your kayak paddle a breeze. Plus, it includes an integrated hook retrieval system on the blade and a measuring tape along the shaft that allows you to gauge the size of your catch in an instant.

Blue Pelican Poseidon kayak paddle 230 cm