Do Kayak Paddles Make a Difference? (Explained for Beginners)

As a beginner kayaker, you might wonder what part of the kayak makes all the difference. Well, simply put, all of it does. From the vessel, paddles, and to the seat’s positioning and any other accessory or hardware.

However, the most important part is the vessel, and after it is the paddle. The paddle has the most important effect on your performance while you’re on the water. A proper blade will make longer trips more effortless too.

Kayak Paddle Blades and Their Differences

There are all types of kayak paddle blade shapes available on the market, but let us take you through some basic shapes. We will tell you all about how they are different briefly. There are 3 basic kayak paddle shapes:

Flat and Symmetrical

Symmetrical, flat blades are best for kayakers who prefer higher strokes with more power. They allow more of the blade’s surface area to be underwater and use more power to propel forward. These are often best for touring or short, high-energy races.

They might curve along with the outer edges, but they are flat from edge to edge along with the blade’s faces. These blades will often have a rib running through them and are found on longer, lighter shafts.

Curved and Asymmetrical

Curved, asymmetrical paddle blades add a sweeping motion along the blade’s axis or cross-section. These blades are best for kayakers who participate in kayaking as a sport and prefer going longer distances.

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The asymmetry of the blade allows for lesser blade surface area underwater, and the curve allows for an early catch to lift water instead of push. It’s best for multiple people in one kayak that have to coordinate their strokes throughout the race. 

Aleutian and Greenland

The Greenland-shaped blades are narrow and long, usually on a shorter and thicker shaft than most normal blades. The Aleutian blades are different because of an additional rib on the power face, while the Greenland blade is completely flat.

They work best when used with a low angle stroke style, and they’re not well suited for quick, powerful strokes. They are mostly associated with finesse and endurance rather than speed.

Choose the Correct Paddle for Your Trip

It is important to get the right type of blade to help you make the most out of your trip on the water. A good paddle will increase efficiency and let you achieve the performance you need without troubling you.

If you are touring or require a paddle that will help you move forward faster, a flat-faced blade will be the best choice for you. Flat blades will require an initial burst of strength when catching the blade in the water to propel forward. But, they will allow you longer “rests” between power portions of the stroke.

A curved, asymmetrical, bladed paddle will do wonders if you are a team and long-distance kayak racer. The early catch will provide you and your teammates with the ability to coordinate each stroke. These paddle blades also allow you to use longer, more evenly powered strokes for longer durations.

Different Types of Kayak Paddle Shaft Materials

You will find kayak paddle shafts in various materials. Some are more durable than others, some are lighter, and some are longer or shorter than usual to fit different performance requirements.

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The most common types of wood used for paddle shafts are walnut, cedar, spruce, and ash. They will usually be laminated to improve strength and provide a beautiful finish. Wooden shafts are lighter and can evoke a warm, earthy feel to your kayaking experience!


Aluminum alloys are a standard metal material used for paddle shafts. They have a very strong weight to strength ratio while maintaining lower costs. Aluminum alloy shafts are somewhat light, but they are very durable.


It is also a very common shaft material that is popular for its lightweight and strength.

Carbon fiber

Carbon fiber shaft paddles are the most expensive ones of the lot. However, their weight to strength ratio is impressive. They can be almost air-light but extremely strong and durable, often preferred by professionals.

Single vs. Multi-Piece Kayak Paddles

You can find single or multi-piece kayak paddles. There are a few differences between them, but either one should work well for you if they are of good quality.

A single-piece kayak paddle will be stronger, more durable, and reliable. They are less likely to break as compared to multi-piece kayaks. A multi-piece kayak, however, is much easier to transport than single-piece kayaks. Multi-piece kayaks can be taken apart and packed neatly.

Ensure Your Paddle Length Is Correct for Your Height

You should not only worry about whether a longer or shorter paddle for a specific type of performance. But it would be best if you also considered whether a shaft paddle is the right length for your height.

If you are tall and get a paddle too short, it will throw off your strokes and overall performance. And if you are short and get a paddle too big, it might be too heavy for you to paddle through the water efficiently.

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A paddle too short or too long will make kayaking very frustrating and difficult regardless of your height.


To conclude, we will say that yes, kayak paddles do make a big difference on the water. Almost as much as the vessel itself. You must consider the paddle shapes, shaft materials, and lengths, as well as single vs. multi-piece paddles.

Hopefully, we helped you learn everything you need to know about kayak paddles and what differentiates them from one another! 

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