Kayak Paddle: Distance Or Agility?

One of the beauties of kayaking is the simplicity of the activity. Just because the equipment is simple, however, doesn't mean that all kayaking gear is created equally.

Here's a quick guide to help you decide on the right kayak paddle for your next adventure on the water.


If your idea of a great day on the water involves covering great distances in your kayak, you need to choose a paddle that maximizes your efficiency and endurance.

  • Weight: Long days on the water require endurance. Few things will make your arms feel like wet noodles than a heavy kayak paddle. When assessing weight, it's important to look for a kayak paddle constructed from lightweight, yet strong materials. Carbon fiber or aluminum hybrid options offer the greatest strength to weight ratio, but they're also likely to be pricey. You can save on cost by looking for refurbished or used kayak paddles.
  • Construction: Kayak paddles designed for covering great distances are built differently than traditional paddles. First, they are normally longer and also sport less aggressive paddle blades. The extra length allows you to skim the water while getting more of your blade beneath the surface. The less-aggressive blade design also provides less resistance. When you're scouting kayak paddles for distance, look for a paddle that's about as long as you are, with blades that are about the width of your hand. This general fitting advice will help you choose a paddle that will feel like an extension of your body.


If you're looking to navigate tight quarters or looking to put yourself in better positions, you need a kayak paddle that offers torque and responsiveness.

  • Burst: Getting more propulsion from a deep paddle stroke requires a special kayak paddle. First, you'll need to look for a paddle that flexes when encountering resistance. This extra flex will create a slingshot effect that provides more torque with every stroke. Next, you'll need to look for a larger profile kayak paddle blade. The more surface area offered by the blade, the more power you'll generate with each stroke. As a general rule, look for a kayak blade that's about the width of both of your hands put together.
  • Responsiveness: To improve responsiveness, consider choosing a shorter kayak paddle. The reduced length will allow you to change your stroke angle and leverage your kayak paddle blades to help you make quick turns and changes of direction.