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One Mistake Most Kayakers Make

One Mistake Most Kayakers Make

One Mistake Most Kayakers Make

After you purchase your kayak, your focus immediately shifts to rigging out your kayak with all of the coolest accessories. However, most kayakers often overlook one of the most basic things that directly impacts your time on the water and how much you enjoy it.

What is that one thing? Your paddle. Almost every kayak comes with one and most people overlook this accessory and accept the paddle they are given without giving it a second thought. But, if you don't take time to adjust your paddle or upgrade to the correct paddle for you, you may find yourself moving inefficiently and getting frustrated on the water quickly.

We have you thinking about your paddle now. Great. What next? Let's look at some of the key factors to consider with the paddle that comes with your kayak or if you are looking to upgrade. Then, let's look at a few tips on how to adjust your paddle to you.

What Factors Matter with a Kayak Paddle?

Some of these may seem obvious, but like most people, you may not have given these a second thought. When looking at your current paddle, or purchasing a new one, consider these simple factors:


The length of your paddle should depend on your height, the width of your kayak, and your paddling style. A general rule of thumb is that the paddle should be about the same length as your height plus the width of your kayak. If you have a paddle that is too long, or too short, you will exert unnecessary energy and tire more quickly on the water.


The weight of your paddle can affect how quickly you tire during a long paddling session. Generally, lighter paddles are easier to use for longer periods of time, but they can also be more expensive. Factor this into your overall kayak budget if you plan to primarily paddle when using your fishing kayak. Investing in a light paddle will prolong your energy and time spent on the water.


Kayak paddles can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, wood, and carbon fiber. Each material has its own pros and cons, such as durability, weight, and cost.

  • Fiberglass is a popular material for kayak paddles because it is strong, lightweight, and affordable. It is also fairly durable and can withstand some abuse.
  • Carbon fiber is an extremely lightweight and strong material that is popular among serious kayakers and competitive racers. It is also very expensive and may not be the best choice for casual or recreational paddlers.
  • Wooden paddles have a classic look and feel and can be very beautiful. They are also quite durable and can last a long time if cared for properly. However, they may be heavier than other materials and may not perform as well in high-performance situations.
  • Aluminum paddles are often used as an entry-level option because they are affordable and durable. They are also quite heavy and may not be the best choice for longer trips or more challenging paddling conditions.

Blade Shape

The shape of the paddle blade can affect the amount of power and speed you can generate with each stroke. Different blade shapes are better suited for different types of paddling, such as touring, whitewater, or racing. Here are few blade shapes:

  • Low-Angle Paddle: A low-angle paddle has long, narrow blades and a relaxed shaft angle. It is designed for a low-angle paddling style, where the paddle stays close to the water's surface. This paddle is great for long-distance paddling and requires less effort to maintain a steady speed.
  • High-Angle Paddle: A high-angle paddle has shorter, wider blades and a more upright shaft angle. It is designed for a high-angle paddling style, where the paddle is lifted higher out of the water with each stroke. This paddle is great for maneuverability and acceleration in choppy water or currents.
  • Wing Paddle: A wing paddle has a unique shape with an angled blade that is curved on one side and flat on the other. It is designed for speed and efficiency and is popular among competitive racers. The wing shape provides lift on the blade, reducing the effort required for each stroke.
  • Touring Paddle: A touring paddle has a larger blade surface area and a more gradual curve. It is designed for longer trips and offers a good balance of power and efficiency. It is a versatile paddle that can be used for both low-angle and high-angle paddling styles.

How Do I Choose the Best Paddle for a Fishing Kayak?

Now that you have learned a bit more of the nuts & bolts of kayak paddles, how do you choose the right one for you? It is easy to simply say it comes down to preference, but that is not helpful. Set your budget, decide on the material type you'd like based on what we discussed above. Then, consider these factors specifically for a sit-on-top kayak:

  • Blade shape: Since sit-on-top kayaks are typically used for recreational paddling or fishing, a low-angle paddle with a larger blade surface area may be the best choice. This will provide good power and efficiency while minimizing strain on your shoulders and arms.
  • Material: As mentioned earlier, paddle materials can vary widely, but fiberglass or carbon fiber are popular choices for their lightweight and durability.
  • Shaft design: The shaft of the paddle should be comfortable to grip and should allow for easy adjustment of the blade angle. Some paddles may have adjustable shaft lengths as well.

How Do I Adjust My Kayak Paddle Correctly?

Not to sound repetitive, but this part really does come down to preference and experimenting what feels best for you. With that being said, let's break down a few terms you may come across and some general guidelines to help get you started.

Adjust Paddle Length

As mentioned earlier, the paddle length should depend on your height, the width of your kayak, and your paddling style. You can use a paddle sizing chart or ask a professional for guidance. A general rule of thumb is that the paddle should be about the same length as your height plus the width of your kayak. If you choose an adjustable shaft, you can play with the length on the water. If you buy a fixed shaft, factor these numbers in when purchasing your paddle.

Adjust Paddle Angle (feathering)

First, let's define feathering. Kayak paddle feathering refers to the angle between the blades of a kayak paddle. In a feathered paddle, the blades are not aligned, but rather offset from one another. This offset can range from a few degrees up to 90 degrees, depending on the paddle design and the paddler's preference.

Feathering is used to reduce wind resistance and make it easier to paddle in windy or rough conditions. By offsetting the blades, the amount of surface area that is exposed to the wind is reduced, which can make it easier to paddle against the wind and reduce fatigue.

Feathering can also improve the efficiency of each stroke by reducing drag as the paddle is lifted out of the water and reducing the amount of water that is splashed onto the paddler.

Now that you know what feathering your blades is and how important it can be, here are a few general tips to get you started:

  • Beginners or those who paddle in calm conditions may prefer a lower feathering angle or no feathering at all. This can make it easier to keep the paddle blades in the water during each stroke and reduce the risk of wrist strain.
  • More experienced paddlers or those who paddle in windy or rough conditions may prefer a higher feathering angle, which can reduce wind resistance and make it easier to paddle against the wind.
  • Most paddlers find a feathering angle between 45-60 degrees to be comfortable and efficient. However, it's important to experiment with different angles and find what works best for you.
  • It's also worth considering the type of paddle you are using. Some paddles have a fixed feathering angle, while others are adjustable. Adjustable paddles allow you to experiment with different feathering angles and find what works best for you.

Adjust the Paddle Grip

The grip is the part of the paddle that you hold onto. Make sure the grip is comfortable and fits your hand size. You can adjust the grip position along the shaft to fit your preferred hand placement.

Test the Paddle Beforehand

Before hitting the water, test the paddle adjustments by holding the paddle with both hands and simulating a paddling motion. Make sure the paddle feels comfortable and efficient, and make any additional adjustments if necessary.

Finding Your Next Paddle

That was a lot to take in. It goes to show how fine the details can get on an accessory most kayakers overlook when purchasing their kayak and setting out on the water. Something so overlooked, however, can make or break your day on the water. Some of you may be thinking, 'but I have a pedal drive or motor on my kayak.' Even if that is true, you will still find yourselves needing your paddle on the water, whether that be when you launch and dock or if you get yourself into situations (like shallow or weedy water) where a paddle is still needed.

Investing in a good paddle that fits you and your style can be a one-time purchase that saves you time, energy, and frustration.

Kayak Paddles

Solstice 4-piece paddle

Solstice 4-piece Quick Release Paddle

4-piece quick release aluminum performance paddle with 3-position adjustability that can be broken down for easy storage and travel.


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kokopelli paddle

Kokopelli Alpine Lake 4-Piece Paddle

4-piece introductory paddle made of an impact resistant nylon composite blade and fiberglass shaft. 0 degree feather.


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NuCanoe Aluminum wave paddle

NuCanoe Aluminum Wave Paddle

250 or 275cm Aluminum paddle featuring the Wave blade from Cannon Paddles. 4 lb weight, 56 x 2 x 2 in.


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Feelfree camo paddle

Feelfree Camo Series Angler Paddle

Two-piece fiberglass paddle with glass reinforced blades. Lightweight paddle with lengths from 230-260cm.


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NuCanoe adjustable aluminum paddle

NuCanoe Adjustable Aluminum Paddle

Adjustable aluminum paddle that can range from 250cm to 270cm. Includes angler measuring tape right on the handle. Total weight, 4lbs.


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Bending branches paddle

Bending Branches Angler Scout Paddle

Engineered polymer reinforced fiberglass blades, aluminum shaft, built-in hook retrieval and adjustable feathering (0 & 60 degrees).


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Old Town carlisle paddle

Old Town Carlisle Magic Angler Paddle

Two-piece, lightweight curved glass filled polypropylene blades with fiberglass shaft. Hook retrieval. 60 degree feathering.


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NuCanoe adjustable fiberglass angler paddle

NuCanoe Adjustable Angler Fiberglass Paddle

240-260cm adjustable fiberglass paddle featuring the Wave blade from Cannon Paddles. Includes 40" measuring tape on the shaft.


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Ask Questions & Use Your Available Resources

If you find yourself overwhelmed or still unsure which kayak or accessories are right for you, check out some of our additional resources. A great place to start is by joining our public community, The Kayak Anglers Resource, where you can ask questions of members who have real experience. Or, check out our YouTube channels for reviews and how-tos: Eco Fishing Shop and Kayak Anglers Resource.

Learn from other kayak anglers who were in your shoes and asking some of the same questions. Here are some of their discussions you may find useful to jump in on:

Browse all of our blogs and Buyer's Guides to most of our brands below. To check out our full range of the best fishing kayaks and accessories we have to offer, available to you via free and fast shipping, click HERE. We are happy to help and answer any questions. Click the chat button, give us a call or ask your questions in the public community, we will be there to answer no matter how you communicate!

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