Kayak Paddle Materials Explained, Is Carbon Fiber Worth It?

set of kayk paddles

So you have finally figured out what size of paddle you need. If you have not please go ahead and visit our guide. Once you know what exact kayak paddle size you need the next question becomes what type of kayak paddle do you need.

Firstly if you have yet to choose a paddle please go here for our full paddle guide.

Now it’s easy to get confused because there are so many different choices of kayak paddles there are different kayak paddles that are fairly cheap going in the about $30 price range and then there are kayak paddles that go all the way up to 400 and $500.

Now the obvious question is why are these expensive kayak paddles so highly price is there really that big of a difference. The answer is yes there is an actual large difference between the higher and the kayak paddles and the lower and the kayak paddles much like you would see with a set of cheap golf clubs versus a set of expensive golf clubs there is a manufacturing difference and the difference in the materials used to create them that gives one the edge over the other.

Looking at kayak paddles there are a couple of different materials that are the most common and use for kayak paddles the most common materials include but are not limited to aluminum, plastic, fiberglass, wood, and carbon fiber.

We are going to go through each material and explain to you what the benefits are of it and hopefully by the end of this guide you will know which material you want and what type of kayak paddle to purchase.

a kayak paddle in the wateraluminum kayak paddles – Beginners

starting off are the aluminum kayak paddles now these are known as the cheapest kayak paddles around in the industry they are very easy to make and usually carry a smaller price tag around the $30 mark. They are very light weights and the material is surprisingly durable even though it’s not one of the best out there. Aluminum paddles are great for starting off and while you’re still learning the sport and you’re not a professional.

Plastic paddles – Beginners

These are usually the cheapest only coming in front of aluminum paddles in terms of price they are also light weight and usually come with some of the beginner kayak models. Plastic is very durable and a lot of these paddles are actually good quality so don’t let the mouth conception that plastic is a cheap material for you. A lot of the times once you become better at kayaking you will choose to upgrade to a better kayak paddle.

Fiberglass – Intermediate

Fiberglass is a very popular material one of the biggest pros with fiberglass is its durability. Fiberglass is also not a very expensive material to produce coupled with the durability this brings together a perfect storm for one of the best materials in kayaking.

Wood – All Skill Types

Wood paddles are very tough and rigid though these days you do not see as many would paddles on regular kayaks as you would see for example on the older canoe. Wood are still some of the most durable types of kayak paddle one of the biggest disadvantages of wood is the fact that it is usually much heavier than its counterparts like aluminum and plastic.

a couple with kayak paddlesCarbon fiber – Advanced

Now these paddles are the Ferrari of kayak paddles they are incredibly light weight even sometimes measuring up to three times less weight than any of the other competitor materials. Now you may think do I really need a paddle that is that much less in weight for a price tag that is nearly 10 times that of a plastic paddle. And for most people the answer is a resounding no you do not need a professional carbon fiber kayak paddle however if you are a professional kayaker or someone that really enjoys the sport a lot and goes out let’s say 2 to 4 times a week or even more for long hourly trips think about this how many times can you imagine that you are paddling during one trip may be 60 paddle strokes a minute now multiply that by an hour long trip and then you start to see how a kayak paddle that is three times lighter than the competition would be worth that tenfold increase in price tack. There is little to say about these paddles that is negative the material is very durable very strong and incredibly light weight the only negative is as we have mentioned the price tack.

Final things to keep in mind when choosing

When you’re choosing a kayak paddle the biggest things to consider are your budget and how often you kayak. If you kayak more than a couple of times a week and are looking to take up the sport in a more proactive manner it may be worth it to buy a carbon fiber paddle however if you are a casual or recreational kayak or maybe you should go for the plastic or aluminum model intermediates might even consider the fiberglass model. Also dependent on whether you can afford a carbon fiber paddle the other options are also great.

If you’re a beginner you should definitely go with an aluminum or plastic paddle which are both very similar you may not even know the difference.

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About Julian Thompson

cb787c59d2808e1f609076e790ca977e?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: Certified Kayaking Instructor (AKA)
Education: American Kayak Association
Lives In: Denver Colorado

I am a kayaking expert/instructor who has been fishing for over 15 years. Fishing is my passion, but kayaking keeps me on the water. I love to share my knowledge of techniques and tips with others. I live in Colorado with my wife and two kids and own a small kayak rental business On Grand Lake where I rent and instruct.