How to Choose: 1-Piece or Breakdown Kayak Paddles

Many kayak paddles are available with several different breakdown paddle shaft options, allowing you to choose the right paddle first and then decide if you want a 1-piece, 2-piece, or 4-piece kayak paddle. Most high-quality kayak paddles, like the Werner Surge, comes in a 1-piece, 2-piece, or 4-piece breakdown design.

Which of these options is the best, and what is most recommended? Our Experts have broken it down to help you choose. If you have more questions, we're standing by to talk paddle.

1-Piece Kayak Paddles

We recommend choosing a 1-piece kayak paddle most often. The reason behind this is simple: A continuous paddle shaft means that your paddle will have the best performance and will be lighter than breakdown versions.

That said, not everyone has the luxury of storage space for a 1-piece kayak paddle. Plus, there are other benefits to the different configurations of breakdown kayak paddles that you may want to consider.

2-Piece Kayak Paddles

2-piece kayak paddles are generally the next best option, as the split is directly in the middle of the shaft where flex pressures tend to be the least.

In 2-piece kayak paddles, there are shims that bridge the gap between one side of the paddle to the other, which also contain the travel mechanisms that allow the paddle to come apart. This adds weight to the paddle over a 1-piece, which can be a downside if you’re looking for a lightweight paddle.

4-Piece Kayak Paddles

As you might guess, the more pieces your paddle comes in, the heavier it is. You can also see decreases in performance from paddles that break down into more pieces.

However, a 4-piece kayak paddle is a great option for anyone who travels regularly or needs a kayak paddle that can become as small as possible. If you’re backpacking or taking a multi-day kayaking trip, you might want to consider a 4-piece paddle.

Our Favorites

  • For river running here in Colorado, our top choice is the Werner Surge 1-piece kayak paddle. This fiberglass paddle handles abuse from shallow and rocky Colorado creeks without sacrificing power or durability. 

  • For our local run in Gore Canyon, we need a durable paddle to contend with the sharp granite blast rock that fills the canyon. In addition to the Surge, we often carry the Werner Powerhouse 4-piece kayak paddle in the back of our kayaks. This has been one of the most popular paddle designs in whitewater for decades.

  • If you’re on remote stretches of whitewater, having a backup paddle is essential, as a broken or lost paddle could lead to a dangerous situation. Being able to easily store the paddle makes it the perfect backup.

  • For playboating, our top choice is the Werner DoubleDiamond. The foam core carbon construction provides extra buoyancy and the downturned blades provide leverage that helps initiate tricks in frothy holes where other paddles tend to slice through the whitewater. On the Yampa while boating the “C-hole” we find that the DoubleDiamond paddle has a light and powerful feel, even during peak runoff when water is high and the hole is turbulent.

Whether you’re looking for a backup paddle, want something that is durable and efficient, or need a kayak paddle that can travel the world with you, we have a variety of options to choose from. Take a look at our kayak paddles today to find the perfect one for you!

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