Whitewater Kayak Paddle Buying Guide
Choosing the right paddle for whitewater kayaking can be daunting with all the available paddle options to consider. We are here to help!

What to consider when shopping for your paddle?

A whitewater paddle that matches your skill level, paddling style and meets your price demands is ideal. But weighing the options can be overwhelming.
Luckily, CKS Online paddle experts are here to help you understand what to consider when choosing a paddle that will work for you and how you paddle! And our team is always available if you have any questions this blog doesn't cover.

You'll want to think about:

Paddling Style





Material Choices

Bent Shaft


Straight Shaft

1 Piece



Your paddling style + kayak experience

Your whitewater kayaking experience and the style of kayaking you want to do make a difference in the type of paddle you choose, as well as the size of paddle you choose. Paddle length (typically measured in cm), shaft width and blade dimensions are variables you will want to consider.

  • For example, paddlers 5'3" to 5'8" would likely prefer a paddle between 190-196 cm and paddlers 5'9" to 6'1" would prefer a paddle between 196-200 cm, whereas those taller than 6'1" would prefer a paddle over 200 cm. The industry is starting to "size up" on lengths, but these are general guidelines to adhere to. 
  • Paddlers looking for more power and stability in their strokes may consider a larger blade size. 
  • On the other hand, you’ll generally get more efficiency in your paddle strokes with a mid-size blade.
  • Shorter paddle lengths tend to be great for those who are looking for a more aggressive paddle stroke, which can be beneficial when performing play boat maneuvers.

Understanding your own experience and style can help you choose the right paddle blade, as well as the right length, blade size and desired offset. If you have any questions about your paddling style and the best paddle for you, our experts are always happy to chat paddling!

Material choices

When looking at the best paddles for whitewater kayaking, there are several different materials to choose from. Each has its benefits. 

When browsing selections of high-quality Whitewater Kayak Paddles, you’ll find yourself comparing carbon paddles and fiberglass paddles. Choosing the right material for you is going to help you get the best out of your gear and boating experience. Following are pros and cons of each material type and how they're used in the paddle. 

Aluminum Shaft

Aluminum shaft whitewater paddles are a great choice for those who are looking for the most affordable option. This is regularly a preferred material choice for recreational kayakers, and those who don’t have a lot of experience under their belt.

Pro: This affordable material is durable and flexible.
Con: Flexibility can come at the cost of efficiency.

Fiberglass Shaft

Fiberglass whitewater kayak paddles hold a lot of benefits. Paddlers will quickly find that a fiberglass kayak paddle is strong, yet lightweight. It’s a little more flexible than other options like carbon, which is good for those with weaker or sensitive wrists. 

Pro: Strong, yet lightweight and more flexible
Con: Fiberglass paddles tend to offer a little less power per stroke.

For reference check out the Werner Sherpa Straight Shaft Kayak Paddle!

Carbon + Carbon Core

Carbon kayak paddles are a fantastic option if you’re looking for the most lightweight choice. They are also the most powerful of the material options, making them great for many whitewater kayaking adventures.

The benefits a carbon paddle offers are great, however, you’re going to be paying more for your paddle. Carbon is one of the most expensive kayak paddle options. In addition, while carbon paddles take a lot to wear down, they offer very little flexibility. Ultimately, they do not bend, and if they reach a certain pressure threshold, they will break.

Pro: Most powerful and lightweight choice. Great for whitewater kayaking.
Con: Most expensive option and less flexibility

For reference check out the Select Player Straight Shaft Kayak Paddle!

How to Choose: Fiberglass and Carbon Whitewater Kayak Paddles

Read more here: How to Choose: Fiberglass vs. Carbon Whitewater Kayak Paddles

Bent Shaft vs. Straight Shaft

When shopping for whitewater kayak paddles, you’ll notice many offerings are available in a bent shaft and a straight shaft paddle design. As you look at the variety of bent kayak paddles vs. straight, you might be wondering what the difference is. We asked our experts to help readers understand the advantages and disadvantages of a bent shaft kayak paddle and a straight shaft kayak paddle.

Straight Shaft Kayak Paddle

Pro: Tends to be strong under pressure. This type of shaft offers the reliability that you need and the power that you’re looking for when performing things like low bracing and back paddling.

Con: A straight shaft does not allow for ergonomic wrist positions, and it’s easy to find your hands slipping down the paddle as you go.  

Bent Shaft Kayak Paddle

Pro: Easier to keep your hands in the right position. This can help prevent wrist injuries or even the loss of your paddle.

Con: Bent shaft paddles tend to be a little more expensive than their straight counterparts. They are slightly more susceptible to breaking, due to the bend in the shaft. However, this doesn’t present as an issue in most cases.

How to Choose: Bent Shaft vs. Straight Shaft Kayak Paddles

Read more here: 

How to Choose: Bent Shaft vs. Straight Shaft Kayak Paddles

1-Piece Paddle vs. Breakdown Paddle

Kayak paddles are often available with 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 come in a 1-piece, 2-piece, or 4-piece breakdown design, and all are great options and offer their own justifications--it all really comes down to what you are looking for! 

1-Piece Kayak Paddle


This paddle is a single, continuous piece. In general, this is the best option for most people. It offers higher durability than breakdown options because there are no structurally weak spots where the paddle comes apart. This style also offers the best performance, overall. On top of this, 1-piece kayak paddles tend to be the lightest option. Our best selling 1-piece paddle is the Werner Powerhouse Carbon Straight Shaft Kayak Paddle!

Breakdown Kayak Paddle


Beneficial for those who simply don’t have the storage space required for a larger, single-piece paddle, or for those who need to keep a spare paddle in their boat to meet permit regulations. The more pieces your paddle breaks down into, the heavier it will be, and the more the durability will suffer. If you plan to travel frequently or need to conserve storage space, a breakdown paddle might be the best option for you. Our best selling 2-piece paddling is the Aquabound Aerial Fiberglass 2-Piece Straight Shaft Paddle!


There are many options to consider when buying a whitewater kayak paddle. From the paddler's paddle style to paddle sizing to the price, storability and more, you need to find the best paddle for you and your situation. Check out some of the best paddles for whitewater kayaking to take a closer look at each feature and what is best for you! Our Paddle Experts are always ready to chat and answer any questions you have.

1 comment

Matt McKinney

Matt McKinney

Great information, Johnny. I’ve switched from straight shaft to bent, and back to straight over the past 20 years. And 200cm to 194 and now back to 197. I find the most important thing for me is how smooth the power face feels in the water when pulling. The right feel will always tell me where my hands are even on a straight shaft paddle. I like your product guides that include insight on industry and consumer trends. Thanks.

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