Kayak Paddle advice for first timer

Hello everyone!

A brief background: I’m an Eagle Scout from New England and have done some canoeing over the years (500+ miles) but am a real noob with kayaking. I already purchased my boat, I’m here because I need paddle advice. I bought a Wilderness Systems Pungo 105. Actually I bought a Pungo 120 as I thought it would be a bit better for my use and size however it physically could not fit where I have to store it, luckily the dealer was kind enough to let me exchange it for the Pungo 105 that does barely fit the space.

My stats: 6’0, 220lb, elbow and wrist joints easily aggravated, always do what I can to baby those joints when possible.

Pungo 105 stats: width 30”, cockpit width 22”

Use case: primarily flat water - lakes/ponds ~70%, rivers ~30%, no “real” whitewater or ocean.

I know nothing about kayaking yet aside from what I read online. I’ll take a stab at the paddle stats, please make corrections and give suggestions.

Length: 230-240, leaning more towards 230? Is there some pro/con rule for trying to decide between the upper or lower end of the range you fall into according to the charts?

Paddle Angle: low angle?

Blade Material: either fiberglass or carbon-fiber (just avoiding plastic/nylon right?)

Shaft Material: again either fiberglass or carbon-fiber

Shaft Design: bent to help the wrists/elbows? (along with proper technique)

Blade Shape: wide or narrow?

Feathering: sounds like this isn’t really a purchase consideration so long as it can be adjusted to be feathered? Or needs to be decided at time of purchase?

Price: I’m a firm believer that “saving money” is usually more expensive. While I don’t want to buy more than I need, I’d much rather spend $300 on a paddle that’s the best fit for my needs the first time than spend $150 and then spend $300 when it turns out the first paddle wasn’t what I needed. If it comes down to two paddles that both meet my needs and are essentially the same and one is cheaper yeah I’m going to go with that, I just don’t want to cut any corners to get there. I guess I’m just saying don’t focus on the price point.

Are there any real downsides to the bent shaft design aside from a little more weight? Any reasons you’d suggest I stick with a straight shaft and just focus on technique instead?

Looking forward to hearing all your suggested paddles. Thanks in advance for your time and effort.

I’ll start by saying I have no personal experience with bent shaft paddles.

That said, AquaBound makes both straight and bent shaft versions of their Tango paddle for low angle paddling, and of their Whiskey paddle for high angle. Werner makes great paddles too, but I’m unfamiliar with their product line beyond one whitewater paddle I have of theirs. Keep in mind, you’re most likely looking at $400+ for bent shaft paddles.
Straight shaft opens up a lot of options and cost savings while maintaining the same quality in paddle materials and performance. Less expensive low angle paddles from AquaBound are the Stingray and Eagleray, Werner also has some good options. Wilderness Systems also has their own paddle they developed for the Pungo, but I don’t know anything about its quality.

For paddle length, I think you’re in the right ballpark of 230-240 cm for your height and the width of the Pungo.

You appear to be on the right track to finding an appropriate paddle. If you are still living in the southern NE area, I suggest to go see Marshall so you can put your hands on different paddles and talk to a knowledgeable, very experienced professional face to face before buying.

Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main

And, he has more contact information in the recent thread about kayaking in the Hudson Valley.


Wrists and hands…my normally sore old joints do better when paddling than other activities. No death gripping the paddle. Basic hooking of fingers and light thumb to hold paddle is all you need. Problems arrise when i have to take a long touring boat on a long crooked narrow path.


I know it is a tough time to do this because of supply chain issues, but best to try out a given bent shaft paddle before buying. They are not all the same. I have a bent shaft H2O paddle that felt natural from the first time in my hands and I never looked back on. I have tried other manufacturer’s bent shaft paddles to find an entirely different experience. My Werner is straight shaft.

Overall the place to spend money is to go lighter weight. And do not go with any bigger blade size than necessary. Big sized blades beat your shoulders and wrists up far more than smaller sizes, you get power by increasing cadence anyway. And you cannot do that when the amount of water the blade is pulling exceeds your joints’ comfort range.

Not sure that a given bent shaft blade is appreciably heavier than straight, but then again I have foam core paddles.

Most people find a low angle style paddle stroke easier to maintain and less stressful on the joints. Most low angle Euro paddles also have a narrower blade, which is also less aggressive and stressful.

As far as material, the common advice is to get the lightest paddle you can afford. The lighter weight will be important if you want to paddle longer distances. It’s less tiring. Carbon fiber paddles are generally strong but the lightest. They are usually the most expensive as well.

Almost all modern Euro paddles can be adjusted for feather angle. Although fewer paddlers seem to be using a feathered paddle these days, the true reason to feather a paddle is that some people find a feathered paddle easier on the wrists depending on their personal technique. That’s a perfectly valid reason. Don’t listen to the ridiculous argument about wind resistance. The wind will not always be from the same direction and you never want to change the feather angle based on wind direction. Pick an angle that you like and stick to it. You want the blade angle to be in muscle memory when you suddenly want to accelerate , brace, or roll (if you have that skill). Otherwise you risk ending up in the water as the blade accidentally slices through the water. I paddle with an unfeathered blade. One advantage of this is pretty much all paddles can be set to unfeathered and most Greenland paddles are unfeathered. So I can use any of these.

Bent vs straight shaft, again whatever is most comfortable for you. Most people use straight shafts. Straight shaft paddles tend to be a bit lighter and less expensive than a bent shaft. There’s no way to tell without trying both.

Correct length depends on several factors including how high you sit in the boat, arm length, boat width and height, etc. The correct length is when with a correctly executed forward stroke, for the majority of the stroke the entire blade, no more and no less, is completely in the water without you paddle shaft hitting the side of the boat. 220-230 sounds about right for you. Many people seem to end up with paddles that are longer than they should be. Too long a paddle is heavier and less efficient, and can be more expensive. Some paddles are, within a narrow range adjustable for both feather angle and length. These can be a slightly heavier and more expensive.

If your dealer let you exchange your first boat, hopefully they will let you try out a few paddle variations.

I use a Werner Ikelos, a high angle rather wide and aggressive paddle. I bought it essentially new at a fraction of the retail price from someone who decided he didn’t like a high angle paddle and found it tiring and rough on his shoulders.

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I’m getting the feeling it’s very difficult to know certain things like how wide/narrow the blade and if I prefer straight/bent or what type of bent without actually trying them. I’m in southern NH so I’ll look for a place that lets you try or rent paddles first. I’ll take any suggestions for paddles I should rent if I can find them. I’d be ok spending more maybe $300-400 if I’ve had the chance to try it first. I’ve read a lot of good things about the AquaBound Tango which one of you mentioned; What else should I get my hands on to try from Werner, H2O, or others? Thanks all for your input on the differences to be looking for and recommendations.

I’ve been chasing the best paddle for me for years and been through a bunch.
I would buy a less expensive one to start like a glass shaft/ nylon blade Aquabound. NONE of us ever have just one and someday it will make a good guest paddle.
The boat you are forced into is a terrible choice for someone your size, but I understand. You need 14’ at your weight. I hope you can find a place for a longer boat.

Not sure what you’ll find locally for rental places using high end paddles, or even a place that carries them for sale, but if you’re interested in trying out a straight shaft AquaBound Stingray, I have one in 220 cm and in 230 cm you’re welcome to try out. I’m up in Concord. If anything it will give you an idea for paddle lengths to choose from.

Outdoor New England in Franklin has higher end paddles, they MIGHT have touring paddles (they specialize in whitewater), but you’d want to call to make sure they have them in stock before making the drive. They are really helpful and can help you get anything you need.

Welcome to kayaking!

But I have bad news: No paddle will work well for your current situation because that Pungo 105 is grossly undersized for your 6’ and 220 pd. frame. If you keep the yak, buy the cheapest paddle available and a life insurance policy.

Perhaps reconsider your storage options. Would a longer yak fit hoisted to the rafters, or against a wall diagonally with one end hoisted and the other on the ground, or could it be stored somewhere outside? Explore local storage facilities. Also, consider renting several different yaks before selecting your next purchase.

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No need for a 240! Go with a 220 and learn to higher angle paddle.

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I had a Prodigy 10 and was about the same size as the op when I paddled it. If he sticks to the conditions he mentioned it will be fine. No real room for doing anything more with that boat but maybe he can upgrade if things change. I used a 220 paddle which was also fine.

That short a paddle may be a problem with a 30" wide boat.

Unless you have 38" arms like mine. I was called Cheetah in college.

Ah, good point, string.

I am the opposite. Though I am 5’ 5" (on a good day) I have the legs of someone 5’ 10" and the arms of someone 5’ 2". Can’t drive some cars because in order to have the seat slid back far enough that my legs are in position and not jammed up under the dash or steering wheel, I have to lean forward for my short arms and stubby torso to reach the wheel. I “should” be, per some common metrics, using a 205 with my 20" to 22" beam touring kayaks but that would mean bruised knuckles. So I use 213 cm to 230 depending on the boat of the day.

Bur folks sitting taller in the “saddle” and with “cheetah” arms don’t have that digital collision issue.

While I also generally prefer the “buy once” philosophy, I’ve found it doesn’t work for me with kayaking gear. If money is an issue I’d recommend instead that you look for inexpensive used gear (NH is a pretty good place to look), use it, see how you like it, and then resell to buy something better. I’ve gone through quite a number of boats and paddles and now have stuff that suits me well which I never would’ve been able to tell I liked when I started out. I have also never lost money on any piece of used equipment I sold.


I found this listing on Facebook this morning, he’s selling a lot of used gear including Werner paddles. One of them looks to have a bent shaft. He’s located in Goffstown.

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$150 for a Werner carbon paddle is an amazing deal. It’s even very good for fiberglass. If it’s near you, OP, check it out. You can’t go wrong, you can always resell.

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wow great find! Thank you. I did message him and will try to get there asap to look at those. Thanks everyone this has been incredibly helpful advice.

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