Kayak Paddle recommendations for fitness


Newbie paddle question here…

I’m interesting in an intermediate or cheaper cost paddle primarily for fitness… I think what I want is something with a lot of blade surface area, but I’m new so maybe I’m wrong.

My thinking is that I want something that will give me lots of “purchase” on the water so that I can put more energy into my stroke. Does that make sense, or am I being an idiot?

Looking at the Aquabound Manta Ray (probably a hybrid snap button?). 105 in^2 surface area, but would welcome other recommendations / education.



Depends on what you want to get fit. If it’s upper body muscle; yes a larger surface will work your upper body. If it’s heart and lungs you want to work out, then a higher cadence (less surface area) is what will work.

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In general paddling, larger blade surface area are good for sprints and smaller blade surface area for long distance cruising Think of it like bicycle gears - large blade equals low gear and smaller blade equals high gear.

As @Rex said, you can get fitness with either. A smaller blade which wouldn’t provide as much resistance in the water, so you can’t pull harder on it, can still be used for fitness by using a higher cadence.

So yes, what Rex said … and: A good forward stroke is generally a full body experience. The arms set the blade and act as levers through the rotation of your core and transmits force through your feet. There are racers (and coaches) on this board that can give a much more accurate explanation than can I. Questions worth answering along with fitness type are: goals (racing? whitewater? General?), your kayak type, venue - what waters will you be paddling, and you - age, height, weight, current fitness, any issues.

There are some good discussions earlier on these boards - you might search for “SHUNA”. You might also look at the Werner Paddles site: https://www.wernerpaddles.com/paddles/ for information.

Also, I have seen people here recommend Aquabound paddles as good choices for a first paddle.


In terms of goals… Just general fitness. I’m not interested (yet, anyway. :slight_smile:) in competitive stuff in kayaks.

Boat is a Dagger Axis 12. I don’t really care that much how fast I go across the water, its more about what type of workout I get when doing it.

Used on flat water.

I’m 50yo, 5’10", 190 lbs, in ‘reasonable’ shape (Until the virus shut stuff down, I played recreational hockey 3+ nights a week, etc.). I have kinda crappy knees, but that shouldn’t matter for kayaking (interestingly… Ice hockey is fine for them but running is straight out).

I’ll try that search. Thanks!



I should probably say… My current paddle is a Field & Stream Chute 230cm. It feels sorta clunky (the ferrule isn’t very tight, and it feels like the blades are bending or something in the water if I’m trying to pull hard).


Lighter weight anything will allow for a faster cadence hence a good workout.

But be aware that jumping up bigly in blade size is an excellent way to help surgeons make a couple more payments on their fancy cars. When they have to repair your shoulder from overuse.


The Aquabond will be major improvement from the thing that you are using. If you find yourself going in a different direction it will still be a good backup.

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If you want to increase paddling effort without using a faster cadence, try a sea anchor of some sort. You could just drag an obnoxious jet skier behind the boat.

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I used to use an Onno Full Tour. Great paddle if you have an undamaged upper body. I didn’t and visited the orthopedist. He couldn’t fix it so I got a wind paddle. I euro /GP combination.
It still stresses my shoulder but I can paddle a long time with no pain, just some tightness.
PS. My surgeon drives a pick-up, but it’s a really nice one.

How long will your workouts be? I want to spend longer paddling than I spend loading, unloading, driving and launching.

I run 3-4 hours with a 90 square inch BB Whisper ($65) and wouldn’t want to go any bigger. A bigger paddle would kill me on a 4-hour trip, but for a 1-hour workout a bigger paddle would probably work well.


I tend to be out for around an hour or so.

When I’m paddling for fitness (vs. just being out with my wife/son), I tend to wear a heart rate monitor. I try and stay around 65% to 75% of max heart rate, with occasional sprints to as much as 100%. Generally speaking, I also max out my heart rate lifting the thing up onto my shoulder and carrying it back to my van when I’m done. :slight_smile:


Celia’s warning about shoulder injury is an excellent point. Canoe and kayak racers don’t switch paddles to bigger blades while training; they increase their cadence.

They also concentrate on long sessions (two hours or more) of aerobic endurance training then start adding anaerobic interval work. You don’t need a huge blade to accomplish that, just a better and lighter paddle.

If you know your minimum and maximum heart rates, this calculator may be helpful. https://www.freespiritsrowing.com/forum/app.php/page/heart-rate-bands-calculator

Love the BB Whisper! It is a “go to” emergency paddle in my inventory. Happily used one once on a 22 mile race on the Mississippi River when my primary paddle just didn’t feel right that day. A hard to beat paddle for the price $60-65 vice $250-500.

When students have not bought a paddle and do not want to spend money for a good Werner or similar, I suggest the BB Whisper for a year or two and then use it as a spare when they upgrade.


I should have mentioned… I got the BB Whisper for my wife and have used it myself. Its a little better than the F&S Chute, but only a little. Like the Chute, it feels like I want more bite (or whatever) in the water. The ferrule is tighter and I don’t get as much bending sensation of the blade in the water, but its small improvements, not large ones.

I’ll probably give that Aqua Bound Manta Ray a go and see if I like it. Seems like the Werner Shuna or Corryvreckan might be interesting as well, but they’re quite a bit more $$.


$80 + shipping and I have a no name/mfg. doesn’t exist anymore carbon Wing Paddle for you. I’m using a Stellar Pro-Wing these days so this one is just hanging about.

A wing will force you into a workout and train in good form. Without good form, swimming is a definite possibility. Lucky for you the Axis is quite forgiving. :grin:

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Depends what you mean by fitness. A larger bladed paddle will be like doing fewer reps in the gym with heavier weights, a smaller bladed paddle will be like doing more reps with lighter weights.

The first will tend to build more muscle mass; the latter will tend to build more aerobic fitness.

The first will also tend to punish your arms, shoulders and core more. And incorrect technique will accentuate the punishment, particularly with the larger bladed paddle.

You want a workout paddle faster. Paddle longer. You don’t need a lot of different paddles.

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I know this sounds like a paradox, but:
If you don’t have enough bite, it can actually be caused be a blade, which is too large for you.

The explanation is that if the paddle becomes too large, you will not have the strength to keep proper form during the stroke. If you don’t keep proper form, you don’t get optimal bite.

Even though you are not interested in racing, this movie may be worth watching. At some point he says something like: “If someone comes to me and asks for a larger blade because they don’t have enough bite, I give them a smaller blade.”

I have the aquabound manta ray. I have been using it for about 3 years. Very light. It has more purchase than some of the other models. I too kayak for the workout. I try to kayak 3-4 times a week for an hour on the water. My lunch break! When I am paddling hard it does cavitate(better word?) some.