Do Kayak Paddles Float? (The Answer May Surprise You)

Do kayak paddles float? It’s a common question, and if you are new to kayaking, you might wonder what happens if you end up separated from your paddle. Will you be stuck on the water without a means to paddle back to shore?

Next to your kayak, your kayak paddle is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment you need for a day on the water. How else do you plan to propel yourself? Unless you have a pedal kayak or a motor attached to your yak.

This article will shed some light on this burning question and show you some videos to help you understand whether kayak paddles will float. If you do lose your paddle in the water, there are also ways to ensure it stays close by so you can easily retrieve it.

Will a Kayak Paddle Float?

Most kayak paddles float to some extent, at least on flat water. Kayak paddles are made from lightweight materials like Carbon, aluminum, and reinforced plastic. In addition, many kayak paddles have foam plugs that help keep the paddle floating if it ends up in the water. In most cases, you should be able to retrieve your kayak paddle if you drop it in the water. However, some caveats exist, which we will get into shortly.

Why Does a Kayak Paddle Float?

Of course, kayak paddle construction plays a huge role in whether your paddle will sink, leaving you stranded, or if your paddle floats.

Weight and Materials

Materials play a role in whether or not a kayak paddle will float. In kayak paddles, you will often find materials like carbon, aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic. 

Paddles on the lower end of the price range will tend to be aluminum with a plastic-reinforced blade. These also tend to weigh more than other materials. Paddles made with lighter materials, like carbon, fiberglass, and hybrid components, cost more.

In addition, many kayak paddles have plugs built into the shaft to help the paddle float. Aqua Bound is an example. All of their paddles have foam inserts to help them float. Combining lightweight materials with a foam insert goes a long way to ensuring you can retrieve your paddle if it ends up in the water.

Just because a paddle has a built-in plug doesn’t guarantee it will float for an extended period. Eventually, water will seep in, and the paddle may sink. So, if your paddle goes overboard, grab it as soon as possible.

But even some cheap (yeah, I said cheap) kayak paddles have plugs in them. For example, I own an inexpensive Intex Challenger K2 (I paid less than $100 for the entire setup). It comes with two 4-piece paddles, which have plugs in the shaft. So even a budget kayak paddle has plugs built in to keep the paddle floating.

Case Study

I tested a Pelican Poseidon two-piece kayak paddle with an aluminum shaft and fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene blades. The fully assembled Poseidon floated with no problem. 

Then, I took the paddle apart, and each piece floated independently. If you drop either part of the paddle in the water, the shafts have flotation blocks to keep them afloat.

I also tested the two-piece Aqua Bound Sting Ray Hybrid with a carbon shaft and reinforced fiberglass blades. Again, the paddle floated just fine with both ends connected or disconnected.

Aqua Bound manufactures kayak paddles with foam plugs to trap air in the shaft to keep the paddle afloat.  

Finally, I tested Sea Eagles’ AB40 four-piece paddle and was surprised by the results. The AB40 has a fiberglass-reinforced blade and an aluminum shaft.  

The paddle floats just fine when it’s fully assembled. And when I tested two pieces of the paddle, the blade attached to one end of the shaft also floated just fine. 

But I found a different story when I took apart all four pieces of the paddle. The two individual aluminum shaft pieces float and have a plug to keep them afloat. However, the blade itself does not float. It sinks fast. So when all the pieces are attached, the paddle floats, but not all of the pieces float individually.

What if I Lose My Paddle in the Water?

If you are paddling on a lake in calm conditions, you should be able to easily retrieve your paddle. However, if it’s windy or choppy, that might change things.

Now, if you are kayaking on a slow-moving river and drop your paddle, you might be in a pickle. Your kayak and your paddle will be floating at different rates, so it’s much easier to quickly be separated from your paddle.

What Is a Kayak Paddle Leash?

No matter how experienced you are as a paddler, things can go wrong. First, you reach for your fishing pole and drop your paddle. Then, reach for your phone for that epic selfie; oops, there goes the paddle. 

As the name suggests, a paddle leash is a leash for your paddle. A kayak paddle leash is a great way to keep your paddle close if you drop it in the water. Depending on the design, one end of the leash attaches to your paddle, the other to your kayak, lifejacket, or arm.

Remember, it’s more than haphazardly dropping your paddle in the water. You may be in trouble if you capsize and lose your paddle. For example, if you have a sit-inside kayak and need to make a wet reentry, you will need your paddle to get back inside and paddle back to shore.

A kayak paddle leash is essential safety equipment, inexpensive, and easy to use.

Conclusion

Will kayak paddles float? In most cases, yes, but maybe not for long. Depending on the conditions and the paddle manufacturer. It’s a good idea to use a paddle leash to ensure that your paddle is close by if it ends up in the water.

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.