Which is better: paddle or pedal kayak?

While we love our pedal kayaks, we frequently get asked to compare paddle and pedal kayaks. Here we look at whether paddle or pedal kayaks are better, especially as it comes to fishing.

Paddle Or Pedal Kayak

It’s no doubt that kayak fishing revolutionized the fishing industry since it’s less complicated and more affordable compared to hauling an Alumacraft or Lund around! It’s no wonder that kayak Fishing has gained popularity over the years.

Initially, the only way to propel a kayak was by using a paddle. This is a more traditional method that is still practiced today. It involves stroking the paddle in the water to propel the Kayak forward, backward, or slow it down. Even though some people may say, it’s easy to begin Kayak fishing, the recent technological advancements, and a variety of equipment make it harder to join for a beginner.

One of the major advancements in the kayak fishing industry is the foot propulsion kayaks, also known as pedal kayaks. Pedals were not new in other industries, but Hobie Kayaks are responsible for its popularity among the Kayak Anglers. Hobie Kayaks launched a pedal-powered device called the Mirage Drive in 1997. The Mirage Drive consists of fins that move sideways, and back and forth. It also has push pedals that help move the fins. Today, Hobie still is an industry leader of the pedal kayak and still makes the Hobie Mirage kayak.

Other companies have also joined the game of manufacturing Pedal Kayaks. Native watercraft introduced a new version of the Pedal Kayak called the Propel. Instead of having fins, such as the Mirage Drive, the Propel has a propeller. Another popular kayak is Predator PDL, launched by Old Town.

The debate of the paddle or pedal kayak has been going on for a very long time. However, both of these methods of propulsion have their pros and cons. Keep reading to find out some of the pros and cons of each and also our most preferred propulsion method.

Paddle Kayak

Nordegg lake mountain kayak  - photo by @kalenemsley and model @brookewillson
Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

The paddle is the tool that you use to propel your Kayak if it doesn’t have pedals. They are distinct from a canoe paddle in that a kayak paddle has blades on each side. The blade is that part you use to scoop water. The shaft, which is the part you hold, is often made of aluminum for cheaper paddles. The more expensive paddles have shafts made of carbon fiber, wood, metal, or fiberglass.

The kayak paddles can be “Feathered” or “Unfeathered”. Feathered paddles are those with blades in different planes while if the blades are in one place; it is an unfeathered plane. Paddles often have a straight shaft, but a crank can be added to make them more comfortable. They are also made of very light material for convenient handling.

Best use of the paddle

When held and used in the wrong way, the paddle could cause fatigue to the wrist and shoulders. It’s also important to know that paddles are customized based on your height and strength. If you pick a paddle with a huge blade, you’ll need a lot of strength to control the huge amount of water it scoops. Various types of paddles are held differently, so it’s important to know your type of blades. The blades should also be oriented correctly to enhance efficiency. You need to adjust the position of your grip to ensure you identify the position and angle you’re more comfortable with. Once you identify this, ensure that your grip isn’t too tight.

Types of Blades

There are three characteristics of blades that determine how you should hold your paddle. They include feathered or unfeathered, symmetrical, or asymmetrical and direction of the curvature.

Feathered or Unfeathered Blades

If you’re just starting out, it’s advisable to use unfeathered blades. Unfeathered paddles are parallel while feathered have a slight curvature. If you are a pro, then you can use feathered blades for more control and more speed. You can adjust this by rotating the shaft as you press the button at the center of the shaft. Do this until they are aligned in one plane.

Symmetrical or asymmetrical

An asymmetrical blade has one side shorter than the other. On the other hand, the symmetrical blade has a uniform oval shape. These two types of blades react differently when pulled through the water. The asymmetrical lades maintain a straight position while the symmetrical blade spins when pulled through the water. It’s important to know which blade you have for you to know the right way to use it.

Direction of Curvature

Almost all blades have a concave shape. A concave shape “scoops” more water than a flat blade.  For a forward stroke, the concave shape should be facing backward so as to move as much water to that direction as possible. This gives you a maximum forward thrust.

After identifying which type of blade you have, you should orient it accordingly by holding it over your head. Make sure your elbows are at 900 when holding the shaft over your head. Now you can adjust your grip to be more relaxed.


There are four types of strokes that you have to know to control the Kayak. They include the Forward stroke to move forward, the Sweep Stroke to turn, the Backstroke to move backward, and the Draw stroke to move sideways. When performing these strokes, don’t just use your hands; it’s important to use your torso. Your torso has stronger muscles and is less prone to injuries compared to your hands, which have weaker muscles.

If this sounds complicated, then don’t worry! You are not alone as fishing from a kayak isn’t advisable if you are a beginner.

Pros of Paddle Kayaks

Cons of Paddle Kayaks

Pedal Kayaks


As mentioned earlier, the fishing world hasn’t been the same since the introduction of the pedal kayaks. They increase the use cases of the traditional kayak and also increased their capabilities. They are part of the reason that fishing in kayaks is now being practiced all over the world.

There are mainly two types of pedal kayaks based on the type of drive they have. These are the propeller drive, and the fins drive Kayaks. For the propellers’ drive, the mechanism is quite similar to that of a car. When you cycle the pedals, the gears transform this into power for the propeller. You can cycle in the opposite direction to move in reverse mode.

The second type of Kayak is Hobie’s Mirage Drive. Instead of using a propeller, this Kayak uses fins or blades. When you cycle the pedals, the fins move sideways. As they move sideways, their angles change, propelling the Kayak forward. Since the fins are in a vertical position, you can fold them under the Kayak when entering shallow waters. To move in reverse with this type of Kayak, you need to change the direction in which these fins are facing.

Best Use of Pedal Kayak

Pedal Kayaks are the most preferred, but there are some issues you need to consider. Every angler has their own taste and expectations from a Kayak. Here are some general considerations to make when opting or a pedal kayak;


Pedal kayaks are a lot heavier than the Paddle kayaks. This is because of the drive mechanism. They are also designed to be wider, which makes them more stable but heavier. Lighter kayaks are better since they can be mounted on top of your car. However, this sheer weight does make them more stable when in water.


Pedal kayaks cost more than the paddle kayaks. The drive technology is one of the reasons they cost up to 30% higher compared to paddle kayaks. Another reason is that their hulls are also reinforced to ensure that they endure the extra strain they receive as the pedal kayaks can move much faster.

Water Clearance

One of the reasons why people avoid pedal kayaks is because you need great water clearance for you to pedal efficiently. This makes it very difficult to take your pedal Kayak in very shallow waters. The pedal Kayak is also not the best in areas with weeds such as the water lilies, and the propellers may destroy them. However, this shouldn’t be much of a deal-breaker because it is possible to pedal kayak in weeds.

The cost, water clearance problem, and weight are some of the reasons you wouldn’t want a pedal kayak, but these reasons do not hold much weight. There are many other areas where the pedal kayaks are awesome that you’d ignore these issues.

We are going to discuss why the Pedal Kayaks are the best and why you should consider buying one.

Pros of Pedal Kayaks

Cons of Pedal Kayak

Pedal Kayaks Use

The pedal kayaks have applications in a lot more scenarios, making them the best option for a serious kayak angler. These use cases include;

Final Thoughts


Kayaking is now a prevalent activity all over the world. If you’re thinking about starting this sport/ leisure activity or want to shift from one type of kayak to another, you need to make sure you know what’s right for you. We’ve gone to great lengths to describe both of these kayaks, but We always vouch for the pedal kayaks since they are faster, more convenient, stealthier, and more exciting.

We did raise some common issues, such as them not being able to sail in shallow waters. You can beat this by using the Kayaks that have fins as their mode o propulsion. Besides, you can also carry a paddle with you if you need to use it in some critical situations. Pedal Kayaks have also got many use cases compared to the paddle kayaks, and they have a wide range of users. The aged and the disabled can experience kayaking to the maximum thanks to the Pedal Kayaks.

See you on the water!

Article Author
Robert Walker has been a Kayak enthusiast for over a decade. He's owned several different Kayak's, but only recently got into Pedal Kayaks in the last few years. This website is Robert's way of sharing his passion for Pedal Kayak's with the world.