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  • Meg McCall

Paddle vs Oar: What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between an oar vs paddle, and is there such a thing as a kayak with oars? In this short post, we give you the answers!

Young man rowing a rowboat around 1950.


Definitions vary slightly, but generally speaking, an oar has a flat blade on one end and is held by the paddler on the other end. In addition, an oar is usually connected to a vessel with some type of oarlock and pin, or paddle pivot, and often comes in pairs. With an oar, you can let go, and the oar stays secured to the boat.

In this photo, circa 1950, Angle Oar co-founder Jim Van Gompel uses oars on a boat he built himself.

oar vs paddle


A paddle, on the other hand, can have a single blade or double blade. The main distinction is that paddles are typically held by the paddler and are not connected to the vessel. That means if you let go, you’re going to lose your paddle in the water or elsewhere.

A New Category: The Versa Paddle

When we first launched Angle Oar LLC (the company) back in 2013, we also called our signature adaptive paddling device the Angle Oar. That's because the design has elements of both an oar and a paddle. A mount attaches to the kayak and supports the weight of the device resulting in less stress on the joints and requiring a smaller range of motion. It can either be angled downward on both sides, functioning very much like oars or locked into a straight position. It can also be removed from the mount and used free form, like a paddle.

After we started distributing our product, it quickly became apparent that we were confusing some kayakers on the entire oar vs paddle debate; they were accustomed to the concept of a kayak paddle, not a kayak oar. That’s why we decided to rename the product Versa Paddle, short for versatile kayak paddle.

Since then, we've also launched the Gamut Paddle Holder. It, too, has elements of both an oar and a paddle, but cannot be angled downward like the Versa.

So, is there such a thing as a kayak with oars? We’d say yes, but it’s definitely the exception and not the rule.

In the end, whether you call it a paddle, an oar, or a garbanzo bean, as long as you’re out on the water having fun, who cares!

The Difference Between Oars and Paddles

what's the difference between an oar vs a paddle graphic

Angle Oar LLC's mission is getting people who didn’t think they had the strength or endurance to kayak out on the water and keeping experienced paddlers there longer! We provide adaptive paddles, outriggers and other equipment to people with shoulder problems, physical disabilities or limited upper body strength due to age, injury or ability.

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