Paddle vs Oar: What’s the difference?
What’s the difference between a paddle and an oar, and is there such a thing as a kayak with oars?
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.
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.
When we first launched Angle Oar LLC (the company) back in 2013, we also called our signature “paddling device” the Angle Oar. That's because the design has elements of both an oar and a paddle. It can be mounted to the kayak and angled downward, functioning very much like an oar. Or, it can be locked into a straight position and used free form, like a paddle.
After we started distributing our product, it quickly became apparent that we were confusing some kayakers who 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 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!