There are several different varieties of kayak paddles, each differing slightly depending on if it is used in the ocean, whitewater or river. All kayak paddles however, have the same three basic parts (shaft and two blades) and serve the same main purpose; propelling and steering a kayak.
Shaft and Drip Rings
The shaft of a kayak paddle is the main stick that you hold onto and connects the two blades. Some shafts are one piece but many are two pieces which connect at the center of the shaft. Nearly all whitewater kayak paddles have a shaft that have a connection in the middle which also enables a change of paddle angle. Having a blade that is at an angle to the other one is called a feathered paddle. The shaft also holds the drip rings, each one just about six inches from the blades. These divert water from running off the blade and down across the shaft during paddle strokes. The hands are usually positioned just behind these drip rings.
Parts of the Blades
The blade edge is the surface of the blade and the end of it is called the tip. Some paddle blades are the same on each side but most have a front and a back. Most blades are slightly spoon-shaped so that one side will slightly convex and the other concave. These paddles are much sturdier and smoother. There are several different shapes of paddle blades and some are symmetrical while others are asymmetrical. Blades used for whitewater are often wider than those used for still water or sea kayaking.
Throat and Joint
The part of the kayak paddle where the shaft and a blade meets is called the throat. If it is a paddle that comes apart, the place where it comes apart and can possibly adjust for feathering is called the joint.