Especially with pine, you will likely get some twist over time if you do not laminate. WRC seems a lot less likely to bend on you.
Polyurethane for floors might work as coating, but it won't be as hard and wear resistant as epoxy. Also, not sure how UV reistant that would be - with sun exposure it might turn yellowish (as most epoxy would too). So you would want to finish with a UV resistant coat - varnish.
I've seen some painted paddles and they can look great if done well, if color is what you want. Also, consider that you can tint the coating rather than paint: you can have two options - to show the wood grain in color or to completely cover the wood and show smooth colors. Your choice...
Recreational Kayak Paddle
Pull-Up Strap Handle Kit
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