A number of polymer based actuator technologies have emerged over the past decade. How do these compare with traditional actuators and are there applications for which they are appropriate? Some of the answers to these questions are provided by outlining the rationale for employing an electroactive polymer to control hydrodynamic surfaces. The surfaces are sections of propeller blades whose trailing edges are deflected in order to change camber. The objective is to insert the actuators into the blades. High work per unit volume is required of the actuators. The ideal actuator technologies also feature relatively large strains in order to deflect the trailing edges with minimal mechanical amplification. It is argued that the high work densities, flexibility in shaping and the ability to hold a force without expending energy (catch state) provide electroactive polymers with advantages over electromagnetic actuators, which also lack the torque to directly drive the blade deflection. Candidate actuators are compared, including electroactive polymers, shape memory alloys, magnetostrictives and traditional piezoceramics. Selections are made on the bases of work density, strain, existence of a catch state, drive voltage and cost. It is suggested that conducting polymer actuators are best suited for the variable camber application. It is also argued that in general electroactive polymers are well-suited for applications in which actuator volume or mass are very limited, catch states are desired, cycle life is moderate to low, or noise cannot be tolerated. Some electroactive polymers also feature low voltage operation, and may be biocompatible.