Canoe,kayak paddle length

I have a Wenonah Minnesota III and W.S.Pungo 140,and would like to upgrade to some nicer paddles .I was looking at the ZRE-Black Rec. width 8.5" length ? ,and the Swift-Mid Swift length ?, that I can use with my Pungo and a touring kayak in the near future.I am 6’1",any help would be great.

ZRE? Zaveral? Doesn’t their website
give guidelines on length? I would suggest 8" width, and 54" length. Can’t help you on the Pungo stick because I would need to know about your paddling style and preferences. Being a WW person, I use high angle style.

where are
you sitting in the Canoe? I am 5,10 and like a 51 Zav Bow and stern. I suspect a 52 would be better for me in the Bow though…

As for the kayak paddle
I would suggest going short. I use a 215 Windswift, 208 Archipelego and a 196 Lightening with my touring kayaks, including a 27" wide double. If you are up in Tahoe, you can try them out.

Im 6’ 1 too
I use a bent and straight shaft canoe paddling including a 7oz ZRE. I am almost 6 '2

During a recent 6-month trip I prefered a 48 inch ZRE and am glad i did. It has a fast return and quicker than a longer paddle.

That Minn III is a fast boat. Dont go over 52 inch as you will become more tired do to the extra length. I used a 52 inch during a 700km race in Canada and wished I was 2-4 inches shorter on the paddle would have made it more enjoyable.

Alot of people believe for some reason that longer than 52 is the way to go. I totally disagree. Unless you have gorilla arms (xtra long) maybe…but you will be placing your top hand too high…i.e above your nose when your hand is on the top which is too high…i even bet with a 54 you will be raising your arm over your eyes. A good way to ruin your shoulders etc.

canoe paddle length
I’m about 1/2 inch shorter than you. For a bent shaft a 51 or 52 inch Zav will be just fine for you. Over time you may find that you’ll prefer the smallest blade width you can get…so you might go for 8 1/4 inch width…or even down to 8 (I’d recommend 8 1/4 for you). A 56 inch straight shaft carbon Zav would fit you just fine too.

Plus, with a Zav, if you like, you can just have them ship it to you without glueing in the handle and you can order it on the long side and just keep cutting down the paddle shaft and trying it until you nail the perfect length, and then glue the handle in. The carbon shafts are easy to cut…any fine blade saw like a hacksaw, and just put tape down first and cut through the tape too - to help keep the edge clean.

you would
be amazed by the difference if you shortend yours a coupld of inches. Try it out and let me know what ya think


Seat height
Before whacking too much on paddles, sit in the boat seat in the water and dangle your arms over. The water should be at the knuckles closest to the palm where the fingers split off. If not, adjust the seat some, get it right, then work on the paddle. This info per a renown canadian marathon racer, not me, but my seat did match his instructions.

I assume that you mean for bent shafts, because for straight shafts I think I already slowly found my way to shortest possible paddle…a 55 inch Zav straight shaft. I don’t use bent shafts very often.

Yep - every inch makes a huge difference in handiness (and physics agrees - polar moment of inertia goes with fourth power of length - so every inch is a big darn deal) . Maybe I’ll whack a couple of inches off a Zav bent shaft over the winter.

Paddle Length
Considering the price of a RE (and I assume the kayak paddle you ment9ion is of comparable quality) I wouldn’t spend that kind of moolah on any paddle that I had not tried out in the boat that I am going to use it for.

When I bought a ZRE bent for my Advantage, Earl McCracken at Sportscraft Marina in Oregon City lent me rental ZREs spanning from 54" to 49" to use over the weekend. I settled on a 50", which really surprised me because I normally would get a straight paddle several inches longer than that. It’s common knowlege that you will like a shorter bent shaft than a straight, of course, but I think that only a trial with the boat you intend to paddle will give you the best result, because there are a number of factors to be consider beside torso length; the length of your arm, seat high and width of the boat come readily to mind.

This is not an exercise in astrophysics, but more like buying a pair of shoes. Try a few to see which fits best.


purchase questions
do you loose power by having a shorter shaft? i’ve heard that anything shorter than 52 inches doesn’t give you as much of a torque advantage.

You definitely give up a bit of power per stroke when you shorten a paddle but a shorter paddle allows more strokes per minute and I think that racers say repetitions are what it’s all about for sustained speed.

On the other hand, as a paddle gets longer and as the blade gets bigger - at some point - for me at least - the paddle has more capability for power than I’m willing to put into it. As time goes by I lean towards smaller blades (no more than 8 1/4 inches wide for a Zav - for me).

Canoe paddle length…
Shaft length is more important than overall length because blade length varies with different types of paddles. Try this…have a friend look or look in a mirror. Hold the paddle over your head horizontaly with one hand on the grip and the other at the throat, with arms out straight it should form a box, elbows 90 degrees to your arms and paddle. If your forarms are tucked inward the paddle is to short, if they lean outward the shaft is to long. Keep in mind that a whitewater paddle has a short blade around 21" and an ottertail can have a blade as long as 32". Even if they both have the same correct shaft length the ottertail will be much longer overall.

good point
i like the narrower blades, too. however, i like the power of a 51 or 52. i did the “dip the knuckles into the water” and found that my seight height was exactly what the theory posted here said. thinking i’m going to order a new zav within the next week or so. i’ll cut it myself, though.

kayak paddle length
There are a large number of factors for considering when choosing the size (length, blade size) but jeez…you gotta start somewhere. Here is what I think will help beginners. Get the paddle based mostly on your kayak width. Short or tall, if you have a real wide kayak you’ll need a longer paddle to reach the water without knuckle banging.

boat width paddle length

21-23 in 210-220 cm

23-25 in 220-230 cm

25-28 in 230-240 cm

28-30 in 240 cm

kayaks with high decks (13+ in) may require some paddlers to go longer. One thing I sure see is that the longer you paddle and the better you stroke, the shorter the paddle needed.

Don’t [box] me in… given your last
statement, why would you suggest a 240 paddle at all? Beginner or not ? Would you offer this (240) to a friend who is just starting out and whom you wish to really have fun on the water and not get burned out using the wrong equipment? If you have time, please explain.

don’t box me in
First I offered the paddle lengths as guidelines only since some people buy their kayaks from box store retailers who offer no help at all on gear. So my chart beats a blank! But a good paddlesport shop will generally recommend paddle length based on your boat width and experience level. I don’t think I made a reference to beginners needing longer paddles…and I have in fact had several beginner pals buy boats in the 24 in wide range and I advise them to go with a 220 if they are go getters and 230 if they are more likely to sit back and loaf when they paddle. As for me I use a 230 in my 28 in wide fishing kayak and a 218 in my 22.5 in wide sea kayak. Makes a big difference to me. What’s your experience been? As all vet kayakers will agree the angle of your stroke (high or low) will determine how comfortable you might get with certain paddles in certain kayaks.