Choosing paddle length

-- Last Updated: Jun-18-13 1:10 PM EST --

I read somewhere that the way to do it is to stand the paddle up next to you, and reach overhead. The paddle should reach to the tip of your fingertips. But that doesn't take into account the width of the kayak. Is that the best way to do it? Thanks.

Canoe paddle or kayak paddle?
Your described method would result in a verrrrrrrrrry long single blade canoe paddle.

Crazy systems out there

The width of the boat matters a lot more than the paddler height. For most recreational and sea kayaks, something in the 210cm to 240 cm range is going to feel good. If your boat is 28 inches wide or more, 230 to 240cm is probably a good range. If your kayak is 24 to 28" wide, more like 220cm and if it’s skinnier than that, probably 210cm.

Of course these can vary with paddler some, but it’s a decent starting point. The best way to find out is to paddle with different length paddles – or an adjustable paddle – and see what feels too long, too short, and ultimately “just right”.

For whitewater boats, 190cm to 200cm is more typical with most being in the 194 to 198cm range. Low volume playboats ofen need less length than a big creeker.

Dunno nuttin about canoe paddles…

For kayak paddles…
this is a good starting place.

not really
Two styles of paddling - Low Angle, High Angle, and In Between. I suppose that makes for three styles then. And then there are Traditional Folks. This is going nowhere fast.

Anyways - Werner Paddles has a “Fitting Guide” -

Keep in mind - unless you run into paddle police, you are welcome to choose whatever length you want.

If you prefer a more energetic and dynamic paddling style, a shorter, high angle paddle is probably better suited.

Good points. But “shorter” or “longer”
depends on who is giving the advice. I can use my 206 cm paddles very effectively on my Necky touring kayak. But I like those 206 cm paddles just as much for my ww kayaks, and some kayakers can’t understand that.

no hard and fast rules
There are all sorts of charts and metrics suggestions but I think it all comes down to what feels right for you. I’ve bought paddles based on complex metrics (had a custom carved Greenland paddle made based on about 10 factors) and also ended up with a range of sizes that came with boats I bought used. I’m a short-armed, short waisted 5’ 5" person who tends to paddle with a high angle in narrow-beamed sea kayaks. All the charts tend to say I should be using shorter paddles but I have tried them and settled on the lengths that I use now by trial and error. My favorite paddles range from 213 cm (the GP which I use with 21" wide boats) to 230 cm that I use for a 25" folding kayak and a 32" canoe bow position. My WW paddle is 205 cm.

oh yes
At 5’9 I typically use 210 for touring boat, unless there are two many rocks around, then 194cm Sidekick comes out. But, I never used my 210cm for playboating - it is too fragile :wink: Article
We just ran an article on this in the newsletter last week:


Interesting. At 6’ 5" and very long
in the torso at that, I’m probably a head higher than you sitting in a ww kayak. And I’m using a 206 cm.

It may well be too long (the ww stick)
It came with the boat – but I don’t do WW often nor at a challenging enough level that it really matters. And the stretches we paddle have long flatwater sections so the length is handy there.

It’s a complex geometry. Somebody with broader shoulders and longer arms can sometimes use a shorter paddle than a not-as-tall person with less mechanical advantage, I think. I periodically borrow or even rent different size and style paddles just to see if my skills have improved or changed and would benefit from a shorter one. But so far I’ve stayed most happy with the ones I have.

Thanks all

You made a good point.
Take all the advice about torso rotation. But with my torso length and broad shoulders, it takes relatively little rotation to move a 206 cm paddle through a proper arc.

The metric you describe …
is one of the more common methods used to estimate the length of a Greenland paddle. That may be where you read about it. It’s approximate and works as a rough guideline for some people.

I’m 6’4" and 200cm is about max for WW

– Last Updated: Jun-19-13 10:05 PM EST –

For me 200 cm feels about the max I can go with on WW. For relatively low volume river runner (Axiom 8.5 at my 190lb) that sits low in the water and that i mainly surf and riverplay with, I I prefer my 196cm current paddle over the previous 200cm one. 200 is still fine but starts to get too long for play but is probably better for going down vs. playing where shorter is better... Why 196? That's what I could get at a good price, even though I thought I wanted a 197 or 198, having noticed the 200 felt a bit too long in some cases (for play mainly). The 196 felt shorter than ideal initially, and still is for general paddling where i could use more reach, but for surfing/river play it seems the right length for me.

Although at 215 cm my Werner Cyprus has been pretty good for sea kayaking on whitewater too, but I usually take the 196cm WW AT2 paddle with it and that works fine too - so a pretty broad range of lengths could work well enough...

For the surf ski I went down from 220 to about 210 wing paddle over the course of a couple of years and for regular sea kayak touring kind of use 210-215 seems to be the most comfortable in a Euro style. The GP s harder to gauge, but the 88" ones I've been using seem to work well most of the time...