Greenland Paddle Length for Tall Person

I am making the transition to Greenland style and am making a Greenland Paddle using directions from Chuck Holst. In trying to follow the measurement guidelines I have questions about paddle length.

First, some brief background info. I am 6’ 6” and have been using 240 cm Swift and Bending Branches paddles with my Pygmy Artic Tern high and Wilderness Systems Sealution XL due to my long arms and boat beams (both have 23” beams). I recently purchased a Necky Chatham 18 with a 20” beam to get closer to the Greenland style. The 240 paddles seemed awkward with the C18 so I borrowed a friends 220 and it was wonderful – greatly improved my stroke. So my next Euro paddle (if I get one)will be a 220 or less.

As I started building the Greenland Paddle, I took my measurements and kept coming up with longer paddles than I want (after my experience with the 220). I tried several measurement methods as follows:

Arm span (incl fingers) + elbow to wrist = 93” = 236 cm

Ground to raised hand (under fingers) = 96” = 244 cm (this method takes leg length into account which doesn’t seem right)

Arm span + elbow to finger tips = 101” = 257 cm

I was hoping that the calculation would come closer to 220 cm after my recent experience with the C18. The loom calculation comes out around 20” but I might make it shorter and extend it later if necessary.

I saw some web info that says to go on the short side (of what the measurements indicate) and some that said the opposite. I was thinking of compromising around 230 cm = 90.6”.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


6’4" and 94" greenland paddle

– Last Updated: Jun-11-06 10:06 PM EST –

My husband is 6'4" tall with long arms (shirt size 16.5 x 37) about 220 lbs. His boats are 21" and 22" wide.

He made two greenland paddles last winter using similar calculations, one for me and one for him. We are both very happy with our paddles. His greenland paddle is 94" inches long with a 21.5 inch loom.

He has a 215 euro paddle for these boats. It's a super-expensive spare because he likes the greenland paddle so much he never uses it anymore.


Thanks for the inputs
Thanks for the responses so far. My dimensions are similar to Susan’s husband (same shirt size)and the fact that he uses a 215 euro and a 94" (239 cm) GP is very interesting. I found the 240 euro felt very awkward after trying the 220 - no comparison. Apparently the GP is completely different so the increased length doesn’t interfere with having a good stroke.

I did read in one web article that Steve Burkhardt, a well known GP user, is 6’ 7" and uses an 86" GP. Oh well, I guess there are no hard and fast rules in this business. Thanks again.


Tall anglos and the traditional
anthropocentric methodology to determine paddle length often results in paddles that are, in my opinion, too long for efficient kayaking. This may well be due to the differences in anatomical relationships when comparing such Anglos to the Inuit, etc.

When I started with a Gp I queried numerous experienced Gp paddlers, especially those over 6’ tall. None of them were using paddles of a length that the anthro method would indicate.

I’m 6"2", long arms, narrow shoulders, 20" boat. I’m using a Beale 88" Gp with a 20" shouldered loom. Couldn’t be happier with it.

I’d sure be tempted to carve yours out at 91" max, and maybe even keep it to 90".

I’m still a rookie in terms of Gp use and my comments should be taken as such.

Good luck to ya.


Qajaq/USA Site
used to have a survey of paddle dimensions of various G-style members. Some of the folks gave their size which help a bit more than just listing their paddle dimensions.

May still be there. You may want to pop in and pose the question.


Only you will know
what feels right for you and this takes some experimentation. If you have the oppertunity to try others paddles it will help you narrow it down. If It feels too long you can always shorten it.

beam of kayak
At six feet and with long arms I paddle an 86" GP, having started at 84". Paddle length probably has more to do with the beam of the kayak and the hight of the front deck than antropometrics. With a 20" beam, I can’t imagine that you’d want more than an 86 or 87 inch paddle. Given a narrow beam boat, the main factor to consider will be loom length. You may want 20-21" at your height. If you can borrow some paddles to play with, it’ll save you a fair bit of time and money.

Paddle Poll is no longer available.
A redo has been “in process” for quite a while. Here’s my measurements:

Height: 67"

Armspan: 72"

Armspan plus elbow to wrist: 83"

Ground to raised hand: 84"

Armspan plus a cubit (elbow to fingertips): 90.5"

I use an 84" long GP, and would probably not go more than 86". I do like a steeper stroke angle though, and having a longer paddle would flatten this out.


I’m 9" shorter and use and 88"
5’9" with nearly a 6’ span. I have two 88". 86-88" just seems right for me. Longer would be a killer, and shorter I start a little sliding. Blade width (and loom/blade length) matter too.

Seems a 90-92" would be reasonable. Don’t think longer will be good. Diminishing returns.

Being that tall I assume your hands are not small - so you could go with wider blades than someone smaller if you want more power. Even if you have LARGE hands I doubt you’ll want wider than 4" max - and the common 3 1/2" width should be fine. My latest 88 has narrower (3 1/8") and lower volume blades and I like it better for distance cruising than my other with 3 1/2". The wider/fatter is better in rougher stuff and easier to roll with. Both are still quite similar (pretty subtle differences) and on the thin side as far as edges go. I’ve tried blades as narrow as 2.5", and they still move can still move the boat.

I’d say to match loom to your grip width. I have relatively wide shoulders - and so like about 21" looms. This also has to do with how you paddle. Some go a little wider than their natural grip, some a little closer - but it’s a good starting point.

Boat width really is a separate issue. Related yes - but more in the way some boats just aren’t good with GP - not in how you should alter your paddle and stroke mechanics to try to force it to work with a fatter boat. GPs and wings just work better with narrower beams.

Pythagoras On Paddle Lengths
With paddle length questions I usually consult Pythagoras, because finding the proper paddle length is like determining the Hypotenuse of a right triangle. The formula a² + b² = c² can be used to approximately define the length of a paddle, while it also helps to understand the important parameters for fine-tuning the correct paddle length for each individual kayaker.

If you imagine sitting in your kayak, “side b” is measured starting from a line drawn down the center of your body out past the width of the kayak to the point at which the blade would be properly submerged in the water. Placing a book on your lap to approximate the waterline, “side a” is measured from the book up to your normal paddling height. Those two measurements are two sides of a Right Triangle from which the paddle length can be calculated, by first solving for the Hypotenuse of the triangle “side c”. Paddle length is then roughly equal to two times the Hypotenuse plus the length of the blades. Before we get too exact here, it’s really important to grasp the concept of the factors involved.

All that matters in determining proper paddle length is how high you sit in the kayak, how high your kayak sits in the water, and how far abeam off the kayak centerline your paddle needs to be placed to be properly submerged in the water. One thing that becomes immediately apparent here is that Leg Length plays no role what so ever when defining these triangle side lengths. Also, the proportion of Leg Length to overall Height varies from person to person. Some people may have very long legs and a shorter torso, while others may have longer torsos and shorter legs. Leg Length doesn’t matter, Torso Length does. The taller the Torso, the greater the value assigned to “side a” of the triangle, which lends itself to a larger value to “side c”. (Read: the longer the torso, the longer the paddle needs to be).

How high you swing the arc of paddle across your bow during your normal stroke also contributes to the paddle length measurements. High Angle paddlers are increasing the dimension of “side a”, while at the same time decreasing “side b” because they are able to place the paddle closer to the side of the kayak. Low Angle touring paddlers are decreasing “side a” because they aren’t lifting the paddle as high, while at the same time increasing “side b” because they’re forced to place the paddle farther abeam. (Read: High Angle paddling may or may not require a different length paddle than Low Angle.)

The wider the kayak, the greater the “side b” becomes, which also increases the value of “side c”. (Read: wider kayak, longer paddle.)

Your kayak’s Freeboard (the minimum vertical distance from the surface of the water to the gunwale) also needs consideration. The Deeper you sit in the water, the Lower the value for “side a”, the Shorter the required paddle. How heavily laden you are makes a difference too then. A short 2-hour trip with 10 lbs of gear will require a longer length paddle than for a multi-day trip with 100 lbs of gear raising your waterline. We also can’t forget the paddler’s weight compared to the total weight capacity of the kayak. A 225lb paddler in a kayak maxed out at 250lbs will have a much higher freeboard than a 165lb paddler in an 18’ kayak with a 375lb max capacity. While we’re at it, how high you sit off the bottom of your kayak makes a difference too. A ¼” thermocell pad virtually puts your butt on the hull, compared to a custom made minicell barcolounger at 1 ½” above the hull.

Notice I haven’t mentioned Arm Length yet? That’s because I feel it’s irrelevant and can really skew the “proper paddle length” results, especially if you’re one of the ‘Monkey People’ like me with long legs, short torso, and long arms. There is an argument that arm length comes into play for those with very short arms and torso, who may choose a longer paddle to assist their reach out to their feet for a better Euro-style catch. I find this logic faulty, because the advantage you gain in reach at the beginning of the stroke works against you for the rest of the stroke and ultimately causes more harm than good.

So, from all the possible variations in paddling height above the water and width of blade placement, what have we learned? Using some combination of Arm and Leg Length to judge proper Paddle Length is really a fruitless endeavor. In fact, the calculations that follow will demonstrate that the height/arm gauge may falsely indicate the need for a longer paddle when one doesn’t exist, dooming many of us to paddling inefficiency. Perhaps a better method would be to establish what Average is, and then adjust the numbers accordingly for your unique physical dimensions, kayak dimensions, and paddling style. As it turns out, it’s not that difficult or complicated a task.

Consulting the Harvard website I’ve crunched the math as follows:

Average Human is 69” tall (5’9”)

Average Lap to Top of Head Height is 29” (2’5”)

Average Head Height is 9”

69” Total Height – 9” Head = 60”; 29” Lap Height – 9” Head = 20” Torso Height

Torso Height is 20”/60” or 1/3 Total Height.

Height from lap to Touring Angle (chest level) = 14” (1’2”)

Height from lap to High Angle (chin level) = 20” (1’8”)

Then I made some assumptions:

Average Kayak has a 23” beam

Average Freeboard is taken with the kayak laden in the middle of its weight capacity

The Average paddler uses a Low Angle Touring stroke

Average seat height is .5 inches

Average Paddle length required for the average paddler and kayak is 220cm

This gives us:

“side a” measures 14.50”

“side b” measures 21.50”

“Hypotenuse” measures 25.93”

To check my figures, I back-tested the Average Paddle. A 220cm paddle is 86.6 Inches; subtract 34.74” (17.37” x 2) for the blades; leaves a shaft of 51.86 inches, divided by two equals 25.93” (our Hypotenuse). This tells me that the average sizes and assumptions are close enough for our purposes here.

We can compare our own personal measurements with those of an average person’s height and proportion, along with the measurements of our kayak as it sits in the water, to approximate how much of a change in Average Paddle Length we would require.

Triangle “Side a” Calculations (How High we sit in the Water):

· Your Height measurement ______ - 69”= ________ x .33= ________”

(Optional - use only if your upper and lower body is equally proportioned)


Actual Lap to Chest measurement _______” - 14” = _________”

(Preferred - Especially if you have long or short stumpy legs)

· Seat Height above Hull ________” - .5” = _________”

· Heavily Laden? Yes subtract 1” = ___________”

Moderately Laden? Yes add zero

Lightly Laden? Yes add 1” = ___________”

· High Angle Paddler? Yes add 6” = __________”


Measure actual paddle stroke height from lap and subtract 14” = ___________”

Then, add all these together (may be a negative number) ___________” = ”side a” results

Triangle “Side b” calculations (How Wide Abeam we place the Paddle):

· Kayak Beam ( _________” divided by 2) - 11.5” = ___________”

· High Angle Paddler? Yes subtact 8” = ________”

Then, add all these together (may be a negative number) ___________” = ”side b” results

Now, place your numbers for “sides a” and “b” here:

“side a” results _______” + 14.50” = __________” = A

“side b” results _______” + 21.50” = __________” = B

You can use an online calculator such as the one found here:

Solve the Triangle for the Hypotenuse. Or use the formula Hypotenuse = the square root of [(Side A x Side A) + (Side B x Side B)].

Either way you arrive at the number, this is what you do with it. Take the result for Your Hypotenuse, subtract the Average Paddler value (25.93), and multiply by 2 in order to determine the amount you should change your paddle length, like this:

Your Hypotenuse _____” - 25.93” = _____” x 2 = _____” = Your Paddle Length Change

This is of course a length in Inches, so you should convert that number to metric like this:

Your Paddle Length Change in Inches _________” x 2.54cm = ___________centimeters

Now simply add/subtract this Change value from the average 220cm paddle length to judge the ideal Paddle Length for you based upon your bodies dimensions, kayak design and means of use.

Let’s do an example:

Suppose Kim the Kayaker is 6’ tall with a Lap to Chest measurement of 15”. She has a 20” beam kayak, the seat is 1” above the hull, and she uses a higher than average (more aggressive) paddle stroke. Her body weight and usual cargo weight together place her in the middle of the kayak’s load capacity.

From this we figure:

“Side a”

· Height measurement : 72” - 69”= 3” x .33 = +1”


· Actual Lap to Chest measurement: 15” - 14” = +1” (Use only one or the other, not both)

· Seat Height above Hull: 1” - .5” = +.5”

· Medium Laden Kayak: zero

· High Angle Paddler?: Yes, add 6” for average = +6”

Total “side a” measurements = +7.5”

“Side b” calculations:

· Kayak Beam (20” divided by 2) = 10” - 11.5” = -1.5”

· High Angle Paddler? Yes subtact 8” = -8”

Total “side b” measurements = -9.5”

+7.5” + 14.5” = 22”

-8.5” + 21.5” = 12”

Kim’s Hypotenuse equals:

The square root of [(22x22)+(12x12)] = square root of (484+144) = 25.06”


25.06” – 25.93” = -0.87”

-0.87” x 2 = -1.74”

Then convert to metric:

-1.74” x 2.54cm = -4.42 centimeters

What do we learn from this? Even though Kim is 3” taller than the average paddler, she requires a slightly shorter length paddle! This is mainly because her kayak has less beam and she has a more aggressive stroke. Note that the bobbleheads at the corner sporting-goods store may very well have advised this ex-volleyball player to go with a 230cm if not 240cm paddle after some ineffective height/reach calculation.

Let’s see what would have happened if she used a Lower Angled Touring stroke in a 23” beam kayak:

“side a”

+1.5” + 14.5” = 16”

“side b”

0 + 21.5” = 21.5”

Solving for the Hypotenuse gives 26.80”, then:

26.80” – 25.93” = +0.87”

+0.87” x 2 = +1.74”

+1.74” x 2.54cm = +4.42cm

Now Kim requires a slightly larger than 220cm paddle for optimum paddling. Still, rather than moving to a 230cm paddle, I would recommend she use a 220cm adjustable paddle that would allow her to fine the length for the kayak and cargo until she gets the “feel” that she likes.

Let’s consider another person, who is 6’6”, all other factors being “average”. That gives “side a” 18” and “side b” 21.5” with a Hypotenuse of 28” – 25.93” = 2.07”; 2.07” x 2 = 4.14”; 4.14” x 2.54cm = 10.52cm. Thus, this 6’6” person would be better off with a 230cm paddle. If he also was a High Angle paddler, “side a” 24” “side b” 13.5” gives 27.54” – 25.93” = 1.61”; 1.61” x 2 = 3.22”; 3.22” x 2.54cm = 8.18cm. He would still probably be more comfortable with a 230cm paddle, especially if it was adjustable.

In yet another example, we should consider a wider than average kayak. Let’s say everything is within the “average” measurements, except the Kayak has a 29” beam. That requires an additional 12.9cm for a Low Angle paddler. A High Angle paddler would only need a 1.98cm longer-than-average paddle, though.

In conclusion, I feel the numbers show that an adjustable-length Euro paddle in the 220cm length is the correct paddle for most people within a wide margin of “average”. Tall Torso, Low Angle paddlers in Wide boats will certainly benefit from paddles longer than the 220cm average.

that sure as hell clears things up for me!


Good grief Charlie Brown!
Hey, seriously, whatever happened the method that works?

Put yourself in YOUR boat, with your seat and your paddle stroke. Turn your torso to the extent you actually or do not actually turn it,

extend the arm almost completely on the side you have the paddle in the water, have the blade at the angle you do on your typical stroke.

Then simply make sure, Euro, that just the complete blade and no more in in the water. For GP make sure the amount of the blade in the water corresponds to the most powerful stroke you wish to use forf storms, speed, emergencies.

This is your “home base” measurement. Vary a bit longer or shorter for your personal taste.

All other methods are approximations to what is really right for you, imo.