Help Please

I have never kayaked before, I have always been an outboard motor guy. As a kid I would paddle the skiffs around my grandparents ponds fishing but that is the extent of my paddling expertise. As I get older I realize that the outboard motor, well the only excercise I’m getting is the pull to start the dang thing. I usually end up poling the boat to sneak up on fish.

The wife and I started Rving full time and it would be a bit hard to get my power boat in the RV so I decided I would build a coule kayaks so we could enjoy the water. I bought two plans from CLC one 10 ft wood duck and one 12 ft wood duck. I figured that they were beamy enough to be stable for a couple beginners.

I dont like buying anything I like to make what I use. I am a boat carpenter and I have a couplewooden push poles I had made and now want to turn them into double paddles. My question is the kayaks have a beam of 30 inches, my wife stands about 5ft 2 and I’m about 5 ft 9. I have read paddle lengths are around 220-240 cm which is about 6ft 9in would those be about correct lengths for us?

Any and All responses are welcome

thank you

Try some sizes or make your own
I would suggest building the boats and then taking them to a locale that rents kayaks and trying a couple of sizes of rental paddles. 240 cm is awfully long for anyone under 6’ tall BUT if a kayak is beamy and deep in the cockpit, a shorter person may find that they need a longer than standard paddle, depending on their paddling style, to avoid banging knuckles on the deck. I’m a shortwaisted 5’5" and use a 213 cm paddle with most of my narrow boats (21" to 23"), but I have one that is 28" wide and deep in the hull where I find I need a 230 cm.

A few lessons are always a good thing – paddling a kayak is not as intuitive as people think. I floundered for a couple of years before a few hours with a patient instructor showed me how easy and powerful my paddling could be with the right form.

Since you like woodworking, you might want to consider carving yourself your own Greenland or Aleut paddles. After using standard blade paddles for many years I switched to a Greenland and found it vastly superior for touring and day paddles – that’s the only kind of paddle I care to use for flatwater kayaking any more. There are lots of free instructions and patterns on line for building them and books like “Building the Greenland Kayak” that show how to make them. And you can start long and then trim the paddles down to fine tune the size.

second everything Willowleaf said
I second everything Willowleaf said. It is best to spend time in other people’s boats and get knowledge from other people before dropping serious money on your own. Rent boats, take lessons, etc.

One thing is when you first paddle, there is a pretty quick learning curve. So where right now you want wide and stable, often within a few times paddling you start looking for the benefits of a narrower “less stable” kayak (longer and narrower is faster than shorter and wider). best to g through this with someone else’s kayak so you don’t spend serious money (and time, in your build a kayak case) on a kayak that quickly becomes not what you want.

Here are some articles you may want to read (all can be read for free online at

  • Issue #10 - Spring 2013 - basic types of kayaks
  • Issue #8 - Spring 2012 - getting butt time
  • Issue #8 - Spring 2012 - Building your own kayak
  • Issue #7 - Fall 2011 - taking classes versus school of hard knocks

I agree as well …

especially about the Greenland paddles. I really enjoy mine. If you are making your own you can experiment with lengths. You don’t have to spend much on the wood. As a bonus, the cedar shavings make great fire starter.

On stability, you would be amazed at how stable a narrower kayak can be when you are sitting close to the bottom. At 5’2" that 30" kayak may be just too big. If so, take a look here for some other options.

consider folders, too
Another option you might want to look into, particularly for RV travel (which I also do) is folding kayaks. Look at the Pakboat line (I have owned two of them). Their 12’ Puffin models are great basic kayaks, only weigh about 25 lbs, can be set up in 20 to 30 minutes and pack down into a duffel bag you can tuck in any motor home hatch or cabinet. They behave as well as similar dimension hardshell boats and due to the inflatable sponson tubes along the sides are very stable. In fact they are more forgiving in rough water than hard boats because they flex and ride over the waves instead of fighting them. They also make longer kayaks that can be converted from a solo to a tandem.