Paddle Length - Does it Matter?

I was going to title it “Shaft Length - Does it Matter?” but opted against, for fear of juvenile responses.

Why do paddle companies insist upon selling paddles based on tip-to-tip rather than throat-to-throat dimensions?

Isn’t the relationship between wingspan, seated height, boat width and waterline more important than where the blade tip winds up in the water?

This has been bothering me for a while and for whatever reason just this morning it reached the Post on Pnet (PoP) threshold.

Please explain.


Paddle length matters but it has been a moving target. The two main variables are your torso length and the seat height above the water.

In the old days people liked paddles measured from the ground that came up to their eye balls. Now from the ground it is more like sternum height.

If you need an xl pack frame, choose a paddle that is one of the longer ones off the rack. If you fit a youth sized pack frame get a shorter one.

A paddle too short is hard to brace with. A paddle too long tends to fall off the vertical when in use. It sweeps more than a properly sized one.

true, but a little math
will get you the answer. by subtracting the blade dimensions from the overall length, you can figure out the shaft length and compare different models. example: the Werner Tybee or Shuna “high angle” paddles in 210cm have close to the same shaft length as their Skagit or Camano “low angle” paddles in 220cm.

I agree
I agree - if they listed the length of the shaft instead of overall length it would be more useful if you were looking to change paddles to one of a different blade shape. But they don’t.

my point…

I agree that manufacturers should list throat to throat, and then specify bounding box for blades.

I see that Werner lists the length of their blades, I’ll have to measure t2t, and blade length, see if they add up to the speced paddle length.

Another item on the wish list - location of bends on bent shafts. For example, WW and SK Werners are available bent, but the bends are positioned differently.

Check this out (link)
Greg Barton posted a really nice explanation on in response to a similar question:

You may have to read it a couple of times before it sinks in, if you are new to paddling…

Peter-- shaft length is no better than
total length if one does not take into account the shape of the blade. There is a never-discussed dimension related to blade shape and blade length, the center of pressure.

Keep shaft length constant, but replace a short, wide blade with a long, narrow one, and the latter will have a center of pressure farther out from the shaft center than the short, wide blade.

Neither total length, nor shaft length, provide what is needed to predict how paddles will feel. The same problem affects canoe paddle length.

It matters
When one cares

The perfect paddle
The nice thing with belonging to paddle clubs and doing muti-person paddles is trying out equipment.

Suddenly one feels just right as far as balance, resistance, stroke and weight and it may not be what all the experts recommend.

It Sure Does
When changing from a 198cm - 208cm small wing to a 198cm - 208cm small-mid wing, the shaft for the new bigger blade had to be adjusted 2cm - 3cm longer to achieve the same “feel” as the older smaller blade with same feather adjustment. Go figure? I really didn’t think it would matter, but it does.

That was a simple, logical and concise response.

Other factors

The type of boat and overall width can make a big difference too.

The same guy in a rec kayak and a ww boat might use paddles from 195cm to 220cm, largely because the rec boat is wider and his paddling style may be more relaxed. To a large degree, I pair paddles with boats and mostly disregard the paddlers dimensions and though I won’t claim it’s optimal, it’s usually pretty decent.

Adjustable length
Get a paddle that is adjustable (there are quality paddles that do that) and make sure that the range includes lengths that you might use. Not only can you fine tune the paddle length given how it works at that time but you can also change the length given circumstances.

If I were smarter, I could include a way
to guesstimate the center of pressure.

Greenland Paddle Companies
aren’t totally focused on end-to-end length. They are very aware of the importance of throat-to-throat distance; only they call it shoulder-to-shoulder.

This reflects a fundamental difference in how you hold a Greenland paddle. Unlike a spoon or wing, you don’t place all of your fingers on the paddle shaft of a GP. Instead, only your thumb and forefinger of each hand encircles the paddle shaft, with your remaining fingers draped over the roots of the blades. This requires a more customized fit than a Euro since the paddle shoulders dictate your hand position.

Since your palm is angled forward when your hand is held forward (with a neutral wrists) the GP will often adopt this angle and the blades will “cant” forward naturally for the forward stroke; a common technique.

Greg Stamer

I Have
worked out a design for a Greenland paddle that addresses this point exactly. The loom length can be changed without changing the overall paddle length or the paddle length can also be changed without altering the loom length. Works very nicely for dialing in a fit.

Best Wishes


3 words
Adjustable length paddles.

Ryan L.

Paddle’s Length
This is the one paddle dimension that really does matter. We can argue feather angle all we want, and I’ve come to realize that any particular angle choice really only matters to me. Now, paddle length choice is critical.

The length is much like the gears on a car or bike. It depends on your physical morphology, paddling style, the boat itself, the waters you paddle and cadence needs. Basically, you cannot just look at a chart though it will often get you in the ball park.

As others have posted I’ve found my adjustable length paddle to be great for exploring different options. I’ve learned that 1cm really can make a difference. I’ve discovered 201cm is my perfect length in my narrow beam boats thanks to my adjustable paddle. Now, how else is is one going to learn that w/o going broke. I can use any paddle provided it’s not too long or short though.

Even though I trust my adjustable length paddle, I prefer a one piece 210cm Saltwood as my big water go to paddle due to the simplicity and the performance attributes of it. My paddle collection is beginning to rival my boat collection as each one serves a specific purpose.