Paddle length for Rapidfire

I’m a sea kayaker who is considering a Placid Boat Works Rapidfire canoe. The PBW website recommends a 220 cm paddle for high angle and 230 cm for low angle paddling. When paddling my Caribou I often vary my paddlling style between low and high angle but always paddle with a 210 cm Euro paddle. I do own an Epic 220 cm relaxed touring paddle but would not want to go to anything longer than that. I’d like advice from Rapidfire or Spitfire owners regarding the paddles they use.

Single blade

– Last Updated: Sep-19-13 9:22 AM EST –

I'm not a kayaker, so I dislike ever using a double blade paddle. I have a high seat mounted in my RF and use either a 49 or 50 inch bent shaft carbon single blade (depending on load), or a straight 53 inch cherry wood ottertail (with a 27 inch shaft, which is the more important measurement).

Having said that, the class (solo-rec) created for the RF and similar boats in the 90-miler canoe race requires use of a double blade, which I have raced a few times in the RF, and placed well. Joe sold me a carbon AT 230 cm, probably better with my high seat than a 220. I do use it with a high angle stroke. The onboard drips off the right side high blade drive me nuts, so I have a front spray cover installed to counter that.

I use a 230
with the low seat in my RF with a low angle stroke. Am five five for height.

I would use what you have now for a double blade and see how it goes.

Regarding the Paddler’s Height
I just thought of something. Paddle-length recommendations are often made in the context of the paddler’s height, and of course, the height of the seat. Well, related to that is something people usually don’t consider, and that is how much a person’s body type contributes to “seating height”. All else being equal, heavier people “sit a lot taller” in a chair than slender people, and the same goes for sitting in canoes. Years ago I knew of two brothers who were the same height, and their overall proportions of upper-body and lower-body length appeared the same, but one brother weighed about 80 pounds more than the other, and when sitting he was about 5 inches taller. The bottom line therefore, is that you should take paddle-length versus paddler-height recommendations with a grain of salt, unless you happen to know that the body build of the person in question is similar to your own.

225cm works fine in my solos with higher
seats and widths from 28" to 29".

I do drip water on my head and in the boat.

Good point Eric
Body type is part of the equation.

I have short arms and legs for my torso size. I also know people who have long arms and legs for their torso size.

It does make a difference in selecting both double and single blade paddle size. It can also make it more difficult for a person with shorter arms to get a good vertical single blade stroke unless you shift your seat over to the on-side.

This might be a case for a paddle with
some length adjustment. There are a few on the market.

I’m a very tall, long torso paddler, and only use high angle. But sitting rather than kneeling introduces an element of uncertainty. I’d probably try a 220, or a 215 that’s been sitting unused in my basement.

ONNO - 220 to 230
I use an ONNO 220 full tour paddle in my Rapidfire that’s adjustable to 230. I have the middle height seat and I’m a little under 5’10". It works fine for me at 220 and I switch between high angle and low angle paddling. I’ve tried a 230 and I’m not as comfortable with it. Drips are no problem with the 220 being used high angle if you have a fairly rapid stroke pace as the paddle tends to throw off the water. Use a slow pace at high angle and you’re going to get drips. Prior to the ONNO paddle I used a Werner Camano 220 and that was fine also.

In really narrow winding streams with overhanging alders (for example) I use a 46 inch Foxworx bent shaft single blade paddle. Single blade works fine in the RF I’m just not very fast when using it so tend to go with the double blade on more open water as that’s what I’m more used to from kayaking.

For me, I have a Spitfire.

Interesting how that 46 inch FW
paddle works for me 5’5" and also my husband 6’1" in the Rapid.

no simple answer
1st you need to demo the Rapidfire to be sure it’s what you want. My review is in the review section, so I’ll just say I continue to be a very happy owner.

Should you decide to buy a Rapidfire, you will have to choose between three seats of differing seat heights, all of which affect ideal paddle length. Your body type also affects paddle length. Are you short waisted or long waisted? Are your arms long, average or short? Of course a high angle stroke allows using a shorter paddle and a low angle stroke will require a longer paddle.

My advice is to buy the Rapidfire. Then paddle it with the paddles you presently own, sitting on the seat(s) you bought, using the body you possess, with the stroke angle you desire. It will be quickly apparent which paddle length is better for you in your canoe. Or, it will become apparent that you need a longer paddle. My guess is the 230 will be the sweet spot, but my guess is unimportant, find out what works for you.


Thanks for the advice
I really need to drive the 365 miles up to PBW, maybe make a weekend of it. I really don’t want to go longer than a 220cm paddle but the only way I’ll find out is to paddle the boat with the different seat options.

Seat options
There are actually four seat options. Two of varying height that drop in over the top of the lowest base seat, and an even higher one mounted completely differently on rails. That is the one I have and it works best for my preferred style of single blade paddling.

I have ape arms and a long torso. I
used a 220.

Same Body Type
as Mr. String, use a 230cm straight shaft paddle with low, medium and high seats.

Ever Consider
Taking the advice of the builder, Joe Moore? He’s a race proven paddler, who’s shoveled thousands of folks into those boats.

Thanks, Charlie
Sometimes the most simple solutions are the least obvious. I’ll give Joe a call.