Paddle Length for Sea Kayaking????


This is kind of a follow up to another post I had made.

I am trying to determine which is the best paddle for me for sea kayaking, however, I think probably I need to find out what is the best length first. Someone made some suggestions on my last post but I would like to get a few more opinions before making a decision.

I am 5’8, have pretty broad shoulders, weigh 180 pounds, and paddle a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 170 which is 23 inches wide.

What is the best paddle length for someone like me?

I generally prefer more of a high angle stroke (although I occasionally do use some low angle strokes too).

My current paddle is a 220 which I imagine is a bit long for me.

What do you think is a good paddle length for me???

Paddle Length?
I am also a beginner, 5’8" very broad shouldered and weigh 195. I paddle a Swift Bering Sea with a 23.5" beam. I started with a 230cm paddle which has been fine over the past year. I recently picked up a used, but heavy 220cm paddle which I’ve noticed allows me better rotation when paddling (my hands reach or slightly cross over the centerline of the kayak with this paddle). My paddling angle does not change all that much when I switch between the 230 and the 220, but I think my stroke improves slightly when using the 220. I find myself favoring the heavier, shorter paddle now. That said, I am looking at 215 or 220 for my next paddle, but would not consider a 215 without trying it first given the width of my boat. Hope this helps.


should not be a problem at all if you use high angle and body rotation (a good thing) with your strokes.


I like a 215

– Last Updated: Oct-04-04 12:07 AM EST –

and for that kind of wide boat you might too.

Lots of advanced sea kayakers go fron about 205 to 215, with more in the higher half of that spectrum than the lower.

Derek Hutchinson likes to go around 230-240.

There are differences amongst knowledgable paddlers, but certainly you can see that the "bleeding edge" pattern is to go shorter.

Are you paddling at sea? Do not go shorter if you are still laying lots of "air braces".

Length depends on the design
The key measurent with Euro paddle is the length of the shaft. The shape and length of the blades will determine the overall length. For example, if you find that you need a 130 cm shaft, if the blades on your preferred paddle are 50 cm long each, the overall length will be 230 cm. If the blades you like are only 40 cm, the overall length will be 210.

Patrick at ONNO paddles suggested to me to observe the paddle as I’m paddling. The blade should be just immersed. If the blade is below the surface, look at how far below the surface it is and shorten it by that amount. I need to send my 220 back to Patrick and get it shortened to probably about 205. Epic also sells length lock paddles. You can adjust the length of these by about 10cm, if I remember correctly.

get an adjustable length shaft paddle and experiment!!

Bnystrom is right.
Find a comfortable stroke angle and see how much of your shaft is dry. That is the proper shaft length for your stroke, and size. This will also vary with the width of the boat but you should come pretty close. Use the dry shaft length to pick your paddle not the overall length as blade shapes and lengths will change the overall length. Custom paddle makers will make you any length paddle you want. You dont have to stick to 5 or 10cm increments.

excellent and objective advice by all.
i’ve been playing with length now for a while. 240, 230, and now i have an epic adjustable from 210-220.

oddly enough i like all the lengths a fair bit because i have really nice paddles. i’ve come to doubt the low vs high angle paddling styles. i paddle low and high and in between all the time, depending on wind, waves, and the demands of the moment. the flavour of the day is definitely high angle but if you have a long tracking boat, a long light low angle paddle style is awesome.

have a few paddles and love them all!

Don’t try Greenland paddles!
If you do, you may end up with a lot of really nice paddles collecting dust.

Length vs. Height???
Should the length of your sea kayak paddle be proportionate to your height, or is it more a function of your boat width, or is it a matter of paddling style and personal preference?

I was under the impression that it was mostly a function of your height, but from reading many of these posts it sounds like it is more a matter of your paddling style and preference.

What’s the textbook answer?

that’s the thing Bowler…
there is no textbook. basically everything you’ve read here makes up the textbook.

i guess i’ll have to try a greenland paddle now…

In my experience
the length of your upper torso and the width of your boat at the gunwales are the primary factors.

And, as previously mentioned, focus upon shaft length as blade styles and dimensions vary greatly.

Generally speaking, I was categorise narrow blades, unfeatherd blades, lower stroke angle, and long distance touring with a longer paddle shaft. Conversely, wider blades, feathered blades, and higher stroke angles are often used with shorter shafts.

So much variation in human anatomy, paddling styles, and boat designs that a textbook answer is rather elusive.

Don’t fret if you end up with a small collection of paddles. You need a good spare and the others can be loaners!

Pleasant waters.


paddle length

– Last Updated: Oct-07-04 9:00 AM EST –

Additional thought, find the MINIMUM length that allows you to get the whole blade in the water.

Why, physics. the less the length from your hand to the end of the blade the more leverage you have as a result of torso rotation and arm movement. Hold a paddle at the end of one blade and try paddling on the other side with it extended and see how hard it is. This is what happens for people with paddles that are longer than needed, more work for less results. Paddle lengths are a hold over from days of wider boats. Also, many many people, understandably start out depending on a paddle for boat control, and never learn edging, hip control, etc. A longer paddle feels more supportive for braces at first, but interferes with learning actual boat control. For example, my boat is 20.5" wide, I am 6'3" tall, and use a 215 cm paddle, probably could even use one 210 cm.

Food for thought