paddle length for touring

-- Last Updated: Mar-22-04 12:57 AM EST --

I have a 22 inch beam yak for touring, and have been using a Werner's 220 mid-tour (my first paddles) I am looking to get a new pair of touring paddles for longer distances. I recently paddled with a friend (Thank you Tsunamichuck) who loaned me their 215 swift windswifts to see how I liked the paddle length and the blade size. Changing to this blade size probably makes sense when buying new paddles, because I can always use the Werners if I want a bigger blade. To be honest, I didn't seem to be sensitive to this small difference in length.

A few others things about my paddling style: I am fit and enjoy a good workout, but when touring, I enjoy slowing down to enjoy the sights and chat with friends from time to time when paddling with a group. I enjoy paddling faster when solo. I am 5'5", and prefer to paddle unfeathered now, although I learned feathered. I generally prefer a more relaxed low angle stroke when paddling with all but the fastest paddlers.

I am open to suggestions and feedback about my paddling preferences when touring, but that isn't really my question here:) I am wanting to hear from others about their best guess about the best paddle length for me, given the above.

Thanks in advance everyone!

Variable length
Epic makes 2 piece paddles that work well, I haven’t had any problem with them. No shifting, no looseness, haven’t gotten stuck either. Their relaxed touring model may fix you up.

I have changed lengths on the water when I realized I was reaching too much due to a short paddle. No problem if you don’t lock the nut too tight. Go with their short length, then stretch it out if needed.

Here’s what I did
I have no idea if this is a recognized method for determining paddle length, but it worked for me: I got into a good comfortable paddle rythm, then looked down at my blades as they moved past me in the water. What I saw was a surprise; the blades were deeply submerged with 3-4" of paddle shaft also underwater. Not very efficient. I tried a few paddle lengths 'til I got one that just submerged the blades at a comfortable pace. It seemed to make all the difference in comfort and endurance for me. I settled on 215 cm, but I have a rather high-angle stroke even when touring.

I have the torso of a 6’ 2"

– Last Updated: Mar-21-04 11:12 PM EST –

inch person and my legs are almost those of a midget. So for paddle length purposes I am 6"2". I tried to get Greg Barton at Epic ( who actually remembered my feeble self from a group class) to make me a lengthlock adjustable 220 to 230 active tourer, and he said "Just paddle with the stock, (215-225) one you'll leave it set to 215 soon enough." Oscar Chalupsky said the same. (Can you believe these guys answer their own phone? Fantastic!) They were right! Whether paddling my 21.5" Explorer or my 23" shadow it stays at 215. When I am in my 29 inch wide rec boat it goes to 225. (it is important to know that I try to be into torso rotation, paddle in light ot moderate surf and paddle in easy to moderate conditions, (if the gusts are over 30 on the ocean I want to be going downwind and home please, or preferably be at home already!) Very relaxed paddlers who are not interested in a high angle touring stroke, bow rudder strokes, hanging draws, or high cadence may well be happy with a longer paddle. I remember the switch fron 230 to 225 took me a few hours to get used to.

Derek Hutchinson paddles with a 230 and it is heavy as sin and who am I to tell him what he should paddle. After I have paddled the corryvrechan whirlpool, I might argue with him about it, if I am buying the beer and steaks, or bangers and mash or whatever he wants. (not really, I am not so ungentle a host!)

Many folks at MICKO are going 215 (and shorter!)and 60 degrees these days, it seem to be the new school thing. I'm with that, but no disrespect to the old masters.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Thanks Greg and Oscar for sticking to yours!

Hey Magoo, that’s the same thing Pat at ONNO paddles told me. When I asked him about length, he said to watch the paddle blade in the water.

Thanks for the feedback…
Magoo your idea makes sense and come to think of it, it is sort of like what Patrick told me to do when I first inquired about getting some new paddles made. I will try this the next time i am paddling.

Glad to hear that
I was hesitant to say it 'cause it just seemed too simple!

the length of the paddle

– Last Updated: Mar-22-04 12:26 PM EST –

in anthropometric terms should be relative to the size of the kayak, for most intents and purposes. Because your size, while not irrelevant is slightly less important.

If your kayak is very wide, or very deep you will need a longer paddle to be able to reach the water effectively. It also depends on whether you are a low angle paddler or a high angle paddler. Because with a high angle you can get away with a shorter shaft. And you will need a slightly longer shaft if you are more comfortable with a low angle stroke.

For instance if you had a 22-23 in wide kayak with a 13" depth, and you use a low angle, a 220 cm could be just right, but if you used a high angle stroke with this type of paddle it could be too long.

If you could volunteer this information finding the right paddle would be easier.

I use a Greenland paddle, with a 20.5" wide boat that is 12" deep and I use a sort of high angle stroke, so I can get away with an 85" long paddle.


– Last Updated: Mar-22-04 12:56 PM EST –

all the info you ask for, is in original post.

My boat has a 22 inch beam, and I describe my paddling style when touring as well.

What I didn't mention in the orginal post is the depth of my boat. Off hand, I don't know that, but it is a low volume boat with a relatively low back deck. I have a VCP avocet RM.

I carry two paddles
I have a 210 and a 220. I can get two 215s by assembling half of each.

When I’m full of energy and the lake/river is calm, I enjoy the 220. However, if I’m fighting wind or waves, or if I’m just plain tired, I use the 210. I immediately notice the difference.

Missed my chance to talk to you in
person this weekend. Feel free to call me to go over any specific questions you might have… no pressure ever… here to help. Can talk about that footbrace bar too.

Even with the lower angle paddling / new boat , cannot really tell the diff. w / shorter paddle, you WILL be able to over time. Time = pbs. and cruising pace and long term fatigue.

Hi Patrick,

– Last Updated: Mar-22-04 2:12 PM EST –

Thanks for responding!Were you at the surf festival? Sorry I missed you!

I was actually asking this question because I as trying to remember how to guesstimate the paddle length from the broomstick exercise you gave me. Do you think Magoo's idea will work just as well? May be a bit easier for me:)

I think I do want a smaller touring blade, with a slightly narrower paddle shaft, but I am just not certain much shorter the shaft should be. I know a high angle stroke is more powerful, but it's not my prefernce to paddle that way all of the time. I am more inclined to paddle with a high angle stroke when paddling into the wind and when solo. I have 220cm werner mid-tour I can carry as a spare. I defintely prefer to paddle unfeathered whe touring, but like the option to feather if desired (my werner's feather angle is 60).

Feel free to email me off the boards and we can talk more, and I can place my order. I also want talk to you about the footbrace thing. I moved my pegs back one notch, and I was going to see what it felt like with a thin layer of closed cell foam on the florr where I will moving my feet around.

based on the information, I would try
to stick with a longer paddle a 210-220 cm paddle. I think the werner kalliste or camano are both really nice paddles. If you want a super nice euro, try an AT Exception. But it seems like you wanted to hear about Onno paddles.

My Werner mid-tours
are a less expensive version of the Werner Camano’s, and they are 220cm. I want to hear about all paddles, just not sure how much shorter to go. Also, I think I want a smaller blade suitable for low angle touring, to use along with my Werner’s. I liked the blade size on the Swift windswift, but haven’t used it long distance yet (just about 3 miles)

Patrick is someone who has often replied to my posts with helpful suggestions and encouragement re: paddling:)

As an aside…I had bifocals precribed yesterday, and all I kept thinking was, “I could be buying some really nice paddles with this money!”

I switched from a Werner Mid-Tour 220
Also a 22" beam boat. I am 5’2".

As soon as I tried a 215cm Nimbus Zephyr, I knew I’d buy it. I did notice the shorter length, as well as the different shape of the blade–and preferred both.

Best of all, the Zephyr works well with both a low-angle and high-angle stroke. The Mid-Tour felt best with a low-angle stroke, and even then it never felt right for me…it was just too long. I have noticed also that with the Zephyr I get a much quieter and surer-feeling bite. Average speed went up, not down, with the narrower blade and shorter length. I think the 215cm is still a little long for me but it’s definitely an improvement.

I was warned that the narrower blade would be less forgiving in bracing and sculling, but it has been fine. In fact, when I was learning to roll, I had been paddling with the Zephyr but would always switch to the Mid-Tour to try rolling because of that warning. Well, it wasn’t till I said, “Screw it!” and used the narrower Zephyr that I got my first unassisted roll. And come to think of it, people brace, scull, and roll just fine with the even narrower, shorter GPs.