Paddle Length: Overall or Shaft Length??

This is a bit of a long question…so I will give my bottom line up front and then follow up with the details:

Which is more important when choosing a second paddle (with a different blade)—that it be the same OVERALL length as your primary, or that it have the same SHAFT length as your primary paddle? (Be advised that I don’t have the ability to test paddle the paddles in question).

Here is why I ask: I currently have a Werner Ikelos and a Werner Cyprus. They are very similar blades (high angle) except that the Cyprus is a slightly scaled down version with a bit narrower and shorter blade. Both paddles are 210cm. HOWEVER…the paddle with the smaller blade FEELS longer than the one with the bigger blade. This is a function of the fact that the shaft is longer to compensate for the shorter blade and to make the OVERALL length the same.

The Cyprus in the 205cm length has the same shaft length as my 210 Ikelos. I am considering ordering one in the hope that it will feel more like my Ikelos despite its shorter OVERALL length.

On the other hand, despite having the same shaft, the paddle with be a bit shorter overall and may be too short for a good sea kayaking paddle (I am 5’8 and paddle a 21 wide boat).

Another consideration for me with the current paddle I have with the longer shaft paddle with the smaller blade is that it forces me to use a slightly lower angle stroke. While this feels a bit strange at first, it may be a good thing, as I have the smaller bladed Cyprus for longer distance endurance paddling. Perhaps being forced to use a slightly lower angle stroke would be a benefit for a lower-geared endurance paddle.

What do you think? Again, please remember that I don’t have the opportunity to test paddle the shorter paddle. I basically will have to order one and then it will be mine if I use it.



Shaft length … to a high degree
… this is why it is nice to speak with someone who can advise and build things custom based on many factors including subtle conversational nuances and tipoffs a generic chart will never be able to do.

what happens if you’re padding with…
a paddle that’s too long? I can see the impact if it’s short, more movement and twisting and strain (or at least, that’s what I’m visualizing), but what happens if it’s too long, other than unnecessary weight?

Overly Long…
you end up stroking too far out from the boat and likely pulling beyond your hip. More “sweep” component leading to yawing (boat zig-zagging). If try to adjust with a higher angle and closer to the boat stroke, you submerged beyond the blade into the shaft. Not very efficient.

Matter of preference, I’d rather a short blade for higher angle and higher cadence. It forces the torso to rotate more. This is better technique than with just arm pulling/pushing (“lily dipping”). Involving the larger muscles of torso in the stroke means less fatique on the arms.

However, it’s different for everyone where a paddle can be overly short or overly long. Somewhere in the middle, the individual can make the adjustment and still be relatively efficient.


I Am No Expert
but in going through the process I have purchased paddles with differant sized blades. I have also learned that the important distance is relative to your paddle style, your boat, and your paddle blade size. Most of the written materials I have found say that the top of the blade should be at or just below the surface of the water and not any futher under than “just”. Well, if you look at two paddles, like two of mine, and you find that the blade length is differnat by about two inches then it means that the correct overall length of paddle has to be differant by four inchs or 2.54 x 4 cm.

Paddling posture also makes a lot of differance. I guess I am a lazy paddler, or maybe old and worn out paddler. I do not hold my arms out at a high enough point to be considered proper. The pivot point that you use will also directly affect the correct length of paddle. If I hold my arms low by two inches from optimum then I am going to have to have a paddle that is four inches shorter in order to have the blade action correct.

Patrick said it best during one of the phone conversations that I had with him when determining the length of the ONNO paddle I now use. He said it would be a lot easier if everyone knew the length of shaft they required.

Happy Paddling,


After more thought…
After some more thought and reading some of the replies, I think it boils down to this:

-keeping the one I have now with the slightly longer shaft (and same overall length) will result in a lower angle stroke for me. This will help in reducing fatigue a bit b/c of the lower angle, but will be using slightly different muscles than I am used to and will put more torque on the paddle due to the longer shaft. These aspects may negate the benefits of the lower angle stroke. It also will result in a lower cadence and an adjustment period from using my other paddle.

-getting the paddle with the shorter overall length/same shaft length will probably result in a paddle stroke that is closer to the one I use with my other paddle, reducing the adjustment period, using the same muscle groups, putting less torque on the paddle, and resulting in a faster cadence. This will probably result in less fatigue (the goal with this smaller bladed paddle). The trade-offs will be whether the smaller blade and shorter overall length results in a reduction in boat control when sweeping etc. with my 18 foot boat. There is also the risk that it may just feel too short / not enough catch. I guess the only way to find out is to order one!

I will probably end up ordering one and seeing for myself. I think that the logic tends to support getting the shorter paddle. I just think it is a bit counter-intuitive in that one would think that you should order paddles of the same overall length. In this instance it would seem that is not the best solution and that one should vary the overall length to keep the SHAFT lengths as close as possible. Hmmmmm…


Shaft length
if your trying to achieve a certain hand spacing from the throat of the blades ,then add the lenght of the blades to arrive at the overall lenght you will need for each paddle your looking at.

Another Thought
I have a Lightning paddle that is a good paddle but was too long at 220cm. I played around with measuring and looking at my blade while paddling and determined that the paddle should be about 200cm to make everything work for me. So, I ordered a ferrel kit from Lightning and cut the shaft in the middle, removed 10cm from each of the remaining ends and then installed the new ferrel kit. So, I now have a two piece 200cm paddle that works well and is the correct length.

Taking this thought further, if you wanted to shorten your paddle and it was already a two piece and you did not have the round part of the shaft to work with if you cut the old ferrel out you could order two of the tube pieces used in the ferrel kit and install them at either end this time epoxing both ends of the new tube.

Happy Paddling,


Right track
I have a couple of the old Whetstone paddles. They have the same shaft length but the T1 is 210 cm while the T2 is 220 cm. The T1 is a short wide blade and the T2 is a long skinny blade if I dont have the numbers reversed. The stroke angle is the about the same but I like the reach of the longer blade.

The main problem with your paddle is that they reduced the overall size of the blade and extended the shaft to get to 210 cm. The shaft length should have remained about the same or slightly shorter to maintain the stroke angle. I say about because a wider blade is going to change the angle some and you may want the shaft a little shorter than the wide blade. Maybe 200cm.

I now use Onno paddles and Patrick has 4 main blade sizes. They are all the same length but vary in width. I normally use a 210cm midtour but I recently ordered a 220cm fulltour for a different boat which is wider. I tried it with my narrower boat and found the angle did not change a lot as the wider blade reqired a longer shaft to submerge it. I would equate a 210cm midtour to a 215cm fulltour to get exactly the same angle. I am not an expert and am just relating my experiences. I need to try the paddle out with the boat it was ordered for and I may have to narrow the blade or order one with a longer shaft. If you want to talk to an expert call Patrick at Onno. 858-272-7859 He has some of the best paddles out there.