Paddle length

Is there a guide to judge the correct length for kayak paddles ? When I purchased my Loon last fall the 220 or 230 paddle they recommended seemed to short for the wide boat so I exchanged it for a 240 but now that I have the Dirigo 120 the new Whisper paddle I bought (at 240 length) sort of seems too long now so I’m wondering if maybe the length is partially determined by the width of boat or ???

I’m doing research into paddle lenght for my wife. So far I have not found a formula and yes… boat width makes a difference. So far what I can figure out is that paddler height and boat width are the biggest factors.


Focus more upon
shaft length as opposed to overall paddle length. Different blade shapes have a dramatic effect on overall length.

Paddler height is also misleading. Consider paddler’s height when seated in the kayak - specificly, the distance from the paddler to the water. Torso/arm length are more relevant in selecting your shaft length than overall height.

Stroke style also makes a difference. Generally speaking a higher stroke angle likes a shorter shaft.

Boat width is certainly relevant. You need enough length to get a nice forward catch without banging the boat. Deck height/contour will also have an effect here.

So… grab your boats and find yerself a nice long stick, broomstick, rake handle, whatever. Have the paddler concerned board their boat in waist deep calm water with said stick. Index the stick by marking the center point. An assistant will hold the boat (from stern or bow), while the paddler goes through their paddling stroke using the stick. The assistant steadies the boat so the paddler can concentrate on using a nice consistent stroke. Obviously the boat is going to go nowhere but we will be able to see the water marks on the stick. These marks indicate the shaft length for THAT paddler in THAT boat on calm water. Textured water will want a bit more length to achieve a good catch in the waves.

I usually start with the flat water reading and add 2" to the shaft length.

This method was suggested to me by Pat Onno (he makes those carbon paddles that weigh less than my wristwatch!), and I’ve used it successfully for a number of paddlers.

Pleasant waters to ya.


Unless you are a giant,
240 seems way too long.

I am 5’8" and use a 220 touring paddle and a 213 wing.

If you can’t afford a “length-lock” Paddle, and you can’t get to a paddle shop to try out various sizes I would suggest you try to borrow different sizes just to try them for length.

If you can’t do that then it would be best to get a real “el cheapo” one and then when your sure of the proper length spring for a good one.



Why Too Long
Why do you think it’s too long? You can easily learn to alter your stroke to accommodate your paddle. I do it all the time. On a lake or ocean I prefer a 240 but in whitewater on the same kayak I’ll use a 230. I’m 5’10" but have short legs for my size. If that helps.

I think it is too long…
…because I think it is too long,---- unless the guy is about six feet six inches.

For efficient paddling a proper length paddle is required.

If you want to go through your life altering your stroke to fit your paddle so be it!



It’s a matter of power!
JackL mentioned that 240 is too long, and I agree. Depending on your paddling style (High or Low angle) you don’t need a 240 unless your 7’0 and paddling a boat with a 30" beam. If you don’t meet those criteria, your waisting energy. By using a shorter paddle, you keep the blade of the paddle close to the boat as you draw it back, hence, you keep the paddle close to your body where the power is. If you have used to a 240cm, I assure you that you can go faster, farther, and with less pain if you use a 220cm. You can use the method mentioned above, or try different lengths. Much depends on you and your style. I personally use a high angle stroke, and use a 210cm for touring. I can’t imagine you need more than a 220cm, but you should try first.

240 Too Long
You are essentially doing sweep strokes with the 240. Not very efficient.

I paddle a 29 inch wide boat
have the arms and towro of sommboduy who is about 6 feet two inches and paddle it with a 225 with shortish blades. My 230s feel a touch long. I am happy to agree with Jack L and the consensus: 240 is long.

As your torso roatation increases you will go shorter.

of course consensus is not unamimity.

Thanks to all - I am convinced now that
I need the shorter paddle. I will try to borrow or rent one. It also sounds like I have a lot to learn about paddling!

Not to worry…
as we all have a lot to learn with regard to waters. Don’t let some of the discussions here lead you to believe that the majority of p.netters are experts - we ain’t.

We’re all rookies. Some are simply more experienced rookies but there’s not one of us that isn’t learning on an ongoing basis.

Even familiar waters are different every day and can change into a nearly unknown personality whenever it so desires.

I used to consider myself a 20 year veteran expert regarding the North Platte river. This spring I had the closest call I’ve had in ten years. Made a couple of mistakes, underestimated storm runoff, and spent 45 minutes in a nasty strainer with a 16.5’ sea kayak that the river wanted to claim as its own.

Humbled my ass and educated this ‘expert’ most dramatically!

Pleasant waters to ya.