Paddle length

I’ve been experimenting with my own paddling technique lately. I find that by making slight adjustments in technique and paddle length my speed increases. My ONNO wing is adjustable, I can alter it from 210 cm to 225 cm. At 210 CM, my cadence is faster, but not where I want it.

I’m currently paddling two boats regularly, the Artisan (21.5" wide X 18’ 3") and the Fenn Mako XT (19" wide X 19’). I’m seriously thinking about getting a slightly shorter paddle. I think an adjustable wing from 200 to 210 would be good. It would allow for a faster cadence and my speed would increase.

I’m 6’ 180 lbs and fairly strong.

Does this make sense?


I’m also curious
what successful racers today are recommending for paddle length for someone your size. They should be the best test of ergonomics as far as maximizing forward speed is concerned. I suppose it would also be interesting to know what big expedition kayakers are using as a comparison.

But with shorter than 215 cm
don’t you begin to lose forward reach and thus shorten the most powerful stage of your stroke?

I’m absolutely no expert and my observations may well be misguided, but I feel that when I shorten my Epic mid-wing paddle below 215 cm I start to go slower compare to when I have it at about 220 or a little less. I am not at all sure where the “perfect” balance is, but to me in my 22" boat it seems to be close to 220cm than to 215… I’m 6’4"…

Curious to see what others with more experience would say though.

I’m signed for a forward stroke class in October with an experienced and well regarded instructor, so hopefully I’ll get some answers there.

it does to me!!!
I actually want a slightly shorter ikelos wish you could get somewhere between 200-203.

I think you and I paddle similarly. I’ve found that the longer the length the slower your strokes are. It’s easier to maintain a higher cadence with a shorter paddle. At least that’s what I’ve found.


yes you can
Special order from Werner



– Last Updated: Sep-09-08 4:13 PM EST –

It's plural.

When I used Euros I used relatively short paddles but I carried one with significantly more surface area than the other.

Now that I've switched to GPs I also have two 'gears' to choose from. My low gear is about 80" long and my high gear is about 85" long. If I want to switch cadences for whatever reason I just switch paddles. You're going to carry a spare anyway, right?

higher cadence
makes sense with a shorter paddle. It’s a shorter lever from the pivot point. The shorter the paddle, the less distance the end travels per rotation. Lots of discussions seem to be in tune to the point where that extra lever no longer equates to faster, more efficient forward paddling. Does not enough lever, too little stroke distance per rotation, begin to hold you back? (something like every torso rotation is work in and of itself - a little more lever may take better advantage of that energy - even though it may not be as straight alongside the kayak - due to ergonomics) I may have to seek out some information regarding what the elite racers use if no one else has any info to post on that particular subject. This has got me curious now.

Hedge your bets
and go with a 200 to 215cm ONNO if Pat still has the 15cm extension option. That 205 to 215 range is pretty common and this will let you experiment on the extreme short side.

Gotta love those ONNOs.


Length Spoken with a straight face …
Its not about putting it in as much as taking it out.

Shorter can be better.

Patrick, did you get my email?

3 tries
I have a Wave Witch Horizon I use for general paddling and fishing. The boat is a SOT with a low cg, low freeboard and is 24.5" wide. I started with a 210cm Onno midtour which did not feel quite right. I then went to an Onno 220cm Midtour because of the boats width and still not right. My next try was an Onno 200cm Midtour and it is the one I now use. Slightly higher stroke angle and less bow wag. Stroke rate works very well. I would/did not guess that a 200cm would work so well. I use the 220cm on my Dorado which is the same width but a much deeper boat and is also low cg.

I shortened my wing…
…to about 205 with the option of being able to adjust it to 210 or so. I’m 5’ 6" paddling a fast 18" wide hull similar to a surf ski. I had been paddling at 210, which is about where the Epic paddle wizard put me. Still felt too long and clumsy.

After reading entries in a string or two here, one in particular comparing length to “gears” on a bike, I decided to go shorter. That, and I also found my technique developing to where I pull the paddle back more alongside the hull and submerging surplus shaft instead of sweeping it out on the end of my rotation. (When I do sweep out more, it seems to just waste energy in pushing the hull more side to side than forward.) I have a very high angle paddle stroke, and still rotate just as much, but begin my lower elbow bend prior to paddle exit just a bit sooner. I still get the power from rotation on the forward part of the stroke, but can also add a little extra bicep flex pull during follow through. I am fit enough so that extra bit of arm paddling at the end of stroke doesn’t bother me, and with varying degrees of input, helps with boat control and course corrections. 206 cm just seemed a little too short; I seems like I just don’t have enough leverage or paddle for controlling the boat as I would like. But just 1 cm more, at 207, seems perfect, at least for now…

I had also read a tip from one of the marathon paddlers on saying that he has come to believe that one should probably go smaller blade/shorter length …

Longer Paddle
I am also no expert, but wouldn’t a shorter paddle create shorter strokes, so you would do more strokes rather than less strokes with a longer paddle? Does that make any sense?


Either way = wrong length

– Last Updated: Sep-17-08 2:59 AM EST –

Length can affect cadence, but you'll also find paddlers who set their own pace rather the letting the paddle dictate anything.

Windmilling a short paddle or slogging with a long one both prevent applying max percentage of each strokes energy to the hull. Length is more about dialing in your technique (and changes you may make to it in different conditions).

Trick is to find your own sweet spot where the paddle fits your optimal pace/energy output over your desired distances.

Remember the Three Bears? Not too hot, not too cold... but just right! Others can offer some insights, but each has to find it for themselves.