Paddle Size Voodoo

-- Last Updated: Mar-14-05 8:01 PM EST --

Im 5'8" w/a new nova prospector 16' (canoe). stumped on the paddle for use on lakes and rivers. any paddle length/design ideas would be great. thanks for your time.

So Many Choices
There are so many variable involved that height has little to do with choice. I’m 5’10" yet have short powerful legs with a longer torso. I say buy a cheaper 230 with an average sized blade and then build from there. You can use your first paddle as a backup when you learn more about what you want.

Canoe or Kayak?
If canoe , your torso length is important. Go to a good mfr site for sizing like Camp , or a good oufitter. It also depends on the paddle type.

Paddle Length
Congratulations on your new canoe! I hope you have many enjoyable hours with it. There is a certain mysticism to paddle length, and everyone has a different formula. Jeff Solway at has a formula and if you go to the library or bookstore you should be able to find Cliff Jacobsons formula. I sat down with measuring devices, a friend, and a bevy of formulas from different gurus and found an average then bumped it up just a touch (I’m 6’2 and paddle a 58" on still waters). The important thing is to have fun with it and don’t worry about it too much. The right paddle will come.


After you search out a few methods for
figuring paddle length, focus your attention on those which tell you how long the shaft of the paddle should be. The total length of the paddle will depend on the style of blade. A long narrow blade will go deeper into the water than a short, wide blade, but the position of your hands on the shaft will be the same with either paddle, if they both fit you the same.

One measuring method I saw being used at Canoecopia appeared to be something like this: Sit up straight on a chair, and the distance from the top of the seat to your chin or nose should be the distance from the end of the paddle shaft to the place where your lower hand grips the shaft. The seat-to-nose method works for me unless I want a longer shaft for some special purpose. Remember that you need some extra shaft length below your lower hand so the blade gets all the way into the water. I would guess that the distance between the top of the blade and your lower hand might range from 8 to 12 inches, depending on how high you sit (or kneel) above the water.