Paddle size vs boat size

I’ve been using a Werner Cyprus for many years now, but mainly paddled shorter boats (Tsunami 140). I got a Tempest 170 lately, and love it, but at times, it does seem like it takes a lot of effort to move the blade through the water. I definitely can’t accelerate as fast as in my shorter boats, and it seems like it’s harder to paddle at a higher cadence if I want. Not sure if using a paddle with less blade area would help, or just stick with the Cyprus and get used to it.

I’m about 5’ 11 and 155 lbs, and would say I’m in decent shape. I’m not the strongest paddler, but feel like I’m probably a little above average. I know the 170 might be a little too large for a paddler my size, so maybe that’s part of the issue. Just wondering if maybe the combination of blade size and boat size is a bit too much for someone my size?

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I think only you can answer that question. I’ve been paddling for years in various boats from a SOT to surf skis.
I used wider bladed paddles for the most part but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve reduced the blade size at my shoulder’s request and gone to lighter boats.
Your 170 seems to be a beast for your size.


In general the length of the paddle has more to do with the width of a boat than the length of it.

You want a paddle that just gets the blade fully into the water on a normal stroke.

The major problem with plastic boats is that the hulls aren’t rigid. They flex and that take some of the power out of the strokes you take. It is called oil canning.

The Tempest 170 is a very high volume boat. It surprised it recently when I saw one next a dozen other similar boats, it was huge, and that volume is a drag against the hydraulic tension of water.

It might be too big for you.


Not necessarily. The longer boat does present more wetted surface area, and so will accelerate more slowly with the same force, or require more force to accelerate at the same rate. At cruising speeds it should require very similar effort, and at higher speeds a bit less. BUT, even when cruising, the paddle stroke may feel different. In short kayaks, the boat accelerates sharply with each stroke, and slows during turnover. Longer kayaks accelerate less with a single stroke, but glide more. Instead of trying to muscle the paddle through the water quickly, pull the boat forward smoothly, then make a clean exit and quick blade plant. You may not be rotating as well with the narrower boat. You may be going a little faster in the new boat, but feeling that you are not. Your new boat is also narrower, so your paddle may be unnecessarily long, a shorter paddle would potentially give you better leverage for high cadence paddling. For some of these questions, I think the best solution is to go buy a $30 paddle and a hacksaw, and experiment a little. And even though the Tempest is very HV, much of the difference from other 17 foot boats is in deck height, which has less effect on hydrodynamics than width, length, or profile.

Length of Cyprus is?

Thanks, yeah, I’m thinking I still need to adjust to the feel of the longer boat. I find that if I try to pull the paddle through the water too fast, it feels like I’m straining a bit. If I take my time, and don’t rush the stroke, things seems better. OTOH, this makes it a little harder to speed up the cadence if I want.

It’s probably true that for a given effort, I’m actually going faster than I would’ve gone in my Tsunami. Maybe I’m so used to putting in a certain effort from paddling the Tsunami, that I try to put in that same amount of effort in the Tempest, but it’s really not needed for just cruising.

I think, like you said, part of my problem may be trying to muscle the paddle through the water. I’m just so used to that quicker response and acceleration in shorter boats. In the Tempest, when I start going, it almost feels like I’m moving in slow motion, kind of like how a freight train starts off, but the speeds builds with each stroke, and once it gets going, it’s really moving =)

Cyprus is 220 cm. Tsunami was like 25.5" wide, so now that I’ve got a narrower boat, I could probably go shorter. However, since these paddles are around 500 bucks, nut sure it’d be worth it to change. I’ve considered getting a Greenland paddle, but from my past experience with them, I’m not sure I like them.

I refreshed my memory on the Cyprus, and it’s actually one of Werner’s mid-size blades. Compared to some of their other models, the blade area isn’t too crazy. I tried an Ikelos at one point, but I’m glad I don’t have that now, as I’m guessing I’d be SORE.

A 220cm, high angle blade isn’t the best match for a narrower sea kayak. Most sea kayakers that I know use 205-210 cm paddles (applicable to Euro blades like the Cyprus only, not GPs).

Do you have any paddling groups or a specialty shop nearby where you could borrow a different paddle? It would probably be enlightening to try paddling the boat with a shorter paddle before making any purchases. I do agree that the 170 is a bit big for you, which may explain some of the “drag” you are feeling. My Everglades Challenge boat is a beast and I find that I need to take short, quick strokes to keep it moving, especially in a headwind.

I may be able to try a shorter paddle. It seems most of my buddies have 220’s, unfortunately.

I would still like to get a smaller boat for when I’m not in the mood for the Tempest, but still have a P&H Virgo at the moment. Fun boat, but unfortunately, I can’t get comfortable in it, so trying to sell it. Wish Wilderness made a sleeker, narrow Tsunami around 14-15 ft.

Trust how it feels. Go to a smaller blade.

Keep your eyes out for a Dagger Alchemy or Stratos (the 14’ version) or a Valley Gemini. All similar to the Virgo but possibly more comfortable (or less, but you won’t know until you try one). I like the Virgo a lot but wasn’t a big fan of the seat in the one that I tried.

I’ve flogged them before on the forums, but I’ll once more recommend seeking a used Venture Easky 15 (either the standard or the LV model if you are under 180 pounds and 5’ 10") if you want something a bit sleeker and narrower than a Tsunami for a reasonable price. Venture is a P & H brand so the design and British built finish and outfitting are quite nice. I used to paddle with a friend who had a Tsunami 14 and swapped boats with her a couple of times. Even she had to admit that my Easky LV was “more fun and faster” (4" narrower beam and 9 pounds lighter. )

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I would like to try a Stratos. I think the S version is 14.5’? Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone around here has them. I’d definitely have to sit in one. If Amazon had them, I’d buy one, and just return it if it didn’t work out, but most shops aren’t so forgiving. That’s why I’m stuck with the Virgo. For some reason, it make my left leg and foot uncomfortable or numb after a while. I can stretch my leg out, and sort of reset the clock, but over it time, it becomes uncomfortable again. My buddy has a Hammer, which has a very similar seat, and he seems OK, so I guess it’s just my body type doesn’t mesh with the boat.

Venture boats have very comfortable cockpit outfitting – I have used the Easky 15LV as a loaner for friends sized from 5’ 2" and 100# to 5’ 10" and 180# and all found the seat and leg space comfortable.

210 max.

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The 170 Tempest is still 3.5 inches narrower than his 140 Tsunami.

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There’s alot of stuff to unpack here. So let me dive in.

I currently have a Tsunami 175 - so similarly classed boat as your Tempest 170 though your tempest has a slightly narrower beam but for all intents and purposes they’re close enough to be the same.

I’ve also paddled a Field and stream 14ft a Fusion 124 (12ft.) a 10 foot Aspire and a 10.5 ft one too and a 2022 Tsunami 145 (my Sons.)

with exactly the same paddle the smaller boats will accelerate faster, however they also hit their top end quicker. The longer boat will take a little longer to hit it’s top end but will have a higher one as well as carrying that speed longer between strokes.

now I’m not going to go into swing weight vs. fatigue vs top speed over time so the numbers I’m going to give you are all within my endurance of each paddle in the Tsunami 175

so having said that I had a Accent Paddle, with a fairly large blade area, 652cm2 pulling on that paddle I could hit and maintain somewhere in the 5.5 to 5.9 mph. and during one race when I was the leader I was clocked at 6mph. but that was only over a course of about 7 miles (thats my fatigue point for that paddle.)

The cadence here was moderate for me using that paddle. about 30SPM (Strokes per minute.,)

for the next race I was in I used a aqua-bound whiskey which has a blade surface area of 613cm2 Over 3 miles my speed was 5.90 mph Time clocked, but because of the smaller blade area my i was averaging about 45SPM to hit the same speeds.

However I found that I was spent after 3 miles.

Apparently I’m better with slow twitch muscle fibers than fast twitch. (we can get into this later.)

So finally I opted for a Werner Ikleos paddle this comes in at a whopping 691cm2 and i find that my cadence with it is much slower generally between 24 and 28SPM. Hitting the same 5,5 to 5.9 mph. (GPS measured.) however this was only over a shakedown run of about 3 miles and I had not hit my fatigue point. with it in that duration.

all the paddles were 220cm long except the Ikleos which was a 225 as a compromise. I have the other two paddles in both lengths of 220 and 230 each. and will choose the paddle length based on water conditions on race day and take the other as a backup

also all the paddles were within 2oz of each other (actually the aqua-bound nd the accent are the same weight and the ikleos is 2 oz lighter.)

I did do a relaxed run with my Tsunami and the Ikleos holding 4.85 mph which I felt I could do all day.

So it comes down to this for me I am a high angle paddler, which is a more powerful stroke than low angle. however my muscle make up is biased towards slow twitch so a slower stroke for me with larger surface area is the right thing, providing I don’t go too big and hit the point where I have more paddle than I can pull. I have found in approaching this in a more scientific manner that with a faster stroke I fatigue quicker than I do with a slower one all thing being equal and normalizing for speed.

Now this is right for me but depending on size strength muscle type (are you a sprinter - fast twitch or a marathoner - slow Twitch.) it may not be right for you.

If high cadence is the thing you do then a smaller blade surface is probably a good call. Most rental places should have Werners which will have a smaller surface area, try them and see.

then look into swing weight, the aquabound and the Accent are the same weight but the accent is more blade weight biased where the aquabound is more shaft weight biased. so it takes more effort on the Accent to paddle but because of the larger surface area and lower strokes per minute it takes longer to fatigue me at the same speed.

No I don’t have long haul data yet on the Ikleos (having gotten it last year at end of season.) but hopefully I can update when I have times for the yet to be announced 15 mile run I enter in yearly.

In your experience and for your style, how big “too big” - > 650 sq cm - ish ? Bigger?

@Craig_S I want to try your Ikelos. I use the Kalliste which keeps my glide at 75 to 80 spm, but the blade start to falter at 4.8 to 5.2 mph in the 145 Tsunsmi. I think its time for a bigger blade. I haven’t pulled my 175 Tsunami out of storage yet. You son can try one of my Kallistes (240 or 250 cm).

I think my Extremes or Expedition 18’10 x 21" are fast from the very first stroke.