paddle size

I have decided to buy a Z Whitewater ZRE straight shaft paddle. I paddle mostly class I-II touring and OC-1I-III. How do you determine correct paddle length for an individual? 6’1" 33" inseam, if any of you are similar build, what length straight shaft do you use? thanks

get ahold of ZRE
they can help you with that. Directions for bent shaft measurments are in their catalog and on their site, and they work very well. I am 6’1" with a 34" inseam and use a 46 1/4" bent powersurge if that helps at all.

Those are some great paddles. They are great people to work with. I am sure you can get excellent advice there.

There’s a wise-guy in every crowd
A librarian friend of mine is nearing retirement and as she does, her “zone of insolence” has greatly expanded.

Working the reference desk, she told me she recently snapped at a patron who asked her something ridiculously basic. She asked the patron, “do you have a computer?”

Patron: “yes.”

Librarian: “Is your computer connected to the internet?”

Patron: “yes.”

Librarian: “try typing your question in the box on and then click on search!”

Not that I’m suggesting you look it up, because prepping to explain paddle length to some new canoeists, I just did. But you could.

Here’s what I learned. Sit or kneel at the height you will be in your canoe. Hold your arm out straight and level. Measure from your hand to the water, or floor if you are in your living room. The measurement so obtained will be the length of the paddle shaft/grip. Add the length of the blade (they come in many sizes) to the shaft, and that sum is the length of the paddle you need.

BTW, this is typed with a smile. I’m not slamming. But you obviously have Internet access, and if I could look it up…


no offense taken
I had looked it up, and know of the conventional methods, just wanted to hear what people thought worked best.

this paddle

– Last Updated: Mar-30-10 10:15 PM EST –


If so , they say the blade is 19" length . I "assume" that 19" includes everything below where your low hand could possibly grip the shaft (so that 19" would also include the throat area of the blade) .

What length shaft are you most comfortable with in similar shape and length blades ??

I believe it is shaft length that is the important thing ... so add shaft length to blade length to determine total paddle length best for you .

I've not owned or used this paddle but I believe the shaft can be shortened after the fact ... but lengthening it could be a bit of a problem . So if that's the case , ordering what you think would be your maximum shaft length would be my suggestion ... then consider shortening it if you want to .

For me , depending on the blade shape and length , I have a comfortable range of 4" in shaft difference . Shorter blades seem better with a slightly longer shaft ... longest blades seem better with my shortest comfortable shaft length .

My paddle blades range between 19" and 26" lengths .

Rule of chin: Stand beside the paddle, the paddle should come up to your chin.

Chip your advice is better than a lot
of stuff on the internet proving that asking here is often better than looking it up.

Most assume that you will be sitting or kneeling in a canoe but Chip’s method also works for single blading a kayak.

Only thing I’d change is to add an inch or two for a straight shaft and another inch or two for whitewater.

Most places I found that give a way to measure for a paddle are similar to what chip said, except they talk about measuring to your eye brows, seems as if chip’s method would be below that, more like shoulder, if you extend your arm. Then I found a post that says there seems to be a trend toward shorter paddles, and like you said longer for whitewater. So, as it says on Sawyer’s site: “There is no science to picking your paddle length, as proven by the broad range of measuring methodology you may experience while shopping. While the formula above acts as a guide, no better standard exists than experience.” That is why I asked the question, mostly, to see how basic measurements are modified based on experience with different kinds of paddling.

Isn’t the powersurge the one with the wood T grip and thumb grooves carved at the end of the T? How do you like that grip? Two of my paddles have a modified T grip, and I like them.

The chin thing(standing) may work
with conventional paddles,but not a Zav.

paddle choice
really depends on the width of the kayak and the size of the paddler. I’m 5’10 and I use a 230 werner kalista paddle. If I change which kayak I use the paddling is different. On a wider kayak I have to reach more the 230 is the best for me. I would suggest a 230 for you. Do pay attention to the blade also. A bigger blade is harder to pull through the water but you go farther with less strokes.

What makes this hard to answer is
that if you spend most of your day’s run cruising, as a Zaveral owner would, your paddle will be shorter.

But if you are seriously maneuvering and playing in class 2-3 rapids, you may be surprised how long an optimal paddle will be. Jon Lugbill and Davey Hearn, both international c-1 champs, and both rather short guys (compared to me) used slalom paddles around 59". This is true of the other international c-1 slalom competitors.

So, if you’re kneeling higher, much higher, in your OC-1, and you are going to fly from eddy to eddy and play on the waves, you’re going to use a paddle SHORTER than Lugbill and Hearn? If you do, you are using the wrong tool for what you are attempting.

Me, I’m very tall, and both in my slalom c-1 and in my OC-1s, I use 61 to 62 inch slalom paddles. I ain’t much good, but I can cross stroke you under the table. And, a light slalom paddle is absolutely no hindrance at all for cruising on the flats.

A small adjustment is necessary
Kneeling on the floor and measuring from grip hand to floor will be a bit different than kneeling in a canoe and measuring to the water surface. The canoe will be sitting in, not on the water and the length will be shortened by approximately the draft of the boat.If the boat has a rounded bottom and the knees are close to the chines, this will raise increase the measurement a bit. The thickness of the knee pads will also increase the length.

The bottom line is if you are going to use the “kneel in the boat” method, you should do so by kneeling in your boat of choice and not attempt to simulate conditions. A good blade is a significant expense and you want to be sure you get the dimensions right.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

paddle sizing
Short vid on paddle sizing here

Zav length
Let me try. I’ve got a few Zavs…both straight and bent. As I recall they come in 1/8 inch increments…so you can basically get any length you want. So the chance of you ordering exactly the right length…down to the 1/8 inch, is basically zero. And believe it or not, you can feel 1/8 of an inch difference in paddle length.

So - order it a bit long and ask to have the grip not glued to the shaft…then you try it, trim the shaft a little (with a fine-bladed saw like a hacksaw or coping saw…and put tape around the paddle shaft where you cut it to help keep the cut from getting ragged…it’s really easy)…and just keep shortening it and trying it until it feels perfect. Then a dab of glue and you’re good to go. Or - to be honest you don’t ever have to glue the grip on…it will stay in place by press fit plus one piece of black electrical tape holding it to the shaft.

I’m very close to your height…most straight shaft paddles that I like are 56-58 inches and the Zavs are right at 56 since the blades are short/stubby. Zavs also have a lot of buoyancy…they push back on you if they are too long. So I’d say order it at 59 and start trimming and trying.

Blade throat?
I have a Zav medium straight I use for pack boat touring kneeling. Due to the unusual blade contour of the Zav,and the thickness of the area at the throat,I found the paddle worked better when I considered the throat to be where the blade radically widends out,not where it gradually starts to widen.That said,I had a lot of confusion on paddle length,and measuring from the water surface to my nose when in my boat proved the best method. It eliminated all the varibles. Weather chin,nose ,or forehead hiegth is best is an individule thing. I ordered my Zav uncut and experimented before perminatly gluing the grip on.