-- Last Updated: Sep-05-05 8:44 PM EST --

Next question of maybe many. I need a paddle and was wondering what is the norm for length? I am 6'2", if that will factor into the formula. I borrowed a friends kayak a couple of weeks ago to 'test the water', so to speak, and I think his paddle was 230 cm. Seemed to work good, but again it was the only one I ever used so hard to compare. Not too sure I liked the offset in his, although it was adjustable. What is the advantage of this? I tried my canoe paddle and it worked OK too, but would take some getting used to. Be slower too I imagine.

I am 6’3" I use a 240cm, I dont like the offset paddles. I use the 90 degree paddle. I have and “Aqua-Bound” 240cm works great for me got it for $50.00 new, after season sale. Hope you find one that works.

Check the archives …
There are several good discussions on paddle sizing in the archives.

Your height is not of much significance. You torso length may be more appropriate.

Some of the manufacturer’s websites have helpful infomation:

(torso length)

(nice diagram of high vs. low angle paddling)


the old finger tips
There is a formula that i read and found pretty decent. Stand up, raise your arm, and your finger tips should just curl over the blade. That worked for me to narrow down the feild a bit when shopping. now i know which sizes and types I like, but for early purchases it works well.


There are really two issues:
paddle length and offset (feathering). I’m sure much can be found in the archives about both. Like most things in paddling, it depends on what kind of kayaking you’re doing and personal preference. If you regularly paddle 12 miles in the wind, you probably will want a longer paddle because you will want a more relaxed touring stroke and you will probably want to feather your paddle to decrease wind resistance. If you are paddling shorter distances or for exercise and want a more aggressive stroke, you will probably want a shorter paddle. If you paddle mostly when there is no wind, you probably won’t feather your paddle. It also depends a bit on how wide your boat is. The wider the boat, the more likely you’ll want a longer paddle.

One other thing about feathering. I recommend you try it for several weeks one way and then for several weeks the other way to see which feels more comfortable to you. And then pick one and stick with it. Don’t go back and forth between feathering and non-feathering. As you skills develop it will become more and more important to know the position of your paddle blade without thinking about it.

Personally, I’m 5’4", I do frequent long or multi-day trips. I regularly paddle in 15 knot winds. My boat is 22" wide. I use a bent shaft Werner carbon fiber 220 cm Kaliste and I feather it.

Preferences may vary.

Feather if you can
> If you paddle mostly when there is no wind, you probably won’t feather your paddle.

There probably aren’t many places where there is consistently no wind. I would say that you should try paddling with it feathered, and if that seems to work for you, stick with it. At some point, you will likely find yourself paddling into the wind.

A couple years ago, I bought a rec yak and figured that I was a lifer flatwater paddler with no interest in the ocean. But this past Monday, I found myself two miles offshore in four foot swells. Things change.

My paddling buddy tried feathering his paddle but found that it gave him wrist pain, so his choice was obvious.

Just like Kayaks
some paddles will work better for you that others. In addition to length, you have to consider blade shape, weight, straight or bent shaft. So if you can, try before you buy.

And learn to paddle with the blades feathered, the motion to twist the paddle becomes instinctive. If I try to paddle with and unfeathered paddle, my entire stroke goes spastic.

Actually it’s finger joint pain
I am sure my problem is technique. I thought I was getting arthritis in my knuckles but it disappeared over the winter. I do feel the push of the paddle in the wind. There is usually some kind of wind out there.

Trade offs
Paddling is a repetitive motion and as such you are subject to the physical problems that can produce. Feathering your paddle means that one wrist (the right one if you have a right hand control paddle) will be constantly bending back and forth. The more the feather the more the bending. Some people’s wrist can stand this, some develop problems. A neutral feather for most people is about 12 degrees. Note that an unfeathered paddle is not neutral. There will still be some wrist bending. If you want a paddle that avoids the wind resistance as much as possible get a 90 degree feather. I don’t recommend this and I think you will find you agree but that is the other end of the spectrum.

Another option you have is a bent shaft. They are supposed to reduce the repetitive bending of your wrist horizontally. All of my paddles are bent shaft and I find them very comfortable. You should try one.

Paddle length
I use a 230 cm paddle for a 24" wide boat and I’m 6’6" tall. Before settling on the 230 I tried a 240 , which I found to be longer than I really needed.

Here’s An Idea: Get Two Paddles
I think it is a good idea to always carry a spare paddle for obvious reasons, and one not so obvious.

I carry a 220cm and a 230cm. These are two-piece paddles, with interchangeable shafts. This gives me the option of creating a 225cm paddle.

Usually, I use the 230cm.

Going against heavy current, waves, and wind, I switch to the 225cm or 220cm lengths. Oh, what a difference 5 or 10 cm can make!

BTW, I came upon this by mistake. I didn’t know which length would suit me best. So, I bought two different lengths figuring I would exchange one the next week. Never needed to do so.

Good luck, and make sure you can exchange whatever you select.

Using a 90 degree feather - Tip
I use a 90 degree feather paddle. When I first made it, a paddling friend showed me a trick for lessening the risk of wrist injury that’s worked really well for me.

Instead of rotating the wrist of my right (control) hand, he suggested placing the thumb along the back of the shaft slightly below the centreline; the shaft is then turned by a simple upward push of the thumb. Even on long paddles, I haven’t had any tenderness or strain on the wrist in the five years I’ve been doing this.

A caution, tho - since I’m holding the shaft very loosely, I’ll tend to wrap my right hand around the shaft if things get rough, and rotate the wrist. Reckon the thumb technique still saves my wrist about 90% of the torquing it’d get if I gripped the shaft and rotated the wrist all the time.

Look at the adjustable -
I just bought the Bending Branches Infusion adjustable (215-230) - worth a look

paddle length
There are a lot of factors involved. My first paddle was 230cm and boat was 25" wide. The boat I’m using now is 21-1/2" wide and that 230 felt about 10’ long! I have a 215 and a 220, and the 215 feels best. BTW, I’m 6’-1".

I agree with above.
The paddle length really and truly depends on the width of the yak you are paddling. But I for one, agree with posters that say feathering is…well…for the birds. My padde I can turn to feather when necessary in the gusties of winds, but in general, even in windy Midwest, the easiest on the wrists and arms is non-fathered postion. Length… I prefer long. I am 5 9inches and use a 230cm. I find the stroke to be more level, and the cadence to be better. A higher “digging” paddle stroke, although important or waves and sea yaking, is really no efficient for the shoulders and torso in long slow distance cruises. Try the Aqua-Bound carbon fiber paddles ; cheaper than most at $175 retil (look for end season sales, somethings as low as $125) and stiff carbon fiber is very good paddle. eg Aqua-Bound Expedition AMT (see reviews on p-net).

for all the info. read em all and all have good points. Just have to figure out which one will suit me best.

thanks again


helpful articles
If you are still looking for a paddle you may want to read these articles on paddles. It shoudl anwser most of your questions and if they dont you can email me.

Sometimes It Takes Experimentation
I am 6’0" and paddle a narrow boat. I spent some time reading and actually getting fitted at a local shop. I tried several paddles before buying a 230cm paddle with a 60 degree feather. The paddle works fine and I have not experienced any wrist or hand issues.

I am going to borrow a 220cm paddle and give it a try. I am curious and want to see if a slightly shorter paddle will work for me. My normal stroke is fairly steep and a shorter paddle may help me.

One of the mistakes I made while outfitting was to purchase a one piece paddle instead of a take apart paddle. I was concerned about strength and reliability. Transportation and storage is much more difficult with the one piece. I am going to convert one paddle at a time to two piece paddles and could shorten it or them at that time is I want.

happy paddling,