Paddles for Surfing in a Kayak

Am looking for advice on what most people use for surfing in a kayak. From what I have heard so far it seems that most people use their whitewater paddle when surfing in the ocean. Is this true?

Since I have never paddled in WW, only flatwater, another question is, do all WW paddles come as feathered or can you get a WW paddle that is un-feathered?

What are the guidelines for length when buying a paddle that is specifically going to be used for playing in the ocean surf?

Are there any materials that are better suited or ones to definitely stay away from when buying a paddling for kayak surfing?

Thanks for any advice you can provide me. There is so much too learn when starting a new type of kayaking. Up to this point I have been paddling lakes and slow-moving rivers and some paddling in Delaware Bay so learning how to surf in the Atlantic Ocean is something entirely new to me.


WW paddles
Not an expert, but here’s my $0.02

45 degrees seems to be the most common feather angle for whitewater paddles these days. I haven’t seen an unfeathered one, but many of the manufacturers will do custom orders at minimal cost. Another option would be to cut the shaft of a feathered paddle and splice it in the unfeathered position.

For length, the trend is toward shorter paddles. 195 and shorter are common for whitewater, but it’ll depend on your build and your boat.

Materials – strength should take priority over saving ounces, especially when you’re learning. A good fiberglass paddle from any of the major manufacturers should work just fine. I’ve got a Mitchell Cougar – not fancy, but it’s shrugged off all of my mistakes so far.

If you will be surfing a boat 10 feet in length or less and about 24 inches wide I would recomend that you use a paddle that is equal to you height or slightly less.

I paddle ww and some ocean surfing
and use a featherless paddle. From what i see there is a trend towards a lesser degree and as some of us are getting older, even a small trend towards featherless. The concept towards featherless has something to do with greater prevention of tendonitis. I use the same paddle for ww or surfing, it workss for me.

Angstrom’s got a point.
Take a look at Mitchell Paddles. All of thier gear is designed from slalom paddlers, ie: everyone in the company. This means that they are usually on the water, and rocks, daily or at least as often as they can when they are not making paddles. This shows up in the durability of thier stuff. I just got, treated myself, to a Resolution 194cm, carbon shaft, wood/carbon blades (yes wood cores, makes a difference). Great feel to it and terrific purchase. Center’s of gravity seems to move out toward your little finger on quick motions of the paddle blade. Resin/roped edges and nylon tip makes for extremely good rockproofness. Ok, my $.02 is up.

Heading out paddling.

See you on the water,


Short In Surf = Good
the paddle is mostly used for fast acceleration to catch a wave and then to stern rudder. On steeper faces, you’ll actually find a long paddle getting in the way by digging to much into the wave face/wall.

What’s the right length? sit on something elevated, e.g. two chairs together, in a position similar to what you would be in your boat and mimic the stroke. The tip of the blade should catch right my your toes. As the blade comes towards you while parallel to where your chine/sidewall would be, the blade should be buried fully. It then exits out by your hip.


Short…and shorter!

– Last Updated: Oct-23-04 8:30 PM EST –

The paddle of choice for both wave skis and surf kayaks at San Onofre, CA is a paddle designed specifically for surfing by Mike Johnson. His longest paddle is 183cm (6') but the trend recently is to go even shorter...down to 173cm (5'8"). In paddle surfing, the need is for quick acceleration, which is best achieved with a rapid, high-rotation paddle stroke. Since the paddle only serves a minor role in maneuvering once the craft is underway, a short paddle can be easily tucked out of way as the ski or kayak is moving across the wave face. Each of Mike’s paddles is custom crafted to fit the paddler’s preferences. He uses traditional materials...but his carbon fiber model is a beautiful piece of work. Mike can be reached at 1-800-460-9140 or

As a point of reference, I am 5’3" and am using either a 180 or 185 cm paddle. These are also use for white water. I use a 205 cm in touring. Couple of folks I know who are 5’10" and 6’ are using 170 cm in surf

I don’t have in me to order another shorter paddle. At least not just yet.


I use a Merv Larson Surf Paddle. Made (under license) by Tsunami Kayaks, it went for about $150 a few years ago. Kevlar…very strong, I’ve never broke one yet. It’s the paddle-of-choice for the Tsunami Rangers.


Surf paddles
Aqua Bound makes a rugged inexpensive whitewater paddle, you can often find these used and they are inexpensive to get started. I use a Onno carbon/hybrid and its a pleasure to use. I don’t use a feathered paddle for surfing, one school of thought is that it is easier to do agressive rudders without banging your boat, to me it is just much easier to keep track of what the paddle faces are doing when you have to be making very fast adjustments and strokes. I have a Mike Johnson Paddle, and it is very,very, good for ruddering and for use with a waveski in nice conditions, its not that great for paddling heavier boats out through big surf.