I’m about due for some new paddles to go with my new canoe. The last set I bought turned out to be a bit too long, but that was before I knew much about canoing, not that I’m an expert of any kind now. However, this time I’d like to get it right. What is the general rule of thumb for the proper length of a paddle. I assume it has something to do with your reach and your height, but I’m not sure. The guys in the store weren’t real definitive and I got about five different opinions. Any advice out there?


paddle length

– Last Updated: Jun-01-05 12:11 AM EST –

Use the buyers guide to get to the web sites of the paddle companies like Bending Branches, Nashwaak, Redtail Paddle Company. They all describe pretty much the same currently accepted method of determining paddle length (give or take a bit).

Also note…
Also note that some people prefer different lenghts from the front position, to the rear position. Take this into consideration too.

Why not just get them a bit shorter…
…if the last ones were just a bit too long.

I think it would be a mistake for someone here to tell you how long they should be.

A lot depends on your canoe, your height above the water, and weather you are kneeling or sitting.

One of the beauties of a carbon fibre Z paddle is that it can be shortened very easy.

Many moons ago I started out with paddles too long, and over the years I have finally found what I like.



Fit them yourselves
If you still have the old paddles, get into your new canoe with the paddles and put the blades fully into the water. Then look at your knob hand and arm. If your knob hand is above your eyes or your arm is going uphill from the shoulder to the paddle, the paddle is too long. Figure out how much shorter the paddle shaft needs to be to put your arm horizontal and the knob hand level with your shoulder. Then buy your new paddles that much shorter than your old ones.

As said above, the variables are the height of the canoe seat above the water and the height of your shoulders above the seat. Not just different strokes for different folks, but different length paddles for the same folks in different boats, or different folks in the same boat.