Poll: What Should My Paddle Length Be?

You mention the 210cm … and I am
beginning to experiment with one that length. Interesting how the length has come down over the years. The other change for me has been starting with a straight shaft, going to a bent shaft (for a number of years), and now with the shorter paddles back to straight shafts since my hand spacing doesn’t line up correctly for the bent shaft paddle.

I agree again, kkayk. Strait Shaft, too

this is all great info! I think I’m leaning to the 220 now (unless you all think I should go 210…). My previous paddle was a bent shaft 230.

Big difference between 220 and 215
I have a 215 Werner Ikelos after being advised that was the best paddle length for me by a Werner rep., tried a 210 too. I am 6’ tall and have a 21 1/2 inch wide kayak (QCC700). The paddle is perfecct for my fairly high angle stroke. I was out with a guy who had a 220 Ikelos and we switched, I could not believe how different it was. It felt way too long, and the foam in the blade made it very hard to use at a high angle because I had to bury it so deep in the water. The guy who owned it was 6’ and had a low angle stroke.

About 200cm

Gee Chuck, I thought I was going to come in lowest.

It does depend on the blade shape but I wouldn’t go longer than 210 for a Werner high-angle paddle or similar, if I were you.

I used a 200cm
Kinetic S and a 208 Windswift as a main paddle for a while.

Have to disagree
for a Werner high angle paddel (Ikelos). What the Werner Rep. commented on is that I would get the paddel grabbing the water sooner when really pushing it with the 215 versus the 210. The extra length in the 215 allows you to reach out farther with the blade so the blade is in the water longer than with a 210, and that results in more power.

Don’t need that much power
for a 16 ft boat. Just wasting energy and increasing risk of injury.

Alll you will do
is go faster with the Ikelos in a 16’ boat!

Well, you are probably a much more
experienced paddler than I and have likely placed in more races and have more open water crossings than me so I will bow to your superior knowledge and paddling skill.

So, are we ready to calculate the mean
and standard deviation?

subjective or objective
So much of paddle length recomendations are based on personal bias…er, experience.

In attempting to make it seem objective, things such as boat width, the paddler’s height, low angle vs high angle, are oft brought into the argument.

IMO, that only maintains the subjective aspect, as the paddle lenght base on those parameters vary in the extreme.

How about this. Consider the paddle as a lever. Interestingly enough, it make little difference wether the fulcrum is the water side hand (class I lever) or class II (the blade in the water as the fulcrum). The math comes out the same.

The longer the outboard (measurement from the hand to the center of resistance of the working blade), the “harder” the gear ratio.

From this objective (figure 5lb on the water side hand at 3kn) start, try understanding it from a bicycle analogy. Harder gear for higher speeds,lower gear for lower speeds or greater resistance.

Got it so far? OK, to help that analogy, use info from the kayak racing community, which has long considered the paddle independant of the paddler size, and more to do with the speed. A race boat has lower resistance (ie, can tolerate a higher gear), is usually paddled at higher speeds (again, a higher gear- longer paddler). Top notch sprint paddlers going 500-1000meters will use 215-219cm paddles. One of the best surf ski racers of the last decade, Oscar Chalupsky (who is 6’5" tall, paddling fast, in a narrow boat) uses a 215cm, except going into the wind, where he will use as short as a 210cm.

Why do sea kayakers want to work so hard? Employing the bike analogy further, the paddle is like a single speed bike. Why do so many seem to like mashing the gear instead of spinning? Are sea kayakers protestants? =:)

OK, so around in my little area, quite a few sea boaters have been experimenting with different paddle lengths. BTW, these are very experienced paddlers, using different paddles lengths in a variety of conditions (we have been doing this for several years now). It seem that every time we go shorter, we afraid, perhaps due to the prevaling dogma, to go as short as we think. 220, then 215, then 210…

Most of the men at 6ft, plus or minus 3in, have settled on 205-210cm. Paddling a a fully loaded boat (more resistance, remember the bike idea) make one tend towards shorter paddles. The real surprise…or perhaps not…were the shorter women. Some very, very skilled petite female paddlers, after trying many paddle lengths, have settled on… get this… 195cm. And they absolutely cannot stand paddles longer than 200cm, and that is independant of blade size.

Of particular interest to me (an ex-rowing coach) is the similarity to what happened in rowing. Worldwide, to be competitive, there was a switch 15 years ago to bigger blades, and shorter paddles. Why of interest? Becuase unlike the kayaking world, rife with opinion, this was proved by kinesiologists, physicists, and by results. Actually, not unlike the kayak racing community.

We are so ruled, as sea kayakers, by what we think we know, and are afraid to challenge.


that last sentence…
rings especially true. i suspect that it’s partly due to the fact that people don’t care enough to think about it that hard- they are fine with what they have. on the other side i think that there are those who think about it a lot, and feel sure in their decisions, based on their experience, but don’t care for the science.

i feel doubtful that there would be anything to gain by going shorter than the 215 i currently use. on occasion i try my length lock paddle at 210 and it just doesn’t seem right. the angle of attack seems artificially high. i also try longer, nearing 220, and that sometimes feels very good. is that added leverage and reach not sometimes desirable? i believe i pick up some cruising speed at that length as well. it’s just that i’m not strong enough to use that big blade with that much leverage for any length of time.

5 cm???
Does +/- 5 cm REALLY make that much of a difference? If 220 is obviously too long (speaking from my experience), and Werner paddle site recommends a 210 cm…but everyone is saying 215cm…is there REALLY going to be THAT big of a difference between a 210 cm and a 215 cm paddle (speaking from my own inexperience)…will 2 1/2 cm on each end of your paddle REALLY be THAT noticeable?

Could be…
Maybe not for some paddlers, but speaking for myself I do notice a difference especially with shaft angle, and the efficiency of the stroke. I am experimenting with the length on both flat water and in conditions. While blade shape probably can make a bigger difference, the + or - of 5cm is important to some of us.

“Consensus” in paddle selection and…
global warming isn’t science. Borrow a bunch of paddles that seem to fit you, your boat, your style and the venue you typically paddle and decide for yourself. We all may agree with each other or not but I’ve never seen you so cannot comment. The various tutorials on the web are useful for getting it close.


feedback loop
Dog, you kinda summed it up for me.

An observation I have about fold commenting on their favored paddle length is that it seem too close to many kayak “reviews”. A review implies comparing one thing against many, with an objective standard. The usual kayak or paddle opinion is close to a testimonial instead of a review. One only knows what they know, and if the range of experience is limited…

So yeah, one should truly try a lot. But now, here is the rub. If one accepts the concept of a paddle length as a gear ratio, when does the feedback become noticeable?

IMO, there is a bit difference in 5cm. But it is not apparent in less than about an hour of paddling. There have have been a couple of comments in this thread already, that going longer one gets a better “purchase”, or that it helps one go faster. That is true…now, does one continue to paddle at that faster speed? For how long? Again, the bicycle analogy works well. Go to a bigger gear, wow, you get a better purchase, you go faster. Now, ask yourself an hour later if it was worth it! Or did you shift down?

So, as regards my original post, and as simplified by the Dog, try a lot of paddle lengths (that is what I mentioned many in my area have been doing, with the feedback loop now extending back years). If you think a 215 might be better than a 220, dont be afraid of trying a 205. Or even a 195! Really try and create a broad based experience. And remember the feedback loop. What may feel good for a few minutes, might be unpleasant after several hours.


Given everything else remains the same, if you have longer arms do you need a shorter or longer paddle than someone with normal length arms? TRICKY!

It is very hard to add anything…
meaningful to one of your posts Karl. You are insightful and thorough. Which is why my sole intention is to suggest to the original post-er that results will likely vary if it is a ‘poll’ and not experientially based. I’m really picky about my paddles and because a 280cm aluminum carlysle was the most popular choice of the poll doesn’t mean I’m going to like one, even as a spare to a spare.