I’m 77 with 50 years experience paddling flat and white water rivers in both canoes and kayaks. These days I paddle a Mohawk Solo 13 on mostly Ozark rivers and am seeking a lighter weight, low -angle kayak paddle for quiet stretches–but still preferring my 56" Werner Luna for tight turns. I have my seat set highest with 11" of foot space allowing for a frequent kneeling position. I’ve been using a 36-oz Aqua Bound dihedral 2 piece measuring 228 cm–but given conflicting advice online about how to measure my torso (17"? or 28"?), I don’t know what to order. Standing beside my vertical Aqua Bound, my middle finger reaches 4 cm shy of the end. What say you?
I recently posted this reply on another topic, but it might apply here. It depends on actual use as opposed to trying to calculate paddle length by some sort of formula or body dimensions:
Determining the right length paddle from an existing one is fairly easy. First be sure that you are performing a forward paddle stroke correctly. Look online or ask another competent paddler.
Get out on the water with the paddle that you already have and paddle long enough with a forward stroke that the part of the paddle that is not going into the water dries off. This is best done on flat water. Consistently use either a high or low angle stroke, whatever you prefer. There’s no law that says that you have to paddle in accordance with how the paddle was designed to be used, but matching your style to the paddle is most efficient. Wing paddles are generally designed to be used as high angle paddles, but the majority of the people I know use them with a low angle style.
Measure the distance from the waterline mark on your paddle to where the blade starts. Adding or subtracting twice this distance on a double bladed paddle from the length of your paddle will tell you what the length of the paddle should be. You want that waterline right at the place where the blade begins so that for the majority of your forward stroke, the full length of the blade is in the water. No more and no less for maximum efficiency. The paddle should not be hitting the side of the boat. If it is you either need a longer paddle or you need to check your paddling technique.
If I paddle my solo with a double blade from a sitting position I like a longer paddle. I use a 210 in my kayaks, and a 240 in my solo canoe. A 260 would be drier. You want to take care not to add a sweep stroke component to your forward stroke when using a longer paddle. I have a Mohawk solo 14 and a Curtis solo tripper. I mostly use a single blade, the double is handy in high winds. A single blade is lighter.
I also just posted this to another thread so will paste it here. It is funny @castoff just mentioned the 260cm and staying dryer that is the first thing I noticed also. I also carry a canoe paddle and last week we broke off the main river we paddle and went up a small feeder creek that is normally to low but with all the rain we made it a mile up till we hit a beaver dam. Picking our way up the creek with lots of down trees to work around with just enough room for the canoe the smaller canoe paddle was perfect I also carry a telescoping pole and I was switching between seated poling and canoe paddle and the 260 was on the deck.
I just went thru this length thing but in the opposite direction. I took a slightly different approach I don’t know if this is right or wrong or if my stroke is right or wrong but it is where I’m at now. Not sure if the fact I’m paddling a tandem canoe as a solo with the seat moved to the center.
I had a 230cm paddle and was hitting the gunwales when my stroke felt correct and when I would force myself to miss them the stroke felt less shallow than what I like.
So I went out with my 230cm and a couple pieces of tape and marked the center and then marked 2 new centers when I shifted the paddle over to make it longer on the end I was using. Of course I was shifting back and forth but it was simulating the amount longer I needed the paddle. My paddle is a cheap two piece so I made an extension piece that clips in like the paddle goes together. I repositioned the hand grips and tried it out 260cm is my magic number. The extension works fine and you couldn’t tell it was now 3 pieces and the plan is to buy a better paddle next year and by then I will know what I think completely of the new length. If anything with the longer lever arm my blade area may need to be smaller. So far I don’t find it too large though.
It is simple to try out a shorter or longer length just shift the paddle off center.
Thank you for this practical insight. Just so I’m sure of your meaning, please tell me which end of the blade (inner or outer) you refer to when you say “where the blade starts” viz
““Measure the distance from the waterline mark on your paddle to where the blade starts.””
Where the blade first begins to flair out from the round shaft. You want to have the entire relatively flat surface of the blade in the water for the majority of your forward stroke. The shaft adds essentially nothing when in the water during the power phase of your stroke just as having any part of the flat part of the blade out of the water does not add anything to the stroke…
Unless you have a kayak paddle with an adjustable length, the length need not be exact. A little extra length is better than too little.
Thanks again! I’ll try this next time I’m out on the water.