Sea kayak paddle length advice

I’m interested in a Werner Ikelos high-angle paddle, and not sure whether to get a 215 or 220cm length — or even whether 5cm will make a huge difference.

For background:

  • I’m 6’3”, broad-shouldered and very fit.

  • I have an Oru Coast XT folding kayak that is 16’ long and 25” wide (their ‘expedition’ model).

  • I usually paddle at a high or medium-high angle. I have intermediate experience and my skills are still growing each time I go out.

  • The cheap Oru-branded paddle I currently own is adjustable between 220 and 230cm. This paddle feels better to me at 220 compared to 230, but I haven’t been able to compare it to anything shorter than that.

  • A 220cm Ikelos paddle would have a shorter shaft than the 220cm cheap-o paddle I have, since the blades are bigger/longer. So maybe it would ‘feel’ shorter already?

  • For a high-angle paddling style, the Werner website recommends a 215cm paddle length for kayaks under 26” wide and paddlers 6’ or taller. They recommend longer lengths (220 to 230cm) if the kayak is wider than 26”, and different/longer paddles altogether if the paddling style is low-angle.

  • I’ve read that people tend to go with shorter paddles as they gain experience… but I also really don’t want to bash the side of the Oru, especially since it is a folding design.

Any advice would be appreciated!

1 Like

The blade length of a Ikelos paddle is 5cm longer than a Oru paddle, but the paddle is still 220cm. Take your boat out and with a properly executed high angle forward stroke and the Oru paddle length set at 220cm, note exactly where the wetted waterline on the Oru paddle is. For the proper paddle length, the entire blade, no more and no less , should be in the water and without having the shaft hitting the side of the boat.

If the waterline is either above or below where it should be, measure this difference on one blade of the Oru paddle , double it, and add or subtract this distance from the total paddle length that you are using. Then account for the additional 5cm blade length on each side of the Werner paddle. This will be the length of the paddle that you want, assuming that you paddle with whatever style you are using consistently. If you tend to occasionally slip into a low angle style, you might want to go up 5cm.

To put it more simply, if the 220cm Oru paddle is exactly the correct length as far as having exactly the whole blade in the water for the majority of the stroke, then you would probably want a 230cm Ikelos paddle for a high angle style to get the whole blade in the water.

Paddle length depends on a number of factors including paddling style, boat width, how high or low you sit in the boat, and, of course various paddler body dimensions. For most people, shops tend to sell paddles that are too long for unknown reasons.


On thing that may come into play is the seat in the Oru. If you have the high seat back I am seeing in the photo, it will get in the way of a skirt and you may find it more limiting in the motion you want in your lower body for high angle paddling.

As to blade size… ideally you increase or decrease speed by altering your cadence. The bigger the blade, the more work it is to increase cadence. But the overall impact of a lighter weight paddle, like the foam core ones, is invaluable.

If you plan to go into bigger water get float bags for front and back.

1 Like

I’d try to find a kayak outfitter where you can test it out. That’s probably a high bar, but those paddles are expensive and it’s the best way to find one that works for you.


Good advice!

The seat height on the Oru Coast XT is adjustable and I haven’t had any issues using a neoprene spray skirt with it.

And since the bulkheads are not sealed (a big trade-off I’m paying to have kayaks I can easily transport by bicycle and store in my apartment), I always use float bags + dry bags to fill excess air space in the kayak hull.

Your mention of the Oru design does make me wonder — I think perhaps the kayak cockpit / water height may be slightly different from most touring kayaks. So that might be another factor when considering paddle length.

Sounds like a very thoughtful approach — thanks for sharing.

I am still gaining skills, and my strokes improve each time I go out. I wonder if my forward strokes will look the same in a year or two!

Adjustable length shaft Ikelos or Celtic 750. Swap to low angle just slide the shaft out. 205-220 possibly 210-225. I have Celtic 750 adjustable, Ikelos 205 & 215. Also Corryvreckan 210. I like the Celtic now the best. 6’ aggressive paddler. I use the Ikelos 215 in my 32" wide 21’ tandem kayak.

FYI, I reached out to Werner with same question and got a prompt reply:

“Either the 215cm or the 220cm would be suitable for you based on your boat width and your height as there is only a 2.5cm difference in length on each side of the paddle. So, there isn’t really a significant difference between the two lengths. If it’s more convenient to purchase the 220cm Ikelos because its closer to where you are located, I would purchase it. I recommend purchasing the paddle that’s longer anyway when trying to decide on paddle lengths as you can always cut down the paddle if it’s too long for paddling.”

I don’t know if I’d try cutting down a carbon fiber paddle, but if you occasionally switch to a low angle style, the extra length works in your favor. On really windy days I will sometime use a lower angle style for more stability and reduce the effect of wind on the paddle.