Short Kayak Paddles...shorter than 210??


I have gone shorter and shorter on my paddle length. I started with a 220, then went to a 215 and now have a 210.

I am now starting to think about going even shorter—especially after a weekend of whitewater paddling.

Does anyone out there use a paddle shorter than 210? Although I think I might want a shorter paddle, this is starting to get pretty short. I don’t imagine that many people use a paddle shorter than a 210.

I am 5’8, 175 and paddle a 22 inch wide boat.



Need to know how you would
assess your paddling style … high / low / somewhere inbetween?

Then it is easier to answer.

Diminishing returns
For WW, very short lengths are normal, because of the extremely aggresive paddling style involved. Under 200cm is normal for WW.

But touring isn’t WW, and there is a point where your paddle gets too short and starts to become too much work. When you adopt a high-angle paddling style, you start to find that shortening your paddle makes you more efficient, so you go from a 230 or 240 down to a 225, or a 220, and end up at 215 or even 210. But if you go too short, you could end up with a paddling style that requires a stroke too aggressive for use on extended tours, and it won’t be comfortable. There is a balance that most average height paddlers find in the 210-218 range for touring paddles.

That said, it’s all about the individual. Borrow a short WW paddle (with reasonable sized blades), and take it out for a spin. If it works for you it works for you. But I suspect you’ll find you tire more quickly, partly due to bigger blades but also partly because of how aggresive you have to paddle to keep pace.

I frequently use a 196
ww paddle for trips under 15 miles. The large blades get me a bit tired after that.

paddle length

– Last Updated: Aug-17-05 8:46 AM EST –

I use a 215-225 mid wing length lock by Epic. Back up is a 215 ONNO. My boats are fairly narrow and I have a vertical stroke. I wish I'd bought a 210 mid wing. Big Oscar, the paddling machine and co-owner of Epic is a very big guy, 6'4" maybe? He paddles a 17" or 21.5" wide boat but he uses a 210-220 mid wing length lock and adjusts the length according to the situation. He just recommended to a club member who is 6'2" tall, has a vertical stroke and bought an Epic 18 to purchase a 210-220 mid wing length lock. I think I prefer a 215 in a standard blade. I'm good enought to carry the paddles into the shop for either Patrick at ONNO or the guys at Epic. They're the pro's., ask them. Franklin
Ps. Both Oscar and Patrick are very kind, approachable, patient and will not talk down to you. You will think you're talking to another kayak buddy, just one that happens to know a lot about the sport! Good Luck

We use 197, 194 and 191
Most of our paddling involves creeks and rivers (one river is 8 foot wide and 6 inches deep most of its course) with very shallow water. We also spend some time out on lakes but usually end up back in the shallow marsh end. We also go out on Lake Michigan to play on the beaches or to tour the cliffs in Door County. Our multi-day touring is limited to a few weekends a year and one long trip usually down the Buffalo (AK). Once we switched to 197 Werner Sidekicks for whitewater we never switched back. My wife and 10 year old son use a Werner Player (slightly smaller blades) with carbon shafts in 194 and 191 lengths. We have lot of other paddles available and other sizes of the Werners and they have tried them all, but 197 is the winner. My 10 year old used to use wooden paddles (lighter than the carbon) but this year decided he liked the power of much bigger blade carbon paddle better. I’m the tallest at 5’10 and the heaviest at 145 she is 5’ 3 and petite and the kids are close to my size (except the 10 year old-but that is temporary). Everyone else is much better shape than me (all the kids play soccer constantly), and everyone has much more upper body strength than my wife. We built our own house- the thing no one mentions is that the house is delivered to the driveway and you have to carry everything over to the foundation- good for strength training.

We use 12-14’ boats for the river and lake trips and Creek and Whitewater boats for most other water (or lack of water). The long boats (we call boats long, creek, or whitewater) are a few inches narrower than the creek boats which make the paddle feel longer. The boats we use do not track as well as a sea kayak, the creek boats to not track at all, and we have had problems with certain family members who get less paddling time having trouble keeping the boat straight and on course. The vertical paddle stroke learned while paddling the creek boat across the lake and back (3 miles) for ice cream at the local resort results in straight line paddling on the lower Buffalo in those long low water holes. My wife took the two girls on vacation to see my sister in Seattle last year (she now wants to move there) and they went Sea Kayaking. She liked that the boat tracked really well and that everyone on the tour kept talking about keeping up with the three sisters, but she thought that since they had been the last to sign-up that the company had given them the bad paddles since they were so long.

Our long boats are much more like overgrown creek boats rather smaller sea kayaks; they seem to want to be stern first if the boat speed is faster than the water (Just like the creek and whitewater boats – feel free to explain this to me), The only boats we have that want to go straight without a rudder or skeg is our Prijon Capri Tour and to a lesser degree the Riot Stealth. We have developed a paddling style where you quickly bring the boat up to cruising speed with some rapid strokes and then just use small corrective steering strokes to keep up the pace and the boat straight. The steering strokes are not really power strokes compared to the standing start strokes and I think the paddle weight is the most important factor- meaning I don’t think that blade size or paddle length is as important – for comfort and fatigue.

I think I should also plug Werner for durability, my family really abuses the shafts and blades. They could be the Timex destruction squad for the Werner paddles. It seems that if you are stuck in shallow water or hung up on rocks instead of getting out of the kayak you should use the 6 foot wrecking bar with the nicely curved ends to get yourself free. I hate that noise of the fiberglass blade vibrating from sliding across wet granite under hundreds of pounds of pressure. Another interesting maneuver I didn’t read about in the kayaking books was used for jumping shallow bars- drive boat at max speed unto gravel while leaning back and lifting the foot pegs, then as the boat bottom hits the gravel drive your paddle blade into the gravel and use it like a pole vault while standing on the foot pegs to drive the boat forward. They must have learned this on MTV or Ellen. Caution – only works on narrow gravel bars – you may have to actually get out of your kayak in the 100 degree heat and get your feet wet in the 2 inches of water. OMG the horror! We have had the most of the paddles for years and they do not even seem to be scratched. Why Werner, that’s what Rutabaga sold.

The other reason these paddles fit our boating style is the race aspect of our trip. My kids have this issue with being first through the rapids and shoals, or lacking that they race to the next bend, rock, what-have-you. We hardly ever break camp before 11 after a big breakfast (I usually get up before the sun to take pictures of the sunrise). We wave and talk to all the other groups we passed yesterday and will pass again today. Then we get into our boats and race down the river. We are the hare. With three teenagers racing those big blades make it easy to put some speed on the boat. I don’t think I can change this, it happens in hiking, skiing and biking. My kids think that Geocaching could be improved if the times from the parking lot to the cache were recorded. I just explain that they should “go slower for their mother’s sake”, and when she is way out on point “I need to be at the back for safety”. The down side of this is that although we have always planned 50+ mile trips (usually in low water) we have never reached the take-out in less than 72 hours- the up side is that next year everyone wants to do the entire 125 miles of the Buffalo- at least we can get in a week of paddling :slight_smile:

Last advantage – back paddling – I think the shorter shaft/larger blade makes a much stronger back paddle. Big advantage for control in moving water. I tell my kids the best paddlers can go down the rapids slowly and in control, any idiot can pick a line, keep the boat straight and blast through rapids (well witness say…us). On a day trip I’m a 150 lbs load in the boat, but with gear I gain a 100 lbs and it takes a lot more effort to move that back 6 feet of kayak full of aluminum and pressurized cotton and nylon sideways (compress those drybags).

Disadvantage – you are losing 6-12” of headroom on your dining fly poles.

I don’t think big blades on short poles are for everyone but with a set of carbon touring paddles being about $1800 (6 x $300) please don’t tell my kids that there is an alternative to what they have now!