What length paddles?

I just purchased an Old Town Alligash and need some advice as to what length paddles I should get. I am 6’1" and my wife is 5’4". Should the paddles be different lenghs. Thanks in advance for all serious replies.

I haven’t read anything conclusive…
…so I too would like to know. when we rented our kayak’s last time, Armin said that you should put the paddle across the top of your head and when you have your elbow, while holding it. at a 90 degree angle, your hands are in the right spot. he didn’t mention how much space should be left from that to the paddle tho. I know he recommended a much larger paddle for me, because I was in a Pungo 120 and because I have broad shoulders.

so I would think not only your paddling style, body size/shape are important in figuring out what to get, you have to make sure it’ll work with the kayak you have too!

ZRE’s guidance

– Last Updated: Aug-29-06 11:26 PM EST –

The following is guidance for bent shaft paddles from Zavarel.
The most accurate method of sizing paddle length removes leg length from the equation. Sit in a chair and measure the distance from the chair seat to the bridge of your nose or eye-level, this is the length of your shaft and grip. Add the blade length of the paddle model you prefer in order to obtain the overall paddle length. Overall canoe paddle length is measured in a straight line from the tip of the blade to the top of the grip.
Just FYI, the blade lengths for the ZRE paddles are generally 19 inches. This is a good sizing if you paddle from a seated rather than kneeling position.

Simple rule of thumb - Canoe paddle
When you are standing straight up, the paddle should reach from the floor to the middle of your neck.

What if you have no neck…ie, a very
short one?

Thanks in advance
for serious replies ONLY, jerlfletcher

I actually use different lengths for
different water. Shallow water, shorter. Deep water, longer. I got tired of having the ‘right’ length jamming my arm and shoulder in our shallow streams. The difference is only 2", but it made a difference for me. I also have different style paddles for different types of water.

What type of paddling will you be doing? Where will you be paddling?

What the others have said about paddle sizing is good, especially the chair method. But you may want to tweak it. And lighter is nicer.

Amen Pamskee
I’m 6’2" and may use a 58"-60" straight shafted paddle paddling flatwater in the BWCAW and a 48" bent shaft on the Current River in a boat with a low mounted seat. Last few years I find myself preferring shorter paddles. Anyway, it depends on the water, the canoe, your torso length and personal preferences. That said, in the beginning a straight shaft in the neighborhood of 56-58" is going to come pretty close for you and probably about 54" for the wife. This question will get about every formula for figuring correct length including Tarot cards and crystal ball consultation! WW

I use a 52" -54" when bow paddling
tandem in rivers. I’m 5’5" and sit on a seat that’s 8" off the bottom of the boat. I like 54"-56" for deeper water and stern paddling. I use a Werner Rec paddle for most of my river stuff. It’s tough for a midweight paddle. I like a light, wood beavertail for lake and deep river cruising. I stick with straight shaft because I’m hard on paddles and used to straight. As WW said, it’s hard to predict what you will like. And some days I switch paddles just cause I feel like it.

Of course, when I paddle solo, I weenie out and use an Aquabound kayak paddle.

Canoe paddle length
Easiest way to tell your shaft length is by sitting in your boat in the water with a broomstick or piece of PVC pipe. Pretend you’re paddling, but don’t stick the end in the water.

Your top hand should be between shoulder and eye level (I like the shorter length in the bow and longer length in the stern) and your lower hand comfortably above the water. That’s your shaft length. Add blade length (usually around 20" but check) for total paddle length.

– Andrew

Can you borrow some?
There is so much variation and personal preference involved in paddle choice, that you really should just try as many styes and lenghts as you can. Personally, I have 11 paddles ranging in size from a 49" bent shaft ZAV to a 61" straight shaft ottertail, and they all feel pretty good!

paddle length
All that mesuring may be well and good. But I feel that the length of the paddle should be determined by your ability. The longer the paddle the longer the stroke. So if you paddle the same number of strokes per min the longer paddle will get you there quicker.

Also the shape of the blade is very important. A thin blade can be pushed through the water more easily. So cold be used more easily on a longer paddle. A wider paddle will give more resistance. Each type of paddle has its advantages. Maybe you should settle on the type of blade, Then find the length that you can comfortably handle

different stroke rates
I agree with sinbad, except that with a shorter paddle you generaly do not have the same stroke rate. The whole point of using a light, short paddle is to increase your cadence.

I agree a shorter paddle will allow you to increase you cadence, But find the best cadence for you. Then find the paddle that will fit that cadence. After all it is easier to change the paddle, or possibly buy the right one the first time, than it is to change you cadence, strength, endurence, size ect. Remember also that even with the same person, In the same boat, other conditions can change. Is the boat loaded, Or are you paddleing aginst the wind. Well then a shorter length, or a smaller blade may be in order, Lighter boat or downwind then the oposite. Shorter workout secions vs long trips. So there is no perfect paddle for every situation. But the biggest constant is your ability to push the blade through the water. So start there. What is comfortable for you. Borrow someone elses paddle. How is it different, how is it better or worse for you. Is it easier to paddle, does it sweep better, stroke better, make cadence faster? Again I think the blade choice is the first place to start. Different blades propell the boat differently, Sweep differently. Steer and turn differently. Find the right blade for you, Then the length that matches your ability

Your wife will definately need a
shorter paddle then you.

I disagree with the posts above that say a shorter paddle will allow for a faster cadence.

The paddle should be sized exactly for the paddler and then cadence is quickened by experience/practice.

If you get a ZRE it can be shortened very easily, but cannot be lengthened.

I just shortened one for my daughter last weekend.

It is very hard for someone else to size a paddle exactly for you or your wife, since there are so many variables that enter into the sizing.



to the neck?
are you kidding me. i’d say that’s WAY too long. order a cheapie mohawk at 52 inches or so and try it out. $20. then make up your mind if you should go longer or shorter before buying a good paddle. or just borrow ones of different lengths. i’m getting a strip built tandem in a couple months and plan to use a 52 inch gillespie double bend. my zav for solos is 51 inches, and i’m about your size.