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Finding the Right Paddle Length

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Schessl | Green Wave Forum News
Published Thursday, May 14, 2009

As a new kayaker it is important that you get the proper size paddle. A good fit allows you to paddle more efficiently, while reducing fatigue and potential for injury. This short guide shows you how to select the right length depending upon your boat, your height and paddling style.

Paddle Length
Let's look at the three variables:

Boat Width: The wider the boat, the longer the paddle. This makes sense as it takes a longer paddle to reach the water.

Your Height: Generally the taller that you are, the longer the paddle you'll need. Conversely, shorter individuals use shorter paddles.

Paddling Style: There are two basic styles of kayak paddling - "High Angle", a more aggressive style with a faster cadence, gives more power for playing in surf, racing and rough water.

"Low Angle" paddling is the most common style. This is a relaxed touring style where the paddle is held lower across the chest and lower to the water. The pace is slower, reducing fatigue and requiring less strength.

Most paddles are measured in centimeters. A few paddles are listed in inches and you will have to convert to centimeters by multiplying inches by 2.54 to get the length in centimeters.

Use this chart along with your height and kayak width to find the right sized paddle:

Kayak Width
Under 24"
24" to 28"
Over 28"
Your Height

Under 5' 5"
210-220 cm
230 cm
230 cm
5' 5" to 5' 11"
220 cm
230 cm
230-240 cm
Over 6'
220-230 cm
230 cm
240 cm

Paddling Style: If you frequently paddle at a "high angle", reduce the paddle length on the chart by 10 to 20 cm.

Get the shortest paddle that you are comfortable with. Besides being properly sized, a shorter paddle over long distances reduces the amount of effort needed since the paddle stroke is also shorter. For instance, as a 6' 2" tall paddler with a 23" wide boat, I almost always use a 220 cm paddle. It just works best for me.

Comments, Questions or Random Thoughts? Leave a message in the comment box below.

Last update Thursday, May 14, 2009

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