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Kayak Paddle Sizing | What Size Paddle Do I Need?

Updated on March 24, 2011

Kayak Paddle Length | Size does Matter!

Kayak paddle size does matter! Buying the right kayak paddle and the right size kayak paddle is an often overlooked task for the beginner kayaker. We spend a lot of time looking at kayaks, sitting in them, and adjusting the fit. We buy the helmet and life jackets based on feel and, let's not kid ourselves, by what looks cool. But then when it comes to selecting a paddle, we just buy the paddle the first cheapest paddle that the salesman at big-box 'r us gives us.

When I talk to beginner kayakers I always stress to them that if they want to enjoy the sport they will need to invest in a decent kayak paddle. Sometimes this means buying a less expensive boat so you can buy a better paddle. Paddle size, weight, construction, materials, feather, and blade symmetry, are all things you need to be aware of when buying a kayak paddle. Admittedly, some of those things really don't matter to a beginner and won't benefit the paddling they do starting off. While these are all things you need to consider when buying a kayak paddle, this lens is going to focus on just one thing... what size kayak paddle do I need.

High Angle vs Low Angle Paddle Stoke
High Angle vs Low Angle Paddle Stoke

Kayak Paddle Size

What size do I need?

Purchasing the right size kayak paddle isn't as complicated as you think, but it is one of the most important decisions you will make. The size of paddle you need is based on the type of kayaking you will be doing, your height, and the kayak you will be paddling.

What kind of kayaking will you be doing? Are you going to be Whitewater Kayaking? Or Recreational/Touring?

Whitewater Kayak Paddles are shorter because whitewater paddlers takes a high angle more aggressive paddle strokes, whitewater boats are narrower, and the shorter paddle allows for higher stoke rate. Whitewater kayak paddles are typically 188-203cm in length. The taller the paddler the longer paddle is needed (it is further from the water).

Touring/Recreational Kayak Paddles are longer than whitewater paddles. Recreational Kayaking is a more relaxed sport, and most recreational kayaks take a more relaxed low angle paddle stroke. Low angle strokes are easier on the wrists and shoulders allowing the paddler to travel longer distances. 230 cm is the most popular "recreational kayak paddle" size for the average height kayaker. The more aggressive of a paddler you are the shorter the paddle you will want, you will be looking for a 210-220cm paddle. The shorter length paddle will be easier for you to use at a faster cadence.

Low Angle vs High Angle Paddling - Werner Paddles

Check out this video by my friend Danny Mongno from Werner Paddles on Low Angle vs High Angle Paddlling. Danny explains the differences between Low Angle and High Angle paddling styles as well as offering tips on proper kayak stroke technique.

Kayak Paddle Sizing | Kayak Width - Don't forget about width... kayak width that is!

kayak-paddle-size-chart
kayak-paddle-size-chart

Not only does your height, and your paddling style determine what size kayak paddle you need, but so does the width of your boat. Some kayaks are wider than others and some kayaks are narrower. The wider your kayak the longer the paddle you need, typically kayaks over 29" wide you need to increase your paddle length by 10cm. Use the above kayak paddle size guide to help determine what size kayak paddle you need based on your height and boat width. Remember this is just a guide, not the bible.

Great Kayak Paddles on Amazon

Looking for more Information?

Here are some of my favorite web sites for purchasing kayak paddles and kayak paddle information.

Do you have more questions on Kayak Paddle Length? - Questions, Comments, and Suggestion

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      what would a 190cm straight shaft paddle be used for and to what size paddler would it be best used by?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Should you adjust fitment for a sit on top vs. sit inside kayak?

    • profile image

      Staar_C 5 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for the helpful information

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great information!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info. I am buying my first new kayak. Hoping to get a deal on a paddle and lifevest with the new boat.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a 6 year old daughter who loves to kayak. Her kayak is 28" wide. What would an ideal paddle size be for her?

    • Dragon 40 profile image

      Ken McVay 5 years ago from Nanaimo, British Columbia

      Very informative - thank you. Blessed.

    • gardennorm profile image

      gardennorm 5 years ago

      Great info, very useful many thanks

    • SquidooPower profile image

      SquidooPower 6 years ago

      Great stuff!

    • christopherlee lm profile image

      christopherlee lm 6 years ago

      Nice Len indeed, thank for sharing.

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      PlayOutside 6 years ago

      great info!

    • OutdoorLily profile image

      OutdoorLily 6 years ago

      Thanks for the info! Kayaking is great fun so I look forward to hearing more!

    • jennasm lm profile image

      jennasm lm 6 years ago

      Thanks for the paddle sizing chart! Very Helpful.

    • MonsterJack LM profile image
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      MonsterJack LM 6 years ago