What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need? Kayak Paddle Length Made Easy

Having a hard time figuring out what size kayak paddle length you need?  Choosing the right paddle is key to making the most of your time when kayaking. But, they come in various sizes and shapes that end up leaving people confused.

If a paddle is too short, you might bang your hands on the boat or get fatigued faster due to excess leaning with each stroke.

A paddle that’s too long may take away control of the kayak and force you to deal with extra weight. So, to avoid these issues, here is what you should know about paddle sizing:

How to Size Your Kayak Paddle

Before we look at the different factors to find the right size, it’s important to note that all kayak paddle sizing is in cm instead of inches. When you’re conducting measurements, be sure to convert any inches accordingly to make your shopping easier and more efficient.

Paddle Length

Paddle length is something that can make or break your kayaking experience.

If the paddle length is too long, you risk putting too much wear and tear on your torso and shoulders. This means you’re going to be working harder than necessary to build up speed and keep your kayak on the right line.

In addition, you’ll risk the formation of blisters due to constantly changing your hand position along the shaft to compensate for the incorrect length.

When determining the paddle length for you (and I do mean just you — each person needs a specific size), there are two primary factors to look at: personal build and kayak width.

Personal Build

Source: Paddling.com

Height will have an impact on your kayak paddle size, but more important than that is the length of your torso in comparison.

A longer torso compared to your height means you’re going to be sitting farther away from the water, thus needing a longer paddle.

To measure this, take the distance from your nose down to the seat. Be sure to do a final check of your paddle size by standing it up vertically. Then, ensure you can reach the top of the kayak paddle. If you can’t, it’s too long for you.

Kayak Width

length chart

All kayaking is not created equal. That is to say that whitewater kayaks tend to be more narrow. This allows them to cut throw the water and respond to the paddle more for a faster and more nimble experience. On the other hand, fishing and other recreational kayaks are wider. This contributes to stability.

Paddle Shaft Diameter

The smaller your hands, the smaller of a diameter shaft you’ll want to have on the paddle. Since most paddles only come with one shaft diameter size, you’ll need to investigate several brands to find the right make and model for you.

As tempting as it is, you really don’t want to bypass this part of paddle sizing. The diameter is a key component in preventing blisters and fatigue.

Still, it’s not a bad idea to wear paddling gloves even if you’ve found the perfect diameter.

Bent Paddle Shaft

straight vs bent shaft

Remember that blisters are one of your worst enemies when kayaking. And the main cause of them is excess movement.

Straight paddles create less contact between your hand and the kayak paddle shaft. This means it has a lot of room to move around and give you those pesky blisters.

A bent paddle shaft, on the other hand, rests comfortably in your hand with more contact. However, these paddles can take some time to get used to. It’s certainly not a necessary addition, but many kayakers welcome the change.

Type of Kayak

you need to measure yours to know an accurate kayak paddle size. First, the width of your kayak is the most important thing to know. Secondly, you’ll want to measure your kayak seat’s height.

Recreational / Fishing Kayaks

Since these are wider on average, you need a longer paddle. This allows you to reach the water without leaning.Additionally, you’ll want an adjustable ferrule. This lets you vary its length due to your seat height.

This is incredibly beneficial if you have different paddlers of various sizes who will be using the same kayak. The same goes for a single paddler planning to use different kinds of kayaks.

Whitewater Kayaks

whitewater kayak with paddle that's shorter

With speed and control in mind, these kayaks are built slimmer. This means you don’t need as long of a paddle. In fact, shorter paddles also mean you have greater agility and control in harsher conditions.


Your overall height can be helpful in pointing you in the right direction. However, the torso is really what’s key. After all, you’re not going to be standing up in a kayak, but rather sitting down. Your torso is what will determine how far away you are from the water. It is measured from the tip of your nose to your groin.

Torso Height | High Angle | Low Angle

24″-28″ 210cm – 215cm 215cm – 220cm28″-30″ 220cm – 230cm 230cmOver 30″ 230cm 230cm

Type of Water

When asking yourself “what size kayak paddle do I need?”, keep the water in mind. In any type of water, the paddle you want to use will depend more on the actual kayak you’re using than anything. This means that in rough waters, you’re likely using a faster kayak. In slower and calmer waters, it’s more common to kayak in a recreational model.

Paddling Style and Paddle Sizing

There is a significant difference between the paddle style you use. We call this high angle paddling or low angle paddling. Here are the differences to take note of and how they affect paddle sizing:

High Angle

This is a more aggressive and quick style. Your strokes will be vertical in nature, meaning a shorter paddle will be ideal. You’re going to be going hard and need a paddle that is designed for this kind of performance. For high angle paddlers like whitewater kayakers, you want to get speed from your paddle more than anything.

Low Angle

So you’re planning on going for a relaxing, slow jaunt across some calm water? This means your strokes are probably more horizontal and low angle. This is style is more forgiving on your muscles like your shoulders.

A longer paddle should be your companion on this type of kayak outing. This includes fishing, tours, and other slower paced endeavors.

Kayaking is one of the best activities to enjoy on the water. And we want you to get the most out of your experience by having the perfect paddle. That way, you don’t have to deal with fatigue, blisters, or the other problems that can arise from having the wrong kayak oars. So use the guide above so you can pick the correct one for you and start having fun faster!

One of the common mistakes beginners make is underestimating how important a kayak paddle is. They just buy whatever has caught their eye and believe it won’t make any difference. What they don’t understand is that their entire kayaking experience depends on what paddles they use.

As soon as you understand this too, you will realize that you don’t want to save on paddles. Of course, randomly choosing the product of the highest price is not an option too. High cost doesn’t always mean high quality. Still, the fact is the fact – you need to study the market and find what will be best for you.

High-Quality Paddles for Beginners: Benefits

  • Better experience on the water.
    Good paddles guarantee a much more enjoyable kayaking experience. You won’t need to struggle a lot and you won’t have any problems with them – you will be able to move through the water and navigate the boat easily, which makes it obvious that there’s no better option for paddles for beginner kayakers.
  • Higher efficiency.
    Using cheap paddles made of low-quality material will take you much more efforts and strength. If you have to strain too hard to cut through the water, you won’t be able to feel all the excitement kayaking can give you. You should feel comfortable but be efficient at the same time.
  • Longer sessions.
    The increased efficiency increases how long and how far you can go. Having high-quality paddles, you will be able to go without getting tired too fast. Since being a beginner means many hours of practicing, buying a high-quality product is a wise decision.
  • Better effect on your health.
    Kayaking involves doing physical activity, e.g. straining your muscles and joints. If you’re planning to become an experienced kayaker, you will be paddling a lot, and your body will often be in tension. Don’t neglect your health and go for high-quality paddles even if the cost is higher than you would like it to be.

Choosing Paddles for Beginners

Pleasurable kayaking experience starts with learning the necessary techniques and buying the right equipment. The material that your paddles are made of is one of the main factors that influence its efficiency. However, that’s not it.

Length and overall shape are important too. These two characteristics depend on what kayak you have and which type of kayaking you’re going to do. Basically, the longer the boat, the longer the paddles. But you have to remember about your own height, and the height of your torso in particular.

Paddle shaft diameter should also be taken into account as this criterion is specific for every paddler. You just have to try different diameters and designs to understand what is more convenient for you.

Another thing to pay attention to is type of a blade. A touring kayaker would more likely feel comfortable using a narrow blade, while a whitewater paddler would prefer a larger alternative with a short shaft, which will allow for better maneuverability and quicker acceleration.

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