What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need?

When people think of kayaking they often think of the kayak itself, but there’s one essential piece of equipment that is arguably as important, if not more important than the kayak, and that’s the paddle!

A paddle that is the correct size and style for you and the kayaking you’re doing is key to ensuring you have an amazing experience, and without this, you will find yourself struggling to control your movement on the water and will have a much more difficult time.

The most important thing about a paddle isn’t the brand or even the materials used, but that it’s the correct size for the kayaker using it.

What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need

If your paddle is too short you risk hurting your hands by hitting the sides of the kayak as you paddle, and if the paddle is too long the kayak will be more difficult to steer and the paddle will be more exhausting to use.

The key to avoiding these issues is ensuring that you get a paddle that is the right size for you. This means a paddle that is the correct length, as well as ensuring that it’s the correct style of paddle for the type of kayaking you want to do.

In this guide, we’re going to help you to make the right decision by looking at the key factors in selecting a paddle.

What Paddle Length Do I Need?

The paddle length is one of the most important things to consider and it’s difficult as they can be too long and too short.

There are two main things to consider when choosing a length for your paddle, and that is your height, as well as the width of your kayak.

Both of these will make a difference and dictate what size paddle will work best for you in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

When taking the width of the kayak, be sure to take it from the widest point, which is usually across the cockpit of the boat.

Some rough estimates are:

Touring Kayaks – Width of 22” to 25” most of the time, with a length of 12 to 16 feet.

Recreational Kayaks – Width of 26” to 30” with a length of 6 to 12 feet.

Performance Kayaks – Width of 19” to 22” with a length of 15 to 18 feet.

Whitewater Kayaks – For these boats, the kayaker’s height is more important than the width of the boat. Typically they are around 7 to 12 feet long.

Size Guide

 In this section, we’re going to look at some general guidelines to help give you a rough idea of what to look for in terms of paddle length.

Kayak WidthKayak Width Kayak Width Kayak Width
Paddler heightBelow 23”23” to 28”28” to 32”Above 32”
Below 5’200cm210cm220cm230cm
5’ to 5’ 6”210cm220cm230cm240cm
5’ 7” to 6’ 220cm220cm230cm240cm
Over 6’220cm230cm240cm250cm

This table gives some indications that can help you get a rough idea of what to look for, however, we highly recommend using precise measurements of your own boat and height and using these to determine the paddle length you should choose.

For whitewater kayaking, it’s best to not use this chart and instead base your choice on height alone.

The largest kayakers, i.e anyone over 6’ 3′ ‘ would need a 200 cm paddle, and the shortest kayaker below 5’ 2” would generally use a paddle of 190cm or so, with some gradual changes between these depending on the height in the middle.

Paddle Categories

Another important factor for paddle choice is the style of kayaking you’re going to be doing.

For extended tours across calmer waters, or sea touring, a lighter paddle with good durability and stiffness is key. Carbon is the best choice, but some fiberglass options are quite good also.

For lakes and rivers that are slow-moving, a touring paddle is the best option with its lightweight construction and simplicity. While not as light or durable as some options they are a great choice for simpler kayaking trips.

For whitewater kayaking you need a strong paddle that is durable and efficient, so a real whitewater paddle is required for safety and strength.

Generally, the shafts of these are thicker and can stand up to the rigidity of whitewater more effectively.

Blade Style

There are two primary blade styles and there are high angle blades and low angle blades.

High-angle blades are better for powerful paddle strokes and fast speeds with a more vertical stroke.

Low-angle blades are better for more relaxed and leisurely cruising and are more efficient. 

Final Thoughts

Finding the right size kayak paddle can be tricky, and there are many things to keep track of, however, if you know what kind of kayaking you want to do and have your measurements to hand, finding a paddle that suits you is much easier.

As long as you choose a reliable brand and have a paddle that’s the correct size you’ll be able to enjoy the pleasures of kayaking with comfort and confidence.

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