How to Determine Proper Kayak Paddle Length? – 2022

If you’re new to kayaking, it’s important to select the right kayak paddle length. A paddle that’s too long or too short can make paddling difficult and uncomfortable. You want to make sure that you’re not choosing a paddle that’s too long or too short for your particular paddling style.

So, how to determine proper kayak paddle length? Here we come up with the simple steps you can follow to choose the perfect paddle for you.

What Kayak Paddle Length Is Best for You?

To determine what kayak paddle length is best for you, you should first think about your paddling style. If you’re a recreational kayaker who uses their canoe on moving water like rivers and gentle streams, you probably want to choose a shorter paddle. Recreational paddlers need less power, which means they don’t require the extra push that a longer paddle can give them.

If you’re looking for a kayak to surf rapids, then you’ll want to choose a longer kayak paddle length. For surfing big waves or standing up in your canoe, having more power is crucial. A long kayak paddle gives the paddler plenty of leverage to work with while edge control is very important for stability.

If you’re an experienced kayaker who wants to try different types of paddling, then you may want to choose a middle-length paddle. These are great for everything from recreational kayaking to whitewater kayaking. A longer paddle provides more push and power while still allowing the paddler some control when maneuvering.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Kayak Paddle Length

You will also need to consider your kayak. The cockpit of your recreational kayak is typically adjustable, which means you can easily change the length of your paddle if needed. The best situation for this type of kayaking would be a shorter length, around 220-230cm.

If you are an experienced paddler looking to get into surfing, then you will need to look at your canoe. Most recreational kayaks are not the best option for surfing big waves with an oversize paddle, so choose a smaller one that allows you to have control.

If you’re looking for a longer paddle, make sure it’s wide enough to provide ample surface area. If your paddle is too narrow, you won’t be able to get the same power as you would with a wider paddle.

A good rule of thumb is to take your height and multiply it by 1.4 to 1.5 (so if you are 5’10”, choose a paddle around 165-170cm). Another popular method for sizing kayak paddles is simply choosing a paddle that comes up to your chin when you hold it beside your body.

How to Determine Proper Kayak Paddle Length?

Once you have all of this information, you can determine what kayak paddle length is best for you. Keep in mind that the most important thing is to be comfortable while paddling and not get into a situation where you’re fighting your paddle or your kayak because they don’t match up correctly.

Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1. Sit comfortably on your kayak with the paddle shaft under your arm.

Step 2. Extend your arms out to either side of you and place the blade section of the paddle into the water at about a 45-degree angle, just touching the surface.

Step 3. You should be able to maintain this position without having to strain or tense any muscles if your paddle is the right length.

Step 4. If you can’t maintain this position without straining, then lengthen or shorten your paddle as necessary.

A shorter paddle gives less power and requires more muscle tension to move through the water. A longer paddle will give you more power and require less muscle effort but with a bigger risk of injury.

  • Keep the following points in mind while choosing your kayak paddle length:
  • You should have some bend at the elbow but not too much.
  • The shaft should be out of the water when you’re paddling. This will ensure that you’re getting efficient, effective strokes with every pull. It’s even worse if the shaft is in the water, so keep it out unless you’re recovering.
  • You want to have a slight bend at your wrist (5-10 degrees) when you pull on the paddle. This will make sure that your kayak paddle length is comfortable.

Keeping all of this information in mind should help ensure that you choose the proper kayak paddle length for your canoe and paddling style.

Benefits Of Using the Correct Kayak Paddle Length:

There are lots of benefits to using the correct length kayak paddle. Some of the most common are:

1. Control

Your kayak paddle length should help you keep good control of your canoe when paddling. If it’s too wide or narrow, you won’t have the same degree of control over your craft.

2. Less Muscle Tension Required

The right length kayak paddle allows for ergonomically correct paddling with a minimum of stress on your back and shoulders.

3. More Efficient Strokes

When you have the right kayak paddle length, it’s available for more efficient forward propulsion with proper technique.

4. Less Risk of Injury  

Using an incorrect canoe paddle length increases the chance of injury to your arms, shoulders, and back.

5. Decreased Chance of Blisters

Using an incorrect canoe paddle length can increase the chance of blisters and awful hand cramps after long paddles.

6. A More Comfortable Paddling Position

If you have too short a kayak paddle, your body will be hunched forward, which can lead to back pain and other unpleasant symptoms. A kayak paddle that’s too long will have you reaching forward, which is also uncomfortable.

7. Better Use of Your Energy  

More efficient kayak strokes with your proper length paddles allow you to use less energy to cover the same amount of water as before. For example, if you use an incorrectly long or short kayak paddle, you’ll have to exert significantly more energy.

8. Lean Into Strokes

Using the right length kayak paddle enables you to lean into your strokes for better forward propulsion and speed. This also puts less stress on your back, shoulders, and arms because it’s ergonomically correct.

9. Better Maneuverability

More precise kayak control makes it easier to turn and maneuver your kayak because you’re not fighting against your paddle to keep the craft under control. This enables you to explore smaller spaces, which can also yield better fishing or hunting opportunities because you’ll be able to get closer to the shore.

10. Safer in Fast Water

Using your kayak paddle length correctly makes it much easier to control your canoe in fast water. If you have a longer paddle, you can keep your boat upright when waves are crashing against it, which is crucial if you’re whitewater kayaking or engaging in an adventure activity like river surfing.

How Do I Know What Length Kayak Paddle to Get?

To find out what kayak paddle length is best for you, use the following formula:

For every foot of kayak length, add 2″-6″ (5-15cm) to your final measurement. If you own a longer kayak, go with the higher end of the range; if it’s shorter, go with the lower end. For a touring canoe, 2″-6″ is usually fine; for a shorter whitewater or fishing boat, go with 5″-15cm or higher.


Finally, we hope that now you are well aware of how to determine proper kayak paddle length? When choosing a proper kayak paddle length, you should keep in mind the factors mentioned above. Because a little mistake can be a big problem while going for your kayaking trip.


Is a longer paddle better for a kayak?

It is always better to have a proper kayak paddle length. Having a shorter one would result in less efficient performance and having a longer one will be too much for you to handle. So, the best way is to choose an appropriate one from the available range.

What does it mean by “kayak paddle length”?

Generally speaking, it is the length of a paddle from the tip of the blade to where you hold the grip. However, kayak paddle length also includes measurement from your elbow position down to your hand.

Should I feather my kayak paddle?

No, you should not. Feathering refers to the angle of the kayak paddle blade in the water. For most paddles, this is between 30-60 degrees out of alignment with the direction your canoe is traveling. However, if you have a rudder on your kayak, it’s better to leave your steering paddle without feather.

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