Does Paddle Length Matter?

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You will notice that paddles do not have a standard size and there are various sizes available. This may lead you to ask – does paddle length matter? The short answer is yes, but we will discuss this in greater detail on this page. After choosing the blade design you like the best, you need to work out the size that fits not only your kayak, paddling style but also your height. You will find that the length of paddles for kayaks is usually in centimetres. The average you would need for either a touring or recreational kayak, is between 210 cm and 240 cm.

Let’s look at the basic rule of thumb many kayak retailers use to properly match customers to the right paddle size.

When you stand next to a paddle, try and see if you can reach one arm up over your head to curl your fingertips over the top of the paddle’s blade. If you are not able to reach the top of the blade, it means the paddle is too long. If you can reach it with your whole hand, the paddle is way too short. You know the paddle is the right one for you if you can only just, and nothing more, curly your fingertips over the top.

When you take the above rule into consideration, a paddler around 5 ft 10 to 6 ft 1 tall would need to use a paddle within the range of 220 cm to 230 cm. These are actually the most commonly found sizes of paddles. While large-framed, taller paddlers can use 240 cm paddles; smaller-framed, shorter paddles can use 210 cm. You still need to factor in some other factors before you choose a paddle.

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For instance, your kayak’s width. Although the finger curling test is fine if you are selecting paddle suitable for a 20 inches to 25 inches wide kayak, if you have a wider kayak you will probably need a longer paddle in order to extend the blades over the sides to submerge them in water enough.

Even if you are only 5 ft 5 tall, if you have a kayak 28 inches to 30 inches wide, you will probably still need a paddle 230 cm to 240 wide. If you don’t, it could be too difficult to submerge the blades fully enough in the water during your normal strokes or the banging on the boat could just becoming annoying.

Recently, more and more kayakers have been using shorter paddles. They have done this with the provision that the paddle is long enough just that the blades submerge fully, without leaning or reaching to the side of the boat. If you have a paddle that is too long, you will need to put an unnecessary amount of effort into each stroke because the water will have greater leverage against you. In contrast, there are some kayakers that prefer slightly longer paddles as they feel it adds a little extra fullness or length to the paddling stroke enabling you to accelerate quicker and keep a steady cruising speed.

These are very small possibly even negligible differences. If you are a paddler who is between two different sizes, our recommendation would be to err to the longer side of things when it comes to paddles, if only to avoid your knuckles grating against the deck with every stroke. It is also advised that you size your paddle as short as is conveniently possible as a short paddle weighs less and gives water less leverage against you, helping to increase how long you can paddle for without feeling tired or fatigued.

Shorter paddles help, in a more practical way, to keep you moving your kayak in a straight line. How does it do this? The further away from the boat to either side that you paddle out, the greater leverage for turning you exert with every stroke. That extra paddle length on longer paddles means more turning leverage and this can cause the bow to move from side to side with each and every stroke. You ideally want to keep the blades of your paddles as close to your boat as possible because the closer you are the more upright your stroke, the greater amount of stroke power is transferred into a straight movement forward. This is obviously a lot easier to do when you have shorter paddles as their blades will be closer to your kayak from the beginning.