One of our most frequently asked questions is
“What paddle length is right for me?”
Getting the correct paddle length is more of an art than a science, and some would argue that there is no perfect length for any individual. If you were to look at paddle length from a scientific approach you’ll actually end up with different lengths for different parts of your paddling trip, and the length will change as your technique changes.
Most beginner sea kayakers, or touring paddlers would adopt a leisurely technique. If you see yourself in this bracket then consider anything between 210cm and 230cm. There are many other things to consider if you want a more specific measurement.
1 – Are you a Low angle or High Angle Paddler?
Low angle paddling is where your top hand doesn’t come about your shoulder height during the paddle stroke. This is a technique often developed by leisure paddlers, looking to travel distance and reduce fatigue. Low angle paddles are longer and narrower in shape compared to High angle paddles, and this is to allow better power transfer throughout the whole stroke. The blade in the water is often quite a distance from the boat and therefore low angle paddlers require a longer paddle than High angle paddler.
High angle paddling is where the top hand comes across or above your forehead during the paddle stroke, this often promotes maximum power transfer. To improve power transfer, high angle paddles tend to be shorter and wider in shape compared to low angle paddles. High angle paddling is more fatiguing as there is more movement in your arms and is often used in tide racing, whitewater or surf kayaking but not used for leisure kayaking. The blade in the water is usually very close to the boat and therefore high angle paddlers require a shorter paddling.
You might think,well i often do both leisurely paddling and high angle paddling in the same day. It isn’t uncommon. You take a leisurely paddle out from Holyhead and require a low angle paddle and then hit the tide race at Penrhyn Mawr and require a high angle paddle. A lot of sea kayakers do carry 2 paddles, mainly for safety reasons, but also to swap during the day. We highly recommend taking a spare paddle with you, especially when you’re on exposed coastal waters. If you don’t want to splash the cash on a spare paddle, then consider what paddling are you doing most? If you’re 90% doing leisurely paddling, with a small amount of surfing then you’ll be fine with a low angle paddle, and vice versa.
2 – Paddler Height
For most circumstances a taller person would require a longer paddle, and a shorter paddler
would require a shorter paddle, however this isn’t always true. Some tall people with longer arms have the natural reach and would use a shorter paddle, and some shorter people might need a longer paddle to increase their reach. There is no exact science for this. However, a tall person doing high angle paddling would benefit from a longer paddle to help with their reach.
3 – Width of Kayak
This bit is easy. Wide boat, long paddle. Narrow boat, shorter paddle. Wide boats tend to be Sit on Tops, inflatables, fishing vessels, 2 person kayaks and “recreational” kayaks. Narrower boats tend to be Sea kayaks or surf skis.
If your kayak is wider than 28″ then you’d definitely need to get a longer paddle, try something between 220cm and 230cm. If your kayak is less than 28″ then perhaps get a slightly shorter paddle, anywhere between 210 and 220cm would work.
Don’t worry too much about getting it exactly right, there is minimal consequence of getting it wrong. As long as you’re getting a quality paddle that’s suitable for the intended paddling environment, you’ll do fine.
For low angle leisure paddling, see table below as a guide to choosing the right paddle length:
|Paddler Height||Under 28”||Over 28”||Inflatables|