July 11

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What Size Kayak Paddle should I Choose ?

By Steve

July 11, 2022


If you watch professional kayakers in action, you’ve probably noted how effortlessly their boat cruises over the water, with their paddling appearing too natural and straightforward to be true. Of course, the pros have put in years of kayaking experience, but you can still paddle at their level if only you primarily get the paddle size right.

For many kayaking novices, any paddle size is right, and this is the genesis of common paddling errors and difficulties.

If you get a short paddle than required, you can be sure to hit your hands on the kayak. Similarly, a longer-than-necessary paddle will have you expend much more energy than you should.

So what size kayak paddle should you choose ?

You must select a paddle of the correct length in correspondence to your height and kayak width. Also, select a paddle that suits your paddling category. Lastly, the general rule is to pick a paddle of the right blade shape, shart type and ferrule.

I’m hopeful that I still got you on this discussion but if I lost you along the way with terminologies, worry not, as I will expound everything at length. Therefore, read on for a more intricate understanding of how to choose a kayak paddle size and shape.

What Paddle Length Should I get ?

You should be guided by your total body height and kayak width when deciding the appropriate paddle length.

Often, the Kayak’s manual will indicate its width but if you are unsure about this, measure the kayak’s width at the widest point (usually around the sitting area).

All in all, kayaks have standard widths depending on their respective uses. Here are some of the common widths and heights of the various kayak types.

Type of Kayak Kayak Width Range Kayak Length Range
Recreational Kayak 26″ – 30″ 6 to 12 feet
Touring Kayak 22″ – 25″ 12 to 15 feet
Performance Kayak 19″ – 22″. 15 to 18 feet
Whitewater Kayak Its weight is insignificant. Rather, more emphasis should be placed on the paddler’s height. 7 to 11 feet.

In general, the above dimensions are the standard range for most kayaks. Therefore, as earlier highlighted, to select a kayak paddle length for any of the above kayaks, you need to pay attention to your height.

The table below gives you the best kayak paddle length dimensions in reference to kayak width and the user’s body height.

Kayak’s Width (on right)

Paddler’s Height (below)

 

UNDER 23 Inches 23 Inches TO 27.75 Inches 28 Inches TO 32 Inches OVER 32 Inches
UNDER 5 feet 200 cm 210 cm 220cm 230 cm
5 feet TO 5 feet 6 inches 210 cm 220 cm 230 cm 240 cm
5 feet 7 inches TO 6 feet 220 cm 220 cm 230 cm 240 cm
OVER 6 feet 220 cm 230 cm 240 cm 250 cm

From the table above, choose the paddle length that corresponds to the merging points of the kayak’s width with the paddler’s height.

Nonetheless, normally, a shorter paddle will be more effective for whitewater paddling, especially during playboating and freestyling. Hence, in this case, as earlier mentioned, the kayak width is unnecessary, and the cardinal consideration ought to be the paddler’s height.

Check out the right paddle size for whitewater kayaking from the table below.

Paddler’s Height Whitewater Kayak Ideal Paddle Length
UNDER 5 feet 2 inches 192 cm
5 feet 2 inches – 5 feet 7 inches 194 cm
5 feet 8 inches  – 5 feet 11 inches 196 cm
6 feet 0 inches – 6 feet 3 inches 198 cm
OVER 6 feet 3 inches 200 cm

While we’ve explicitly highlighted the right sizes for different kayak styles, its imperative to try out different paddle sizes before settling for one. Most retailers will offer customers on-water demos to try out the kayak paddles first, which you need to take advantage of.

How to Choose Kayak Paddles

As a whole, picking the right kayak will go a long way in determining how efficient and relaxed you’ll be in your kayaking expedition. Nonetheless, choosing the right paddle is equally significant; thus, you have to thoroughly investigate the various available options.

Generally, you need to consider aspects such as pricing, breadth of the boat and paddler’s height, shaft type and blade.

Length.

As earlier stated, your general height and the kayak’s width is the primary consideration in the kayak’s paddle choice.

Materials and Price

A lightweight paddle will significantly boost your performance. Nonetheless, most lightweight paddles are quite pricey. Hence, you must be ready for the trade-off between performance and price.

Type of Shaft

Having a feathered blade or a bent shaft will go a long way in improving your paddling experience.

Type of Blade

Lastly, the kayak’s paddle will perform as per the features of its blade size and shape.

Which are the different Kayak Paddle Shaft Options

Picking the right kayak paddle is a complex process that also requires you to navigate through different paddle shaft options for your particular needs.

As a general rule, pick the right paddle blade material as this is a key influencing factor of the paddle’s performance and your comfort during kayaking.

You have the liberty to choose from the following list of paddle blade materials:

Fiberglass Blade

It is a popular material with most kayakers primarily because it’s lightweight and also fairly priced as compared to other materials. Fiberglass is lighter than plastic, and it’s prone to chipping, but you don’t expect it to flake all the way through.

Lastly, regarding efficiency, fiberglass ranks among the most efficient blades.

Carbon fiber

Talk of a lightweight kayaking paddle blade which is also durable, and you’ll be referring to carbon fiber or graphite paddles. But as you’d imagine, their excellent efficiency and durability come at a cost in the literal sense as they are the priciest of all kayak paddle blades.

Besides, they are not easy to find.

Plastic / Nylon Blades

For recreational paddlers who want to spend the least money on a kayak paddle blade, a plastic one is the best option. However, it is prone to cracking and degradation, especially when left out in the sun for long.

Also, as you’d expect, plastic is flexible.  Thus, it can’t break into two parts easily. Nonetheless, this added flexibility may compromise its water stroking efficiency.

Aluminum Blade

An aluminum kayak blade is the best for kayaking novices as it’s cheap. Nonetheless, beginners may struggle to use such a blade as it is relatively heavier than others. Otherwise, for anyone whose weight of the blade is a non-issue, aluminum is the best option.

Wood

Lastly, a wood blade comes in handy for professional and serious kayakers out to paddle for long durations. It delivers strength, durability and unique style all under the same package. But again, as it is with all the good things, a wood blade is quite expensive.

What are the Unique Kayak Paddle design options ?

Other than the kayak paddle blades, you must also pay attention to the paddle designs as they vary from one to the other, each with its respective share of benefits.

Here are the five unique kayak paddle designs:

Blade width

Blades that are relatively wider than normal are the most ideal for high-angle paddlers. They are imperative in creating the much-needed resistance during paddling, which is necessary for high-angle paddling. Nonetheless, the wide blades make paddling more energy-intensive.

On the flip side, relatively narrow blades are less physically taxing, but their performance efficiency is not as high as their wider counterparts. Therefore, for recreational paddling, a narrow blade will come in handy, especially when you intend to paddle for long.

Asymmetric blades

The cardinal difference between canoe blades and kayaking blades is that the latter is more asymmetrically shaped. Also, in a kayaking blade, more height is on its top part, but it slightly tapers towards the bottom.

Dihedral blades

As the name suggests, such blades sport a spine at the center, which is cardinal in ensuring a smooth flow of water on either side of the blade. Dihedral blades aim to minimize resistance, but unfortunately, this affects the stability, making navigation quite complicated.

Feathering

Kayaking paddle blades with an offset twist feature are said to be feathered. Manufacturers impose a rotated blade on feathered blades to ensure that they slice through the water at a slightly acute angle. Ideally, a feathered blade is more suited to cutting through windy conditions, but it applies significant stress to your wrist.

Also, there are unfeathered blades which lack an offset, and their blades are not rotated. While an unfeathered blade is not hard to use, it’s unsuited to windy conditions.

Wing paddles

Wing paddles are a common feature for racers and professional kayakers since they are handy in enabling a relatively robust forward stroke. Recreational kayakers may also use wing paddles but they may complicate their navigation experience especially if they are not well trained.

What Paddle Category is Right for Me ?

There’s a host of almost innumerable considerations to make when choosing a kayak paddle. Thus, it’d be understandable if you felt confused about what to look out for. But worry not.

For the right paddle category choice, consider your expected duration on water, the type of water body you’d be paddling in, and the type of blade angle you intend to paddle on.

Paddle size for an extended stay in the water

Performance and touring kayak paddles are the best for paddling over a long period. Both types tend to get lighter as you move up the line, thus minimizing the swing weight and lessening fatigue and joint stress.

Besides, a stiff carbon shaft will be of immense help in extended-time paddling. In this case, a fiberglass blade is the best as it doesn’t cause muscle strain given that it is lightweight and at the same time, it guarantees robust strokes.

Best Kayak Paddle for Lakes and slow Rivers

For long hours of expeditions in lakes and slow-moving rivers, go for a touring kayak paddle. Nonetheless, a recreational kayak paddle would do the job if you’re kayaking for a short period.

Also, if you are navigating a shallow water body, you can be sure to hit the waterbody bottom with the paddle blade. In such a case, invest in a durable kayak paddle blade.

Lastly, as the name suggests, a whitewater paddle is built for all forms of whitewater paddling exercises.

Best Kayak Paddle for High-angle and Low-angle Paddling

For high-angle paddling, a short and wide blade coupled with a short shaft paddle is the best. Also, this is the best kayak paddle preference for fast cadence paddlers.

Conversely, Low-angle paddlers take a more relaxed approach to paddling hence their dalliance with a long and relatively thinner blade. This is also handy in energy conservation.

Conclusion

Choosing the right kayaking paddle length will go a long way in influencing your comfort during paddling. It’ll also impact the paddling efficiency and your overall energy usage. As highlighted in the article, the cardinal considerations in making a kayak paddle length are the kayak’s width and the paddler’s height.

Besides the kayak paddle length, it’s also important to look into the type of material, price, kayak paddle shaft and blade design. We’ve elucidated on each of these features at great length and are hopeful that you’ll approach your next kayaking expeditions from a more informed approach.

Adios, and thanks for taking your time to read this article. Also, don’t forget to check out for more on Kayaking and other disciplines.

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