How To Choose Paddle Length For Kayak? A Complete Guide In 2022

How to choose paddle length for a kayak? This is the most burning question every kayaker has. Paddle length is more critical than most people realize. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and money to choose a kayak. As a result of that effort, you need to make sure to give yourself all the other tools you need to get the most out of your time on the water.

How to choose paddle length for kayak

A beginner sea kayaker or touring paddler would adopt a leisurely technique. You should consider anything between 210cm and 230cm if you fall into this bracket. If you want a more specific measurement, there are many other factors to consider.

how to choose paddle length for kayak

Factors to consider:

1. Measure the width of your kayak

When determining the length of your kayak paddle, the first factors to consider are your height and the kayak‘s width. In case you are unsure of the width of your kayak, measure the widest point. Below are some typical kayak widths:

  • Recreational Kayak width of 26″ to 30″. These boats are generally 6-12 feet long.
  • Touring Kayak width 22″ to 25″. These boats are typically 12-15 feet long.
  • Performance Kayak width 19″ to 22″. These boats are even longer at 15-18 feet.
  • Whitewater Kayak, The boat’s width is not as critical of a factor as the paddler’s height is. These boats are typically around 7-11 feet long.

2. Are you a low-angle paddler or a high-angle paddler?

Low angle paddling is when your top hand does not reach your shoulder height during the paddle stroke. Recreational paddlers often use this technique to extend their paddling distance and reduce fatigue. Paddles with a low angle are longer and narrower than paddles with a high angle, allowing better power transfer throughout the entire stroke. Low-angle paddlers often need a longer paddle than high-angle paddlers because the blade in the water is often quite far from the boat.

If you consider yourself a low-angle paddler, go for a 220cm – 230cm paddle.

High angle paddling involves bringing the top hand 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 broader in shape than low-angle paddles. A high-angle paddle requires more effort because your arms move more. This is often used for tide racing, whitewater paddling, or surf paddling, but not for kayaking. Due to the proximity of the blade in the water to the boat, high-angle paddlers need shorter strokes.

If you consider yourself a high-angle paddler, go for a 210 – 220cm paddle.

I often paddle both leisurely and at a high angle on the same day. It isn’t uncommon. Most sea kayakers carry two paddles, primarily for safety reasons but also to swap during the day. Take a spare paddle with you, especially when you’re on exposed coastal waters. Do you most often paddle with a spare paddle if you don’t want to spend money on a spare one? You will be fine with a low-angle paddle if you do 90% leisurely paddling and 10% surfing.

3. Measure the height of your torso

To find your torso height, follow these steps:

  • Put your hands on your top vertebra, where your shoulders meet your neck and bend your head down.
  • Measure your lumbar region to find the bottom of your torso. Put your hands on your hipbones with your index fingers and thumbs pointing backward.
  • Check how much space there is between your thumbs.
  • Ask someone to measure the distance between your top vertebra and an imaginary line drawn across your lumbar region with a soft tape measure.

As a starting point, around your torso measurement to the nearest inch.

  • 22 inches: Use a paddle around 180 centimeters long. The youth section usually has this size.
  • 24 inches: Choose a paddle between 180 and 200 centimeters in length.
  • 26 inches: Choose a paddle between 190 and 210 centimeters long.
  • 28 inches: Use a paddle that is around 200 to 220 centimeters long.
  • 32 inches: A good paddle should have a length of 220 to 240 centimeters.
  • 34 inches: Pick a paddle between 230 and 250 centimeters long.
  • 36 inches: Choose a paddle that is between 240 and 250 centimeters long.
  • 38 inches: You are probably most comfortable with a paddle that is 250 centimeters long.

Conclusion of how to choose paddle length for kayak

Find out what kayak paddle length is best for you by attending a “demo day” at a local kayak shop. Have someone watch your paddle to determine if you are a high-angle or low-angle paddler. When you’re out on the water, it’s crucial to consider where you’ll be using your kayak and what type of fishing you will be doing to select the paddle that is just right for you.


1. What kayak size do I need for my height and weight?
It doesn’t matter your height for the kayak you choose, just as it doesn’t matter what paddle you use. If you use your kayak for its intended purpose – fishing, whitewater exploration, recreational touring – you should be fine. Also, consider your weight when choosing a kayak. Many kayaks have a maximum weight limit. Kayaks come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit people of all body types and weights. Make sure you check the weight limit before purchasing. When doing so, you must remember to factor in the weight of your gear. It’s a good rule of thumb to subtract 125 to 150 pounds from the weight limit number to account for your equipment. Next, look at your body weight to ensure you do not exceed the weight limit.
2. Can I use a kayak paddle that is too long?
If you use a paddle that’s too short or too long, you’ll overextend yourself and work harder than necessary to build up speed and keep the kayak on course. If the shaft isn’t the right length, your hands will slide along it, causing blisters.
3. Is feathering my kayak paddle a good idea?
Paddling into high winds is most advantageous when feathering. The higher your blade angle, the less resistance you will encounter. Alternatively, an un-feathered paddle can be advantageous when the wind is in your favor, acting as a small sail each time the blade raises into the air.