What size kayak paddle do I need?” is a common question among people who are just starting to learn how to kayak. Besides having the right kayak, they know that the appropriate paddle length can mean the difference between an enjoyable day on the water and a disastrous one.
No matter what model or brand you invest in, a paddle too long will add extra strain to your arms and shoulders and zigzag the boat on the water, which can be extremely exhausting. Too short and you will have your hands hitting on the wall of the kayak every time you strike.
To help you properly size your kayak paddle, we have put together a comprehensive kayak paddle sizing guide with everything you need to know about the process. Ready?
Factors To Consider When Sizing Your Kayak Paddle
Although different people have different opinions on what the ideal kayak paddle length is, there is a standard method of sizing a kayak paddle that is accepted throughout the paddling community. However, this is based on a few factors, which we are going to look into in a few, but first let’s understand how the paddle length is described.
Metric units is the industry standard for determining and describing kayak paddle size. Not many paddlers will understand what you are talking about if you describe your paddle as 70 inches long. Many however, will understand what a 220-centimeter or 230-centimeter paddle means.
It is worth noting that the difference in length between a 230 cm paddle and a 220 cm paddle will be measured from the middle of the shaft to the blade’s tip. Your paddle will therefore be 5 centimeters longer on both ends, not 10 centimeters longer overall.
Here are three things that will help you decide the best length for your paddle.
1. Body Stature
Taller people should use longer paddles and vice versa, but there are many factors that one should take into account when sizing a kayak paddle. It doesn’t really mean that two people of the same height should use paddles of exact same length. One person might have a longer torso while the other one could have longer legs. It is the length of your torso that really matters though.
To measure the length of your torso, sit on a chair with your back held straight. Your torso length will be the distance between the surface of the chair and your nose. Here is a simple chart to guide you into finding the ideal paddle for your torso length:
22 inches = 180 centimeters
24 inches = 180 to 200 centimeters
26 inches = 190 to 210 centimeters
28 inches = 200 to 220 centimeters
30 inches = 210 to 230 centimeters
32 inches = 220 to 240 centimeters
34 inches = 230 to 250 centimeters
36 inches = 240 to 260 centimeters
38 inches = 250 to 270 centimeters
Whether you are going whitewater kayaking or adventuring some calm waters, the length of your torso will help you determine the best size for your specific kayak paddle. If your kayaking trip is purely recreational, however, the design of your boat is what you should focus on the most.
2. Kayak Design
The wider your kayak is, the longer the paddle you will need. Again, there are many factors that will come into play. If you are shorter and riding a wider kayak, you will need a paddle with the same length as a taller person riding a narrower boat. For instance, tandem kayaks will use longer paddles than solo kayaks.
How about the surface of your kayak seat in relation to the side planking? This is yet another important factor to consider when determining your kayak paddle length. Two paddlers of the same height or torso riding similar kayaks may require different paddles if the height of the seats is different in each kayak.
3. Stroke Angle
Last yet importantly, think about your stroke angle. Do you prefer stroking further from the hull or near the sides of the boat? These strokes are referred to as low and high strokes respectively and are some of the most practiced kayak strokes by both beginner and experienced paddlers.
Low strokes will be perfect if yours is just casual paddling. High strokes will yield more speed and will therefore be ideal for a white water kayak or any other boat where speed is of the essence.
Depending on what stroking angle you prefer, your paddle length will vary. Use the length of your torso to find out what length suits your strokes the best.
Two Field Methods Of Sizing A Kayak Paddle
Using the above factors will help you find an appropriate paddle length in your local store. Here are two quick methods to use in the field.
While On The Water
The easiest and most effective way to know if the length of your paddle is suitable for your kayak is heading out for actual paddling. If you are doing this, make sure to use the kayak that you will be using on your kayaking trip and apply the right paddling techniques. You will soon figure out whether the paddle length you have chosen is appropriate for you or not.
While On The Shore
You can find out if the paddle size is right for you even before you hit the waters by simply holding out the paddle in a horizontal position. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees and the hands should be positioned at about 2/3 of the distance between the center of the shaft and the area where the blade connects with the shaft.
Another way to go about this is standing up your paddle in a vertical position next to you. Then, raise one arm and hook the first joints of your fingers over the blade’s top. If your fingers reach further the top of the blade or if they cannot reach the top of the blade, the paddle could respectively be either too short or too long for you.
Other Factors To Consider In Kayak Paddle Sizing
Shape Of Your Blade
Your blade’s shape takes us back to whether you fancy high (high-angle) strokes or low (low angle) strokes. High angle blades are short and wide and will be perfect for when you need to generate maximum paddling power. Low angle blades are long and narrow making them more comfy for long distance and casual paddling.
Dihedral Vs Spoon
Dihedral and spoon paddle shapes are very common today. Most paddlers will prefer dihedral blades because they are more comfortable than their spoon counterparts. A dihedral blade has a ridge running along its center to allow the water to flow uniformly over the blade’s surface. This prevents fluttering, making paddling more comfortable.
Spoon blades on the other hand offer a better bite because they scoop the water. The only problem is that spoons flutter a lot and so you will need to nail down your paddling techniques to ensure kayaking safety and have an enjoyable day on the water.
Asymmetrical Vs Symmetrical
Most asymmetrical shaped blades come with the top edge being slightly longer than the bottom. Such construct ensures that the water pressure at the top and bottom of the blade stays even and the shaft doesn’t twist in your hands.
Symmetrical blades will mostly be found in non-kayaking paddles but can still be found in some of these cheap kayak paddles. It would be wise to invest in an asymmetrical blade if it is in your budget.
Size Of The Blade
A larger blade will have a bigger surface area and will therefore offer more bite when paddling than a smaller blade. It will generate more power to slice the water and propel you forward but that does not necessarily mean that you should buy the largest blade you find.
You see, making a stroke using a larger blade will demand more strength and will put more strain on your shoulders and entire body. So if you have a smaller body frame or aren’t strong enough and don’t want to deal with kayaking aches and pains afterward, it would be best to stick to a smaller blade.
However, larger blades can still be advantageous if your boat is loaded down or heavy with lots of equipment. Thus, knowing the amount of gear you will be bringing with you will help you determine how big the blade for your kayak paddle should be.
Globo Surf Overview
If you were wondering, “What size kayak paddle do I need?” hopefully the information given in this guide has helped you answer that question. Choosing the appropriate paddle length is a great decision that could greatly improve your performance on the water. Thinking about your body type, the design of your kayak, and your preferred kayaking strokes can help significantly when determining the size of your paddle. Just make sure to test the paddle out before you go just to be sure it is appropriate for the trip.
- Kayak Paddle Sizing, mountainstormarsh.com