Kayak Paddle Size Chart: Find Your Ideal Paddle Length

Find your ideal kayak paddle length with our easy-to-use size charts, considering your height, kayak width, sitting position, and paddling style.

Kayak paddle size chart

Ever wondered why some kayaking trips seem effortless, while others leave you feeling sore and exhausted? The answer often lies in the details — details like the size of your kayak paddle, a crucial yet frequently overlooked aspect of kayaking gear.

A paddle that’s too short may force you to lean closer to the water, resulting in an awkward paddling position, whereas a paddle that’s too long can lead to overextension of your arms. Both situations can cause back, shoulder, and arm discomfort.

Thankfully, figuring out the appropriate paddle length isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Here’s what you need to think about, and check out our kayak paddle size charts below to help you find your ideal fit.

Factors Influencing Kayak Paddle Length

Various factors impact the paddle size you require, and it’s crucial to take each one into account to make the best choice for your specific needs and preferences.

Your Height

Generally, taller paddlers need longer paddles because they sit higher above the water. It’s important to select a paddle length that allows you to maintain a comfortable and efficient paddling position without overextending your arms or hunching over.

Kayak Width

A wider kayak requires a longer paddle to comfortably reach the water and prevent your hands or the paddle shaft from hitting the sides of the kayak.

Sitting Position

A higher sitting position means you’ll need a longer paddle to fully submerge the blades. For instance, sit-on-top kayaks usually have a higher seating position compared to sit-inside kayaks, and therefore, typically require a slightly longer paddle.

Paddling Style

Kayakers can be classified as either low-angle or high-angle paddlers:

Low-Angle: In this more relaxed style, the paddle is held at a nearly horizontal angle. This approach is common in recreational kayaking as it’s less strenuous and allows for extended periods of paddling. Low-angle paddlers often prefer longer paddles with long and narrow blades, facilitating smoother, relaxed strokes, and making it ideal for covering long distances.

High-Angle: This more aggressive style involves holding the paddle more vertically, with the blade entering the water closer to the kayak. This approach is commonly used when more power and speed are needed. High-angle paddlers typically prefer shorter paddles with short and wide blades, enabling quicker, more forceful strokes, essential for rapid acceleration and maneuvering.

For a visual explanation of paddling styles, watch this video from Aquabatics, and to learn more about paddling techniques, check out our guide on how to paddle a kayak.

Kayak Paddle Size Charts

The charts below provide recommended paddle lengths based on your height and kayak width. If you find yourself torn between two sizes, it is generally advisable to opt for the shorter length to save a few ounces. However, if you have a particularly long torso or a high-seated kayak, the added reach of a longer paddle may be more comfortable.

While these charts offer a good starting point, they’re not the be-all and end-all. Time on the water is the best teacher. As you gain experience, you’ll develop a sense of what feels right for you, allowing you to fine-tune your paddle choice.

Paddle Length for High Seats or Low-Angle Paddling

If you have a high sitting position or prefer the relaxed, low-angle paddling style (in a lower sitting position), refer to the following chart:

Kayak WidthUnder 23″23″ to 28″28″ to 32″Over 32″
Paddler HeightRecommended Paddle Length
Under 5′210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5′ to 5’6″215 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5’6″ to 6′220 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
Over 6′220 cm230 cm240 cm250 cm

Paddle Length for Low Seats or High-Angle Paddling

If you have a low sitting position or prefer the more aggressive high-angle paddling style (in a higher sitting position), refer to the following chart:

Kayak WidthUnder 23″23″ to 28″28″ to 32″Over 32″
Paddler HeightRecommended Paddle Length
Under 5′200 cm210 cm220 cm230 cm
5′ to 5’6″205 cm210 cm220 cm230 cm
5’6″ to 6′210 cm210 cm220 cm230 cm
Over 6′215 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm

Whitewater Paddle Sizing Guide

In whitewater kayaking, paddle length depends on your height and kayaking style. Shorter paddles are better for playboating, where quick maneuvers are key. Longer paddles are ideal for river running, offering better control in fast currents.

Paddler HeightRecommended Paddle Length
Under 5′188 cm – 192 cm
5′ to 5’6″190 cm – 194 cm
5’6″ to 6′192 cm – 196 cm
6′ to 6’3″194 cm – 200 cm
Over 6’3″200 cm – 204 cm

Adjustable Length Paddles

Adjustable length paddles are a versatile option that allows you to change the paddle’s length by several centimeters. This feature can be handy in multiple scenarios:

  • Multi-Kayak Households: If you have different types of kayaks with varying widths, an adjustable paddle allows you to switch between them without needing multiple paddles.

  • Shared Use: If more than one person will be using the paddle, adjustability ensures that each paddler can find their optimal length.

  • Experimentation: If you’re new to kayaking or are still figuring out your ideal paddle length, an adjustable paddle lets you experiment without committing to a single size.

Types of Ferrules

The mechanism that allows for feathering and the adjustable length is known as a ferrule. There are three common types:

  • Snap Button Ferrule: This is the most basic and common type of ferrule. It consists of a button on one side of the shaft that snaps into one of several holes on the other side of the shaft. This type allows for a few different lengths and feathering angles but is less customizable than other ferrule types.

  • Locking Ferrule: This type of ferrule uses a lever or clamp to lock the two halves of the paddle together. It allows for more customization than a snap button ferrule, as you can adjust the length and feathering angle to any position within a specific range.

  • Telescoping Ferrule: This is the most advanced and customizable type of ferrule. It allows for a large amount of adjustments to both the length and feathering angle of the paddle. It usually consists of a mechanism that you can twist or slide to adjust the paddle to your desired settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

The length of a kayak paddle varies widely based on several factors, so there isn’t a ‘standard’ length. However, most adult paddles range from 200 cm to 250 cm.

Neither is better; it’s all about finding the right fit for your paddling style and kayak dimensions. A longer paddle is more suitable for a relaxed, low-angle paddling style and wider kayaks. A shorter paddle is ideal for a more aggressive, high-angle paddling style and narrower kayaks.

If you feel like you’re working too hard, have discomfort in your shoulders or back after paddling, or you notice your kayak zigzagging a lot, your paddle may be too long.

If you find yourself leaning forward too much, splashing water on yourself, or your hands are constantly hitting the sides of your kayak, your paddle may be too short.

Yes, there are kayak paddles designed specifically for children. These paddles are shorter, lighter, and have smaller blades to suit a child’s size and strength.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Selecting the appropriate size kayak paddle is crucial for an enjoyable and efficient kayaking experience. Your comfort, performance, and endurance on the water all depend on it. Use the kayak paddle size charts in this guide as a starting point, but always consider your personal needs and preferences.

If you’re new to kayaking, consider starting with a budget-friendly paddle. As you spend more time on the water, you’ll get a better feel for what suits you, making it easier to invest in a higher-end paddle later on.