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A Guide to Picking the Best Kayak Paddle Size

When you are kayaking, it’s all well and good to have your kayak sorted, and your kayaking clothes, but if you don’t sort out what kayak paddle you will be using, and put a decent amount of thought into it then you may as well be padding with a stick.

happy group of kayakers

Even just being out on the water takes up plenty of strokes and so a proper paddle will really make all the difference for you. 

There are four defining factors you need to consider when you are seeking a paddle for your kayak. Today we will talk you through these factors so that you know how to choose your perfect paddle. 

The Four Defining Factors

There are four defining factors that will influence your paddle choice, these are; Length, Materials and price, blade choice/design, and shaft choice/ design. 

people in a tandem kayak

The length is a factor influenced by both your height and the boats’ width. The materials will decide whether it is lightweight or not, if so it will improve the performance but add to the cost.

Blade choice is about the size and shape which affects its overall efficiency, and the shaft choice can also influence the effectiveness. 

two kayaks on shore

Now, let’s look at how each of these things will influence your purchase and which is best for you.

Length

Figuring out the correct size for a paddle is shockingly straightforward. The wider your boat is the longer your paddle will need to be, your height should also be taken into consideration, especially if you have a narrowboat, a taller paddler will also need a longer paddle. 

2 people in separate kayaks

For this reason, a paddle make will size the paddle according to these two factors. Strangely enough, the paddles are sized in cm’s, even though the boats re-measured in inches. 

You should always check what brand you are considering, to see how they size theirs, but here is a vague idea for you; 

Boat Width

Paddler Height< 23”23” to 28”28” to 32”> 32”
Less than 5ft210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5ft- 5ft6215 cm 220 cm230 cm240 cm
5ft6 to 6ft220 cm220 cm230 cm250 cm 
6ft +220 cm230 cm240 cm250 cm

In between (tweener) sizes

There is a chance you may fall in between sizes, in the case that this happens, it is advised to go shorter rather than taller. Taller may work, but you will save yourself the extra weight by going smaller. 

people in an inflatable canoe

Materials

The material you have on the blade and shaft will make a difference to your paddling, you can get different materials for both the blades and the shafts.

little kid on a kayak

Blade Materials

While in many sports, and activities you may believe that heavier is better, in this case, it is not. The blade has to be raised higher than the shaft and so lightweight materials will stop you from becoming fatigued. 

people kayaking in flatwater kayaks

Plastic is a common choice, it can crack though, and it will degrade when left in the sun. It is flexible, but flexibility in the water will sacrifice efficiency on your stroke. 

Fiberglass is in the mid-price range and it’s more lightweight than plastic, it may chip, but it won’t crack all the way. These are fairly efficient. 

person with dog in inflatable kayak

For the highest price, you can get carbon fiber, which is ultra-stiff and gets an excellent stroke. 

Shaft Materials

While plastic shafts are rare, most are aluminum, the most wallet-friendly material. It can get hot or cold, so gloves are always a good shout.

person white water kayaking

Carbon fiber and fiberglass gloves are durable strong and lightweight too. Though they are more rare and cost more. 

Design of the blade

A majority of paddle blades these days feature a shape that is asymmetrical dihedral. It is relatively narrow and shorter on one side.

people using touring kayaks

This angles it so that the surface area of the blade is more uniform when it pushes through the water. 

These are identifiable by the rib that goes down its center. It allows water to flow smoothly and evenly over both halves of the blade.

Blades without this flutter more, which makes it more difficult to track straight. 

Narrow blades tend to be more comfortable for long stretches of paddling. These are especially helpful on a full-day tour or multiday trip.

Wider blades will often provide themselves with a quick powerful stroke that will allow you to accelerate very quickly. 

Design of the shaft

The first question you need to ask yourself about your paddling shaft is if you want to use a shaft that is bent or straight.

person paddling a kayak

A bent shaft will have a kinked section that positions hands at a more comfortable angle as you use them. It helps to minimize fatigue.

If you were to change your shaft from straight to bent, you want to plan a day on the water in calm conditions to adjust your technique and get used to the new shaft. 

You can also get two pieces or four-piece shafts, both are designed to break down for easier storage, like many things these days.

2 kayak paddles on shore

A model with a four-piece just has shorter sections, so if you were to hike somewhere with a portable kayak or take your paddle on a plane, it makes for easier transport. 

There are also small diameter shafts, which offer less fatiguing grips for paddlers with smaller hands.

You can either target standard or small, so if you can’t make a ring with your index finger and thumb around your regular shaft, you probably need a small one. 

person paddling a kayak

You can also get blades that are either feathered or matched.  Matched ones are aligned with each other, feathered ones are not, they are offset at an angle with each other to reduce wind resistance on the blade out of the water. 

Final Thoughts

So, which paddle is right for you? Hopefully, this guide will have shown you everything you need to know in order to get you pointed in the right direction.

Picking a paddle is not something you should rush into, especially if you have no idea the recommended sizes. Just use this helpful guide before you make any future paddle purchases.

Rocco Smith

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