What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need

What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need?

If you’re new to kayaking, one of the most important things you need to remember is that a paddle of the correct size is key to success. Regardless of the brand or type, you’re going to have problems if it’s too long or short. The width of your kayak, your height, and your paddling technique will all be used to help you know the best length paddle for you. If you’re wondering “What size kayak paddle do I need?” I’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article.

When a paddle is too long, you risk your shoulders being excessively strained and you will probably end up going in a tiresome zig-zag pattern in the water. You will end up with too much swing weight and this will result in having less control over the vessel. If the paddle is too short, your hands will end up hitting on the sides of the vessel and you’ll probably be compelled to lean more with each stroke. Either way, the incorrect paddle is certain to lead to frustration.

Another vital factor in deciding what paddle to get is its category. The goal is to find a paddle that best suits your lifestyle. You will also have to find a paddle with an appropriate type of blade shape and ferrule (more on this in a moment).

How to Know What Paddle Length You Need

The width and height of your kayak are the main factors you need to consider when deciding on what length of paddle to get.

Kayak Paddle Length

To measure the width of the kayak, do so at its widest point. For your convenience, below are some average lengths and widths of different kinds of kayaks. If you don’t own a tape measure, but know what type of kayak you have, you can choose a paddle length based on this information (but come on, measure your yak!).

Paddle Length for Recreational Kayaks

A recreational kayak generally has a width of between 26 inches to 30 inches. The length is usually between about six and twelve feet.

Paddle Length for Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater kayaks are generally about 7 to 11 feet in length. With this kind of kayak, your own height is more important than the boat width.

Paddle Length for Touring Kayaks

A touring kayak is usually about 12 to 15 feet long. The width is generally between 22 and 25 inches.

Paddle Length for Performance Kayaks

A performance kayak is generally about 15 to 18 feet in length and between 19 inches and 22 inches in width.

Kayak Paddle Length Chart

Below is a chart you can use as guidance in deciding on a paddle length:

Kayak WidthUnder 23″24″ to 28″29″ to 33″34″ plus
Paddler Height
Under 5’5″ Tall210 cm / 82 inch paddle220 cm / 86 inch paddle230 cm / 90 inch paddle240 cm / 94 inch paddle
5’5″ to 5’11”220 cm / 86 inch paddle230 cm / 90 inch paddle240 cm / 94 inch paddle250 cm / 98 inch paddle
Over 6′220 cm / 86 inch paddle230 cm / 90 inch paddle250 cm / 98 inch paddle260 cm / 102 inch paddle

My Tips for Buying a Kayak Paddle

Usually, people who want to spend lots of time kayaking purchase a touring kayak or performance kayak paddles. If you want to make kayaking one of your hobbies, try to find a paddle that has a stiff and therefore more responsive carbon shaft. This will make your paddle lighter and easier to use when you’re first learning proper form.

It’s also good to look for blades made of molded carbon or fiberglass. These are lightweight materials but they will lend you lots of power as you make your strokes, and I’ve found they hold up really well. This kind of paddle is especially important if you tend to get shoulder strain (or you’re just new to the motion).

How You Paddle Has an Impact on Kayak Paddle Length

Whether you’re a low-angle or high-angle paddler is another factor you need to consider when deciding on your paddle length.

Kayak Paddle Length

Choosing a Paddle for Low-Angle Paddling

Low-angle paddling is a relaxed sort of paddling. It is a style intended for longer periods of time on the water.

With this kind of paddling, you’ll be using strokes which are more horizontal. This means that your paddle will need to be longer. If you’re a recreational or touring kayaker, you will primarily be using low-angle strokes.

So use the chart above as a guide, but buy a kayak paddle a few inches longer if you typically paddle in this way.

Choosing a Paddle for High-Angle Paddling

High-angle paddling is for more experienced kayakers. It is fast and more of a full-force style of paddling. The strokes with high-angle paddling are more vertical. This means that your paddle will need to be a bit shorter for best performance and comfort.

Kayakers who are going whitewater kayaking and those who love to kayak at greater speeds tend to use these kinds of strokes, and should buy a paddle that’s a touch shorter than the lengths listed in the chart above.

What if You Bring Kids for Kayaking?

Kids Kayak Paddle Length

If you’re bringing children along for kayaking, you will, of course, have to exercise a significantly higher level of caution.

Of course, it’s out of the question to bring any child who can’t swim out on the water. Even with a life jacket, it’s not safe. Make sure your child gets the appropriate swimming lessons and reaches a competent level before even considering a trip in a kayak.

As with all the adults, kids who are kayaking must be wearing appropriate life jackets/PFDs (personal flotation devices). You should also bring kids on special kayaking lessons, even if you know what you’re doing. It’ll be fun, they’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish their lessons, and they can get used to the feeling and techniques of kayaking.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should go kayaking with your kids or choose a canoe journey instead, consider your child’s age and ability, the place where you’ll be paddling, and the objectives of the trip. You and your child’s levels of comfort, seating choices, and paddling opportunities are other factors.

When to Buy a Kayak Paddle for Kids

If your child is between four and seven years old, they will usually be okay sitting in the bow of the kayak. You should know that they won’t be able to add much propulsion, though. If your child is under seven, it will probably be best to choose a canoe instead of a kayak. If you get a large canoe, you should be able to fit about two or three kids in your boat.

What Kind of Kayak Paddle Should You Get for Kids?

You’ll find that there are a variety of kayak paddle sizes for kids.

In general, you should look at models that are around 200 cm / 78 inches in length with a narrow shaft for a kid’s first kayak paddle.