Kayak Paddle Length Chart: What Size Do I Need for My Height

Kayaking is a fun recreational activity for outdoor enthusiasts. However, you may have the most intriguing piece of kayak equipment but without the right paddle size, your trip could turn into a disaster. A long paddle adds strain to your hands, while a short paddle can hit your hands. If you’re still rusty about your innate conversion abilities, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced kayaker, you should learn how to determine kayak paddle length. This brings us to the question, what size of kayak paddle do I need for my height?

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You can determine the right size by measuring the torso height – from the hip region to the tip of the nose. For instance, a 230cm paddle is suitable for average height kayakers. If your torso height is 22″, you need a paddle length of 180cm. If your torso height is 24″ to 30″, you should purchase a paddle length of 180 to 230 cm. If your torso height is 32 to 36″, a 220 to 250 cm paddle can be a great fit.

That being said, you must get the right height to ensure your outdoor fun doesn’t turn into an uncomfortable outing. If you’re new to kayaking, I have more to share to help you decide on the perfect paddle size. Read on.

So, what size of kayak paddle suits you best?

While opinions vary slightly, determining the right kayak paddle will depend on body stature, kayak dimensions, and stroke preference. The best approach is to use standard metric units set by the industry.

If you’ve been on the lookout, kayak paddle size goes up with increments of 10cm. This may not sound like a big increment but can make a big difference in your kayaking tour. You may not notice the difference immediately until your body starts to wear out.

Hands-on kayak paddle sizing

If you’re in a hurry to get to the waters, there’re quick ways to size a paddle fast. You should assume the normal paddling position and grab the paddle with your hands. Make sure your hands are two-thirds way from the center – where the paddle blade meets with the shaft.

The second trick is to stand the paddle to the length of your arm and wrap the first joint of your fingers to the tip of the paddle. Avoid wrapping more than one finger joint; otherwise, you may end up with a shorter paddle.

Paddle length

Although your height will affect the size of the paddle you need, the most important part of the body is the torso length. The longer the torso, the longer the paddle you need.

To measure your torso height, you should bend the head down to find your top vertebra. Rest the hands on the hipbones and ensure your thumb is pointing backward. You should visually assess the space between each of your thumbs. Then, stand tall and ask someone to measure the distance from the top vertebra to the lumbar region. To ensure you get the right torso size, you can round to the nearest inch. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

  • 22 inches – try 180 cm paddle (you’ll often find this size in youths)
  • 24 to 28 inches – Look for a paddle between 180 to 220 centimeters
  • 34 to 38 inches – find a paddle that falls between 230 and 250 cm long
  • If you’re 5 feet tall or shorter, your paddle length should be 210 and 240cm.
  • If you’re 5.5 to 6 feet tall, your kayak paddle should be 220 to 260 feet long

While you should follow these measurements to know the kind of paddle you need, nothing can beat the hands-on approach. You can hop in any kayak, grab a few paddles and see what feels right. As you take the measurements, be sure to maintain the right posture. If you get the measurements right, you’ll enjoy yourself in the waters. But if you get them wrong, you may have to work harder than necessary to build speed. This may result in the development of blisters.

Right kayak size for kids

While most kayaks come with kid-friendly paddles, you can still choose based on the size. You should select with care just like you would for your own. But there are critical factors to consider. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • For kids under 4 feet, you should choose a 182 cm paddle
  • Kids from 4 to 4.6 feet should choose 182 to 210 cm paddle
  • Kids above 5 feet tall – follow the same guidelines as adults

Paddle size depends on the width of the kayak

Since the width depends on the person occupying the kayak, it’s something you should keep in mind when making your investment. Since fishing kayaks are wider, they give more stability in the water – this is important if you’re fishing from a standing position. To ensure a successful catch, you must choose a paddle that aligns with the size of the kayak. Touring kayaks are narrower, so you need a shorter paddle. A wide kayak requires a longer paddle.

How to determine kayak paddle length for my weight

Your weight isn’t a factor when choosing the paddle size. As long as you use the kayak for its designed purpose – recreational touring, fishing, or whitewater exploration, you should be comfortable.

Kayak paddle size: low vs. high angle paddles

The kayaking style you choose will determine the length of paddle you need. If you’re a recreational paddler of medium height, you require an average kayak paddle in low angles.

A high-angle paddler prefers a paddle with a shorter shaft and longer blade. This style allows them to perform athletic strokes. You expect to see this style in whitewater adventurers and kayak racers. If your kayak is in this category, you may want to reconsider paddles with a short shaft.

On the other hand, a low-angle paddle is suitable for those looking for a relaxed kayaking experience. As you might have guessed, it’s the best for long fishing adventures. To ensure you don’t get exhausted immediately, you should choose a longer kayak but with a thinner blade. Of course, if you tire quickly, you’ll come back with fewer fish.

In high angles, an average height kayaker needs 210 to 220 cm kayak paddle. Low-angle blades give more comfort for those considering casual or long-distance paddling.

Is it a two-piece or four-piece?

Let’s face it: no fishing paddles are one piece. It’s either 2-piece or 4-piece. You should ensure the pieces adds to the recommended length. A four-piece paddle can be great for backpacking trips.

Other factors to consider when determining the right paddle size

Symmetrical vs. asymmetrical blades

Asymmetrical blades come with a top edge and feature a longer shaft. This ensures the water pressure doesn’t stay at the top of the blade and the shaft won’t twist on the hands. Symmetrical blades are common in cheap kayaks but can still do a good job in the water. If your budget allows, you should invest in asymmetrical blades.

Size of the blade

A paddle with a large blade requires more power to slice in the waters. But that doesn’t mean you should buy a larger blade. If you have a shorter kayak, you’ll need more power to make a stroke. And this can put a lot of strain on the shoulders and the entire body. If you don’t want to deal with this problem, you should invest in a kayak with a medium-sized blade but of the right size.

Does standup kayak fishing require a longer paddle?

If you’re an angler who prefers to stand up while fishing, then any paddle can work on your kayak. However, if you plan to move your kayak, you need a longer paddle. To avoid leaning down, you should make sure the kayak paddle tip is by your side.

Kayak paddles for pedal kayaks

If you’re an experienced angler, there are a few situations when you don’t need to pedal your kayak. And it may not work all the time. In such situations, you need a kayak paddle at hand. If your kayak doesn’t come with a paddle from the manufacturer, you should buy a new one. For such cases, you don’t need a specific size for your kayak.

Hardshell kayak paddles are suitable for whitewater rafting. A shorter paddle works well for freestyle or playboating, while a longer paddle is suitable for river running or creeking. If a paddler is 5’2″ to 5’8″ in height, the paddle length should be 188 to 197 cm. If your height is over 5’6″, the paddle length should be 194cm to 203cm.

For inflatable kayaks, the right paddle length will enhance your performance. A shorter paddle allows for high stroke and can be useful when playboating. If you’re 5’2″, the paddle length should be 220cm. If the paddler height is 5.0″ to over 5’6″, the paddle length should be 230 to 240cm.


How do you choose the right kayak paddle?

Choosing the right kayak requires an investment of time and money. Before you hit the waters, you want to be sure you have the right paddle for the job. But it’s not just getting the most of your strokes. You should learn how to kayak paddling works and how to select the right one.

A paddle length refers to the distance between the blades to the center of the shaft. It’s roughly between 180cm and 260cm. Some of the things to consider when making your decision are:

Torso height

How tall are you when sitting down? A person can be 6′ 4″ while standing, but the height could be different while sitting down. And the reason is straightforward. Because we kayak while seated, we only focus on the torso.

There’re many ways you can measure the torso, but the easiest one is taking a tape and running it from the bony bump (from the neck) to the top of the hip bones.

Stroke angle

The stroke angle refers to the paddling style that involves keeping the blade close to the kayak. It gives shorter but faster strokes that are less tiring. A low stroke keeps you relaxed, while a high stroke angle requires a shorter paddle. You can also find blades specifically shaped for low and high tides. That’s certainly something to keep in mind when looking for the correct sizing.

In high-angle paddling, the strokes are vertical and shorter. For low-angle paddling, the strokes are horizontal, so you need a longer paddle.

Kayak width

Kayaks come in different widths. If you want your paddle to clear the sides of the kayak, then the width of the kayak will affect the length. Fishing kayaks are among the widest vessels available (34.5″), so a 260cm paddle can help you control a large kayak. Recreational kayaks tend to be 26-30 feet long – you need a 220 to 240 cm long paddle. Touring kayaks are only 23″ wide, so a 220 cm paddle can do the job.

When you choose the paddle length, you don’t want to be banging the knuckles on the deck. There’s also another variable that comes into play – the height of the seat matters. Two people of the same height may require different paddles if the kayak widths are different.

What methods can you use when choosing the paddle length?

On-water method

Once you choose a kayak you like, the reps will suggest the starting length that suits you best. Some of the tests you need are hand positioning, torso twist, forward and sweeping strokes, etc. It’s about trial and error and following good advice from beginners.

Quick-pick method

There’re two accurate methods for determining proper paddle size. The first one involves holding the arms out, grasping the paddle, and bending the elbows at the right angles. Your hands should be two-thirds from the shoulder of the blade to the center of the shaft.

To select the right paddle length, you should stand it upright alongside you. Then, reach out fully with your arm extended to the tips of the fingers. If you can reach further, you should choose a different paddle.

By numbers

You get different measurements from various paddle manufacturers. Choosing the right paddle will depend on the style, size, and size of the kayak. If you’re 5′ to 5’5″, you need a paddle size within 210 to 220 cm. If you’re 5’5″ to 6’2″, you need a 240cm paddle.

Avid travelers should follow the numbers and experiment to see what suits them best.

Is it better to have a shorter or longer kayak paddle?

Your paddle length will have a significant impact on the water. Even a short tour will require thousands of strokes. A proper paddle will make all the difference. And figuring out the size of the paddle is straightforward. Your height is also a factor – the wider the kayak, the longer the paddle.

To ensure you get the right size, make sure you check the brand you wish to buy. If you’re 5′ tall, you should choose a paddle that is 240cm. If you’re 5′ to 6′ and your kayak size is 28″ to 32″, you can select a 220 to 250cm paddle.

What if you fall between two sizes? For tweener sizes, you want to always go shorter. If you have a shorter torso, then you should select a longer paddle.

The size of paddle you choose will also depend on whether you want low or high-angle paddles. A low angle stroke means that your hand will stay below shoulder level. And because you feel more relaxed, it’s ideal for recreational kayaks.

The high angle stroke is ideal for paddlers who need more speed. It can be fatiguing if you don’t get the right paddle size. To eliminate any doubt, you should focus on those paddles designed for low-angle or high-angle kayaking.

That’s not all. You may be wondering; what size kayak paddle do I need with a bend or straight shaft? A straight-shaft paddle gives you control and minimizes comfort. If you plan to spend a day in the water, you should adjust your stroke technique.

How do you measure the size of the paddle?

Most kayakers require a paddle within the 50-60″ range. There are many ways to choose a paddle length for your kayak. To start with, you should go to the store and try out a paddle. Hold it upside down with the grip on the floor. Make sure the throat of the paddle is between the nose and chin.

If you’re trying the length before heading to the store, kneel as if you’re in a kayak and add the measurement to blade length. To fine-tune the fit, you should deduct 2″ from the length for a bent shaft. For wider kayakers, you should add 2″ to the paddle.

If you’re in the water, sit inside the kayak and measure the distance between the nose and the waterline. This distance should be equal from the paddler’s grip to the throat. A kid-specific paddle features a shorter length, T-grips, and narrower shafts. This ensures the little hands can move gently.

How long should my paddle be?

The size recommendation for the average user is 80-81 inches. You can also take the height of the rider and add 10 inches. While you can get along with just any paddle size, you’ll have to work hard in the water. But anything closer to 7 to 10 inches taller than the height can be ideal.

Is a longer kayak paddle more stable?

If you’re a novice kayaker, you may be worried about whether you should go for a shorter or longer paddle. You want something you can get a hang on. If you’re a beginner, there’s no shame to kneel for a while to get the actual situation in your kayak. Maybe you’re wondering; do I need a longer kayak paddle for my weight?

Well, the length of the paddle is just one dimension you may want to consider. Ask any experienced kayaker and he will tell you that the width and thickness of the shaft will determine your stability in water. A good rule of thumb is to match the paddle with the height of the person. If you’re of smaller stature, a shorter paddle can be a good fit.

Why is proper paddle length the number one requirement?

The size of the paddle impacts how well you’ll enjoy your time in the waters. You must understand this when choosing the proper length of a paddle. If you’re on a fishing excursion, you can be sure the paddle you choose won’t outrun you.

If you’re a kayak fisherman, you don’t want to spend your energy paddling in the water. The right paddle length will give you the full benefits of a successful catch.

But what’s the big deal with the wrong paddle length? Your fishing adventure could turn into a nightmare and result in blisters, fatigue, and of course, fewer fish. If your vessel has the right tools, you can focus on the fishing task.

Are kayak paddles measured from tip to tip?

Kayak paddle length is sized from tip to tip. However, you get more accurate results when you measure the shaft alone. This is because the blade can vary in length. Experts recommend that you focus only on the part out of the water to get the exact size. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

Straight paddle shaft

For a straight shaft, place your hand on the front of your face. Sit on a chair and assume an upright position – your leg size won’t interfere with your comfort. Then, place the paddle grip between the legs. Next, make sure the throat of the paddle is on the forehead (the area that gets into contact with the blade). Another trick is to pick a paddle that is 10 inches taller than you. If you’re buying a low-angle or high-angle shaft, you must consider the width of the kayak.

Bent shaft

Measuring the length of the shaft is a bit tricky since the paddle should come into contact with eye level. Generally, a bent shaft is 4 inches shorter than the length of the shaft.

Whitewater kayaking

There’re different opinions when it comes to choosing the correct size of rafting paddle. For instance, the size you choose will depend on how high or low you intend to sit in your canoe. Another factor to consider is whether you’re rafting alone or with someone else. To navigate through the waters with ease, your paddle should be at least 56-58 inches long.

Do the paddle materials and design affect the size?

The material that makes up your paddle matters just like the weight. For instance, fiberglass is a favorite for kayakers, thanks to its lightweight feature. So, if you have a longer paddle you won’t have a problem navigating your kayak.

Another favorite material for paddles is aluminum. It’s cost-efficient but tends to be quite heavy for paddlers. This means that if you have a longer paddle, you’ll tire fast. If you’re new to kayaking, you can choose a plastic shaft that is beginner-friendly. Although it’s not attractive as other models, it tends to be lightweight and affordable.

The truth is, the shaft of your kayak can connect the blades when angling the paddle. Oftentimes, the material used will affect the weight of the paddle. For lightweight materials, you can paddle comfortably, even with longer size paddles.

If the shaft is straight, the curve promotes wrist dexterity and this eases the pain in your hands. You can experiment with different blades to see how it feels. And that’s how you determine the best grip. As you consider the length of the shaft, the material of the paddle will minimize the stress on your hands when you take long kayak tours.

The design of the paddle also plays a critical role in the size. All kayak paddles may look the same, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see noticeable differences. Wide blades are perfect for high-angle paddlers, while narrower blades offer better performance. But here is the thing -some blades come with feathering and have rotating blades that allow the user to slice through the water with ease.

Since a feathered paddle can cut through the wind, it’s simpler to use and doesn’t cause strain on the wrist. This means you’ll have no problem navigating your kayak through the waters, even if you have a longer paddle.

If your paddle has dihedral blades, it features a raised core that distributes the flow of water evenly. Since navigation is trickier with dihedral blades, you should pick a paddle that aligns with your height.

The bottom line

Now you know how to determine kayak paddle length. If you’re a low-angle or high-angle paddler, you should find a paddle that suits you best. In addition to that, you must consider where you’ll be using a kayak and the type of fishing that is right for you. While many beginner kayak brands come with paddles included, many limitations follow.

If your paddle is too short, you may find yourself banging the knuckles. Likewise, if it’s too long, the extra swing rate will give less control of your kayak. Don’t forget to pay attention to the materials that make your blade as well as its design. I hope this guide eliminates any doubt when making your purchasing decision. When you do your math, you’ll be happy with the choice.

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