What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need?

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Kayaking is definitely a satisfying pursuit.

It allows people to be in nature and enjoy the excitement that it has to offer.

It is also one of the oldest methods of water transportation, having been used by the Inuits thousands of years ago.

As fun and fulfilling kayaking is, it can also be a daunting and exhausting activity, especially if you don’t have the right paddle size.

So, what size kayak paddle do I need?

If you’re asking the same thing, then you’re in the right place.

Why Do You Need the Right Kayak Paddle Size?

Those new to kayaking probably don’t fully understand the importance of getting the right paddle size.

In a nutshell, a short paddle puts your hands at risk of getting injured since it will make them more likely to hit the side of the kayak as you’re paddling.

Getting an unnecessarily long paddle, on the other hand, will add strain to your arms and decrease your control.

In short, getting a wrong-sized paddle can significantly impact the quality of your kayaking experience.

What Size Kayak Paddle Do I Need?

Fortunately, it’s easy to determine whether the kayak paddle you intend to buy is the right size for you.

How Do You Size a Paddle?

There are two initial factors to consider when choosing a kayak paddle: the user’s height and the kayak’s width.

Since we don’t have a way to specifically determine your height, we’re going to list down the different types of kayaks and their average widths instead.

In this way, you will have an idea as to the kind of kayak you have and the paddle it needs.

1. Recreational Kayak

This is one of the most popularly used kayaks for its adaptability. It is comfortable to use both in the summer and winter.

Aside from that, recreational kayaks also tend to be more affordable compared to other types.

As for their size, they are shorter, making them more convenient to store and transport.

They tend to be a bit wider, though, even sometimes reaching 30 inches and beyond.

2. Touring Kayak

This type of kayak is about twice the length of the previous one.

They are narrower, too, ranging from 22 to 25 inches wide. This narrower body is what makes them move faster on water.

3. Performance Kayak

Touring kayaks are not the longest among the kayaks. That would be performance kayaks, which can go for as long as 18 feet in length.

They are also narrower at 19 to 22 inches wide.

Aptly named, this type of kayak is best for people who compete or kayak for speed.

4. Whitewater Kayak

Finally, we have whitewater kayaks, which are about as long as recreational ones.

You will find many subcategories for the different types of whitewater kayaks, so their widths vary.

Hence, you really need to base your paddle’s length on your height for this one.

Please also note that each kayak can go beyond the measurements stated earlier. These are simply average figures.

Kayak Paddle Length

Kayak paddles are available in a selection of various lengths. They usually range from 180 to 250 centimeters.

You will usually find a 180 cm paddle in the youth section.

Here’s a quick tip: The wider your kayak is, the longer your paddle should be.

This has to do with making sure your hands and arms are not at risk of getting injured, as well as safeguards your kayak from capsizing as you paddle.

Kayak Paddle Sizing

In any case, all that is left is to do is combine both measurements (your height and your kayak’s width), find the middle ground, and determine the paddle length that best fits your needs.

Here’s a quick kayak paddling size guide that might help:

Kayak Width23 inches or below24 to 28 inches29 to 32 inches33 inches or above
Paddler HeightRecommended Kayak Paddle Length (in centimeters)
5’ or below200 to 210220230240
5’1 to 5’5”210 to 220220230240
5’6” to 6’220 to 230240250260
6’1” or above220 to 230240250260
do you know what size kayak paddle do i need

Kayak Paddle Shapes

The lengths in our kayak paddle size guide above refer to the measurement of your paddle as a whole.

However, you might want to look into the length of the paddle’s blade, as well.

They can be categorized into two main types according to the user’s paddling style:


High-angle paddling is a technique that is done with short and precise vertical strokes.

It is typically done when kayaking for speed or competition.

Thus, the paddle shapes tend to have a shorter, wider blade to provide more athletic force and control.


On the other hand, low-angle paddling is a technique done in a more relaxed way to conserve strength and stamina.

It is typically done when kayaking for exploration and enjoyment.

Thus, the paddle shapes tend to have a longer, narrower blade for better energy efficiency.

The measurement of the blade and the shaft completes the total length of the paddle.

What Happens When You Use Too Long of a Paddle for Kayaking?

As mentioned earlier, getting a longer paddle will make it more difficult for you to navigate your kayak through the waters. It will require more force.

Aside from that, it will also decrease your speed severely, putting you in a tough spot during a competition.

We have noticed that we are more prone to getting our hands blistered, too.

The most problematic thing that can happen is the loss of balance, stability, and control, which increases the risk of your kayak capsizing.

More Tips to Keep in Mind Before Buying a Kayak Paddle

We understand why people tend to focus more on the quality of their kayaks when engaging in this sport. After all, it is still the main equipment, right?

What a lot of beginners don’t realize is the equal importance of a quality paddle.

Aside from the length, there are four more factors you must consider before buying a kayak paddle.

Paddle Material

Kayak paddles are typically made of plastic or nylon, fiberglass, or carbon-fiber.

While plastic is more affordable, they are not that durable.

Also, they can be quite flexible in the water and, thus, lower your stroke efficiency.

Meanwhile, fiberglass blades are considered mid-range in price and performance.

Finally, those who really want to invest in a good paddle might want to look into carbon-fiber ones.

They are top performers and ultralight. The problem with carbon-fiber paddles is that they can be quite pricey.

Shaft Design

There are two different types of shafts: straight and bent.

Straight is the more traditional option and is more commonly used.

On the other hand, the bent shaft might be more comfortable since it is ergonomically shaped to provide a better grip.

You will experience a short adjustment period if you’re changing from a straight to a bent shaft and vice versa.

For this reason, we recommend practicing with your new paddle for at least a couple of days to refine your stroke technique, especially before a competition.

Number of Pieces

Kayak paddles usually come in separate pieces of either two or four. This makes them more convenient to store and transport.

Two-piece paddles generally tend to be more durable and stable.

However, you still might want to check out a four-piece paddle if your favorite kayak spot requires a lot of hiking or if you’re planning to take it on a plane.


Don’t forget to check out the feathering of your paddle, too. There are two types: matched and feathered.

Matched blades mean that both ends match the same angle. Feathered blades mean that they are rotated at different angles.

Feathered blades are designed to reduce wind- and water-resistance for a more comfortable paddling experience.

Fortunately, most blades today can be rotated and adjusted to any angle you want.

However, there are still a few that don’t, so make sure to check before you buy.

With all of these factors in mind, as well as knowing proper kayak paddle sizing, we are confident you will be able to find the best option for you.

Still Uncertain Which One to Get?

If you’re new to this practice, you might be better off visiting your local sporting goods store.

In this way, you will be able to seek assistance from the experts there.

Don’t forget to take note of the measurements (your height and the kayak’s width) beforehand for your convenience.

It is also ideal to get the best quality paddle that your budget allows. Don’t compromise your safety for money.

What Size Kayak Paddle Should I Get?

In knowing what size kayak paddle do I need, there are different factors to consider, but the most essential is its length.

You can determine the right size by accounting for your height and the width of the widest part of your kayak.

Refer to the kayak paddle size guide we shared earlier, as well.

Aside from the kayak paddle length, also consider the shape of the blade, material, shaft design, number of pieces, and feathering.

All of these elements will influence your overall kayaking experience and safety.

Remember, getting an unnecessarily long (or short) paddle will not only put your hands and arms at risk of getting injured but also increase the likelihood of your kayak capsizing.