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Kayak Paddle Length Guide: How to Determine the Right Paddle Size

Frau auf Boot zeigt wie man Kajak Paddel Länge bestimmen kann.

Kayaking is a great sport, which is not only for fitness athletes, but also for the whole family. Driving at higher speeds is also fun for children. Especially since paddlers who travel faster can also ride longer tours and thus discover more of their surroundings.

The right equipment is needed to build up and maintain a higher speed. Choosing a suitable kayak is one thing. If longer trips are planned, then touring kayaks that are longer than conventional models and have a better straight-line stability are the best choice. The other thing is a good kayak paddle. When buying a paddle, make sure that it is stiff, durable and light. The most important feature, however, is the paddle length. But how long should a kayak paddle be?

Regardless of the brand chosen, the kayak paddle length plays an important role. If you choose a model that is too long, your shoulders will be subjected to additional strain. In addition, the kayak tends to zigzag. If the paddle is too short, the water can hardly be reached. The suboptimal paddle movement makes you slower and also leads to contortions.

Finding the right kayak paddle length is not a science. However, if you want to determine the perfect paddle length, you don’t have to try it out. With your body size, the width of the kayak and the planned area of use, you can estimate the correct paddle length pretty accurately. Ideally, you should choose a height-adjustable paddle anyway. In this way you can always change the length and gradually approach your personal optimum.

Kayak paddle length table

Body size and width of the kayak are the two most important factors to consider when looking for a suitable kayak paddle. The width of the kayak is measured at the widest point. How the body size is determined is probably self-explanatory. If you don’t know how wide your kayak is at the moment, you can orientate yourself on the following empirical values:

  • A typical all-round kayak is 66 to 76 cm wide. (Many beginner kayaks are all-rounders.)
  • Longish touring kayaks usually measure 56 to 63 cm in width.
  • Race kayaks are the narrowest canoes and are 48 to 56 cm wide.

The following table can be used by paddlers who are travelling in an all-rounder, touring or race kayak. The horizontal axis shows the width of the kayak. The body size was applied vertically.

Slimmer than 58 cm58 cm to 71 cm71 cm to 81 cmWider than 81 cm
Smaller than 1,52m210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
1,52 m to 1,65 m215 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
1,65 m to 1,83 m220 cm220 cm230 cm250 cm
Larger than 1,83 m220 cm230 cm240 cm250 cm

Here is a little help to understand the table: Suppose we are a 1,74 m tall paddler (or a female paddler) and equipped with a 75 cm wide allround kayak. According to the table we should now choose a 230 cm long double paddle. However, if we were 1.90 m tall, a paddle length of 240 cm would be recommended (for the same boat).

The right paddle length for whitewater kayakers

If you regularly find yourself in whitewater, the following table will help you determine the right length for your paddle. In general, longer paddles are better for long straight runs on lakes and rivers, while shorter paddles promise better manoeuvrability. Manoeuvrability is very important in whitewater, so whitewater kayak paddles are much shorter than normal models.

Paddler's SizePaddle Length
Smaller than 1,58m188 cm to 194 cm
1,58 m to 1,72 m190 to 196 cm
1,72 m to 1,85 m192 to 200 cm
Larger than 1,85 m196 to 204 cm

White water paddles are often exposed to extreme conditions. Even robustly built models can break under the high loads. The thicker construction and the special materials protect the paddles from lighter collisions, but in extreme cases they also give way. Be aware of this and always be prepared for these moments.

The paddle should always be tested before use. Only in practice can you decide whether the paddle length is suitable for you or not. This is partly possible in specialist shops and at trade fairs, but the test run is usually still far away from practical use. Just like the kayak paddles ordered online, a test on the water is a good idea. In case of doubt, kayak paddles can also be returned, but it is cleverer to choose a height-adjustable paddle if you are unsure about the kayak paddle length.

When to use which paddle length?

The table above is a good starting point for determining the paddle length. However, the actual best length must also be adapted to the intended use.  The selection of paddles can be restricted according to the area of use (allround, touring, white water, etc.).

For longer tours and trips on the open sea, special race kayak paddles are best. The reason for this is their low weight. A few dozen grams do not feel much lighter in the beginning. After many thousand paddle strokes, however, the difference is clearly noticeable. The best paddles for this purpose are therefore stiff, robust and lightweight.

Real enthusiasts choose a model made of carbon, which is a bit more expensive, but also weighs the least. Alternatively, paddles made of GFK or material mixtures of glass fibre and carbon can be used, which are also lightweight (but still robust) and ensure good propulsion.

If you are thinking more about more comfortable tours across canals and lakes, but also plan to be in the boat for a longer period of time, you should choose a touring kayak paddle. The Touring paddles are well suited for day trips, camping and discovery trips. The most suitable materials are GRP and carbon. Paddles made of these two materials are lightweight and do not feel as cold as aluminium paddles.

Almost every paddle is suitable for recreational athletes. For short trips, kayak fishing, small exploring tours or a short sprint across the lake, simple all-round paddles are perfectly sufficient. The paddles weigh more than race and touring kayak paddles, but are more durable, cheaper and sometimes more robust.

Those who often tour shallow waters or are in places with many rocks in the water have to be careful when choosing a paddle. In this case, durability and robustness are the main criteria.  Especially practical are models with a wide paddle blade, as this only has to be partially immersed in the water and still offers a good hold.


Having a properly dimensioned kayak paddle quickly makes the difference between a great trip and a trip that was all right. It is especially important to focus on the kayak paddle length rather than the brand when choosing the kayak paddle.

If the model is too short, your paddle movement will be too big and you might even put your hands on the walls of the kayak. A kayak paddle that is too long, on the other hand, puts an enormous strain on the shoulders and often leads to a zigzag ride, which is quite exhausting in the long run.

When looking for a suitable kayak paddle, the most important thing is your body size and the width of the kayak. The area of use must also be taken into account. Due to all these variables, we recommend the purchase of a height-adjustable paddle.

If the length does not suit you, it can be adjusted in a few easy steps. Always change the length by 5 to 10 centimetres to feel a clear difference. Step by step you will approach your ideal paddle length. The next paddle will be a fixed model in exactly the right length.

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