How to Pick the Proper Kayak Paddle Length

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You may have your perfect kayak picked out but the battle is only halfway done at this point. You may think the paddle doesn’t matter, but it is essential that you find the right paddle length for you.

It isn’t difficult to figure it out, but you do need a simple guide like this one to help get you the proper kayak paddle length that will make it easier to stay out on the water.

Let’s dive in and see what it takes to size your kayak paddle.

Let’s Get Metric

Adding to the confusion about what kayak paddle length is right for you is the fact that they are all measured in centimeters. If you are used to imperial measurement like inches and feet then this will definitely have you scratching your head.

Though it may seem confusing, it is far more accurate. Instead of saying that a paddle is 72.22″ measuring it at 220cm is much easier. Do you know how much .22 inches is?

After a while you will be able to understand and even visualize how long 180cm is for example.

To make things easier to imagine if you are stuck on inches and feet, just remember that an inch is 2.54 centimeters. So, a 180 cm long paddle is 70.86 inches or 5.91 feet.

Your Torso

Though how tall you are counts, it’s more about the length of your torso. Since your torso is actually doing the work and when you’re sitting in the kayak it doesn’t matter how long your legs are. It’s your torso that is going to determine how far above the water your arms are when paddling.

Here’s a quick kayak paddle length chart on what length is best for your torso height. 

Torso HeightPaddle LengthHigh AngleLow Angle
24”180 to 200cm210 to 215cm215 to 220cm
26”190 to 200cm210 to 215cm215 to 220cm
28”200 to 220cm210 to 215cm215 to 220cm
30” 210 to 230cm220 to 230cm230 to 240cm
32”220 to 240cm230cm240cm
34”230 to 250cm230cm240cm

Kayak Style

Besides the parameters contained in our kayak paddle length chart, the type of kayak you are going to be paddling also comes into play. Some are quite narrow so it goes to follow that the proper kayak paddle length would be lower since you can get the blade in the water easier.

A wider kayak will need a longer paddle to get the blade in properly to pull the water. If your paddle is too short for the width of the kayak, then you’ll either be banging your knuckles against the deck or your shaft will be bagning the gunwales. 

This is not only painful, but you’ll be spooking the fish with all the noise you’re making with the paddle banging around.

A short person in a wide kayak is going to need quite a long paddle so that kayak paddle length chart above needs to be amended depending on the kayak. That same short person sitting high on a stadium style kayak seat is also going to need a long kayak paddle to get the blade into the water.

Stroke Angle

This is a matter of preference as some people like to use a high angle to get the blade into the water. This is noted in the kayak paddle length chart above with regards to the two furthest columns.

If you’re fishing from a kayak, then the kay is to go with a low angle and use the proper kayak paddle length accordingly. You’ll be able to sneak up on fish easier since the low angle produces less disturbance in the water so they don’t get spooked as easily.

To get faster speeds and cover more water, then a higher angle is the way to go. You’ll also need to use more force and have to be in better shape for this. Once again, check the paddle chart above to see what kayak paddle length you’ll need.

Demo Days

All the best advice in the world about what kayak paddle length you need goes out the window if you go try out a paddle and see that the what length is appropriate for you goes against conventional wisdom. The only way to truly know for sure is to get out and test one. You may find that the length suggested is not comfortable for you and you opt for something longer or shorter than the recommendations.

Many outdoors stores that specialize in boating and kayaks often have demo days when you can go and try out different kayaks and paddles that they offer. Usually these happen in the Spring and there is no pressure to buy something. You can try out a few different models and then go home and think it over before you buy.

Types Of Paddles

To narrow it down even further there are a couple of different types of paddles that come in different sizes. Know how you intend to kayak will help you understand what kayak paddle length is right for you.

Touring Kayak Paddles

If you will be out on the water for a long time you need to have a paddle that is suited to the job as well as being the right length.

These are lightweight and balanced and are easier on your body so you’ll feel less fatigue.

Recreational Kayak Paddles

These are your standard style paddles that are not meant to be used for long trips on the water. These are generally great for beginners or those that plan to fish and are not trying to break and speed records on the water.

What Happens If You Get The Wrong Size?

Let me first say that it could be better to make a mistake and have too small a paddle than too big.

If your paddle is too big it will be heavier than it needs to be which will cause fatigue. And, it will cause a beginner to use improper paddling technique. Usually it will be harder to rotate the torso when the paddle is too long so you will revert to using your arms since it seems easier.

If the paddle is a bit too short, at least the stroke is more vertical and can pull a lot more water per stroke. As long as the kayak is trimmed well and has good tracking then it should cut the water well and go pretty straight even if you may be paddling more frantically than you should be.

Before settling on the proper paddle length take some lessons to learn the proper paddling technique. That way you understand better what size paddle is going to be the most comfortable.


I hope that after reading this guide it doesn’t seem to be a complicated procedure to pick out the right length kayak paddle for you.

It is actually pretty easy. And important so do take the time to explore a few different lengths and types to get the one that is going to make your kayaking adventures more enjoyable.

If you have any questions, drop a line in the comment box below.

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