There are two basic things that you need to enjoy the invigorating and exciting sport of kayaking! Those two things are a kayak (duh, right?), and a paddle.
There is perhaps nothing more important when kayaking than having the correct paddle for the job. Your paddle can dictate how easy or difficult moving through the water would be, as well as affecting the speed at which you kayak, how comfortable you are going to be out on the water and even for how long you can be on the water for.
How to Figure Out the Length of the Paddle You Will Need
There are quite a few different aspects that go into what kind of paddle you are going to need, or what paddle will be best for you. During this article we are going to be exploring how your height and the width of your kayak, the price of and the materials the paddles are made up of, the shape and size of the blade of the paddle and the type of paddle shaft you prefer will point you towards your perfect paddle.
So let’s have a closer look at the different types of paddles that are currently available on the market, and give you the information that will ensure that you find the paddle that fits your kayaking style!
How Long is Your Torso?
How long your torso is, is one of the most important piece of information you need when buying a paddle. You need to measure your torso before going to buy a paddle, below is a simple graph that will help you to roughly gauge what length of paddle is best for your torso.
Before looking at the graph you need to measure your torso. You can do this easily by my sitting upright, completely straight, on a completely flat chair. Once you are seated, use a measuring tape to carefully measure the length from the tip of your nose down to the top of the seat of your chair, specifically in between your legs.
Now that you have this information, you can use this rough graph.
|Torso Length in Inches||Torso Length in Centimeters||Kayak Paddle Size|
|22||56||180 cm (Youth sized)|
|24||61||180 – 200 cm (Youth sized)|
|26||66||190 – 210 cm|
|28||71||200 – 220 cm|
|30||76||210 – 230 cm|
|32||81||220 – 240 cm|
|34||86||230 – 250 cm|
|36||91||240 – 250 cm|
What are the Measurements of the Width of Your Kayak?
After the length of your torso, the width of your kayak is the next measurement you will need when finding the best paddle for you. However, the type of kayaking and type of kayak dictates which of these two measurements is most important.
Recreational kayaks usually have a width of 26 to 30 inches (or 66 to 76 centimeters). The width of your recreational kayak tends to be more important than the length of your torso.
Performance kayaks usually have a width of 19 to 22 inches (or 48 to 56 centimeters).
Touring kayaks usually have a width of 22 to 25 inches (or 56 to 64 centimeters). The length of your torso tends to be more important than the width of your touring kayak.
Whitewater kayaks usually have a width of about 28 inches (or 71 centimeters). The width of whitewater kayaks is not nearly as important as the length of your torso.
Below is a rough graph that will give you an idea of the length of the paddle you will need.
|Width of Kayak||Under 23 inches||24 to 28 inches||29 to 33 inches||34 inches and over|
|Height of Paddler||Recommended Length of Paddle|
|Under 5’5 inches||210 – 220 cm||220 – 230 cm||230 – 240 cm||250 cm|
|5’5 to 5’11 inches||220 cm||230 cm||230 – 240 cm||250 cm|
|6 inches and over||220 – 230 cm||230 – 240 cm||240 – 250 cm||250 – 260 cm|
What is Your Stroke Angle Preference?
Stroke angle preference has a lot to do with what feels natural to you and your body when kayaking.
High Stroke Angle Preference
If you prefer a higher stroke when paddling, which is a much more powerful stroke usually better suited for faster, more vigorous paddling, then you will be more comfortable with a shorter paddle. For a high stroke angle paddle the blade of the paddle will be wider.
Low Stroke Angle Preference
If you prefer a lower stroke when paddling, which is a much more casual stroke usually better suited for more relaxed kayaking such as touring kayaking, then you will be more comfortable with a longer paddle. For a low stroke angle paddle, the blade of the paddle will be more narrow.
How Long are You Going to be On the Water For?
This is an important question to ask yourself, as not having the correct paddle when setting out for a long kayaking session can result in a really uncomfortable trip. The shaft and the paddle blades of the paddle can dictate comfort on long trips.
What Kind of Waters are You Going to be Kayaking On?
The environment you are going to be kayaking in has a huge impact on the type of paddle you should be looking into getting.
Rivers and Lakes
Rivers and lakes are usually characterized by calm waters that are much easier and less energy intensive to kayak on and if you are wanting to spend a long time on these waters, touring kayak paddles are best suited to these environments. If you are only planning on spending a shorter time on these waters, a recreational kayak paddle would be better. Deep rivers and lakes call for blades best suited to your preferred stroke, and if shallow rivers and lakes call for wider, plastic blades.
Whitewater is the most rugged of environments that you can kayak in, and your paddle is going to have to be equally rugged. Thicker and shorter paddles are advisable for whitewater kayaking.
Lightweight performance kayak paddles and touring kayak paddles are best for kayaking on the often unpredictable waters of the sea, as they cut down on fatigue. The shafts of these paddles are usually made up of stiff and durable carbon.
The Material Makeup of Paddles
Paddles are available in an array of materials, ranging in cost. You need to decide what material is best for the kind of kayaking you want to do, and what kind of material is within your budget.
Nylon or Plastic Blades
In terms of cost, the nylon or plastic blades are the most cost efficient that you are going to find. Nylon or plastic blades are flexible, which can mean the difference between your blade snapping or not, although this same flexibility can hamper your stroke. These blades can also crack if not treated properly. Be sure not to leave these blades out in the sun, as the harsh sunlight can degrade the blades.
Fiberglass is your mid price range go to paddle. These fiberglass paddles are actually more lightweight than nylon or plastic blades, and while they are prone to chipping, they do not often crack. These blades are popular as they perform incredibly well and efficiently.
In terms of cost, carbon-fibre blades are the most expensive blades that are available on the market, and that is not without reason. Carbon-fibre blades are synonymous with high performance paddling. These paddles are incredibly stiff and incredibly light, and they are known for excellent energy transfer with every stroke.
The Designs of Different Paddles
The shaft of your paddle is obviously the only part of the paddle that you will be touching while paddling. Shafts are available in bent shafts and straight shafts. The bent shafts are so named because the shafts have kinks in them, whereas the straight shafts are completely straight. The bent shafts are known to be more comfortable, because due to their shape, they minimize any fatigue and or discomfort you will feel in your joints after being on the water for a while.
With some paddles, you are also able to take the shaft apart. This allows your to alter the length of the shaft (if you are kayaking with little ones and don’t have a reason to purchase new paddles for the), as well as the main purpose, making the paddles much easier to store or transport when you are not using it. These kinds of paddles are available in both two piece shafts, and four piece shafts. The four piece shaft paddles are the easiest to store as they break down the smallest.
Small-diameter shafts are a good choice for those who have hands on the smaller side. These small-diameter shafts are thinner than the other available shafts and offer a much less fatiguing grip.
One more thing to consider when finding the shaft best suited to you, is the material that the shaft is made up of. Carbon and fiberglass shafts are lightweight and durable, but quite expensive. Other shafts are made of aluminum, this is more affordable, but you may need to invest in gloves as this material can become quite hot in the sun.
The design of the blade is as important as the design of any other part of the paddle. Most of the paddle blades that are available on the market nowadays are of an asymmetrical dihedral shape. This means that the paddle blade is narrower and shorter on its one side, and the two sides of the paddle blade are separated by a ridge, which allows water to evenly and smoothly flow over both sides of the paddle blade.
Paddle blades that are narrower in shape are much lighter and are thus more comfortable for those who wish to spend long stretches of time out on the water.
Paddles blades that are wider in shape are better for those who prefer to kayak with quicker and more powerful strokes for faster acceleration on the water.
Feathered Blades or Matched Blades
Feathered blades are the opposite of matched blades, and these are the only two options that the blades on paddles are available in. While both feathered and matched blades are aligned on the shafts of the paddles, matched blades are at the same angle, as feathered blades are offset at different angles. Because of this, feathered blades a lot of wind resistance that on your paddle’s blade when it is out of the water.
The Different Kinds Of Paddles on the Market
Touring Kayak Paddles
Touring kayak paddles are both lightweight and durable, and are often reinforced with carbon or fiberglass. These paddles are available with different shafts and different blades which can be chosen for your specific needs and or likes. Touring kayak paddles are comfortable and suited to long periods of time on the water.
Performance Kayak Paddles
The shafts of performance kayak paddles are all made up of carbon, and they are incredibly lightweight, which reduces swing weight which in turn fights fatigue while paddling, as well as any joint strain. The blades of these paddles are very stiff, and are specifically made so for a more powerful stroke. Different paddle blade shapes are available for these paddles.
Recreational Kayak Paddles
Recreational kayak paddles are very durable, can be quite heavy and are the most reasonably priced of all kayak paddles. The shafts of these paddles are usually made up of fiberglass or aluminum, and the blades are typically made up of injection-molded plastic resin. These paddles are best suited for those who want to do more relaxing and shorter kayaking trips.
Whitewater Kayak Paddles
The shafts of whitewater kayak paddles are typically made up of fiberglass or carbon, and are much thicker than other shafts for extra durability and strength. The paddles blades for these paddles are wider and lightweight, but are not exceptionally strong. Whitewater kayak paddles tend to break even if you take good care of them, it is just a fact of whitewater kayaking. It is advisable to purchase a four piece shaft paddle for whitewater kayaking.
After reading this article, you should have enough basic knowledge about paddles to confidently go out and find the paddle that is going to do the best job for you, for the kind of kayaking you are interested in doing, and for the environment you are going to be kayaking in. Enjoy, and good luck finding your paddle!
Best Kayak Paddles for the Money
1. Carlisle Magic Plus Paddle
- Glass-filled polypropylene blades are both lightweight and durable
- Asymmetrical, slightly curved blade shape produces smooth, efficient strokes
- Wrapped fiberglass shaft is lightweight yet strong; and more comfortable to hold in hot or cold temperatures
2. Advanced Elements Paddle
- Portable Kayak Paddle
- Light-weight Kayak Paddle
- Asymmetrical blades
3. SeaSense X1 Paddle
4. Intex Dual Purpose Paddle
- Combo paddle creates single paddle for kayak, double boat oars
- 96-inch kayak paddle when connects; converts to two 48-inch oars
- Lightweight, yet strong aluminum shaft
5. Solstice Swimline Paddle
- New Solstice 4 piece quick release adjustable kayak
- Made of lightweight performance aluminum
- 86" assembled length