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How To Choose The Right Kayak Paddle or Canoe Paddle

Kayakers and Canoers come in all shapes and sizes. Choosing the right kayak or canoe paddle is vital to have a great paddling experience. Here are helpful tips on how to choose the right kayak or canoe paddle for your stature and for the type of paddling you intend to do.

The first thing you will need to consider is what type of paddling you will be doing.

If you are whitewater kayaking you will need a shorter paddle when compared to one designed for flatwater kayaking.

Some basics:

  • Whitewater paddles tend to be one piece construction
  • Touring or flatwater paddles often come in a two piece option, which makes for easier storage and transportation
  • The cheaper three or four piece paddles are best suited as an emergency back-up paddle, since they are easily stowed away in your boat.

Recreational kayaks are wide and will require a longer paddle. Taller people will also need a longer paddle than shorter people. Length is measured differently depending on the style of the paddle. Bent shaft paddles will be shorter, traditional paddles longer.

Kayak paddles are not sized as precisely as canoe paddles, so go by your height. If you are under 5'5", choose a shorter paddle; if you're 5'6" to 6'2", choose medium length; over 6"2', find a longer paddle.


  • Remembering the beam of your kayak is crucial. Kayaks of 22" or less in beam mean shorter paddles, 22.5"-24.5" look for medium lengths, and 25" and more need a longer paddle.
  • Style of paddling. Low-angle style means that the paddle is held at a shallow angle somewhat parallel to the surface of the water. High-angle style means that the paddle is more perpendicular to the water. This style is mostly used by whitewater boaters, racers, and faster touring paddlers.
  • The term "feathering" refers to the angle of the paddle blades relative to each other. Feathering the blades allows the top blade to be edge forward into the wind, for more efficient paddle strokes. Some paddles come feathered, while others can be adjusted from not feathered to several feathered angle options. Again, trying out different angles will allow you to find if feathering is suited for your type of paddling and if so, at what angle.
  • For whitewater paddlers: Basic whitewater paddle size is 200 centimeters, with slight variations depending on type of whitewater and upper body build. Feathering is usually at 45 or 60 degrees in whitewater paddles, 45 degrees allow a split second more time in recovery and new stroke, good for rodeo maneuvers.

After you have decided on the length, you will need to decide on the materials used in the construction of your paddle. This will determine the weight and durability. Paddles can be made of plastic, aluminum, graphite, kevlar, carbon, wood and fiberglass.

Important: Although weight might not seem important, after a long full day of paddling a lighter paddle can make quite a surprising difference. And if you're a kayak racer, paddle weight is just as important as boat weight (but, as a racer, you already know that!).

Symmetrical blades use more energy but will pull you through the water quickly. An asymmetrical paddle requires less energy and will help you paddle more accurately.

  • Correct blade size is set by your paddling cadence - high stroke rate = smaller blade size. Smaller blades require higher cadences to pull you through the water efficiently, with some control loss at lower speeds. Larger blades give you control, but are tough to paddle quickly.
  • Correct blade shape is a bit more ethereal. In shallow water, shorter, flat-bottom paddles with reinforced tips are recommended. You'll want a paddle tough enough to endure scraping the bottom. In deep water, longer paddles offer control and precision.

Important: If you have an opportunity, try out different paddles to see what is comfortable for you before buying.

Canoe Paddles:

To determine the right size, sit up tall in a hardback chair.

  • For bent shaft paddles: Measure from the seat of the chair to your eye level, and this should be the length of the shaft of a bent shaft paddle.
  • For straight shaft paddles, add about five to six inches to the length you just measured.
  • If your boat is either deeper than average or more shallow than average, adjust paddle length - longer for deeper boats, shorter for shallower boats.

Two other factors to consider: grips and shafts. Canoe paddles often come with T-Grips. These are great for keeping hold of your paddle, especially in rough waters. But for long trips, they can cramp up your hands. So, consider the length of your trip. Determine the right diameter of canoe paddle shaft according to your own size - if you're a small person, opt for a thinner shaft. If you're larger, a fatter shaft won't bug you.

If you have an opportunity, try out different paddles to see what is comfortable for you before buying.

Once you decide on the type of paddle thatís right for you, you can then start shopping and comparing prices.

Click on the link below to shop online stores for great deals on kayak paddles and canoe paddles. Find a wide selection of paddling paddles. Recreational kayak paddles, touring kayak paddles, bent shaft paddles, straight shaft paddles, inflatable kayak paddles, paddle floats, paddle leashes, canoe paddles and more.

Click Here to Shop for Kayak and Canoe Paddles