NRS Paddle and Oar Sizing Guide

ArticleApril 16, 2013

Choosing the right paddle length or oar length is an important decision that may greatly enhance—or even extend—your time and happiness on the water.

Whitewater Kayak Paddles

The trend we’ve experienced over the past few years is toward using shorter paddle lengths. A shorter paddle allows for the high stroke rate used during whitewater paddling and is especially useful when playboating.

Hard Shell Kayak Paddles

Paddler Height Paddle Length
Under 5'2" 188–194 cm
5'0"–5'8" 191–197 cm
over 5'6" 194–203 cm

Shorter Paddle = Playboating/Freestyle
Longer Paddle = River Running/Creeking

Inflatable Kayak Paddles

Paddler Height Paddle Length
Under 5'2" 220 cm
5'0"–5'8" 230 cm
over 5'6" 240 cm

Touring & Recreational Kayak Paddles

Low Angle

Paddler Height Boat Width Paddle Length
5'0"–5'10" 21"–23" 220 cm
5'6"–6'2" 23"–26" 230 cm
over 6'3" over 25" 240 cm

High Angle

Paddler Height Boat Width Paddle Length
5'0"–5'10" under 22" 210 cm
5'6"–6'2" 23"–26" 215 cm
over 6'3" 23"–24" 220 cm
Paddle Angle

A 230cm paddle is the most popular length for average height paddlers who use a relaxed style of paddling and whose strokes are at a low angle in relation to the surface of the water. This style is very common and used during recreational outings and most touring environments.

If you enjoy paddling more aggressively and like to use a variety of different strokes, we recommend shorter lengths of 210cm to 220cm and generally a stouter blade design. A shorter length paddle is easier to use when a faster cadence is desired and puts less stress on the upper arm during certain stroke techniques. We also recommend shorter lengths if you paddle a boat with very little keel. The shorter length paddle will have less of a sweep stroke effect, reducing the tendency to zig-zag your boat.

Whitewater Rafting Paddles

Average Length: 60"
Average Guide Length: 66"
Hint: Measure from floor to chin for a more precise paddle length.

Canoe Paddles

Average length: 56"–58"

Choosing a canoe paddle length is a fairly straight forward formula. Sit in a chair and measure from your chair seat to your nose. Add this number to the height of your canoe seat, then add the length of the paddle blade.

An even simpler formulas is this, 56 to 58 inch lengths fits 80% of all whitewater canoeist. If you are in a open canoe with a taller seat or have a long torso you may want to consider a longer length 60 to 62 inch paddle. Paddlers with shorter torsos may prefer a 52 or 54 inch paddle.


While oar length is largely a matter of personal taste, we can help you wade through some of the specifications you should consider including boat type and size, gear and passenger load, water classification, skill level, and your preferences as the oarsperson. Call us and we’ll help you choose the oar that’s right for you. You may want to consider oar extenders to make your options more flexible.

Frame Width Recommended Min Length
48" 7'
54" 7.5
60" 8'–9'
66" 9'–10'
72" 10'