Ideal Paddle Length For Inflatable Kayaks

paddle length for inflatable kayak

Choosing a paddle to be used with an inflatable kayak is a little different than buying a paddle for a hard-shell kayak.

Typically (although not always), an inflatable kayak will be wider than a regular kayak.

The wider width has to be taken into consideration when buying a paddle as does your height and the type of paddling you will be doing most.

Factors to consider when buying a paddle:

  • Paddler height
  • Kayak width
  • Type of paddling, i.e. whitewater or touring
  • Paddling style

Paddle Length

The paddle length for inflatable kayaks usually ranges from 220cm to 240cm. Consider the factors below to choose the right length for you.

Paddler Height

Below is a basic guideline for choosing a length based on your height.

  • 5’0 – 5’6” – 220cm
  • 5’2” – 6’2” – 230cm
  • 5’6” and taller – 240cm

As you can tell the above guide is very general and there is a lot of overlapping.

Choosing a paddle length is often personal preference above all else and dependent on your kayaking style.

The most common length for an average sized paddler using a relaxed stroke is 230cm.

I am 5’8” tall and 230cm is the size I have used for years and shared with my family and friends. It always seems to work well for recreational touring.

I have also used a 240cm paddle quite a few times and been quite happy with it, especially when I’m in a wider kayak.

I don’t enjoy using a 220cm paddle, it feels too short for me and I find it makes my paddling style feel awkward.

With inflatable kayaks, either a 230cm or the 240cm paddle works great for me.

Kayak Width

It is important to factor in the width of your kayak as well. Inflatables can vary in width greatly anywhere from 28” wide to 40” wide.

With the wider models, a longer paddle is going to be easier to use for relaxed low angle paddling stroke.

Just from my own experience I have found that inflatable kayaks that are 32” and under are good with either a 220cm paddle or a 230cm paddle.

The exception is if you are over 6′ tall then a 230cm or 240cm will work better for you.

For kayaks 33” and wider go for a 230cm or a 240cm paddle, even if you are a shorter person. I find the extra paddle length is needed with the wider width or you may find yourself scraping the sides of your kayak and overreaching.

Paddling Style

choosing a paddle length for an inflatable kayak

In general a longer paddle is going to be best for a more relaxed stroke, slower cadence and longer distances.

A shorter paddle is usually recommended for a more aggressive stroke and a faster cadence.

You may find it easier to control and maneuver quickly with a shorter paddle. For this reason a shorter paddle is recommended for whitewater kayaking.

For paddling on flat open water, a longer paddle is ideal.

High Angle or Low Angle

You could use any size paddle for both low-angle and high-angle paddling.

However it will be easier to do an efficient low-angle stroke with a longer paddle and a high-angle stroke with a shorter paddle.

You still want to factor in the width of your kayak and your height however.

Low-angle paddling uses a slower more relaxed stroke. I find this is the stroke I use most often. The blade stays more horizontal to the water.

This is a great stroke for longer, relaxed kayaking trips.

low angle paddling style

High-angle paddling is used for a more aggressive, faster paddling style. It is often the preferred stroke in whitewater where it is important to be able to maneuver and speed up quickly.

This paddling style takes a bit more effort and is ideal for fitness.

My brother pictured below often uses a high-angle paddling stroke. He mostly does whitewater kayaking so this is the style he is used to.

high angle paddling style

Choosing Your Paddle

With all the factors to consider it can be tricky choosing a paddle if you haven’t used one before.

Just remember to keep it in the 220cm – 240cm range and if in total doubt, go for a 230cm paddle. I find it works for most people.

Once you have used one for a while you will get a better idea of your paddling style and what is comfortable for you.

I would recommend not spending a lot of money on a paddle until you are sure of exactly what you want and what works for you best.

You might find that your kayak package includes a paddle, which is a great option for starting out.

As you paddle more often and improve your stroke you may find you want to upgrade to a better paddle down the road. By that time you will know exactly what you need.

Werner has a great fit guide for their paddles, which I have found helpful in the past. It’s geared toward their own paddles of course but it is still useful.  It takes into consideration the type of kayak you will be in as well as the type of paddling you will be doing.

Click here for a list of online retailers that sell great paddles for inflatable kayaks.

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