How To Size a Paddle

There are many variables to consider with sizing a paddle. One’s preference and style matures from on the water experience. Variables to consider are: paddling style, canoe design, seat height, paddling position (kneeling or sitting), venue, and especially one’s physical characteristics all influence one’s choice for preferred paddle length.

Everyone is different. The more one paddles, the more their technique and style are refined and so one’s preference. A paddle should feel fluid and comfortable through the stroke as it generates power to the blade through the stroke.

Below are several methods to use as guidelines for a starting point.

Sitting Method:

Sit up straight: in a chair with flat surface:

  • Straight blade: measure from the seat of the chair to the middle or top of one’s forehead
  • For a bent shaft touring blade: measure to one’s nose or between one’s eyes

Additional refinement to the sitting method:

  • Next add the height of seat from the waterline plus the blade length to the initial flat surface measurement.

The Old School method:

  • Measure from the top of one big toe to between one’s chin and nose.

Further recommendations:

  • Compare the methods
  • Checking your arm span.
    • Hold the paddle; one hand on the grip and other on the throat. Then place the paddle shaft on one’s head and form right angles at both elbows. Bottom hand location is a few inches above blade near or on the paddle’s balance point.
  • The position of one’s hands create an effective leverage or power to the blade. This also provides room to reposition the bottom hand across the stroke vocabulary. The closer one’s hands are together the less leverage or power in a forward stroke. The top and bottom arms should complement torso twist.

For Collectors to Display

58” to 60 “ is a good length for display on an eight foot wall. Fritz offers a horizontal and vertical wall hangers. Shorter paddles displayed in an arc or fan can be placed in a frame.

Stand-up Board Paddle

Below is a Stand-up Board Paddle chart to use as a guideline to determine an appropriate length. The rule of thumb is to add 6 to 12 inches to one’s height to determine your paddle’s length. A paddle that feels fluid, comfortable, and generates power to the blade are discovered through experience and develop personal preference.


  • Flatwater: 8-10″
  • Racing: 10-12″
  • Surfing: 6-8″

The chart below is a guideline and bases on adding 8” to one’s height. Different styles, boards and venues can influence length and the amount to add to one’s height.

Your Height Paddle Length
5’0”-5’2” 68″-70”
5’2”-5’4” 70″-72”
5’4”-5’6” 72″-74″
5’6”-5’8” 74″-76″
5’8″-5’10” 76″-78″
5’10”-6’0″ 78″-80″
6’0”-6’2” 80″-82″
6’2”-6’4” 82″-84″
6’4″-6’6″ 84″-86″
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