What To Look For
Kayak paddles come in a wide range of sizes, with the size relating to your own height and the width of the kayak. The shaft or stick of the kayak paddle remains the same, regardless of the manufacturer, but the size of the shafts come in different sizes, which creates different-sized paddles. If you're using a long kayak and are over 6 feet tall, you'll need a paddle of at least 240 cm. Paddle lengths of 230 cm are the best for those around 5'7" and those with traditional river kayaks. If you're using a smaller boat, such as an individual kayak and are shorter, then find paddles of 220 cm.
The biggest mistake when choosing a kayak paddle length is buying a paddle that's too long or too short. These paddles will feel uncomfortable and will cause problems when kayaking. You might feel worn out faster or notice that your arm muscles feel strained. To check the fit of the paddle, find the spot where the blade meets the paddle and measure 10 inches. Place your hands on this spot and lift overhead. If the paddle is the right size, based on your height, your arms should form a 90-degree angle. If the paddle is the wrong size, the angle will be greater, as your arms strain to make up for the lost inches.
Where To Buy
While a large number of retailers offer kayak paddles online, it's best to shop for that piece of equipment at sporting goods stores and preferably one with a large kayak or boating section. It's nearly impossible to buy a kayak paddle online because you can't try the paddle and see how it fits. You'll also run across the problem with some stores not listing the size of the paddle or listing the wrong size. If you do decide to shop online, look for specialty stores offering kayaks and kayak equipment. Then double-check the listing and look for the size, but only after you're sure what size you need.
The manufacturer of the kayak paddle often determines the price, as does the store where you purchase the paddles. Big box stores offer paddles from Airhead and other companies for around $20, based on 2010 prices. These paddles are generally less durable and last one season or less. Kayak paddles from Aqua Bound and Bending Branches last for several seasons and retail for around $120. You may find more expensive paddles meant for whitewater rafting, which are made to be stronger and retail for around $200.