-- Last Updated: Apr-25-13 11:44 AM EST --
Austin Kayak has the Bending Branches adjustable Slice fiberglass paddle for $129. The ferrule can be set to make the paddle any length from 215 to 230 cm (using the Werner "calculator" puts you at 220cm for low angle paddling with a 25" boat). That could be a useful investment for a beginner -- if you decide to get a different kayak in the future or your skill level changes from low angle to high angle, it would be handy to have the option of 4 different settings:
You'll get a lot of suggestions for shorter paddles, but as a shorter person with short arms myself who used to paddle a 25" kayak, I found anything under 220 cm caused me to hit the gunwales with my hands when trying to reach the water. Even now with a 21" kayak I prefer a 213 cm. The short arms and upper body geometry are the key. Guys tend to have proportionally longer arms and wider shoulders and can clear the gunwales using a shorter paddle. Size is highly personal -- it would be ideal if you could borrow and test some different lengths. Are there any places nearby with kayak rental liveries, say at a state or county park? Usually you can rent a paddle for a few bucks and exchange it during the day for a different size. I did that years ago to decide which length was most comfortable for me.
Also I recommend looking for a slender shaft and as long and narrow a blade as you can find to fit your budget. Avoid fat rounded paddles. I also second TsunamiChuck's suggestion of the Werner Sprite. Several vendors have it for undeer $100.
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