-- Last Updated: Jul-01-13 10:56 AM EST --
bearing on the paddle size. I'm talkin' boat design/type, environment, and paddlin' style, not just your own physicality.
I understand the need to come up with a quick fix to match paddlers to paddles. Whether its sitting in a chair, or the old school way of standing and resting the paddle tip on your foot and seeing if it comes up to your armpit or just under the chin, being able to come up with a reasonable paddle size quickly is advantageous for getting people out on the water.
In the end, it all comes down to what works best for you in the boat that you are using. I knew a short guy who used a paddle that was as long as he was, and he was good with it. He also liked to paddle standing up quite a bit.
I like a shorter paddle in the bow than in the stern. So position in the boat is a factor. Soloing from the middle requires a longer paddle than sitting in the stern for me, unless you're a heeler who likes to make do with just one paddle size. I'll use a shorter paddle if I'm hittin' and switchin', goin' for speed, running ww. Longer paddles excel for more relaxed paddling, touring. I also use a longer paddle in the stern of a raft just to reach the waterline because of the kick or rocker that the boat design incorporates. In a c1 I liked a short shaft and an oversized blade (Iliad).
So listen to "us" experts but know in the end the only real way to know what you'll like is by trying out different lengths of paddles and learning what feels right. I'm advocating trying different sizes and seeing what works for you. All the instructor types with definitive answers can once again let out a collective gasp and cringe. "It just depends" is the standard answer for everything.
I'd also tell you to buy something cheap and see how ya like it. Once you get some time in a boat, you'll know better what you want and your starter paddle will become your spare paddle. One advantage of heelin' boats is that when you're soloin' you can paddle 'em with shorter paddles without bangin' your hands on the gunnels, and thus eliminate the need to take a longer paddle. You can change the technique to match the equipment you already have.
My good natured detractors refer to this mentality as "tricks" but I think we should all aspire to feel a "spiritual connection" to duct tape. Versatility is a good thing.
Full Size Sail Rig
Pull-Up Strap Handle Kit
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