Paddle Sizing: The Right (or Left!) Dragon Boat Paddle for You

Choosing the right dragon boat paddle can make or break your race. It directly affects the power and leverage on the water you can achieve as you go through each stage of your dragon boat stroke. Although varying dragon boat designs and weights, seating position, and technique and experience contribute to different paddle sizing demands, there are certain Rules of Thumb for determining the right size for you.

Paddles range between 43 to 51 inches, and while there are many factors that contribute to appropriate sizing, we have identified the safest and fastest way to select the paddle that is perfectly-sized for you.

First, it is important to recognize that paddle size is primarily based on your torso and arm length, not your overall height.

Paddle sizing
Chrissy’s paddle is slightly long since she has to stretch her fingers to curl the paddle handle.

To measure your paddle, follow these steps…

  1. Comfortably sit on a solid bench or chair (similar to a dragon boat seat);
  2. Place the blade tip of the paddle beside your inside hip on the bench (left hip for right-sided paddlers and vice versa);
  3. With your top arm in paddling position (slight elbow bend), reach to the handle of the paddle and comfortably curl your palm around the handle, similar to how you would hold the handle in the catch position.

Going through this exercise will identify the right paddle for you under perfect conditions – where the top of the bench is flush with the water level. However, perfect conditions are not always possible, which is why paddlers must also consider external factors that impact size selection:

  • Boat Design and Weight – Some boats sit higher in the water and call for longer paddles, and some sit lower.
  • Seating Position – Depending on where the paddler is sitting, the water level may be higher or lower, calling for different lengths (i.e. near the back of the boat paddlers are closer to the water).
  • Technique and Experience – Varying techniques can require different-sized paddles, and paddlers with high levels of experience sometimes increase (or shorten) their paddle for personal reasons.

Whatever the factors are for your crew, consistency is the key and all paddlers in the same crew should use the same Rule of Thumb. It is even helpful to go through this paddle sizing exercise with your team mates.

Happy Paddling!

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