How To Choose Your Raft or Inflatable Kayak Paddle

You finally got the boat of your dreams and are ready to go, except, you just realize you don’t have a paddle! You hop online and find there is an overwhelming amount of information to consider in choosing. Consider this your quick start guide to choosing a paddle to get on the water as soon as you can. 

First of all, we recommend that you visit your local boat and paddling dealer to help you get sized for your paddle. Here is a list of Dealers across the USA that sell RMR boats. They will be able to help you find the perfect paddle style and length for your body and boat. If you can’t visit a dealer in person, here are the basics to make your choice. 

Paddle Styles

Rafting paddles come in many styles, materials, and lengths. They can be made in combination from wood, carbon fiber, fiberglass, plastic, metal, and more. The blades can be scooped or straight. The shaft can be firm or more flexible. Much of this comes down to personal preference and it may be wise to kindly ask a friend to try out their paddle first to see how you like it. 

If you don’t know what you prefer we recommend you start out with a basic plastic/metal or fiberglass paddle, with a firm or lightly flexible shaft, and a straight blade. This will be the most cost effective way to start out, and this paddle can always become your spare if you choose to upgrade. 

Sizing For Raft Passenger Paddlers And Some R2 Setups

The choice in length is important. Both your personal height and how high you sit in the boat plays a factor. If you are seeking paddles for passengers and they are sitting front to mid raft they are closer to the water needing less length. Generally, standing on the ground, you can place the blade on the ground and the t-grip (where you hold the top of the paddle) should reach about mid chest. The height of your paddlers will vary, but on average a standard 57” affordable commercial raft paddle will work for just about everyone. This includes people who are R2-ing boats like the RMR Thundercloud, Storm, and SB-120. A 57″ paddle will work for people paddling solo or with a partner (R1 or R2) although some people prefer a little more length. 

Sizing For Guides, Some R2 Setups, And the PhatCat

If you are guiding and sit a little higher on the boat because of the rocker (where the back of the boat is higher than the center) you will look for a paddle that comes closer to just below the neck, or collar bone. This applies to anyone sitting in the rear of nearly any RMR raft and also the PhatCat cataraft. Most people will appreciate a paddle of 60” to about 64”, although they are manufactured from about 54” to 72”. 

Sizing For Inflatable Kayaks (IK’s)

For inflatable kayaks you will be looking for a double bladed paddle and the options abound here as well. You will need a longer paddle than you would with a hardboat whitewater kayak, as the inflatable kayaks are wider. Most people enjoy a paddle between 210 and 240 cm with the RMR Inflatable Kayaks. We recommend that you try out a paddle length before you buy one if you can. Also consider material. A heavy plastic/metal combo paddle will be very durable but also heavy if you plan on a longer day. Once you know your perfect length consider buying a double bladed paddle constructed of fiberglass or carbon fiber. If you want to tandem kayak, remember to buy two! 

At RMR we highly recommend Sawyer paddles and you can view their sizing guidelines here

For more information on materials and advanced styles of paddles visit our friends at Rafting Magazine

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