How to choose the right paddle
The paddle. The kind of paddle you prefer is a matter of personal taste, and it's hard to guess ahead of time what the best choice is. Without prior experience, it can be difficult to understand why a particular paddle fits perfectly. And if you ask other paddlers, you'll get multiple answers. As a general rule, I recommend our classic Greenland paddle to everyone interested in the subject. It's versatile, and I guarantee it will serve you well - on long trips, playing in the surf, brief trips, rolling practice, or whatever you might use it for, whether now or later.
Rule of thumb for determining appropriate paddle length. Stand on the ground without shoes. Raise your arm without exaggerating. Measure the distance from the ground to your outstretched index finger's outer knuckle. Very tall people can usually trim this measurement a bit, and the not so tall people may want to add a little.
Paddles for children. Children's paddles are much thinner than adults' paddles, and since they're intended to function both as propulsion and as a balance pole, you should add about 40 cm (1' 4") to the measurement you'd use for an adult.
The length of the shaft. The shaft length on a Greenland paddle is a subject of constant debate. The most orthodox Greenland paddlers say the shaft should be fairly short because that's how it was on Greenland in the old days. My experience is that a short shaft is best suited to a low and narrow Greenland kayak, but works less well on a modern sea kayak. A good rule for modern people who paddle kayaks may be shoulder breadth plus two fists = shaft length. This estimate is intended for use with the rule of thumb regarding the total paddle length provided above to produce a suitably dimensioned paddle. In other words, there is usually no reason to take special measurements for the shaft length, unless your body is unusually proportioned.