How To Make Whitewater Kayak Paddles

Paddles have different shapes and sizes which play an important role with the control of water, manueverability and durability, and to make whitewater kayak paddle has the same principle. For 4 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 2 inches height the length of the paddles should be around 188 to 191 cm. Add three inches more if you’re eight inches taller. For over 6 foot tall the paddle should be around 197 cm. For river running kayaking, add an additional three inches to your paddle’s length. The standard diameter size of the paddle shaft is around seven inches but you may adjust the measurement where you’re comfortable with. In this guide you will learn how to make a sugar island kayak paddles which is commonly used for whitewater kayaking.

What you need:

  • Pencil
  • Piece of paper
  • Measuring tape
  • Construction ruler
  • Sand paper (up to 220 grit)
  • Clamps
  • 2×2 hardwood for the paddle shaft (188 cm minimum length)
  • 4 pieces (1×3) 8 ft long hardwood for the blades
  • Water proof adhesive
  • Waterproof coat
  • Sabre saw
  • Smoothing plane


  1. Choose your piece of wood. Hardwood can be heavy which may affect how you maneuver the kayak. Hardwood like maple, cherry, basswood and birch are some of the kinds you can choose from while ash wood is commonly used.
  2. Measure one inch wide and eight feet long, or 95 inches from each side of the shaft’s both ends for the blades’ attachment. Place dots first as a guide then connect them together using the ruler.
  3. Glue both 1×3 wood pieces on each bottom side of the paddle shaft to make the blades. Ensure that they are glued in the middle. Clamp the wood pieces to hold them together until the glue is dry. Do the same on the other end of the paddle shaft. Allow at least 24 hours to let the glue dry.
  4. Measure and mark the shoulder of the blades. The shoulder’s angle can be around 50 to 40 degrees which may stretch almost down to half the blade’s length. Once marked and lined, saw the excess.
  5. Curve the paddle shaft to your grip size. Measure a centimeter width from one side of the corner edge and draw a line. Do this on the other sides of the shaft’s edges. Rough shape the shank by running plane over the edges.
  6. Draw a vertical line on the center of the blade, to guide you when you plane the blades later.
  7. Then draw at least two one-centimeter wide lines horizontally across the middle of the left, right and bottom sides of the blades. These lines will be your guide when you taper the blades.
  8. Draw lines connecting the corner of the shaft and shoulder attachment to the lines on the side of the blades. The lines should be from thicker to thinner or should narrow down to the lines along the sides of the blade.
  9. Plane the face of the blade from the center towards the edge direction. To do this you first have to plane the edges of the thorough shaft where the blades are connected until you reach the same level of surface as the blades. Do a slide plane from center to the side edges on the top half of the blade’s face while flatten more the bottom half.
  10. Sand the paddle. Ensure that the entire paddle is smooth to feel.
  11. Coat the kayak paddle to finish. Apply two to three coats for better waterproofing.


  • In choosing the right hardwood, consider the weight, design and the shape of your paddle. Paddle shapes with wider blades may need a less heavy hardwood to reduce the weight thus giving you more control and won’t tire you out easily.
  • Look for hardwood with long vertical grains with no knots for durability and flexibility.
  • Laminate two kinds of hardwood for the blades if you want a better looking paddle.
  • Some paddlers prefer shorter shanks to maneuver easily during turns however to give you more acceleration and speed continuity you might prefer long paddles with just enough length to also avoid straining your hands, wrist and shoulders easily and also to avoid little accidents like scraping or bumping your knuckles against the kayak’s deck.
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