Figuring Out the Right Size of Your Oar


Finding the right size of blades needed for your boat is not always easy. Oars that are too long or too short make it difficult to control your boat in the water. So when it comes to choosing the right size, one needs to consider several factors including the size, weight and manoeuvrability of the boat. For this article we will discuss two different approaches.

Oar SizeFirstly we will start with a less number driven approach. To estimate the rough size of your oars, measure the widest part of the boat (beam) and then multiply the number by two. You can also use the length between the oar locks, but we will discuss that approach later on. Also consider the weight of the boat and the level of ease with which you manoeuvre it. The weight of the boat is inversely proportionate to the length of your oar, i.e. the lighter the boat, the longer the length of oars you require. Start with the rough number derived initially by doubling the length of the beam. From there on, try to make adjustments based on weight and ease of navigation. Start with an oar length longer than that derived from the magic number, and then work your way out by gradually shortening the length until you feel the size is right.

If you feel that the previous approach is not working for you, try out the one discussed by Sheward Tenney. You can determine the length between the oarlocks and use that magic number in the following equation to derive the proper length of the oar.



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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Mark

    Did anyone plug any real numbers into this before posting it – it seems to be completely and utterly meaningless?

  2. John Hill

    It does sound a little simplistic but I’ll reserve judgement until trying it out on some different boats. We have, for example, some touring boats which I have long thought warranted some special treatment in oar length selection. Is the length of the oar referred to, the overall length? In which case, is there a follow-up proposal for dividing that into inboard and outboard? There are both comfort (separation of hands at finish) and gearing aspects to consider.

  3. Phil Rowley

    You have made no reference to the athletes height or weight and also the difference between oars and sculls. In the US you tend to refer both as Oars and this is confusing. In all my years as a coach I have never used this method but relied upon the the given recommendations published over the years and then carried out testing on the water to get the correct gearing.

  4. Walter Martindale

    frequently singles are set to 160 cm “beam” so 160/2+2=82.

    82/7 = 11.71 (and change)
    11.71(and change)+25=36.71 ish.. that’s a REALLY short oar if all the numbers are in cm…

  5. David Wright

    If you include formulae you must include units. The first beam X 2, is obviously wrong, so for a sculling boat this would predict an or length of 70cm, I think not. The second formula has several fixed terms, it makes an enorous difference if you are measuring in feet, inches, cm or meters.

  6. Tristan

    This doesn’t work as far as i can see, as we have no idea what units are being used in the calculation. A Cornish Pilot Gig is 1.25m/2 = 0.625m +2= 2.625m 2.625m/7=0.375m + 25= 25.375m thats one big ass oar!

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