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Canoe Paddles: A Buyer’s Guide

canoe paddles
Blain’s Farm & Fleet is here to help you sort through all the canoe paddles out there and find the right one for you.

Canoe paddles come in as many different shapes and sizes as canoeists do. That’s why it’s important to get a paddle that fits your build and fitness level best. Blain’s Farm & Fleet is here with a few tips to help you wade through the sea of canoe paddles. There are a few factors to consider when you choose a paddle. The most important ones are your height while seated in a canoe and the type of canoeing you’ll be doing.

Canoe Paddles: Ergonomics

  • Weight – The lighter your paddle is, the easier it will be to paddle for longer periods of time. A light paddle will reduce fatigue on long canoe runs. The more time you spend on the water, the lighter the paddle you’ll want.
  • Flexibility – Some canoe paddles have a bit of give to them. This is great for absorbing shock while flatwater canoeing. For whitewater canoeing, go for a stronger, stiffer paddle.
  • Shaft – The choice here is between a straight or bent shaft and a round or oval shaft shape. The straight shaft is more versatile and allows you to perform a wide variety of strokes. The bent shaft is meant to make paddling straight ahead more efficient. Straight shaft canoe paddles are better for whitewater canoeing, while the bent shaft is best for flatwater and long distance trips. Oval-shaped shafts are more comfortable and offer better control than round ones.
  • Grips – There are two main grip types for canoe paddles: the more traditional palm grip and the T-grip. The palm grip is more comfortable, but doesn’t offer the control and security that a T-grip does. For flatwater canoe runs, go with a palm grip. For whitewater canoeing, a T-grip will be easier to hold onto and make precise strokes with. Children should use T-grips because they are easier to handle and harder to drop in the water.

Canoe Paddles: Blade Shape

We’ll probably do an entire post on paddle blade shape in the future, but to boil it down, long blades are best for flatwater and cruising, while short, wide blades are best for whitewater and river canoeing. 8 inches wide by 20 inches long is a common canoe paddle blade size that can do a lot of different things.

Canoe Paddles: Materials

  • Wood – The most popular material for canoe paddles. Wood is responsive, beautiful, and comfortable to use. The downside is that you have to sand and varnish them once in a while to maintain their appearance. Different kinds of wood perform differently. By using different wood species in laminate construction, paddle makers can combine the best characteristics of each one.
  • Plastic and aluminum – These paddles aren’t as responsive or comfortable as wooden ones, but they usually cost and weigh less than wooden canoe paddles. They make a great spare paddle, and some are adjustable or collapsible.

Canoe Paddles: 3 Ways To Find Your Size

Seated in your canoe: Sit down with good posture and measure the distance from your nose to the water line. Look for a paddle where the distance from the grip to the collar of the blade equals this measurement.

In the store: Kneel down with your butt about six inches off the floor. Keep good posture and stand the paddle on its grip. The place where the shaft of the paddle meets the blade should be about even with your mouth. If it is, you have a winner.

At home: Kneel with your butt about six inches off the floor. Keep good posture and measure the distance from the tip of your nose to the floor. Add this number to the length of the paddle blade (usually about 20 inches) to find the right overall length for your ideal paddle.

Special Considerations

  • Subtract about 2 inches from your paddle length if you’re getting a bent shaft paddle.
  • If you have a wide canoe or you paddle from the stern (rear) seat, add 2 inches.

For more Boating Tips and Buyer’s Guides, check out our blog.


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