It’s All About the Paddles – Canoeing Paddle Selection

The first trait in a paddle you should pay attention to is the length. Typically, sizes come in 2-inch increments. For the majority of canoeists, a paddle in the 52 inches to 60 inches range is needed, but bent-shaft paddles are shorter because of their wider and shorter blades. Commonly they are in the range of 48 inches to 54 inches.

Here are ways you can size the paddle you need:

At Home

  • If you don’t have a paddle at home, kneel as you would sit in a canoe. Your bottom should be 6 inches above the ground. Now measure the distance from your nose to the ground and add 20 inches, to account for the commonly used blade length.

In the Store

  • When you are trying out a paddle at the store, kneel like you sit in your canoe and keep your bottom 6 inches from the ground.
  • Now hold the paddle upside down and put the grip on the ground.  Ideally, the pedals throat should be between your nose and chin.

On Water

  • If you are on the water sitting in your canoe, the vertical distance from your nose to the waterline should be the same distance as from the grip to the throat of the paddle.
  • For fine-tuning, deduct 2 inches if choosing a bent-shaft paddle.  If you have a wider Canoe, make sure you add 2 inches. The same applies when you paddle from the stern, so you will reach the water without having to lean in too much. Paddles for kids are shorter in length with narrower shafts and T-grips.

Blade Materials

Wood, fiberglass and plastic blades are the options at hand. Wood is the most popular choice for paddles. It is warm to the touch, responds to the strokes and is just charming in general. Enhanced performance is achieved with laminates who combine soft and hardwoods with the best attributes for canoe paddles. But some varnishing and sanding are required to keep their appearance. An added layer of fiberglass on the wood brings strength and durability. 

  • Fiberglass blades are the expensive alternative to wood and are a seldom site outside of whitewater canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding. Fiberglass blades are maintenance-free while being durable and lightweight at the same time.
  • Plastic blades come with aluminum shafts and are as affordable as they are durable. But in comparison to wood, they are not as responsive and less comfortable.  That makes them more fitting for beginners and as a spare paddle.

Choices to Make

Choosing the right blade shapes can be a complicated matter.  Just know beforehand where you will be canoeing. Traditional beavertails are extended and skinny, and these are good when cruising on lakes. In rivers and shallow waters take wider and shorter blades. The most common size is 8x 20 and suite most canoeist`s. The next point in deciding which paddle to choose is weight. Here it is essential where you are canoeing. In flat water, the paddle should be flexible so it can absorb shock while stroking. In whitewater, stronger and stiffer blades are preferred. But weight alone should not weigh in too much in the decision which to buy. Paddles who balance weight, flexibility, and strength deliver the best canoeing experience.