How to Choose a Canoe Paddle

How to Choose a Canoe Paddle
Now that you have your canoe picked out, you might think choosing a canoe paddle will be easy. But picking one off the rack for an all day tour could be a bad choice. You may end up with a T-grip for a whitewater paddler and wish you had a more natural grip to fit in your hand for all-day use. Or if you're looking to hit the rapids with a durable paddle, you could end up with a lightweight version ideal for a leisurely canoe trip. You need to consider your activity on the water, as well as your height and experience on a canoe.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Measuring tape Canoe or bench
  • Measuring tape
  • Canoe or bench
Step 1
Determine the correct length of your paddle. Sit or kneel on the floor and recreate your canoeing position. Your seat should be about 6 inches off the floor. Turn the paddle upside down and keep the grip toward the floor. The canoe blade should rest almost even to your nose.
Step 2
Consider the width of your canoe. If you prefer canoeing in a wider canoe, a longer paddle can help reach the water without straining. Short paddles require more stretching to navigate through the water.
Step 3
Sit down to recreate your canoeing position and gauge the weight of your canoe paddle. Pretend to paddle and determine your comfort level with the paddle. A lightweight paddle requires less effort. A lightweight paddle for a leisurely canoe ride around a calm lake is ideal. Whitewater rafting requires a strong paddle for powerful waves and rapids.
Step 4
Choose your canoe paddle material. Wood absorbs shock and tends to keep warm but may require varnishing. Hardwoods and laminates are more durable than softwood canoe paddles. Fiberglass is lightweight, durable, and maintenance free with flex and versatility for calm to competitive canoeing conditions. Aluminum and polyethylene paddles are usually inexpensive, heavier, durable and good for beginners.
Step 5
Choose a large blade for quick paddling through the water. Smaller and narrower blades require less energy to paddle and are a good choice for long-distance canoeing. Beginners should stick to rounded blades instead of square-tipped, which can throw a canoeist off balance.
Step 6
Consider the grip of your paddle. A flatwater paddler should look at a natural grip that fits into your palm. Whitewater paddlers typically use T-grip for more control on the water.
Step 7
Choose the length of your canoe shaft. Pick a straight shaft for easy maneuverability for leisure and whitewater canoeing. A long-distance paddler may want a bent shaft for efficiency on day trips and tours.

Tips & Warnings

Rent some paddles at your local canoeing retailer before purchasing.
Children should use paddles designed especially for children.

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