Looking to get out on the water but wondering what size of paddle you need for your canoe?
Making sure to have a paddle that is a perfect fit will make your canoeing a lot easier and even more enjoyable.
So, this guide is set out to give you a good breakdown as to what type of paddle and size of paddle you need when out canoeing.
Sizing a canoe paddle against your height
Canoe paddles come in a variety of sizes and lengths ranging from around 52 inches to 60 inches in length and usually are in increments of 2 inches.
Bent shaft paddles are usually shorter in size due to their shorter, wider blade attached coming in sizes of around 48 inches to 54 inches.
Choosing the right paddle for your height is key to be able to get the perfect stroke through the water each time.
So, let’s look at the perfect stroke with a paddle firstly
This is when the paddler’s hand that holds the grip at the top is at around eyes to nose height.
At the bottom end, the point between were the blade and the shaft are connected (the throat) should be at the water line level.
This allows full penetration of the blade basically having a larger area for the blade to push off the water making the canoe move forward with ease.
Canoe Paddle Sizing
So, how can I measure this up for my own height I hear you say?
Well there are a very few effective ways you can measure this:
Firstly, there’s the most effective way which is by actually sitting in a canoe:
What you need to do
- When in the seated position in the canoe, measure the distance from the waterline to your nose.
This will give you the most effective measurement from the paddlers grip to its throat, the point where the shaft meets the paddle.
Now, understandably if you are nowhere near a canoe or only planning to purchase one soon, there’s a few methods you can carry out in the house.
The Sitting Down Method
This gives a clear understanding of what paddle to buy if you’re in the house and don’t actually have a paddle to hand.
This simply measures the length of your torso.
The table below will give you a good, clear understanding as to what height specifics you will need for a straight shaft and a bent shaft canoe paddle.
What you need to do
- Sit up straight on a flat chair – don’t slouch over
- With a tape measure, measure the length from the actual seat of the chair between your legs right up to your nose.
Once you get your own measurement, follow this table to your own torso specifics. This will give you a very good, accurate reading as to what size of paddle to buy.
The Bent Arm Method
Another great way of measuring up if you have a paddle nearby.
What you need to do
- Hold the paddle over your head and grip the side with the blade with one hand.
- Now try to balance the shaft of the paddle over your head, this should be around mid-way up the paddle.
- If you are able to form your arms roughly at 90 degree angles, then the paddle is a perfect fit for you.
The Book or Kneeling Down Method
This method is like you are actually sitting in the canoe and will give a good measurement for your paddle.
What you need to do
- You can either gather some old books together and set them up or simply kneel down with your bottom raised to the same height that you will be in the canoe (around 6 inches off the floor)
- Measure the distance from the floor to your nose – this would be the correct length if your canoe literally rode on the water’s surface although as you know, part of the hull is below water level.
- Now, add on the length of the blade itself (generally around 20 inches) this measurement and you have your perfect paddle length.
For bent shaft paddles, take around 2 inches off this estimate.
Weight of a canoe paddle
All canoe paddles are made of lightweight materials so they don’t weigh you down when you’re paddling for some time.
They usually come in weights between 18 to 24 ounces (0.5 to 0.7 kilograms) – half the weight of a bag of sugar!
Canoe paddle materials
Canoe paddles are designed with a few materials such as wood, carbon fibre, plastic or aluminium.
As explained, these materials are very lightweight an incredibly durable.
Plastic and aluminium paddles are cheaper to buy and slightly less comfortable compared to wood but great for beginners.
A well-made wooden paddle should be made of either Ash, Spruce, Maple, Walnut or Cherry.
The grain should be straight down the full length of the paddle so it can maintain its strength and durability.
What are the different paddles for canoeing?
These are basically like a kayak paddle, in the sense they have one shaft with a blade at either end of it.
Some come with flat blades and some with a curved blade.
Both are very effective, although I prefer the curved blade as it gives you the additional catch off the water pushing you further forward.
Mainly used by people who take canoeing seriously
These canoeing paddles are beautifully crafted with strong closed grain hardwoods and resin tipped blades.
They are lightweight, comfortable to hold and very durable
Mainly designed for canoeing on lakes or slow moving rivers but are strong enough to battle against any tough currents or fight against any winds that may turn the canoe off course.
Some have their blades wrapped in in fiberglass to give it more resilience against harsher conditions.
They are made available in both straight and bent shaft paddles.
These paddles are designed for rougher terrain such as whitewater.
They are made of highly durable materials with resin tipped blades.
For added durability, the blades are coated in a fibreglass wrap to make sure it can withstand the rugged waters it is paddling in.
Enthusiasts of whitewater canoeing prefer to have these stiffer, stronger paddles.
The grips on the paddles come in 2 forms either T-grip or palm-grip. For expeditions, it may be better to obtain a T- grip paddle as it allows for better control and manoeuvrability by providing a sterner grip.
Recreational paddles are great for exploring, fishing or short trips with your family.
These are excellent to use on lakes or slow moving rivers.
The most common recreational paddle is the Beavertail Paddle. This is a wood laminate with a long rounded blade compared to the generic pear shaped blade.
With the long rounded blade, it’s provides an incredible cut through the water and a greater push off the water’s surface due to the larger area of the blade.
Shafts of a canoe paddle: Straight or Bent?
So there is 2 different types of shafts on a canoe paddle; straight or bent.
Straight shafts are of the most used paddles in canoeing.
They are great on rivers, lakes and whitewater and due to their design they allow for better bracing strokes and manoeuvring.
Bent shafts are more used on flat water for paddling.
Due to its design, it allows the paddler to get better angle of the blade entering and exiting the water with greater efficiency.
The blade will always remain vertical in the water during the full stroke, performing a more effective push off the water.
Get the right grip for your paddle
So once you have the right paddle for you and sized it up, you need to also consider the grip on it.
There are 2 grips of a canoe paddle:
A T-grip allows you to wrap your fingers around the grip allowing for better control and a sterner grip.
It is a grip used more for people who are canoeing on whitewater or great for children as they have smaller hands.
A Palm grip
A palm grip or a pear shaped grip is mainly used for paddlers canoeing on flatwaters such as lakes.
It’s grip offer more comfort and it is ergonomically designed to fit in the palm of your hand perfectly.
Great for long canoeing trips
So, just to recap:
- Sizing up the perfect paddle length for your height will provide a better and more comfortable canoeing experience.
- Choose the right type of paddle for your surroundings, i.e. flatwater or whitewater
- Having the best grip and blade for said surroundings will allow you to paddle with more power and less effort.
Any questions, please do not hesitate to ask and I will get back to you!