SELECTING THE RIGHT PADDLE
Paddle selection is important to paddling efficiently. Paddle grips and shafts must fit the hands comfortably to reduce fatigue. The blade needs careful shaping with relieved shoulders to work closely under the canoe. Tips must be rounded to enter the water cleanly at the catch and reinforced for strength. Edges must be tight, side panels smooth and the center rib evenly fared into both faces for the paddle to slice through the water smoothly. Blade size must match paddler cadence and strength.
Double-blade paddles optimize performance in kayaks and pack canoes. Blade size should be kept smallish to reduce strain, and the shaft should fit comfortably in the user’s hand. Double-blade paddles must have adjustable feather for both left and right hand control and must be as light as possible because horizontal strokes require supporting the paddle in front of the body.
Because canoes are higher and wider than kayaks, a longer double-blade paddle is required. Lengths that reach the water easily over high gunwales and keep paddle drip out are generally in the 220-240cm range. Shorter lengths require an aggressive vertical stroke that deposits water in the canoe. Counter-intuitively, taller paddlers fit shorter paddles and smaller paddlers need longer paddles to submerge the blade in the water over the gunwales. A shouldered boat, such as the Spitfire, allows a slightly shorter double-blade paddle to be used than a constant flare, or “bubble-sided,” boat due to the decreased width at the top of the gunwales.
Smaller blades and a high cadence are more efficient over distance than larger blades. Most importantly, select a light paddle. Single-blade paddles are supported by their own buoyancy. Double-blade paddles, especially when used at low angles, are held in the air by the paddler, and ounces count.
Double-blade paddles used in pack canoes should be fitted to the paddler in the boat.
A straight paddle improves comfort and control for kneeling paddlers. The blade should fit the paddler’s strength and intended cadence. The shaft should be nicely oval, filling the hand comfortably, and the top grip fit will aid control.
A bent paddle optimizes performance for sitting paddlers by moving the effective stroke aft, alongside the seated paddler’s thigh, with a twelve-degree bend. As the stroke is closer to the paddlers body and effective torso rotation is reduced by sitting, the bent blade should be smaller than a straight blade, but oval shaft and top grip should, again, fall comfortably to hand.
Selecting a single-blade paddle of proper paddle length to fit your body, paddling style and canoe is easy. We fit shaft length, from the grip to the throat, where the shaft joins the blade. Blade length doesn’t matter.
With a firm grasp on the top grip, support the paddle upside down, allowing the grip hand to drop, until fully extended downward. The blade should be above the head; the shaft directly in front of the paddler’s nose.
The position of the paddle throat, where blade and shaft meet, is the key to paddle fit. Straight paddles should fit the paddle throat to the hairline or an inch higher, as kneeling paddlers need the reach to start the forward stroke in front of the knee and to reach cross strokes.
Bent paddle shafts should fit the paddle throat to the bridge of the paddler’s nose. Sitting paddlers stroke from knee to hip and rarely use cross strokes. Shorter shafts place the blade underwater.