Types of Canoe Paddles


Materials

Wood

Preferred by most canoeists, it has a beautiful appearance and a pleasant feel. Wood retains the warmth of your hands in cool weather and transmits the feel of the water well, helping you achieve a smooth stroke. Wood requires some maintenance. Many manufacturers increase the durability of wood paddles with tip guards – pieces of composite plastic or fiberglass built into the tips. Some also overlay their wooden paddles with fiberglass of Kevlar on the blade surface.

Fiberglass

Often found in the shaft and blades of more expensive paddles, it allows manufacturers to vary flexibility and performance to match intended end uses. Its durability makes fiberglass a fine choice for whitewater canoeing paddles. The weight of fiberglass paddles varies greatly, with the lighter ones being more expensive and the heavier, entry-level paddles being more affordable.

canoe paddle types

Polyethlyene/aluminum

Typically found in entry-level paddles, which have a polyethylene plastic blade attached to an aluminum shaft that has a plastic T-grip. These paddles are a durable choice for beginning paddlers and an affordable option as a spare paddle. The aluminum shaft is usually quite stiff, and the plastic blades flex a bit, which makes these paddles less comfortable to use for long periods of time. The aluminum shafts can also get cold, so most are covered with vinyl or foam where your lower hand grasps them.

Shaft

Straight

This traditional style is great for all types of paddling conditions. On rivers, most paddlers use straight-shaft paddles because they can be used for a variety of maneuvering strokes.

Bent

Best used for flatwater paddling or cruising, these paddles feature a bend in the shaft that helps position it for maximum efficiency. The bend orients the paddle blade roughly vertical in the water at the strongest part of your stroke. It also helps the paddle enter and exit the water smoothly. Most bent shafts have a 14-degree bend. Some paddlers prefer a paddle with less bend, sacrificing some efficiency for the ability to perform a greater variety of strokes. Paddles with even a slight bend will still be more efficient than a straight-shaft paddle on flatwater.

wooden canoe paddle

Grips

Palm

This teardrop or pear-shaped grip fits comfortably into the palm of your hand. It gives you good control and is easy to use for hours.

T-Grip

Gives the most control over the angle of your paddle blade, making it a good choice for whitewater. This grip is also easy to hang onto in rough conditions, and easy for small hands to grasp.

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