Attention canoe paddlers

Dear Paddlers,

I’m wanting to order a Bending Branches bent shaft paddle and I’m really wondering about the proper length before I lay down my eighty bucks. I think probably I want either a 52" or a 54" and ASSUMING THE TWO INCH DIFFERENCE IS IMPORTANT, I want to be sure as possible before I order. I don’t have the opportunity to test either length in trial runs so I’m going to have to take a stab at ordering ‘blind.’ Would some of my vital stats help? I’m 6’2", my torso measurement (chair seat to chin is 29", to nose 31"…I’ve seen it both ways). I’ll be paddling a Vagabond Solo with an adjustable seat. Pretend you’re me. Would you go with a 52" or 54"? Thanks so much!

3rd 52"
I’m your size and use the 52" it feels great.

Go with the 52
I am a tad shorter than you and I use a 50" bent shaft paddle and find it is a very good fit. I paddle almost 100% from a setted position in both a Vagabond and in a Bell Magic.

Drive down to Bainbridge, NY and try out Foxworx paddles at the shop.

Paddle length.
Here’s a paddle fit method that will allow you to make such choices with repeatability in future.

Sit upright on a flat bench, step or chair. measure from the chair to the tip of you nose to acquire shaft length for bent paddles for a sit-down boat.

Bridge of the nose for a bent used kneeling; hairline or an inch above for a straight paddle for kneeling.

Alter suggestions with personal experience to better fit you and boat stance in future.

remember 1. The paddle blade must be burried to minimize ventilation - air being sucked down the backface. 2. Tripping loads need shorter paddles.


Why Bent?
Do you sit and switch all the time or race?

Just wondering?

if you were me
you would be like 5 inches shorter. the 52 sounds right, but don’t you have any local shops to check out? they would have the mesuring stick shaft. a shop would have better info by seeing you and a paddle at the same time. I also try to go a little shorter than the “right” measurment.


Man I hate ordering stuff
I like to try it and then buy it.

But I’d go smaller than you like for a straight blade. For me that is a 50 or 52.

I also say 52" or shorter. When in doubt always go shorter, as it will provide you with more control. Unless of course you buy a paddlle like a ZRE which can be shortened to your liking by removing the handle and cutting the shaft.

Ok, I’ll be the decenting vote
I’m saying the 54". My rule of thumb is you want a bent shaft 4" shorter than your straight shaft. Do you use a straight shaft now? What’s its length? Substract 4".

I’m 5’8" and like a 58" straight shaft. When I use a bent shaft, I use a 54". Now for the sake of arguement lets say that I like my paddles a bit long. You’re 6’2", 6" taller than me. It would make sense that your extra 6" of hieght would compensate for the extra paddle length that I like.

Anyway, that’s my reasoning.


I love my bending branches 52 and I’m a bit under 6’1" and I would not want a 54. I’ve got a few bents and most are 52 and none are longer and many are shorter and you’re right 2 inches makes a big difference.

Bending Branches Sizing Chart
This is the Bending Branches Sizing Chart

BTW – I just measured myself and have a “between the legs to nose” measurement of 32". According to the chart, that sizes me for a 54" bent shaft paddle.

Also, here’s what the Sawyer Paddle website had to say about it:

“In modern straight shaft canoe paddles the most common sizes are 56”-58" for men and 52"-54" for women. Bent shaft paddle common sizes are mainly 54" for men and 50"-52" for women. These size ranges are based on the average body sizes of 5’ 10" for men and 5’ 6" for women utilizing an average blade length of 20"-22".

The above is based on statistical criteria. Obviously, not all people meet those statistics. The following is a guideline for you to determine your specific needs, based on your body dimensions, paddle type and blade size of your type of paddle.

· Sit on a flat surface

· Measure from your seat to your eye level

· Add the distance from your boat seat to the water line

· Add the length of blade for your desired paddle

Once you’ve combined the above measurements, you have a good idea of the range you should look for."

Most paddle manufacturers
sell only by total length, not by length of shaft. Obviously paddles of varying blade lengths marked with the same total length will have varying shaft lengths. I wish paddle manufacturers would get with it (a few Canadian paddle makers do list shaft length). Anyway, shaft length relative to paddler torso height in paddling position* is key to determining proper fit. A proper fit is achieved when you’re comfortable holding the paddle so that the throat of the blade is right at the water-line. For most people the grip is somewhere around your chin to your eyebrows or even your forehead – that is a comfort factor that only you can determine.

*paddling position variables include (but are not limited too): bow, stern or solo position, loaded or unloaded canoe, sitting or kneeling, seat height in relation to water level, straight or bent shaft and personal preference. Etc, etc, etc…

The fact is you’ll have to experiment and figure out what works best for you with each paddle, in your boat in the position you favor. It seems like something in the 52-54” range would work for you, but buy what you think will work. If that length doesn’t work then trade it if off or sell it and try another length. Or just keep it for a guest to use. Bending Branches paddles are well made yet very moderately priced - a good value. It probably wouldn’t break the bank to have an extra lying around. If you end up with an extra hang it on the rack with the dozen (or more) others you’re almost bound to accumulate. FWIW, it’s not unusual for a canoeist to have a gaggle of paddles, most do. My rack bristles with a good two dozen – actually they’re not all good… but the rack doth bristle. – my discounted two cents worth - Randall

I just re-read the original post and see that your “between the legs to nose” measurement is 31". Well, according to the chart you fall right smack inbetween the recommended 52’ and 54" length. I guess that means you’re a 53". :slight_smile:

Thanks, guys!

Thanks for everyone who replied regarding my question regarding paddle length. I don’t want to get sappy here, but it’s great having a forum where you can get the benefit of so much expertise, especially when we’ve got some very experienced responders here.