Beavertail vs. Ottertail paddle

I was wondering what the difference is between paddling a beavertail vs. ottertail canoe paddle? Are they used under different paddling conditions? Assuming an identical blade length, what is the difference in performance? My husband and I paddle quiet water, and as the stern paddler, he uses a Bending Branches beavertail, which has a 6.75" blade. I’m looking at an ottertail with a 5.5" blade to paddle in the bow. Would this combination work, or is the ottertail too skinny or otherwise inappropriate for the bow? Any info would be appreciated.
There are several articles in the arcives here that address use of beaver and otter tailed blades. I’m really not familiar with these kind of paddles, so I don’t have an opinion. However, the articles mention the otter tail is appropriate for the stern paddler.

There are many varialbes among boats, paddlers, paddles, and conditions, such that these “rules” are subject, in my opinion, to the law of practicality, which is: whatever works for you.


I agree totally with Chip …
… it’s whatever works for you .

I’ve always wanted an ottertail to use when I felt like it . As you know they have a smaller blade surface area which I believe would have a bit less power than than the 6-3/4" beavertail , but then again I have this thought that that is the “beauty” of them .

I suggest you get the ottertail paddle and tell us how you like it . Never hurts to have extra paddles , and at least one (1) extra on board anyway .

I’m going to have an ottertail someday , I certain of it .

Thanks for the feedback!
I love the classic look of both the beavertail and the ottertail. But I guess my primary concern was whether the math works out, i.e. I’m a 5’3" woman in the front of the canoe, my husband is 5’9" in the back, he has more powerful arms, etc., and I’d be using a 5.5" wide blade, while he’s got the 6.75". And I wouldn’t want to buy a paddle (I’d have to order it and might not have the chance to test it out first) and then find out that the differential force caused by a wide vs. skinny blade and our different physical strengths handicapped us from the start and that our canoe was careening in circles - haha.

But you get my point: if the beavertail, which provides more power to start with, is in the hands of the more powerful paddler, is me using the skinnier ottertail going to ‘unbalance’ us even more? I’d love people to weigh in on this…

BTW, here’s a link to an inexpensive, simple, and nice looking ottertail I found; besides the narrower width, the profile isn’t that different from a beavertail:, from


you should be fine
i think you’re picking the right paddles.

a stronger, larger person can typically handle more blade surface, while smaller paddlers typically go for smaller blade size and a higher stroke rate.

you guys will obviously want your stroke rate to be the same, but a larger blade is not going to give you more power in the bow. you are as strong as your are.

a smaller blade may actually help you keep a good pace. i doubt your stern partner is strong enough to throw you two off course or make paddling difficult.

Otter tail is quieter
I have several different paddles but the one I grab the most would be considered an otter tail, I guess. When I’m watching for wildlife, it seems to be quieter- maybe less swoosh in the water. It’s also less fatiguing for me. I do carry a beavertail for when I’m in shallower water as the tip of the ottertail doesn’t have a lot of surface area to push with.

I like it: U R what U R
So right. Otherwise you’d see small paddlers out there with huge paddles as equalizers.

Also, I would think that perfectly balanced bow and stern paddlers are the exception, not the rule. Paddling stern, I am almost always correcting for one reason or another and can’t blame it on the bow paddler.

Supposedly the otter tails are easier on the paddler, but the main thing I have against them is that when you get in shallow water it is hard to get much “bite” in the water, because not much blade is submerged. You didn’t say what kind of paddling you are going to do, but if it will be deep lakes or rivers, you will probably be happy with the otter tail.