canoe paddle grips

Any advice on the different grip types on canoe paddles? I paddle a Vagabond, and am in dire need of a decent paddle. I’ve pretty much decided on straight shaft rather than bent, but don’t know much about the relative merits of each grip. Palm seems the most popular, but I have fairly small hands, and wonder if the tee might serve me better. I’ve never used one–just palm grips. I’ve also noticed that some palm grips are straight, some are slightly angled. Thoughts?

Depends on what you want to do with
your paddle.

If the grip looks the same on both sides its symmetrical. If it looks different its asymmetric and only comfortable holding it one way(in one direction)

T grips are great for whitewater. If you are going to do inwater recoveries or other maneuvers requiring palm rolls, the T grips are less than comfortable. The T grip is for people who need to grip.

On flatwater I prefer a pear grip or modification thereof (I wont get into variable grips as thats a whole other animal) as I can do palm rolls for inwater recoveries and FreeStyle maneuvers.

If the grip is too big you can always sand it down. Carefully.

PS I hate varnished grips too.

Personal choice

– Last Updated: Jan-06-08 5:49 PM EST –

The type of grip to use is a personnal choice, but whatever you decide on it needs to feel very comfortable in your hand. T or barrel grips are commonly used by many moving water paddlers, because they make a stronger coupling with the hand for power strokes. But I also know flatwater trippers that always use paddles with T grips. I prefer palm (pear shaped grips), but most of my canoeing is flatwater and lake to lake tripping and can be long hours in the canoe. The palm grip allows you some flexibility for your hand to move around on the grip - top or either side; closed hand or open hand when pushing the strokes. It helps a lot to keep the feel of the paddle fresh in your hand when you're paddling for long periods. I prefer the dedicated asymmetrical palm grip which should only be used in one direction and dedicates a power face to your straight shaft or bent shaft paddle. With a smaller hand, my guess is a dedicated palm grip will generally be too thick for a small hand and the grip will likely require some reshaping to really feel comfortable. If you go with a symmetrical palm grip, they will be somewhat thinner and maybe fit your hand better from the get go. I build paddles and when I make a "symmetrical" palm grip, I try to have the shaft to grip upsweep curve on one side just a little different than the other side for a different feel to the grip. That way it feels like a different paddle when you flip the paddle over and use the other powerface, and really seems to help on long distance paddling.

Mine has the asymmetric palm grip. One side has a cuved indent and the other side is flatfaced with the shaft. Is the indent for the palm or for the fingers? I am confused about which side is the power face. Either way seems to be comfortable.

Flat side
The flat side of an asymmetrical palm grip is on the same side as the powerface. The flat side should be on your palm.

Thank you so much. No wonder we couldn’t go faster than 6 mph :wink:

Sure wish I didn’t have any paddling … challenges more troublesome than this. :wink:

canoe paddle grips
Since the Vagabond is rarely used as a whitewater boat, I’ll suggest that most (but not all) people would prefer a symetrical pear style grip. Personally, I prefer a symetrical grip because it allows me the most stroke flexibility. You can palm roll with an asymetrical grip but it isn’t as comfortable. The size of the grip is totaly a matter of personal comfort, mostly related to the size of your hand. If you are buying a stock paddle, make sure the grip is large enough that you won’t cramp you hand after an extended time on the water but not so large that you can’t comfortably get you hand around it for firm control. If you are considering a custom paddle, the paddle make should be able to help you with a proper fit. Previous posts on this forum have discussed blade size and shape as well as proper shaft length. If you need help in this area I as well as other regulars on the forum can address those issues.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

and there are quite a few styles of
a basic pear grip. If that is what interests you get one that fits your hand. Pear grips can be huge as in the Cobra grip or quite small as in the Racine paddle.

Here are a selection of pear grip paddles.

I have never liked the dedicated power face that an asymmetric power rip dictates…then again I like to play with my boat even on trips. Palm rolls to wedges are such a nifty maneuver in rocks that block the way to your portage.

Paddle Grips
I prefer a symetrical grip, and a fairly bulbous one at that. After coming to love my Sawyer Voyageur, any Bending Branches paddle seems to have too small a grip for me, even though I have small hands, but honestly it’s a more serious issue in cold weather when I paddle with mittens. The reason I prefer a symetrical grip is that on twisty little creeks or when fighting a crosswind, I often combine an underwater recovery with a steering or correction stroke, and often that means I spin the shaft 180 degrees between each stroke. With an asymetrical grip, every second stroke would leave me with the grip in a non-optimum position. However, for “normal” paddling, an asymetrical grip can be pretty nice.

I only use a T-grip for whitewater. It gives me a very firm grasp on the paddle, which is nice for doing hard prys, etc. For ordinary paddling, I find the grip to be cumbersome when flipping my wrist down for the J-stroke. People who do stern prys instead of Js often seem to like a T-grip better.

I think T-grips would be more popular
if they weren’t so simple. My whitewater slalom paddles, with their fancy curved blades and carbon shafts, came with just a drilled piece of dowel for a t-grip. I’ve carved a variety of t-grips, giving them an arched top, and more recently making them assymetrical (might as well, since a curved blade has only one power face). I’ve arrived at a design that is more comfortable and more effective than basic T-grips, and also seems as comfortable for cruising as pear grips I’ve used in the past.

It is unfortunate that the economics of commercial paddle production have not yet provided grip alternatives for individual hand sizes and preferences. The dowel T-grip is equally bad for almost everyone, except that it does work pretty well in whitewater.

not yet provided grip alternatives
Custom paddles can solve that problem. Any size and style grip you like. For that matter, almost any size or shape of blade and shaft. Unfortunately, none of this comes at the price of a production paddle.

Mar Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Marc, if I ever do have the cash for a custom paddle, you’ll be hearing from me! I checked out your website and couldn’t believe how gorgeous your paddles are. Unfortunately, right now I’m looking more in the 100-150 range. Thanks to everyone for such excellent information. Since I am (temporarily) living in east Texas, I will mostly be on flatwater, and it seems clear to me from all the advice that my best choice is going to be a symmetrical palm grip. This really helps me with my choice. Thanks again–this forum is an awesome resource!

I’m fine about custom orders of shaft
and blade… All of my curved blade paddles are custom. But I’ve gotten good enough at making grips that I think the custom manufacturers should look at what I am doing. I would not order a paddle with an installed grip, and I would not order a grip that I had not tried out in advance.

I don’t have a web picture hosting service yet, but when I do, I will post a few of my successes and qualified failures.

Grips styles come
and grip styles go…Check out the paddle section of this website:

Ono of the most comfortable T grips I ever used was the old Norse grip. Mitchell has always had a comfy one too. Bending Branches current T grip is a bit on the narrow side, but I have plans on widening the one on my paddle. It seems to have a good basic shape though.

The least comfortable T was on the old Clement Trois Riviere paddles from the 60s and 70s. Just a straight dowel glued on the shaft. (I still have a soft spot in my heart for those sticks though.)

The asymmetrical palm grip on my Bell VooDoo was a bit bulbous so I have been gently removing wood to make spaces for my thumbs.

The asymmetrical pear on my BB has a nice shape, but it too is a bit narrow for my hands. Gonna remedy that too.

Now, where was I going with this response? Oh, yes. Wood grips are not cast in concrete. Experiment! A rasp and some sandpaper can work wonders on an otherwise ho-hum feeling grip.


The best wooden t-grip I have done is
similar to the redstone “bentshaft” grip, except that mine is properly undercut to allow pivoting with the thumb as the axis. And of course, mine is much bigger, because I have a hand too large for most grips.

I used Norses for years, and never liked the grips. The arc was ok, but they were smallish, and the neck got in the way of my fingers coming over the top of the grip.