canoe paddle ?

I need to buy new paddles for my 17’ old town discovery. I have never had to buy paddles before, I just used the ones I got with the boat. I was wondering what type of paddle I should be looking at, or if it even really matters. Should I get a bent or straight shaft? Why? I also see that blades can be different shapes. Does this matter? I primarily use the boat on non-moving fresh water with an occasional river tossed in. I haven’t, and don’t plan on taking it through more than very mild class III rapids though. I appreciate any hints, tips, and info.



A few suggestions
First get the lightest paddle that you can.

Naturally light weight equates to more bucks.

It also equates to less fatigue on an all day paddle.

Second if you know someone with a bent shaft ask them if you can try it out.

Bent shaft is a must if you are racing, but on recreational paddling it is not necessary.

I switched to bent many moons ago, mainly because I got into racing, but now even when I paddle my OT Disco I use it just because I am so used to it.

With all that said, if your paddling is such that you have to do a lot of pushing off gravel bottoms on shallow rivers forget the above and get a heavier duty straight shaft paddle.



Mohawk Paddles
If you’re just replacing paddles for an OT Disco, I’d go with a simple aluminum/plastic paddle that runs between $20 - $25. T handle. 8" blade. Such as Others make them as well.

Although inexpensive, these really are not bad paddles. I take one as my back up paddle for wilderness trips. They are nearly indescructable, work decent, and are a good value.

mohawk doubles
i use a mohawk double bladed canoe paddle…its more efficient, has flat blades, and floats .

IMO for $45 its hard to beat… but it is heavy.

two doubles in a tandem an you would fly

Beaver Creek
Until recently I was using FeatherLite wooden straight shaft paddles of various lengths. They worked just fine. Ive push-poled with them, used them as shovels, generaly used & abused them. I only broke one & that was from stepping on it. D’oh! Other than that there is rot & termites but those are easily avoided by storing your paddles dry & indoors. I havent seen a less expensive or more readily available wooden paddle. Walmart sells them for $12-$18, in lengths of 4feet to 6feet.

A few months ago we bought Beaver Creek paddles from Cabelas, about $13 each on sale. OK, fine, I admit it, theyre oars at 6feet long. We use such long paddles because we find our selves push-poleing & using them for braces against logs. We’ve also been known to stand & paddle. These are aluminium shafts with t-top handles & plastic blades. The angle of the blade can be adjusted by holding the blade steady & turning the shaft. They are on tight so its a two person job. I forget the dimensions of the blade but they are wide & long. I like that. They do weigh quite a bit more than the FeatherLite but I dont notice any extra fatigue. We like these paddles.

On paddle length. 6feet long is long. Most folks seem to go with 5-5 1/2 feet. Id rather have longer than I need than be stuck with too short. Still though, I’ll be getting a 5 foot soon. With the 6 we sometimes hold the shaft with both hands. One hand on top & one on the shaft is just generaly more efficient & comfortable.

Grey Owl or Mitchell
Maybe I’m just a very conservative ww paddler, but I find class III rapids aren’t very “mild”! I’m always surprised how many people casually discuss canoeing class IIIs.

I’d imagine someone contemplating class IIIs in their Discovery is fairly experienced and active with paddling. If that’s the case, true that a $20 Mohawk will get the basics done, but you might prefer to step it up a notch to something like a Grey Owl C-1, or other ww paddles like a Mitchell.

I think straight shafts give you more options for moving water and shallow water, and I’d start with that. I if you want add specialized bent shafts or different blade shapes for deep water cruising, you can get those later - I think a sturdy tripping or ww blade gives you the most flexibility.


agree with Mohawk on the double paddle. I have a double canoe paddle, aluminium and plastic. Gives you 2x the power/speed, and makes it so effortless to manouver and navagate! Plus I have the two ‘t handles’ that link together that allow you do break down the double paddle, and use each end as a single paddle. This allows me to at all times have a spare paddle with out having to bother with the hastle of carrying one…

only down fault is that if you are trying to manuver under brush, low limbs, or through log jams… the extra long lenght of a double paddle is more then a bit awkward…

All in all, for all the times I’ve cussed the paddle, I’ve praised it 1000 times!

2 times the power/speed?
that’s just not true. actually, over a long day, you’ll do much more “work” than someone with a light singleblade. probaly along the lines of thousands of pounds versus a ZRE paddle. with a good canoe and paddling technique you don’t need a kayak paddle. if you just like using them, fine with me. but they don’t give you twice the power and definitely NOT twice the speed.

I use both the single and double paddle
They all have their place.

The single paddle is fantastic in tight spots or for making those maneuvers that leave kayak enthusiats scratching their heads over how you did it.

The double bladed paddle is less versatile, but when you need speed or want to tackle a strong crosswind, it will outperform a single every time. I even commit the cardinal sin of using a double paddle when solo canoeing in whitewater. It works quite well.

I am not a fan of bentshaft paddles. They were invented for a class of racing that does not let you use a double bladed paddle. I’m not a racer, so it gives me no advantage. A bentshaft paddle does nothing that I couldn’t do easier with a double paddle. You pay a price when you go to a bentshaft paddle. Here is an example:

Sit in the middle of a tandem canoe, facing the bow.

Point the stern at an object in the water.

While keeping the stern pointed at that object, pivot 360 degrees around it; like a clock hand.

This maneuver is no problem with a straight single bladed paddle. It doesn’t even require that much effort if you have mastered the skulling stroke. The skulling stroke is kinda clumsy with a bentshaft single paddle or a double paddle.

Although I have not tried a wing paddle yet, I hear that they suffer from decreased versatility as compared to a standard double paddle. I do want to try one in the near future and make my own opinion.

I advise that you buy an inexpensive model of both a straight single and a straight double. I have found that I need them both under differing circumstances. In a very short time you will have your own opinions and you will not have wasted any money on overpriced specialty paddles.

Put simply: If I paddle all day with a single, I come back tired and my lower back is killing me. If I paddle all day with a double, I come back tired.

I would say you should totally dive in head first and buy all the paddles you can because they are fun to buy. Actually, I have bent shaft paddles that hand on the wall nearly all season till a big trip comes. I have a beavertail that hangs till I feel like mixing things up. Most of the time I use a 50 dollar bending branch. It is straight with a rounded grip. I also use my expedition plus if I am getting into bigger water. For easy cruising and light rapids most cheap paddles will work. Galyans has a nice paddle for 25 bucks (last time I bought one). It has a short wide blade that comes in handy on the creeks when the water gets thin. I really like it and it cost less than half of my others.

The least expensive paddles from some of the big makers are usually nice and light because they’re made of light woods and are not laminated like more expensive paddles.

So if you want value I think you can’t go wrong with a Grey Owl Scout or a Bending Branches Loon (or any other inexpensive Bending Branches paddle). These are around $30/each and they are great paddles. Go pick a light one out if you have a dealer with a bunch of paddles. My wife loves her Grey Owl Scout and won’t let me buy her a carbon fiber paddle. Maybe a 57 inch for you if you are anywhere around 5’9" to 6’1" and maybe a 54 inch for a shorter partner.

I like Bending Branches for value and I’ve found 4-5 outstanding ones over the years that compare well to paddles that cost much more.

For allaround use and for folks that don’t paddle that often, straight shaft paddles are hard to beat. My take is that you don’t need to bother with bent shaft paddles.

If you want to spend a lot more money I’d point you towards Zaveral straight shaft carbon fiber paddles.

==> just my two cents

Single blade
I am a staunch advocate of the single blade. The double will work you twice as hard and therefore is twice as INefficent as the single. You just cannot do correct strokes. My advise is to learn how to propel the canoe in all conditions with a single BEFORE trying out a double bladed paddle.

For regular day trips my choices are a homemade ottertail, Mitchel Cnaoe Point, and my Zav bent shaft(12 oz).