Canoe Paddle

I have a mad river solo rx - and i am looking into upgrading my paddle - i currently have a carlisle basic recreational paddle. The paddle will be used mostly for river tripping and camping.

paddle recommendations
You don’t say how much you want to spend, how much you want your paddle to weigh, what you want it to be made of, or what kind of grip you want (T-grip or palm grip, with variations).

I use a Grey Owl Freestyle paddle often. It’s wooden and quite beautiful. Palm grip, which I prefer – symmetric palm grip, to allow palm-rolling the paddle to swap faces. It will take some river knocks but isn’t a true whitewater paddle. The Freestyle model is discontinued but may still be available from a few dealers or direct from Grey Owl. US$120 last fall, IIRC.

I also have a Werner river-tripping paddle that I use for more intense whitewater. It’s made of fiberglass and is not beautiful. T-grip, which serious whitewater paddlers seem to prefer. I can’t remember the model name that I bought, but it’s similar to what they now sell as the Nantahala for US$150 MSRP.

Zaveral and Mitchell are two highly regarded manufacturers that sell whitewater paddles, but I haven’t tried their wares myself. Both are probably more expensive than what I named above.

For less money, check out Bending Branches, another reputable manufacturer. I have had a couple of their paddles and didn’t like them as much as my Grey Owls and Werners, but other paddlers are very happy with their BBs.

– Mark

Lots of great choices
There are too many great choices to list. The first things I’d do is try as many others paddles as you can. If you cannot do that then get some inexpensive paddles and figure out what type works best for you.

My first bent shaft paddle was from Mohawk. It is heavy but is more durable and has a better grip than the carlise’s. Bent shaft paddles are fine for sit and switch paddling. But not so great if you are paddling on the same side of the boat for more than 3 to 5 strokes at a time.

So list what type of paddling you do: Deep lakes of shallow rocky creeks? And list what materials you would prefer: Wood or Composite? Then list what style of paddling you do. Long slow cruising, fast competitive paddling, White water, etc.

I am open to all suggestions
mark thanks for the ideas

i do not mind spending a few dollars to get a good paddle. i have a werner sherpa for my whitewater kayak. Basically i am using a paddle that i got cheap off of my neighbor. so i am totally open to all suggestions. i have no prefernce in the material type. I am not sure what the appropriate weight range is. i am just over 6 feet tall. i do not need a whitewater canoe paddle. the biggest water that i will get into with my solo is probally a II.

type of water paddled
mostly very moderate rivers - usually with gear for camping.

maybe up to a class II but as flat as the suwanee…

start cheap, then
I recommend you buy an inexpensive wooden Bending Branches straight-shaft with a palm grip, 56 inches long, and use that to decide what you want to change. If you’re like me, you can’t know what you like until you’ve used a paddle for a while, so you’re probably going to get rid of the first one you buy, anyway; might as well make it a cheap one.

Issues to think about as you decide what “better” means: If you’re like me, you’ll prefer a thin blade to a thick one, a narrow blade to a wide one, a smooth face to an exposed rib, wood to fiberglass/aluminum/plastic (though I paddled a Zaveral carbon recently and now want one), asymmetric palm grip to symmetric (so one face is always the power face), narrow but bulbous palm grip to the more common wide, flattish palm grip.

I’m assuming you want a straight-shaft. I sometimes use a bent-shaft paddle even on mild rivers, but that opens up another can of questions and possibilities…

– Mark

personal paddle
This can be a very long and complex topic. My advise is to examine closely your particular paddling style and bio-mechanics and choose a paddle which fits them best. Particularly look at your preferred forward stroke. Do you use predominately an in-water recovery or out? Sit & switch, J-correction, pry-correction? Is course control mostly achieved with with strokes, side-slips, or ruddering?

If you kneel a straight shaft might be preferred. Do you palm roll a lot? How good is your torso rotation? If you sit and torso rotation is not used much then maybe a bent shaft would be good.

Form follows function is never truer than in paddle selection.

T-grip vs. pear-grip may have to do with how much finessee you use when maneuvering. Shaft length and section with how high you raise your grip hand during a forward stroke; shoulder shape with what type of water you’re paddling and how vertical your shaft on the forward; blade shape…etc. This could go for about 10 pages.

Experiment ! Don’t forget to pay close attention and compare.


oval shaft
I forgot about shaft section – thanks for the reminder. I much prefer an oval shaft to a round one. That will probably cost you a little more.

– Mark