Canoe Paddles

Hello everyone. I am new to canoe ownership, so please bare with me. After a lot of research on the net, and talking with a knowledgeable dealer, I have decided on an Old Town Discovery 164. I will pick this boat up soon.

However, I am having trouble finding info on paddles. The boat will be used mostly on inland lakes, ponds, and slow rivers. Sometimes in quite shallow areas. Are there certain paddles that work best for this? Or do I just find some that I like and that fit me properly? Price is an issue as well.

Also, I eventually want to try some light white water canoeing in the distant future. Do you recommend a different style paddle for this? Or are there paddles that do well at everything? Kind of a jack of all trades, master of none?

Are there other issues I should look at? Are there paddle buyers guides or guidelines on the web that you can point me too?


just one guy’s opinion
Mohawk’s 8" T-grip paddles are great, inexpensive, lightweight beater paddles. They’ll hold up just fine to whitewater, too.

I’m 5’10" and use a 57" for kneeling in a solo whitewater boat. Would probably go a couple inches longer for sitting in a boat like the one you’re getting. If you’re taller or shorter than me, then adjust accordingly in paddle length.

There are two types and many materials
- Straight shaft and bent shaft.

Of the materials, the lighter the paddle is, the less fatigued you will be at the end of the day, but the lighter the paddle is the more it will cost and usuakky the more delicate it is.

Material choice is wood, aluminum, fibreglass and carbon fiber and el cheapo plastic

Aluminum may sound light, but they usually have a plastic blade and are the heaviest, but also the toughest.

Wood can be heavy or light, and there is nothing more beautiful than a light weight fine crafted wooden paddle.

Fiberglass is the middle man.

Carbon fibre is very light and is what most racers use.

Most paddlers start with a straight shaft, and many stay with it.

If you ever get into racing you will or should go to bent shaft which translates to more power.

Once a paddler switches to bent shaft, they usually don’t switch back.

I use bent shaft on flat water and also down river racing.



I second the vote for Mohawk
You’re getting a tough and heavy boat so why not get tough and heavy paddles to go with it. Mohawk paddles can be bought over the phone and shipping is only $10 or so. They make two paddles widths, two handle styles, and any lengths you want. They paddle very well and feel good in your hands. No paddle is more durable. I paddle short trips up to 20 miles a day and have not noticed any problems with paddle weight.

The other sort of tough and basic choice is Carlise plastic and aluminum paddles. Don’t be fooled. While these are sold every where and loolk very similar, they are not the same as a Mohawk. They don’t feel as nice, they make much more noise in the water and they break!

Are you solo or tandem? A double…
…paddle (NOT kayak paddle) is what I use. Needs to be longer than in a kayak to avoid dripping. Lots of power, sweeps, & pries. I carry a bent-shaft single but rarely use it. Some folks see regular paddles as part of an art form, and like to get skilled with all the different strokes. I don’t.

Thanks for the replies.
Thanks for the replies so far. Solo or tandem? Well, it will be both. Much of the time I will be with my two kids. My wife will come along now and then, and will paddle occasionally, but most of the time it will be left up to me. There will be times when I go out solo.


– Last Updated: Apr-03-06 5:50 AM EST –

nice power, not too heavy. I used one to pole down the last twelve miles of the Susquahanna when I did the 90 miler last year.Added benifit is if you manage to breal it, it can be repaired.

Paddling solo
If you will be the main paddler I would look at the Mohawk double blade canoe paddle. I have one of these for use in my Old Town Penobscot when going solo. As a previous poster said it provides good power, sweeps and pries. It makes it easier to control the boat in wind and waves as well. I also carry a bent shaft paddle for use in calmer water and when I just want to manuever a little bit when fishing.

you’ve got a good boat
My first canoe was a Disco 164 – and I still have it and use it on ccasion.

For casual paddling with the family, I don’t think you need to spend a lot on paddles.

Unlike a kayak where you have to hold the thing in front of your chest as if you’re doing calisthenics, a standard, single-bladed paddle should serve you well to start with.

Spend $25 per paddle now for a set and plan on treating yourself next year with a lighter paddle.

I prefer wood, others do not.

Getting back to the 164; It is no longer our “regular” boat because my wife didn’t care for the 164’s stability issues.

My paddling group calls it the tippy canoe, as it is a touring canoe built to carry some weight and the rounded bottom provides only marginal initial stability when the canoe isn’t packing 400 lbs. of gear.

I fixed the problem by fashioning seat extenders and lowered the seats 1-1/2". The lowered center of gravity didn’t change any of the paddling characteristics, but it makes the craft feel rock solid, especially when paddling solo.


on the other hand
Because my wife didn’t like the boat’s edginess but enjoyed canoeing, she kept wanting us to get a “better” boat.

We HAD to buy three more until we found one she liked that we could use for casual tandem paddling.


Whiskeyjack Paddles
Take a look at these. I got a chance to see them at Canoecopia. Nicest I’ve seen yet. Real works of art.

are really personal items… because of this I’m reluctant to suggest anything. They’re like canoes but its cheaper to build a collection. One man’s meat is another’s poison, y’know.

Having so prefaced, I’m inclined to say I really prefer wood paddles. Its warmer and “just feels right” to me. Personally, I think light weight is sometimes overrated as a virtue. Unless you’re racing or are in huge waves or some other unusual condition you always have the option of doing underwater recoveries on your paddle strokes. Who cares what a paddle weighs if you don’t lift it?

I like long, relitively narrow blades for that. Less drag on recovery because of the higher aspect ratio. But you need a couple feet of water under you to use those most effectively.

Shorter wider blades are nicer in shallow waters I believe and on those I look for some rounding to the edges. It minimizes flutter and is less likely to get caught between rocks. Wrap around rock guards are nice, I believe. Sawyer makes a good, though a bit pricey, paddle of that type. (The voyageur, I think they call it)

I like ZRE’s, the racers especially seem to love 'em. I liked the WhiskeyJack’s which I, too saw for the first time at Canoecopia. I love the similar Wildwood paddles - they’re works of art and priced as such. Doubt that’s what you’re after though…

I really like Grey Owls. The sprite 14 or touring 12, guide, sugar island, or chieftain might be worth your consideration. Their not the cheapest, but they’re far from the most expensive. (An extra coat or two of spar varnish helps them, I think.) I believe they’re a good value. Might want to check them out.

I’m with baldpaddler. The ZRE rec paddle is pretty light and still takes a tremendous beating.

Mohawks are fine for flatwater or easy
whitewater. Just make sure you don’t use too short a paddle. Once you accumulate experience, you will have opportunities to try other paddles. There are certainly some that are lighter, as durable, and that feel better in the water than Mohawks. When you try them, your Mohawks will become spares.

You’ve got a lot of varying advice here. Some are recommending high-end paddles. There’s nothing wrong with that. A good is a pleasure to use. But let’s face it; you’re entry level with a entry level canoe (which you will be happy with by the way). You’ve said that cost is an issue, so I have to agree with somalley. Those mohawks are decent paddles and at a good price.

Personally I have a wenonah aluminum/plastic paddle, but they are similar. That paddle is my back up. If something happens to my main paddle, I want a durable, functional paddle to get me home. I believe I paid about $25 for it.

Get one of those (a mohawk or wenonah or something similar) for now. You may be very happy with it and it may be the only paddle you ever own. Or at some point you may upgrade. If you do, keep your aluminum/plastic paddle as your back up.

Spend a little more on your PFD.


– Last Updated: Apr-03-06 5:08 PM EST –

I'm a long-time canoer with traditional straight-shaft paddles. I recently bought my first canoe as well (Wenonah Adirondack) and went with Bending Branches Special bent shaft wooden paddles - after having borrowed one briefly on a recent canoe trip and falling in love with them. The paddle is SUPER light, very comfortable on your hands, and so pretty to look at. Best of luck with your new canoe.

Paddle cost
There is cheap, less than $50, there is midrange $50-150 and there is really expensive $150+.

Going from the really cheap wooden and plastic paddles to a slightly more expensive paddle is worth the money. You will get a better shaped grip, better reinforcement of the blade tip and in general a lighter weight paddle.

Going from the low end to the midrange paddles get you again lighter weight, better shaped grips and shafts, stronger blades and better shapes which lead to better paddling.

Going to the high end gets you lighter weight, fancier designs on the blade, and better finishes on the wood.

How far you go depends on your tastes, wallet, and what you have used.

For paddling slowly and for short distances, even a 2 x 4 will work. But paddling should be a fun time on the water, and a good paddle is essential to having fun.

For young people, small people and old people, paddle weight can make the difference between a fun time and work. No matter what your paddling style, holding a heavy paddle means more work for your arms and shoulders. And paddling with a paddle with a poorly shaped grip means blisters and sore hands. Even a smooth grip with a bad shape forces you to exert more force to hold the paddle and control your stroke and that leads to tired hands and cramps.

Many will advise to buy cheap paddles at first. The paddle is your direct connection to the water, it must be comfortable in your hands, be the right length, and have a good blade shape to enter the water smoothly, grab the water as you pull, and translate your input into thrust to move and manuever your canoe. If it does not do these things well, your experience will not be as fun as it could be.

Deal with a reputable paddle shop, not a discount store. Try out several recommended paddles, and buy the best ones you can afford, not the cheapest ones you can find.

Contrary to what other may say, a heavy canoe needs paddles with a better bite on the water to provide the thrust to move it than a sleek canoe requires.

Your Discovery is a great durable canoe, but it will require 100 paddle strokes to cover the same distance as Baldpaddlers Jensen will cover in 60 strokes.

And extra $50 dollars on a paddle over several years is a small investment in fun. People will drop that much on a dinner in a restaurant, or a new pair of stylish shoes.


A wooden beavertail paddle will suit
your primary concerns best. Here is a good deal on a poplar/cherry beavertail:

It has fiberglass reinforcement on the tip, and will last. Lighter paddles, especially all cherry wood, are even better. I have a couple Mohawks, but they usually stay in the garage. Good luck, and happy paddling!

I like wood…

– Last Updated: Apr-03-06 7:00 PM EST –

I like wood; I particularly like the wooden, canoe paddles made by Bending Branches & Grey Owl. Four of my personal favorites are the Expedition Plus, and the Sun Shadow (bent) by Bending Branches, and the Hammerhead & Sugar Island by Grey Owl. I often carry a really old Sawyer Cruiser as my back up paddle.


What do you all think of Caviness Paddles? My wife surprised me with a set of their 400 series. Nothing special, but they seem to work fine. I think I might upgrade in the future, but they are nice for now. The only thing I don’t like about it, is that the shaft sleeve slides too easily on the shaft.