Choosing paddles to paddle a canoe


I’m a real newbie at paddling. We are going to be participating in the North Georgia Adventure Race in a month and will be paddling a canoe (16’9" Old Towne) for the paddling portion. We’re doing some training in an old school wooden canoe and getting the hang of it.

My question is this: When I look at photos of previous races I see all teams paddling with kayak paddles. However everyone I talk to says using kayak paddles in a canoe, especially with three guys in there is not efficient. I’m just wondering if there’s something those other teams know that we don’t?

With all that said, and assuming the responses say “…paddle a canoe with canoe paddles…” then the second question would be any advice on fastest/best paddles to look for?



Double blade works fine
for the bow and stern paddler. The middle guy needs a really long double blade due to the width of the canoe.

I see from the pictures that most use double blades instead of lightweight bent shaft Zav’s single blade or the ilk.

Given that the Disco 169 is no speedster anyway anything goes

You will have to work on your timing and synchrony …getting just one of you out of phase will lose time and tangle paddles.

If you are going with a single canoe
paddle, the lightest and best is a ZRE(ZAVERAL) bent shaft.

I can’t help you on what will be the fastest between the double blade and the single.

I imagine it depends on the “engines”

Jack L

Double Blade
Double blade paddles are almost always going to be faster because it is easier to run a higher cadence.

Directionality issues, solved with nuanced paddle sensitivity by single bladers go away if the double blade user can remember the left-right-left sequence.

They are especially common in Adventure racing because many of the athletes are not skilled paddlers. They often acquire three piece paddles that break down into 85-90 cm parts.

Pf interest, with three in the hull, the bow paddler needs set cadence, the other two will need to match that cadence perfect;y to keep paddleblades from knocking together.

Your boat choice will not serve you well; heavy and slow, is a poor combination for a race.


Did not see where you live but if you can check out the Paddlesport show in NJ


Checked the site and rules, and my
suggestion is, use the paddles you practiced with, and focus on having a good time without hurting yourselves or your relationships.

The canoes they’re supplying are kind of piggy, but all will be in the same boats. On the double blades, if you’re not a bit “practiced” with them, they may not be an advantage.

A well known saying comes to mind… “It
is what it is”… The paddling section of the race is open to people to bring whatever boats they want so some will undoubtedly be faster. We don’t have our own boat and are at the mercy of the outfitter we’ll be renting from down there. All we have to practice with is the old school wooden canoe and some canoe paddles so without investing thousands of dollars I don’t see any other options anyway.

The advice to just have fun and focus on what we practiced with was very re-affirming! Thanks! I understand the advantages the other teams will likely have. I guess if we’re going to be outclassed I just like to understand it beforehand instead of getting surprised by it. :slight_smile: This will be our longest race to date and our goal is to finish; just have to keep reminding myself that.

Thanks everyone for leaning into this question!

“They are especially common in Adventure racing because many of the athletes are not skilled paddlers.”

It’s a whole lot easier for folks with minimal seat time to use double blades. The caveat is that if the paddlers are close enough the doubles can get tangled.

My first race
I was 117 out of 120. Two boats behind me had dogs in them, the other guy was picking up trash.

I got the same T-shirt the other 115 losers ahead of me got.

Have fun!

I smoked a bunch of adventuree racers on lthe Chattahoochie several years ago. skin coat boats, bulging biceps, kayak paddles and lycra runnig wear type adventure racers. Me I am an old baldpaddler paddling with a lady who had not paddled since she had children. Differnce was even though we had single blades we had practiced and paddled as a TEAM where as the the young manly men weren’t in sync and could not get out of their own way. Any one of the adventure racers could have bench pressed either me or Debbie stregnth wise, but they turned out to be a non challenge on the river.


Thanks BaldPaddler! Yours was the response I’ve been looking for! LOL. Getting back out Monday for a long day on the lake.

Seriously thanks for the feedback. I’ll post back here after the race.


Hey there young feller
You must be starting to think about the French Broad River race by now.

Who are you partnering with, or are you paddling solo?

Did you get my e-mail about book publishing/printing ?

jack L

I am trying to
get together with the QuakerLady(Barb) I have my Jensen kicked straight and I have new gunwales on her.

Boats and paddling
Mtn Island lake is not far from BaldPaddler and myself. Some basic coaching could make a big difference. Your ‘old school wood canoe’ might be better and faster than the OT boat you will rent- ask us with more specifics.

Canoe vs kayak paddle- There may be a slight advantage during the first 2 minutes, but long term there isn’t. It all goes back to the paddler’s ability and power. The main difference is the boat under the water- kayaks tend to have less drag and higher speed results.

Basis: Empirical between 2 local experienced really good paddlers: in C1 boats, single blade paddles, we are extremely close in sprints and over 30 minutes, it all depends on who feels better and doesn’t crack first. When one is in a kayak with kayak paddle, the kayak wins most of the time, mainly because of the slimmer boat hull. While not a fully valid comparison, it is close. For those that care, do your own tests and report back.

For equal hulls, it is going to be really close and all depends on the paddler’s skill and fitness. A human only has a certain amount of power on race day, it is applied slightly faster (more paddle in the water more often) in the first several minutes until steady state fatique sets in, and then both paddlers are pushing the same water at the same power expenditure. Other differences occur due to single vs kayak double blade weight, some will argue a kayak wing paddle makes you go faster (some speed increase for more power, it’s not free).

Someone may have done real testing, maybe they will respond with their results. Steve.

my impression is
that kayaks can be accelerated up to speed more quickly with a double-bladed paddle than a comparable hull can be by a paddler sitting or kneeling using a single-bladed paddle because of a higher potential stroke rate and no need for correction strokes.

I think that marathon racers using single blades and short power strokes can approach, but not quite match the paddle cadence of kayakers, but this is largely balanced by the fact that more power can be applied per stroke with the single blade, especially in the kneeling position.

I think the thing that makes canoe paddlers slower than kayakers (usually) apart from hull design, is the fact that many of them waste a lot of time, energy, and power using correction strokes, or combined power/correction strokes, to make the boat go straight. But with a hard-tracking, efficient hull a single blader using short power strokes and a sit and switch technique with quick effective switches, or a tandem pair using coordinated switches, can apply as much power as a paddler using a double-bladed paddle or a pair using two.

I think the recovery phase of the strokes still takes a bit longer than with the double blades, but once the boat is underway and paddled up to speed, I don’t think that matters. But I haven’t done any “studies”.

A good paddling DVD is always good
great reference. If you haven’t gotten into using your torso and upper arm instead of just using your arms…IME you will appreciate Tom Foster’s DVD “Solo Open Whitewater Canoeing”. “Whitewater!” you say…No , not what I’m into. Maybe so, but he spends a lot of time on flat water using the basic paddling form, and it is true, the WW stroke is shorter and there is more flexibility in a flatwater boaters’ stroke, but one of the main keys to a paddler’s health and to comfortable acceleration thru the forward stroke is the proper use of the torso and upper arm, which Foster emphasizes in the DVD. Believe me it’s a good purchase.


The plot thickens…
Wow, this has really generated some great feedback and advice. I see I’ve got some more research to do as well as at least on PM to follow up on.

Another friend just offered his Pelican Colorado for our practice and potential use. Question: of the Old Towne or Pelican any significant difference? (Even being a noob, I can tell they’re both about the same ballpark. Just askin’)

which Pelican?
Pelican int’l makes several different canoes. the Potomac(?) isn’t a horrible boat and seems to be close to an old town discovery. The old coleman/pelican with the alumninum tubing might not be the best choice though. The paddling stations are too wide for a comfortable high cadence stroke.

Where on mountain Island do you paddle? RedCrossRandy and I have paddled from cowansford dam to MtIsland Dam and back many a time.

Paddle together!
When I see people putting their paddles in the water at the same time it seems that they go faster than when three people get in a boat and paddle at different rates. so try to practice paddling together a lot. The front paddler sets the rate.

Frank is right

Somewhat detailed, so the summary is “It’s important to paddle in sync.”