Cutting/Sizing my new WW Canoe Paddle

I just purchased a Grey Owl Hammerhead WW canoe paddle. It came with an extra long shaft and an un-mounted T handle. I need to cut the shaft to length and epoxy the handle in place. This is my first wide/short WW paddle, I have previously been using a 56" Bending Branches straight shaft and the length has seemed OK.

Going by the directions from Grey Owl, in the seated position measuring from seat to chin 27" + 6" + 19"(blade length) comes to a 52" paddle…seems way too short. Since I can make this paddle any length I would like, what is the best way to determine paddle length? I am going to the local lake tonight to take some measurements with the boat in the water. The paddle should be in the water up to the throat, and measure to what?? I have heard the chin ( what Grey Owl says) and the nose, what is proper?

Paddle will be used in mild to Class II water in a Supernova, (if this makes a difference.)

Any tips besides measuring twice and cutting once?



whitewater paddles
Paddles for whitewater tend to be rather long. A 52" long whitewater paddle would be extremely short. Most wind up using paddles around 58" long, give or take a couple of inches.

Paddle length depends on the boat and the height of your pedestal or kneeling thwart. If you have paddles of various length available, find one that will place the T-grip at eye level to forehead level as you take a forward stroke using good form, with a verticle paddle shaft and your blade fully, or near fully immersed. If you don’t have different paddles available, take the paddle and estimate where to cut the shaft to put the T-grip at this level.

Your top hand will be considerably higher than it will be when using a bent shaft or straight touring paddle, but that is what you want for whitewater. You need to be able to get the blade well to the stern in order to do effective stern prys and draws, and you need to have the reach to plant your blade into an eddy to do an effective Duffek stroke for a crisp eddy turn.

Gadzooks! Waar did yer find…
a GO Hammerhead? Ah’s been tryin’ ta git one fer a year now in de US ta no avail. Pray tell, waar did yer buy yers?. Thanky kindly.


It is a stock item at
Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, MN. (612)339-3433 $99.95 + ship. Very nice to deal with, and shipping was prompt.

Thanky fer de info, pilgrim.

I knew that a WW paddle needs
to be taller than a standard, but didn’t know how much. 58" sounds like a good number, I’ll do some measuring tonight and see what I come up with…to my eyes or forehead. Thanks!

I’m 5’10" - use a 58" paddle
In a forward stroke, my grip hand usually ends up just about at my nose. Was looking for a picture of a good forward stroke, but this is the best I could find

When the blade fully plants, my grip hand will be about at my nose. With a longer paddle, you do end up with your grip hand pretty high over your head during the recovery. Because of this, some people have told me I should use a shorter paddle. I’ve tried a 56", but don’t think you get as much power. I prefer the longer paddle, but would be interested in some other thoughts

couple of expert opinions
In his “Solo Playboating” video, Kent Ford, and most of his guest expert boaters are shown using paddles that are quite long, with T grips at, or above their hairlines and grip hands well above their heads during recovery. Here’s what Kent says about paddle length: “your paddle length should be between 57 and 60 inches for paddlers 5’8” to 6’1". This assumes that your seat height is 8 inches."

In the video “Solo Open Whitewater Canoeing” by Tom Foster, Tom offers the following advice on paddle length: “Paddle length depends on the height of your pedestal and the size of your body. Your control hand needs to be around forehead level, somehere between eye and forehead level, during the power phase of the foreward stroke, with the blade buried adequately. Most people will have a paddle length somewhere between 54” and 62", the average being 58"."

I am about 5’ 11", or used to be, and almost always use a 58" paddle. I have tried 56" paddles and felt I was giving up a bit of control.

Of course, if you are seated very low to the water, as in a C1, or if you are paddling one of the modern, very short WW canoes, you can get by with a shorter paddle reach.

I also think 58" is a good starting
length for whitewater. I’m 6’ 5" and my paddles are 61.5" to 62".

I always like to point out that c-1 slalom champions Jon Lugbill and Davey Hearn, neither of them tall, and of course kneeling very low, used paddles around 59" in length.