Double-blading a canoe

forgot about back band
good reminder to use a backband, otherwise you keep pushing yourself backwards off the seat. I use a Sitbacker or Crazy Creek cushion.

Backband Alternative
Hey Mark, your boat has the adjustable seat, right? Set it up on a slope as for kneeling, and when combined with a footrest you will be very locked-in to the boat. My old Wenonah Vagabond was set up that way, with the seat permenantly set for kneeling but with a footbrace too, and it was amazingingly comfortable for sitting.

I get a lot of water in my canoe when
double blading with a 230cm paddle and using a high cadence and high angle stroke as when I’m kayaking. The water drops on to my shins and feet rather than on to the kayak deck in front of the cockpit. I do have drip rings on my euro paddles.

My longest double blade paddle is 240cm and that’s not long enough to keep the water out of my boat with my technique. The 230cm paddle seems more mechanically correct for me than the longer paddle, but I do hate the water that accumulates in the boat, so I usually single blade canoes, rather than double blading.

Pausing at the end of each stroke does allow more water to drip off the paddle blade before it goes overhead and over the front of the boat on it’s way to the water, but it also slows down a fast cadence stroke and allows the boat to slow down more between strokes - especially if the boat doesn’t have very good glide. If you’re not double blading for speed, then pausing at the end of each stroke is less of an issue.

I’d like to try a good 9’ double blade canoe paddle sometime to see how I like it. I think I’d want relatively narrow blades, since the stroke would be longer compared to using a shorter paddle.

I do seem to tire more quickly when double blading my canoes at high cadence than I do when double blading my kayaks, presumably because the canoe hulls are wider and less efficient than my kayaks. Therefore, I usually take a kayak when I want to double blade.

Of course, YMMV.

that’s the way I have it set up. I single-blade sitting and kneeling with it that way as well as double-blade.

I do not have a comfort or fit problem double-blading. I just get more water in the canoe than I like especially when I crank up the rate to keep up with kayaks going into the wind. It is nothing I can’t put up with, but if there is a better way to do it I thought I ought to try that way.


slower cadence
I’ve found the longer the paddle the slower the cadence. With the 265cm in a canoe I’m at 40 strokes per minute. With the 220cm in my sea kayaks I’m at 50 strokes per minute for cruising. with a 197cm whitewater paddle and a 9’ whitewater boat my cadence slows down simply because you can only push a ww boat so fast before it kicks up a bow wave and slows down.

Paddle length
I use double blades in my solo canoes - a Prism and a Freedom solo. I started with a 275 cm. wave double blade, and have changed to a Pacific Designs which I can adjust from 250 cm to 240 cm. I actually removed the drip rings since they don’t seem to help much. I prefer the lighter shorter paddle, and truthfully can’t really tell the difference so far as water accumulating in the canoe. I carry a sponge and bailer and don’t really worry about the small amount of water in the boat.


polytarp lap cover
i have a piece of polytarp that i use to cover my lap while paddling my kayak, maybe that would work for you in your canoe. the small amount of water that comes in might not be much of a bother since you are not sitting on the bottom and the water can easily be sponged out.

single blade
i’ll add another plug for single blading a canoe. spend a bit of time learning how and your shoulders will thank you (less strain), and you’ll be paddling the boat the way it was meant to be paddled. -h

It is going to be a long time
before I can stay with a group of sea-kayaks while paddling my Argosy into a 15-20 mph wind with a single blade. On the protected portions with a few twists and turns I do ok with the single, but when these rivers open up into the marsh at the coast with no windbreaks the kayaks just run away from me.


kayak paddle, even tandem
my buddy has to use a kayak paddle in the back of his canoe, because his wife is so useless and takes so few strokes in the front. it’s hilarious.

single blade paddle vs. double blade

This comparison has been going on endlessly, usually with more attitude than much else expressed. I don’t think that single blades (or doubles) are inherently easier on shoulders. Doubles may be harder on your shoulders for some structural reason, or it may be due to “arm paddling” instead of using narrow blades with substantial torso rotation. It’s not inherent to the paddle type.

Single blades are better than doubles when stalking wildlife. Singles do work better in very narrow streams with overhanging branches. Doubles work better for controlling boats in strong winds and can propel a boat faster. Most other conclusions are subjective and/or based on the paddler, the boat, their skill, or other variable factors. A friend hides his ugly knees better by kneeling in his Flashfire than by sitting on the bottom of a Spitfire, so he prefers a single blade.

I have a fine collection of single blades that I had used in canoes for decades. I cannot now use them for more than about a hour before they irritate my rebuilt shoulder. Does that say anything about single blades being harder on the body? Of course not- just for me with my shoulder issues. I wish I could use those beautiful single blade paddles I still own more than an hour.

Single blade paddles were used by the Voyageurs for many months at a time. In skillful hands they work quite well in rivers. Before European contact the people in most of North America used single blades. People paddled war canoes with single blades on the ocean in the Pacific Northwest. In the Polar Region both type of paddles were used, with the singles used on trips in Umiaks and with some kayaks. Verlen Kruger used a single blade paddle for his 100,000 miles of paddling.

Double blades have been used by kayakers for thousands of years. A number of modern kayakers have used them on months long circumnavigations of major land masses. Freya (sp?) is presently working on paddling around Australia. If double blades were bad for shoulders her shoulders would already be toast from the previous epic trips she has completed. There are many other other kayakers that have used double blade paddles on multi month trips. The fastest kayakers use double blades and the surf ski crowd is much faster yet using double bladed wing paddles (and rudders.)

My point is to use whatever paddle you prefer for the type of paddling you do. Learn to use it skillfully and efficiently. If at any point your body has issues with the paddle you chose, find another that works better for you and continue to enjoy paddling.