Kayak with Canoe Paddle?

Some folks are paddling their kayaks with a canoe paddle it appears, and with good results.

I’m trying to fully heal from a minor shoulder injury and have noticed that the movement associated with a greenland paddle stroke is a little easier on the shoulders than my wing or Euro paddles. But some recent posts on canoe paddles for kayaks got me interested in that application too.

Yesterday I used only half of my wing with a canoe stroke and was surprised how well it worked. I did not notice much of a difference in cruising speed while it seemed easier on my weakened shoulder. Of course, half a wing only owrks well on one side of the kayak and the stroke mechanics is different from a flat bladed canow paddle -:wink:

So, please educate me a little. What kind and shaft length/blade size canoe paddles would you use for fast-ish longer range paddling (10+ miles)? How do you size the paddle for kayak use - blade size plus where do you hold it relative to the blade and how far away is your other hand (so I can figure out the overall length of the paddle?

Keep in mind that I have not paddled a canoe before and have only paddled SUP for a week in a self-education mode. So do not assume I know the finer points of a canoe stroke. The use will be with a fast ruddered kayak mostly so not particularly interested in steering strokes - just forward stroke use for now. I can roll just fine with half a kayak paddle but I have yet to try it with a real (likely “bent”) canoe paddle -:wink:


I’ve done it a little, but remember that
kayaks are not designed to be managed from just one side. Slalom c-1s and k-1s are pretty close, and any experienced paddler can handle a k-1 with a single blade. But cruising and touring kayaks will be less responsive to a single bladed approach.

People often point to Verlen Kruger’s using a bent shaft single blade in his boats, which looked kayakish. But they were really canoes with some decking.

It’s the way to go!
I paddle my QCC 700x with a Zaveral bent shaft, at 46.25 inches long. I just finished a 10 mile race, 5 miles upriver, 5 miles back down, and made over 6 mph average. It works just fine if you have a rudder. I switch every 15-20 strokes.

I quit using the kayak paddle due to shoulder problems too. The Zav is the only way to go for me - I’ll never go back to a double blade.

I have seen them do it with good results
but as one who paddles and races both canoes and kayaks, I would want to be sitting higher in my kayak if I was paddling with my ZRE.

I just might try it the next time I go out.

Jack L

Your post prompted me
to ask the question here, although I’ve been thinking about it for some time. A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to paddle a SUP again for a few minutes against some strong-ish winds and wavechop - was surprised how well the Werner paddle worked for that: smooth entry and exit, no wind resistance (rotate flat after exit), no flutter…

Looked at the ZREs and they look good. Before I get one though I would look for someone local to lend me one to try though. May be even make one myself - already have some pieces of carbon shaft that should work good for that purpose - just add a blade and a grip -:wink:

I guess the technique in a low profile kayak could be somewhat different compared to a canoe. Watched some marathon canoe racing videos and everybody seems to have some sort of a variation on the way they paddle… Short strokes/long strokes/rotation/crunching…

May be shorter shaft?

– Last Updated: Jun-18-10 1:03 PM EST –

I suppose in a kayak one sits may be 10" lower than in a canoe. Probably a shorter shaft would be needed compared to a canoe. Being closer to the water means that probably one holds the paddle closer to the blade so the stroke form might be different too...

I'll have to try it too. Let me know what you find out next time you go out with the single blade and, I suppose, your QCC. I paddled my Rapier 18 yesterday with half paddle and liked it. Hope to get a chance to try a real canoe paddle sized for it next time since all my kayak paddles are asymetrical and don't work well on both sides unless I actually switch which half of the paddle I use every time I switch sides...

Jack,if you weren’t short…
I can paddle just about anything with anything.These monkey arms are hard to find shirts for,but are good for paddling.

Shaft length will depend on how high you sit above water level and how long your torso is. I’m medium height. I use bent-shaft paddles from 48" to 54" overall length depending on the boat. In my Sawyer Summersong, I am sitting with my butt barely above water level (as you will probably be in your kayak) and I use a bent-shaft 48" overall.

Blade length and width is a matter of preference and depends on what stroke rate you like to paddle at. The higher the cadence, the smaller the blade, is the general rule. A rule of thumb as to where to place your grip hand is to stick the paddle grip end up in your armpit and hang your arm down over the outside of the paddle shaft. Where your fingers end on the shaft is a reasonable location to grasp the paddle, but this rule generally applies to whitewater paddles, which tend to be longer. Generally, you want your grip hand a bit above the throat (where the blade joins the shaft).

The Zav Power Surge is a wonderful bent-shaft paddle but expensive. It is worth the money, but you might want to borrow or buy a cheaper stick first to make sure single-blading is for you.

Your stroke rate will be slightly lower with a single blade, but you can often get a bit more leverage on each stroke, so it is a trade off.

I’ve done it
BUT only when I forgot my paddle at home and had to try to rent one at the marina.

Stupid marina.

had to buy a canoe paddle and spent the day using that on the lake in my kayak.

Sea Kayaker mag
did an article on this several months ago. Rather favorable comments. Haven’t tried it, but think I will.

stroke rate is not lower
just because it has one blade instead of two.

Go try it out. I will bet you anything that if you take a kayak paddle and paddle at 60 strokes per minute, and you take a canoe paddle and go at the same 60 strokes per minute, both paddles will go in the water 60 times per minute…

I have tried it out.
I’ve paddled canoes and kayaks for many years and I have paddled kayaks with single blades.

If you shorten up the forward stroke a great deal, you can approximate the stroke rate of a double blade. With a double blade, as you complete the power phase of a stroke on one side you can very quickly drop the opposite blade into the plant, especially with a Greenland paddle or while using a low-angle touring stroke. It takes more time to bring the single blade back up to the catch position during the recovery phase.

Shortening up the forward stroke does, of course, reduce the time spent in recovery. But most of the time, when paddling with a single blade, you are going to need to apply some type of correction (unless you are using a rudder). This might be a J-stroke, a Canadian stroke, a pitch stroke, a C-stroke, an Indian stroke, a box stroke, or you might switch sides. But whatever you do for correction, it is going to take some time and slow your cadence a bit. With a double blade, since the stroke is symmetrical virtually no correction is required.

Sure it is easy to maintain a cadence of 60 spm with either a single or a double blade. But I find it much easier to achieve and maintain stroke rates above 80 spm with a double blade.

Marathon stroke
I lean forward slightly on the entry and enter with the blade by my heels in the kayak. Stroke ends when my bottom hand reaches my hips. I don’t rotate much, and use the slight “sitting up” motion to provide more power. Stroke rate is pretty quick, I have not put a pedometer on the paddle to check it but just counting time I am running at least 60, during the race probably closer to 100 but I shortened it up a little bit. Faster cadence seems to provide more of a speed increase than more powerful but slower strokes.

another convert
During the past year I’ve mostly paddled my QCC 600 with a 46" bent shaft ZRE and love it. There is a bit of a speed hit and having a rudder would make it nicer (I switch sides every 6 strokes or so) but I was surprised how quick the boat will go and how easy it is to use.

My primary purpose for going to a single bladed paddle was to slow myself down though. If I have a double bladed paddle and try to go for a leisurely cruise I find myself getting into a good rhythm and steadily speed up. Next thing I know I’m going full out!

I find the single blade much more relaxing and can finally slow myself down for a lazy paddle. A double bladed paddle drips all over when I try to go slow and just doesn’t feel comfortable. A short single blade feels great in the hand.

I’ve never measured my stroke rate with the single blade in the kayak but in my C-1 I think my stroke rate is higher than with a wing paddle in my Thunderbolt.

I’d recommend against getting an Outrigger paddle from ZRE and stick with either the standard or Power Surge. I thought it would be the cat’s meow with a fast, low profile boat like my QCC but I find the wider width of OR paddle (9.5") and extra weight is more cumbersome and doesn’t seem to add any extra speed.


Single blade paddles
For the record, most western Alaskan traditional kayakers carried a single blade paddle along with their double blades. And don’t call the latter Inuit blades or my Yup’ik and Chup’ik friends will kick your kayak.

See this print by Alaskan Artist Fred Machetanz

Kayak Man at http://www.prints.com/prints.php?artist_id=10409&print_id=19684&RF=30

Agree- its the same basically. Ive kept up with TANDEN kayak paddlers and even overtook them by a day ro so during a month long trip.

You dont tire after 10 hours of 50 strokes a minute with a single blade. THUS why i dont own any anymore.

That’s good to know

– Last Updated: Jun-18-10 7:27 PM EST –

about the width. I have a plastic bladed carbon shaft 2-piece SUP paddle that I got for cheap ($30?) last year. It is a tear drop shape that goes all the way up to about 9". Probably too wide thought the overall area is probably about 650cm^2.

I will probably use its shaft if I decide to make a single blade paddle one day. But, for now I just stuck an old tennis ball on the half of it with the blade and I got myself a single blade -;)

The ball is on a short aluminum pipe that fits nicely inside the carbon shaft of the paddle, so I can experiment with length a little bit too. The paddle blade is heavy but I hope it will let me figure out my length if nothing else before I decide to make or order something fancier...

Will test it soon to see how it feels.

The “old” paddlers …
… indeed had single blades. And I thought about their shapes too but I think for going fast in a straight line a wider and shorter blade would be better.

I’m no veteran canoe racer or anything but I believe the trend over the years has been to shorter shafts and narrower blades with a faster cadence. I certainly find whether I’m paddling a C1 or K1 that a quicker cadence (shorter strokes) gives just as much or more speed with less effort than long hard pulls.

I think improved blade design has made up for some of the width reduction in the blade as well.


Look at what racers use.
Long distance racers especially. When you are racing for a short distance, you can run much much harder than when the miles start to stack up. Many of the MR 340 racers have Zavs or similar paddles in their arsenal, but many do switch between Zavs and wings.

I guess if I had a unlimited choices I would use a wing for 5 mile or less races. Anything over that I would use the Zav. If any of you have not tried it yet, grab your GPS, your heart rate monitor, and a kayak paddle and a canoe paddle, and go do a few miles with each at the same speed. It would be interesting to see some others try it. I end up with about 30 bpm higher using the kayak paddle.