New Polaris 16 Needs Paddles!

First, I need to thank this group. The advice offered here helped me a lot in thinking through canoes. I grew up on the water, but I put boats aside in my 30s for family and career. Now, at 66, I have the time to return to waterborne pleasures. Armchair canoeing gets you only so far, but I owe you all a debt for helping me sort through options.

This afternoon, I bought a new Northstar Polaris, with a middle seat for solo paddling. It arrives here in Western NC in a week or two. I am eager to get it out on mountain lakes in the region, and use it as a platform for photography. (If curious, you can see scans of my prints at .)

Now I have to buy paddles. The outfitter sells Grey Owl and Bending Branches. I’m 5’11", about 190lbs, and plan to paddle flatwater mountain lakes. The folks at Northstar recommend a 58 to 60-inch straight paddle for a man my size on the Polaris. (I’m not interested in kayak paddles.)

You all have been so helpful on choosing a hull. What do you recommend for paddles?


One thing to keep in mind is that it is the shaft length that matters in sizing a canoe paddle. Various types of paddles, for various types of water, all have different blade lengths. But it’s the grip to the throat that matters for sizing - the places where your hands will be. So going by overall length can get you into a quagmire. I started with a 58” straight paddle one year ago. I just purchased a 48” bent shaft (I also have 54, 52, and 51” bent shafts). This is because the blades are different lengths, as well as the fact that bent shafts are typically sized a few inches shorter. Well, plus the 54 and one of the 52s were used paddles I picked up in order to find what works. It has been a journey.

Also: Bending Branches seems to recommend longer shafts than others. Also, when I was sized officially for BB, the guy said I could go 58-60. I am 5’-6”. My husband, at 6’-5”, measured about the same. Granted, I have a long torso for a woman, and he has long legs for a guy. But I really think the 58” is too long for me.

Happy shopping! Be prepared to go through a few. I recommend starting used, or lower-end, until you zero in on what works. Don’t make your first paddle a $350 beauty. I regret my $160 starter a little.

Congrats on the new Polaris, you’ll love it. In the end I chose a Magic, but the Polaris was a top contender.
While I went with a double blade, the challenges are similar and I agree with what @JCH_ski has said. I’ve gone through a few that were disappointing in one way or another.
On the other hand, the “best” paddle for you may change as your technique evolves so I’d bet that your first purchase isn’t your last.

Having sampled straight and bent versions, which do you prefer? FWIW I’m a sitter, not a kneeler.

Are you shopping just for yourself for solo paddling or looking for paddles for tandem paddling too?

I’ve got a Polaris with center seat. 58-60 is too long for you (I’m 6’) and as mentioned it’s the shaft length that matters. I think a 34-35 inch shaft will work fine for you like it does for me.

For solo paddling I recommend a straight shaft. You can practice more strokes and it gives you more options like doing in-water recoveries to keep quiet while sneaking up on critters. The straight shaft is more natural. It will also give you more reach than a bent and you may appreciate that since you’re soloing a relatively wide (for a solo) boat

In the Grey Owl line their relatively low cost Scout is a fine choice. A 57 should fit you perfectly.

I also like the Fleetwood. Also fully symmetric, quite light, fine blade. Nice paddle. A 56 should be perfect for you.

There are lots of other options. One paddle you might consider in the future is a Werner Algonquin.

Tom, that is really helpful. The dealer mentioned the Scout and the Fleetwood — said the Fleetwood was his favorite. How would you distinguish the one from the other?

I was asking about a stick for solo paddling but the whole point of the Polaris, for me, was to have the flexibility to host others from time to time. What would you recommend for tandem paddling? I have a son (also 5’11”) and a daughter (5’2”) who might end up in the bow seat. If I move to the stern seat for tandem paddling, does that change your recommendation?

Short answer: This is definitely a personal preference/intended use question! I have far (far far far) less experience than most of the people on here, so you may not want to listen to me.

TL,DR answer, because the “why” is more important than the “which”: I prefer a bent shaft, sit & switch. Back many, many moons ago, I spent my first summer after college canoe racing with a co-worker, so that’s really where I learned to paddle seriously. Which, of course, was sit & switch.
I knelt for most of last year, in my Northwind Solo. With the webbed seat I preferred it, because it feels more powerful. HOWEVER. Unfolding my 58 year old knees and ankles periodically was more painful than I could bear - especially the ankles. Oof da. But then later I acquired a Sawyer Summersong and a Wenonah Voyager, both of which have floor-mounted bucket seats , which precludes kneeling (at least for me, with my short legs). So I ended up moving the NW Solo seat back down, and have more or less given up on kneeling. I’m sad about that, because I really did prefer it.

I am paddling solo, and I want to cruise along. I don’t have any racing goals, but definitely distance goals. I have a nordic ski racing background, so that’s just sort of who I am - most activities are for training and exercise. I am also mostly canoeing on rivers, where a longer blade like a beaver tail or otter tail would never be fully submerged.

The best canoe paddle is the one you make yourself.

The Fleetwood has a shorter blade and would feel lighter and more “handy” in your hands…even one inch of length is a pretty big deal for “swing weight”. The blade has fine edges almost like a carbon paddle and is great for in-water recoveries. The Scout costs less because of less laminations and a simple epoxy tip. Frankly they’d be about equally durable. Fleetwood may feel “sweeter”, whatever that means. Scout is just a good all-around paddle (my wife won’t use anything but her Scout) at a good price (they used to be $20).

For tandem paddling the Polaris is happy with either straight or bent. Personally I’d still recommend starting with decent straight shaft paddles since they may be best for enjoying the handling of the Polaris. But the main reason I ask is that longer term for tandem paddling you may want to get a pair of Zaveral or GRBnewmandesigns 12 degree bent shafts because they make for a lovely experience tandem (taking it from low-effort to paddle to no-effort to paddle) plus the Polaris is plenty responsive so it reacts to gentle inputs from bent shafts and doesn’t need to be horsed around. I expect you’d laugh out loud the first time you try a pair of Zaveral paddles (either bent shaft or straight) in that boat. For travelling in a sit-down boat bent shafts are the most efficient but it’s not a massive difference over straight for recreational use.

It is indeed personal preference as mentioned.