Paddle Sizing


I checked in the archives for paddle sizing but only saw info for kayakers. We are getting our first canoe and I’d like to know the appropriate size of paddle for my wife and I. Any help would be appreciated. I’m 6’2", 220#, my wife is 5’2" and just over 100# (none of you ever heard me say that :slight_smile: )I’m planning on not breaking the bank for our first ones.

You need different sizes…
…for different canoes, so it will be hard for someone here to give you a size.

What type canoe do you have?

If at all possible your best bet is to take your canoe to someplace that sells paddles and then try the various size ones out.



from ZRE’s website

"When I started Canoing…"
When I started Canoing “Many Moons” ago, the theory was that when you stood up, and put the paddle blade on the ground in front of you, the handle should come to just under or around your chin. Kind of between your shoulder and chin. Again, that was when I started canoing many moons ago.

The person in the front may like a shorter paddle, as the boat is narrower in from of them. While the person in the back may like a longer paddle because of the canoe being wider in front of them.

Without a doubt, testing several lengths of paddles in the canoe and seat (front or back) you will be paddling in is by far the best.

But if you just cannot do this, buy some cheap paddles, sized to the guideline I learned on, and you will have a decent start. Once you paddle a while, it will be easy to see what length works best for you.

Happy Paddling!

Paddle shaft length
is the critical aspect when sizing paddles, not overall length. There are various blade shapes and types that all factor in the total length.

If you can physically try them at a retailer, one (there are several that utilize chairs, bucket. etc.)and fairly accurate(and simple)method to use is:

Stand up straight and place one arm straight at your side. Bend your wrist of the straightened arm 90 degrees, finger facing forward and palm up. Place the grip of the paddle in the up facing palm and hold the paddle vertically along your side. The paddle throat (where the shaft begins to flair to meet the blade) should be between your eyebrows and hairline. If your are bald you will need to estimate! This will give you a fairly good range to start out with, and I would probably go with the longer of the length range. This is for straight shaft paddles; bent shafts would subtract 2 to 3 inches.

Hope this helps.

Happy paddlin!

Rule of Thumb
You really can not go by overall length. After all, a paddle may have a very long blade. If you went by overall length you could, conceivably have a 54" paddle with a 50" blade and 4"shaft. :slight_smile: Shaft length is more important than overall length.

Now, of course, paddling style, canoe seat height, draft of the canoe, personal preferences, and a bunch of other factors can affect correct paddle length. However, a good rule of thumb measurement is to sit in a chair and measure the distance from the seat to between your nose and eyebrows. Use that number for the shaft length for a straight shaft paddle. For a bent shaft, subtract 3 or 4 inches. Add the length of the blade for the overall length.

Bending Branches is a manufacturer that has some decent inexpensive paddles. BTW, if you want to go cheap, I think the plastic/aluminum paddles made by Carlise areOK for the $25 you spend on them and they are indesructable. I carry one as a back up on Wilderness trips.

Paddling technique: another factor
I tend to paddle with “straighter arms” and more torso rotation. My 12 year old daughter tends to paddle with more arm motion/flex and less torso twist. So I like a longer loom (handle) and she does better with a shorter one.

(I keep telling her “Twist, twist…”

So your style of paddling will also affect length.

That said, I just got a bend shaft paddle this summer: 6" shorter than my usual 60" paddle. I do like it; but it is a very different style of canoeing!

JackL Said It Best, But My Advice…
…to new paddlers has always been to measure from nipple to floor for a bent shaft, add a couple inches for straight. That will put you in the ballpark. Every boat is a bit different due to seat height, etc. WW

How to…
There is an article here that gives one method:

There’s another, simpler method given on the Mohawk Canoes web site (, but it was down when I tried to go to it just now), which, by the way, is a good source for inexpensive aluminum & plastic paddles. Their method goes like this:

  1. Sit straight upright in a chair and have someone measure the distance from the seat of the chair (bottom of your butt) to your eyebrows. That gives you your shaft length.

  2. Add the length of the blade (which varies by manufacturer and model) to the shaft length to get overall paddle length. For example, Mohawk paddle blades are 20" long, so if your shaft length from Step 1 is 34", you would want a 54" Mohawk paddle. (Mohawk claims that the vast majority of adults would find 54" about the right length for their paddles.)

    As others have pointed out, the exact length can be influenced by the width and height of your canoe, whether you are paddling tandem or solo, bow or stern, and how long a blade the paddle has, but the above method gives a pretty good result for the typical recreational paddler. I recently spoke to the folks at Camp (Fox Worx) Paddles (, and they said they use essentially the same method as above. Fox Worx makes some very nice wooden paddles.

Yep - you could drive yourself nuts trying to figure this out.

I was taught to let your arms hang straight down at your side and with the paddle upside down hold the paddle handle in the palm of your hand and the throat of the paddle (where the shaft meets the blade) should hit you right around your hairline (your original hairline if yours has moved).

I’ve found that some of the least expensive wooden paddles can be the best…since they are lighter with more flexibility than the stronger and more expensive laminated wood paddles.

I think the Grey Owl Scout is a fantastic paddle for about $30 or less. I also like Bending Branches paddles a lot…they tend to have thicker shafts which may be great for you (big hands?) but not your wife. The Bending Branches Loon is a fine entry level paddle. Any Bending Branches paddle that feels good to you is a fine choice.

Every wooden paddle is unique (one good thing about carbon paddles is that they are so consistent). You should look at it for warpage…if it looks warped to you - it is. Test paddle paddles if you can. Or you can go to the water’s edge and stick the paddle in and move it back and forth quickly through the water to feel if there is any “buzz” in the blade. If it buzzes, try another paddle.

Wooden paddles usually come in increments of 2 inches or 3 inches. A 51 inch Grey Owl Scout will fit your wife well, and a 60 inch Scout would fit you well (it has a relatively long blade). In general I’d say she needs something in the 50-52 inch length, and a 58 inch paddle should be a good ballpark for you…maybe a touch longer depending on the paddle (blade length). If you can find a reasonably priced Grey Owl Freestyle…I think a 58 incher would fit you well and you’d probably love the paddle.

Or - get a Black Bart Troublemaker for yourself…probably 56.5 inches (it has a short/fat blade), and live happily ever after.

Hope this helps.