Paddling a Canoe Left-Handed vs. Right

My question is not at all important and is probably more a matter of semantics than anything else.

I don’t know where I heard this, but I was lead to believe that the hand that held the top grip of a canoe paddle defined whether one was paddling left or right-handed. In other words, if your left hand was on the shaft, and your right hand was on the grip, that would be considered right-handed paddling (since the hand that was on the grip was the control hand.)

I got into a discussion about this last evening and came to the conclusion that perhaps I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. So—what is the proper terminology about this? Thoughts?

It matters not. Call it whatever you want.

the control hand is whatever hand is on top of the grip. I’m left handed and use a right control hand (paddling on left side of a canoe/c1). In a kayak, the control hand switches on each stroke (the top hand). I use a right handed kayak paddle (determined by offset angle). Roll on the right side of the boat (off side), and use a left control hand (leading hand) rolling. I think one could argue that control hand switches through the roll. I’m not sure any of this matters. Although on off side kayak rolls the wrist cock angle seems to increase. Unfortunately, my hands are rarely centered on a kayak shaft evenly when paddling. I grip it like a canoe paddle favoring my left side. Old (c1) habits are hard to break. I need to get some tape out to mark proper hand placement on the kayak shaft.

notice that asymetric grip on the kayak shaft due to years of paddling c1 on left side of boat- bad habit for a kayak!

If your paddle is on the right side of the craft you are paddling right handed. If on the left, you are paddling left handed.


But I am left handed and my left hand is controlling the grip hence the paddle is usually on the right side save for cross strokes
Ask my right hand to control the grip and its a klutz

So am I right or left handed?

Or both handed like me. If I get tired on one side, I switch to the other.

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Well, I am just going by what has been said by people who know more about boating than I do. An example would be Tom Foster who could paddle better on either side of the canoe than I ever could. But Tom vastly preferred paddling on the right side of his boat and called himself an avowed “righty”.

I know a number of right handed people who prefer paddling on the left and a number of left handers who prefer paddling on the right so I’m not sure how much “handedness” comes into the choice.

I like paddling on the right side best, and I am right handed. However, I do paddle on both sides. Maybe as much as 60% right side and 40% left side. I try to balance it out thought. My paddles don’t seem to care which hand I use! :wink: :laughing:

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Years ago when working at my uncle’s outfitter in the Adirondacks, my cousin thought it would be funny to put a bunch of our canoe paddles for sale as “Left-hand Paddles”. His sign said we had ordered too many so we were marking them down. Most customers got the joke, although we did make a surprising number of sales to folks who were mostly getting them as gifts for left-handed friends.


I learned to kayak with a 60 degree feathered one piece paddle- er- club and always used my right hand as control hand
Does right amd left handed ness make more sense in the context of double blades?
I dunno
All I do know is that while you can bike no handed you cant paddle no handed ( unless you have one of those peddle-paddle thingies
CWDH. Where Art Thou?

Ha, Ha. The real question is are you right or left brained?

I and my paddling buds use the terms Onside and Offside. That way the Lefties and Righties don’t get confused.

When I used to instruct we referred to “paddling right” or “paddling left” and it referred to which side one was paddling on. Hand position on the paddle didn’t enter into the description. In tandem one paddles left and one paddles right.

Dunno Brain is at the laundry getting detailed

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Is this a left or right handed canoe? That’s what really matters.


Feathered double bladed one piece paddles are constructed and sold as either right hand control or left hand control. If you grasp the paddle shaft with your right hand with the right sided blade positioned vertically so as to take a normal forward power stroke and the power face of the left blade faces upward, it is right hand control. Otherwise it is left hand control.

I don’t know any right handed paddlers who use a left hand control feathered double bladed paddle although a few probably exist somewhere. I know quite a few left handed individuals who learned to use right hand control paddles. There is a much greater selection of right hand control paddles, and if a whitewater kayaker lost a paddle and had to borrow one, there was a much greater likelihood of being a right hand control paddle.

It’s all so confusin’,
these hardened hands of ours.
Left and right so far apart
(to meet double-fistin’ in bars),

and no matter how you stack 'em
(pehaps you’ll herd 'em like cattle),
one’s gonna get the upperhand
when ya take 'em for a paddle.

But it ain’t like one there’s better
so other’s left out in kind.
If out to see what’s hard to starboard
you’ll find in port what’s right in mind.

As long as all thumbs opposed
are up for fingers to be stayed,
then what is up is down with that,
so cutting edge to use switchblade.


Knew this thread was ripe fer a masterpiece!