(Quietwater) Freestyle Paddle Length

Are there any guidelines for paddle length specifically for freestyle paddling?

Freestyle length
Most knowledgabe paddlers will have you start with a base shaft measurement. There are plenty of posts about that. Overall length is somewhat incidental in the overall equation. You must establish your shaft length then take the blade length and add them for the OAL.

What I find comfortable which means being able to do cross stokes is 2 fists from your bottom hand to the throat where the shaft and blade join. What you ultimately want to achieve is a natural plant of the paddle that will totally emerse the blade when it is perpendicular to the water and have your top hand around eye level.

I’m sure our resident expert CEW will weigh in shortly.

I dont factor in cross strokes
becaus the bottom hand is not static. It can slide…for cross posts you choke up unless you have really long arms. Same especially for cross reverse posts and reverse posts…you will have to choke up.

Too long a paddle is a detriment to moves like the axle which is done next to the boat. Old timers did the Detroit axle where the paddle was planted farther out.

Your natural forward stroke should have the shaft not in the water and the blade in the water. It should be vertical. If you cannot do that the boat may have to change (to a narrower station).

FS is no different than touring in that respect. I do not look at FS as a stand alone discipline. I use it mostly in touring to make miles and navigate through rocks and twisty rivers.

My Quimby paddle is a 33 inch shaft length and I have that number fixed to memory. The blade length does not count. I can paddle with a 35 inch shaft but my top hand then is unnaturally high and I dont like it.

Agree about shorter and cross…
One other consideration is whether you utilze an in-water recovery with your forward stroke (strictly preference)as a longer shaft makes keeping the shaft out of the water more difficult which can cause “piffle”. I had used shorter shaft lengths, went to longer shaft lengths, and now have returned to shorter. This has been a fine tuning process for me for the past several years, especially when just practicing FS.

I’m starting to believe that my 58" is too long and maybe my 54" is too short.

It sounds like I don’t need to change anything just for Freestyle.


paddle length
We probably need to remember that few of us make our living paddling, so most personal choices are fine.

That said, while some may give up on cross strokes due to physical limitations or solo use of a tandem hull, cross strokes are the best initiation of forward, onside, turns, and if one want to do cross sideslips and cross wedges…

lastly, in our development as solo paddlers, the ability to paddle a cross inside circle is one of the final milestrones. Give the cross forward up if you want, there are no real consequences, but you’re leaving lots of fun stuff on the table.

An easy clinic fit for a straight paddle is to get a good grasp on the top grip. Drop that hand, without allowing it to shift down to ~ crotch level, The junction between blade and shaft should be at hair level or an inch above.

Final fit is individual and often hull specific.

depends on paddling positions too:
if you use a high kneel position too when FreeStyling,

a longer paddle than ‘normal’ is a compromise that could be made.

Going To AFS?
If so, will look forward to seeing you there.

love to guess at who you really are
But I will find out.

I will be there.

tough call
high kneel is usually a pose for forward axle and perhaps wedge… For post you better have good dental insurance. For christie…well I will let CEW barge in…non move. So for the axle placed next to the hull in high kneel position, you might be thinking the old school axle where the blade was out there. Very few people do high kneel wedge. Not only is it risky but few boats require it.

Most of FS paddling is done in the power and set up and there high kneeling is not done…and its never done for reverse moves.

If you need a longer paddle temporarily, feel free to choke up and move that bottom hand up to the grip.

Post AFS Update
Well I started with the 54" Mitchel which was fine for the onside manuvers but then on Monday afternoon I took Charlie Wilsons Forward Stroke clinic.

The first thing I learned was that to carve the inner circle in my Osprey I needed to heel away from the paddle. No way I could get the blade in the water on the offside with the 54". Fortunately Charlie had a longer spare which he lent me for the class. I used my 57" Bending Branches Traveler for the rest of the classes and that seemed to work out well though it’s a narrower blade than most of the Freestylers were using.

I did meet some Pnetters but I never did find out who canoeist11 is.

For power cross strokes
it makes sense to use a longer paddle. Its pretty hard to choke way up and do cross power strokes ala whitewater (my ww blade is pretty long!); its quite ineffective.

For FS cross maneuvers, I maintain its not necessary…

If you dive into the power cross you can get away with a shorter paddle…when I was watching you do inner and outer circles you werent diving but I dont know which paddle you were using at that time. If it was the longer one you may have lost the need to dive your body forward. You did have neat inward spirals!

I suppose the final answer is to gaggle up with a bunch of like minded different people all whom have a different paddle…at least in length.

Your Osprey is some wider ahead of the bow thwart than other solos were and that surely is a factor in deciding how much shaft length you need.

Thank you for letting me try it…its been some years since I paddled one and I had forgotten what a big volumed boat it was.