Round or square

What’s the difference or preference between the two. I seem to remember from scouts that the appropriate length is to your chin however I’m stymied by the different blade styles.

Please advise.


Are you referring to canoe paddles?

Yes canoe paddles
Mea culpa.


Choosing Paddles

– Last Updated: Jun-12-07 3:55 PM EST –

The Boyscout method for choosing paddle length assumes a fairly constant-length beaver-tail paddle, a blade style you don't see so much nowadays. Total length of the paddle you choose will depend on blade length, and as you have noted, these are variable.

What you need to do is choose your paddle based on the length of the *shaft*. One method is to sit on a chair and set the paddle in front of you with the handle on the front edge of the chair. I seem to remember that the junction of the shaft with the blade should come up to somewhere around your mouth or nose, but now I'm thinking maybe it's the top of your head (I'd have to try one of my paddles to be sure, and I can't do that right now). I hope someone else addresses this and has the proper recommendation. In any case, since it is the shaft length that must fit you, the longer the paddle blade, the longer the total paddle length will be. You will want a shorter shaft than normal for sit-and-switch paddling with a bent shaft (more complications to worry about!), and you may want to adjust the shaft length a bit away from the "standard" for other reasons too, but the chair method is a good starting point.

As far as square or round blades, I assume you are refering to the end of the blade (some are rounded and some have a flat edge). I prefer a rounded edge for most paddling, and I think the big advantage of a square-edged blade is that you can get more surface area in the water with minimum depth of blade insertion, which may be more efficient for racers or if you paddle a lot of shallow water.

paddle shape
One could actually write a book about paddles, an often overlooked but extremely important part of paddling a canoe. Proper length for a particular person’s style, canoe type, freeboard, payload, water type, etc. is very important. This cannot be stressed enough. Never let anyone tell you, “just grab a paddle, length and design doesn’t matter”, because they do !

A quick method, but coarser way of selecting length is to sit or kneel on something that is just about the same height as your seat in the canoe. Place the grip on the seat between your legs ( be careful), the throat of the paddle should be somewhere between your hairline and eyebrows. Know, that length can vary depending on paddling style.

The best way, is to actually sit in the canoe and do a slow forward stroke with grip hand and shaft hand in your normal position ( provided you are doing things correctly ). The throat of the paddle should be right at the waterline. Explaining why this is important is beyond the scope of this post but please know that it is. Length may vary according to a list of factors such as water type (ww vs. lake), tandem vs. solo, canoe hull shape, payload and freeboard, torso and arm length, blah, blah, etc.

Blade shape, grip style, length, width, shoulder shape, and end shape is a similar deal. Without writing a book here, each has it’s proper place and form follows function or they wouldn’t exist would they?

Do a little research, it can mean the difference between having an efficient enjoyable paddle trip or a miserable one.