Single blade vs double blade efficiency?

It seems that I see a lot of people claiming that using a double blade paddle in their canoe is more efficient than using the single blade paddle and that they can paddle the same boat faster and farther with a double blade (kayak) paddle than they can with a single blade canoe paddle.

That’s not my experience. It’s my perception that it takes the same amount of energy and effort to move a boat through the water at a sustained speed over time regardless of whether you’re using a double blade paddle or a single blade paddle (the boat’s drag doesn’t change when you change paddles). I think that which paddle you choose within the sub groups of double blades and single blades is more important than whether it’s a double blade or single blade.

I suspect that a person’s perception of which type of paddle is more efficient or faster in their canoe is more related to the particular paddles they’ve tried, their physical conditioning and skills with each type of paddle than it is with whether single blades or double blades as a group are more efficient or faster than the other.

It is easier for me to paddle upstream in shallow & fast water with a double blade paddle than with a single blade paddle because the current is trying to push the bow of the canoe from side to side and I can’t get the single blade deep enough in the water to get the power I need to make progress. The double blade also has some advantage for bracing in waves.

For me, I get tired faster using a double blade in a canoe than when I use a Zaveral bent shaft in the same boat, even when the double blade is a relatively small bladed paddle like the Epic Relaxed Tour. It is true that I haven’t tried a double blade in a canoe designed for a double blade, such as the Placid Rapidfire, so that colors my perceptions and observations.

What are your thoughts?

not mine
I have never had a wind day with a double blade going upwind in my solo.

to some degree that is because I am not skilled in hit and switch particularly at a high cadence…I have dropped paddles that way in four foot seas.

With a db I never have to let go…

Torso rotation is the same principle in avoiding being tired. Often people skilled at one blading discipline use it out of habit but not at another paddling discipline.

2008 Olympics had the following results:

500m C1 - 107s

500m K1 - 97s

1000m C1 - 230s

1000m K1 - 206s

Not fair
K1 17" by 17’

C1 22" by 17’

Surface area makes a bigger difference than blade numbers.

It’s all about the paddler. Match boats, and my high cadence single blade form will run away from any double bladed paddler. Double blade technique keeps the blade out of the water longer than good form with a single blade. My catch is further forwards, my stroke is perfectly vertical and as close to the centerline of the boat as possible and the release is at the apex of the power stroke. You can’t have all three with a double bladed paddle. I think most people will talk about double blades as being more efficient and faster but that is only because they are more intuitive to use and are a band-aid to learning proper form.

I defer
ICF rules that K1 and C1 have max length of 520cm

C1 are capped at 16kg, while K1 comes in at 12kg.

1000m isn’t very far.

– Last Updated: Nov-05-08 4:36 PM EST –

I don't think 1000m qualifies as "over distance" for most paddlers.

Edit: I also specified double blade vs single blade in the same canoe, not canoe vs kayak.

Admit it

… deep down in your heart you know kayakers are more efficient paddlersso if I can paddle a canoe then you can paddle with a double blade.

BTW I have paddled canoes with both and my kayak with a single blade and they were all fun.

Besides it gives some something to squak about.

Paddlin’ on


several years back I raced in the Back to the chattahoocie race. There were several Jensen/Minn2 style boats there where the teams were useing

Double paddles. I was racing with the strict paddler

using Zavs. Debbie and I came in first overall for the Canoes. We whumped most of the kayakers also(not all of course as they had some really good kayakers there.)

Point is that using a double blade doesn’t mean you

do not have to practice. Lifting weights at the gym is nice but Butt in boat time is the final factor.

Single Blades Rule
I used to use a double. Back in the dark ages. Maybe it was the lite ages?

I used a double to power my MR Explorer solo in the wind. I used doubles in my touring kayaks.

But I don’t paddle sit in the bottom boats any more. If I’m paddling my Explorer in the wind it’s loaded up.

Since I got my Zav and got my stroke rate up, I find the extra blade a liability in the wind. The extra weight of a double doesn’t please me either.

For me there’s no advantage to the double except maybe to hang a paddle float off of. Oh yeah it can be nice to have that brace on both sides!

But I rarely use my doubles any more. A nice light single with a good catch is all I want to paddle.


We havn’t heard from McWood.
Once he chimes in this subject can be officially laid to rest.

Until next year.


Apples and Oranges
One must define the method of single blad paddling before beginning any comparison. If you paddle the inside circle in a sport solo much your stroke is devoted to maintaining a course. In this case a DB will likely be more efficient because there will be little yaw between alternating strokes. I higher blade angle will reduce this further. If you paddle a straight keeled solo hit and switch each stroke will be devoted to power as the blade will be closest to the keel line thus reducing yaw. Any yaw will be corrected at the switch. In this comparison a DB doesn’t fare as well though some may perceive so. Since my paddling time is pretty evenly split between a sea kayak and a sport solo canoe I will likely be able to kick my own ass over any given distance with a DB. I might just have to take my Shockwave out on the local rowing course and do a comparison though I may in fact commit one of the greatest sins of mankind paddling a Shockwave with a DB. I’ll probably have to do it at night so nobody will see me.

OK, consider Molokai

– Last Updated: Nov-06-08 9:52 AM EST –

Outriger canoe - fastest at 4:17:16 with pace 6:26/M
Surfski - fastest at 3:40:26 with pace 5:31/M


single blading with a double blade
Going straight into the wind, I prefer a double blade so that I don’t have to waste time and energy with a correction stroke.

But it is fairly rare that the wind is dead in my face. More frequently, the wind comes from one side. With the double blade, I don’t have a correction stroke, and end up paddling more on downwind side of the boat to steer it back upwind. At that point, I’d rather use a single blade, even in my sea kayak.

This thread surprises me because I thought it fairly well established that single blades are more efficient, if not faster, simply because the weight of the paddle is supported by the water. The double blade must always be carried by the paddler. With extremely light paddles like a ZRE, the paddle’s buoncy even partially supports the weight of the paddler’s arms. No double blade does that.


Same boat, different paddle - repeat
after me: Same canoe, but comparing single blade vs double blade.

Comparing canoes and kayaks makes absolutely no sense within the frame of the original question. Comparing one boat vs another boat makes absolutely no sense within the frame of the original question.

Your question was regarding efficiency of a type of paddle - viz double blade vs single blade.

You probably have enough experience to notice that getting good with a type of paddle requires dedication, hence your question would be better posed asking which paddle is most efficient provided people are skilled with it. Additionally, getting the most out of paddle requires adjustments to seating, hull, etc.

You make a good point.
I’m just frustrated with people posting that they can paddle their canoe 10mph for 100 miles with a kayak paddle, but only 3mph for 2 miles with a canoe paddle. Ok, that was a bit of an exageration, but I think you get my point.

Those are probably people familiar with only kayak paddling, try a canoe with a single blade and no practice or instruction, can’t figure it out and then try their familiar kayak paddle in the canoe and go “wow, this is so much faster and easier than using the kayak paddle, I’ll never use the single blade again”.

For me, it’s probably a physical conditioning issue. My single blade muscles appear to be better conditioned than my double blade muscles. I’m not in very good condition for either type of paddling, but have began off the water conditioning in the last month or so and hope to be in better paddling condition next season.

Sometimes, not always
When a proper, foam cored carbon double blade is used with the more effective vertical stroke, paddles weight is supported by the in-water blade. Try AT’s Exception OS or Werner’s Kalliste or Ikelos, preferable all w/ crank shafts.

Old Newbie Noein’ With a GP
and it seems to be workin well with my W-Vagabond solo. Lets me run with many yak friends (I’m the lone noer around here at the moment :slight_smile: especially on windy open stretches until I improve my single blade skills. Much easier to stroke smoothly and with less joint/tendon pain than euro doubles I’ve used. Just spent some water time with BillB looking my paddling style and skills for length and blade width needed, and looking toward a 260cm one (long for a GP) to help clear gunnels and get plenty of blade in. Bill hopes to have it in my hand by Dec, and will keep experimenting over the winter and share results. Rick

When I first got a solo canoe

– Last Updated: Nov-06-08 5:10 PM EST –

(a Sawyer Shockwave) I was faster with the carbon Werner San Juan I was used to paddling than with the (new for me) Zav rec paddle I bought for the canoe.

Over time I practiced more with the single and got better with it and now, 12 years later am far faster in the long run (an hour or more of paddling time) with the single.

I tried experimenting with this again this summer (as I do most seasons) in my Voyager, trying the San Juan and Camano paddles and the Zav outrigger paddle I use 95% of the time in the canoes, I an faster with the Zav for anything more than a sprint of 200' or so, and about the same even in the sprint.

I find that I have the paddle in the water for more of the time in a fast cadence stroke with the Zav than the double blade. This is somewhat do to the higher seating position in the canoes I am testing in.

I also would say it is because in the last several years I have had the Zaveral paddles in my mitts for many many more hours than a double.

long distance racer perspective
A guest post in my fitness paddling blog in context of the last Missouri River 340 including some comments on paddles:

TX Paddler Tips on Ultra Marathon Kayak & Canoe Racing and Training

I paddled that race in Sea Wind canoe with a single blade. Another Sea Wind paddler using all (or most) time a double blade was about one 1 hour faster. Well I spent sometime shooting pictures.