Single vs. double paddles....

…(I know this has NEVER been discussed here-joke). I was out powerwalking with my bride, using hiking poles, and it occurred to me, that walking is much more efficient with the two poles. I tried a few steps using one, on one side, and it screwed things up. Even switching didn’t help. I think it’s the same physical principle that led me to use my double all the time in my solo canoe, and if I was in a tandem, I’d still use it. I know a lot of paddlers enjoy learning and using intricate single-blade techniques, but for me, why bother? I’ve had no problem maneuvering with a double, even in tight places. Seems to me all strokes are variations and combinations of pushing, drawing, and prying, whether single or double.

That’s what I thought, too
But after trying the single blade, I noticed that my boat was significantly drier. When using a double blade, water drips on my body from the blade before water reaches the drip ring. But if you do low angle paddling using a long paddle this should not a problem.

You can use a double-paddle, but
is that actually “canoeing”? Seems like you’ve just changed the activity you’re engaged in.

If you really want to address the “why bother?” issue, get one of those “canoes” with transoms and slap a small motor onto it.

I thought it had something to do with…
…enjoying getting out on the water. I suppose one could invent a paddling machine, similar to rowing machines in gyms, and never have to go out at all. Just kneel/sit in the machine and paddle one-sided (or switch) to your heart’s content.

To each his own
If you’re happy with the double, that’s all that matters. Double blades were very common when Rushton-type pack canoes were popular.

I find that a single blade just feels more elegant in a canoe on flatwater. I also don’t like the feel of a double blade in my canoe – I’m used to a high-angle stroke with a short paddle in the kayak, and a long double-blade feels awkward to me.

The only practical advantage I can give is that a single is better for sneaking up on wildlife – there’s no blade waving in the air above your head.

That’ll do ur …

I use a single bent or 230cm double.

My 230cm double weighs 22oz. It does drip a lot of water on me and in the boat, but I prefer the better (for me) stroke mechanics and higher cadence of the shorter double blade paddle over the longer ones. More leverage can be attained by shifting your grip towards one end and extending the paddle.

Which model of double blade matters a lot to me for whether I’ll use it or not. I prefer smaller bladed paddles such as the Epic Relaxed Tour all carbon and AT Xception SL over paddles such as the carbon Werner Camano, which is more effort per stroke to use. Larger bladed / higher loaded paddles are too hard on my shoulders and require too much effort for me to use very long.

I also find the double blades to be inconvenient when paddling along shorelines with overhanging trees.

I use the double blades mostly with decked canoes and canoes with tumble home and narrow gunwales.


I use a 10oz carbon bent shaft most of the time.

They drip much less water in the boat double blades and mine weighs less than half as much as my lightest double blade.

Especially nice in ruddered canoes.

Less wind resistance than double blades since there isn’t a blade up in the air all the time.


In most I prefer the single most of the time but will also use the double occasionally for a change of pace / muscle usage. In some boats I use single blades exclusively, the double doesn’t feel right. In one canoe, I prefer the double most of the time and rarely use the single blade.


That some people dislike either the single or double blade in a canoe because they just have used a paddle that’s matched well to them and the boat.

When I first paddled a canoe solo, I used a long double blade because it was easy to keep the boat straight and I didn’t have a single blade paddle that I liked.

When I got a good single bent shaft, I stopped using double blades because I didn’t have any that I preferred over the good bent shaft single.

I now have single blade and double blade paddles which are pretty well matched to me and the canoes that I paddle and am happy to use either, depending on the situation.

I’ve read your boat reviews and you appear to be very satisfied with your long double blade in the Vagabond and that’s great. I test paddled a royalex Vagabond last summer and it seems to work great with either a single blade or double blade paddle.

Happy paddling.


"I’ve read your boat reviews and you appear to be very satisfied with your long double blade in the Vagabond and that’s great. I test paddled a royalex Vagabond last summer and it seems to work great with either a single blade or double blade paddle."

when I used to own a vagabond my main paddle was a 230 double. It felt good to use the double in that canoe as well as a bent shaft. I’ve tried to use a double in the Bell Merlin II and my new Hemlock Kestrel and I can’t see the benefit over a single blade. And as you say, it doesn’t feel right in these boats but does in the Vagabond. I don’t know why that is as I am not versed on canoe design.

Only 28" Gunwale in Vagabond
That is probably why.

I am pretty much following Yanoer’s learning curve. I enjoy learning the single blade strokes, but don’t mind using a double blade sometimes for a change. That said, thank God I haven’t got the Yanoer Syndrom searching for the perfect paddle.

don’t think that is the reason
my Kestrel is 27.5 max beam with gunwale width at 25.5 inches. Much narrower than my vagabond.

I have no trouble with drippage
On high angle power strokes the AT Exception SL. I am a long time low angle tourer that finds the double gives me a change of pace and has meant more than one escape in the winds up near Hudsons Bay. A 230 worked in my 28" solo and it seems to work in all the others I have(all in that same general range with normal depth).

Bottom line is I have never been wet. The AT seems to be engineered (I am no paddle expert though I have several dozen single and double blades) to shed water before issuing you a shower.

My 230cm AT Xception Tour SL drips on me
and in my boat with a high angle stroke. My SL Tour is fixed at 45 degree feather.

Maybe you pause more between strokes to take advantage of the glide than I do or use a slower cadence.

doble blade paddle.

I have some canoes and kayaks…and last summer i did try just for the fun off it to use my kayak paddle on my canoes.


its was so mutch fun and faster.

love it.


I use the double blade primarily.
But, do switch if paddling a long distance. The singe provides a respite, use of a bit different muscles. But, over all, my Sandpiper seems to paddle better with the double.

Sandpiper and OT Pack…
do paddle better with a double, in my opinion. Vagabond does well with either.

I use both, but mostly a single blade. Lots of the strokes I use in a double are high angle, and yep, they get me wet. But I like the double if paddling upstream on the rivers I frequent. It’s more of a power stroke, and you need the momentum that the faster cadence and lack of correctional strokes that the double blade allows. Otherwise though, the single blade is more fun, easier on the body, more elegant, better for maneuvering in narrow spots, better on small, brushy creeks, better for the myriad of correctional strokes I make with one hand while holding a fishing rod in the other.

Got used to using the double paddle
like a single when kayak fishing. It works even better with the Sandpiper, easier to get to it. A couple of guys I know use ping pong paddles to scull with, seems to work well for them.

I’m a recent convert to a double blade in the canoe. I primarily use a Fox 260cm blade in my Prism. It goes fast enough that I start making motorboat noises with my lips. A single staight shaft works great when I want to lollygag.

the sandpiper, prism, vagabond are all wenonah boats that do real well sit/switch. They also paddle well using a double blade.

For those with more insight, why do some solo canoes especially the ones I just mentioned better suited to the double blade than say, a Bell Merlin or Wildfire or even a Hemlock? Just curious.

Single vs. double paddles
One issue that I’ve not seen mentioned much in this discussion is maneuverability, especially in tight quarters.

If you love to paddle intimate, tight twisting streams and I do, single blades have a distinct advantage. You can use all the the freestyle techniques to spin and slide your canoe around turns and past obstructions far more efficiently than you could even dream of with a double. I often paddle waterways that are not much wider than the canoe itself. Obviously, a bouble would be problamatic under such conditions. As for the argument that you can always hold the double vertical for a few strokes, that doesn’t work either when the tree canopy is only a foot or two overhead.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works