Single vs. double paddles....

Good point. Those overhanging
rhodedendron thickets are a problem even for the upper blade of a kayak paddle, and the much longer double blade needed for a canoe just makes for even more misery.

Just separate the two halves of the
paddle. It works, not as well as a single. But, I agree, a single is better in those conditions, even with a kayak. Carry one as a spare in my kayak.

single vs double
Lots of good points. I’ve paddled double blade in my Blue Hole canoe ever since my wife bought me one so she wouldn’t need to paddle when we were dating.(22 yrs ago). She now paddles her own boat and I am considering switching to a single blade because most canoe races won’t allow a double blade. Here’s my problem, I do most of my paddling standing up. My long double blade allows me to, but can I find a really long single blade, and will I be able to switch sides and maintain balance, or will I be stuck with inefficient “J” strokes?

single vs double
Finding a stock single blade long enough to use while standing may be a problem. Of course I could build you one of any length you’d like.

I have to disagree with you about the J stroke being inefficient. If the entire forward stroke is done correctly and efficiently, the amount of correction needed should be minimal and thus should not be inefficient. Try a slight or moderate C at the beginning of the stroke, especially on the 1st stroke to get the boat moving. Keep the paddle shaft vertical and the stroke straight (don’t follow the curve of the gunnel). You’ll find the amount of J needed to be minimal and it won’t slow the boat appreciably.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

2nd thought about glide, which Eric…
…brought up above. A better comparison to paddling, rather than walking, is Nordic skiing, in which you glide as well as push, a la paddling. On xc skis, when I did it, I always used two poles (double paddle), not one (single paddle).

Old debate
This one has been hashed out many times and this thread has dropped to the second page now – never was very quick on the draw… Anyway, here’s my take on it – FWIW: One can plod along with a two-fer in a canoe. It’s easy to do, there’s little or nothing to learn – it’s about like messin’ around in a punkin’ seed, no skill required – anyone can do it. Or one can delve into the finer points of canoeing and in doing so enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with attaining improved boat control - and grace. To be sure canoe control – the dance of solo canoeing - also entails weight shifts and body movements. Those who have taken on the challenges of becoming an actual student of the canoe and who are using a single blade can travel & maneuver with aplomb. There’s just no comparing that sort of skilled paddling with waddlin’ along with a double. Yes, one can charge into fierce winds with a double, no doubt about that. But most of the time we’re out there in more pleasant circumstances enjoying ourselves with our boats in nature. A single blade paddler who has learned his/her lessons moves along quietly and elegantly, their canoe gliding quietly through nature; a silent observer with the best seat in the house. No “bull-moose” water splashing or crashing down streams with wild paddle waving…

Why not experience canoeing to its fullest potential? Why deny yourself the pleasures of mastering new skills? Why not get in touch with the methods the ancients used when paddling their open canoes? These are all rhetorical questions of course…

Personally I try to keep learning new tricks as I age. I’ll never be a competition Freestyler and I’m at peace with that, but I can keep learnin’ and (hopefully) improving as a paddler. And yes, I have indeed become a more graceful/more efficient paddler since I decided to actively study the use of the single blade. Works for me – others have different views – okay by me. RK

Hear! Hear! Arkay!

Well said Arkay

Another "well said’ from me.

As I think I indicated before, we each…
…choose to get what we want from canoeing. For me, it’s about moderate exercise and enjoying the outdoors, preferably with others. For you, it sounds akin to learning ballet. Good for you, but I’m choosing to learn other things.

To each his/her own. My opinion largely dealt with the “why bother?” aspect of your query. Becoming a skilled paddler answers that question. But we all have our individual interests; some don’t want to be bothered with such things. Carry on. RK

Dats wat ah’ calls de Mojo

– Last Updated: Jan-10-08 1:54 PM EST –

Yer gots ta work at it ta git it, an' once yer git it, yer knows yer got it... or somethin' like dat.


Ballet, huh?
Tapelgam says:

“For you, it sounds akin to learning ballet. Good for you, but I’m choosing to learn other things.”

Learning a decent canoe stroke is not akin to learning ballet. It’s more like graduating from ‘jumping up and down’ to doing basic dance steps.

You don’t develop a good paddle stroke just to look pretty. It’s about covering distances with the least effort. Watch a good paddler: he doesn’t lift the weight of the padddle any more than necessary; the power stroke of the paddle is where the paddle is perpendicular to the water; and minimal effort is exerted to correct the canoe’s direction. Good paddling is doing 20,000 strokes in a day and having all that energy directed at moving the canoe from where you was to where you want to be.

Now … ballet in a canoe … that’s another thing! There are people on this site who can show you ballet in a canoe. Once you’ve seen them in action, you won’t confuse the efficient paddlers with the incredible paddlers.

more than that
I use a single blade not because of the stokes but for the less wear and tear on the shoulder joint/muscles/tendons over time. Effieciency ='s speed, Comfort='s speed too.

I know plenty of double bladers and many have developed shoulder problems…why? Well its not a normal/proper or effiencent position for the shoulder to be in. Ask any dr. massage therapist, PT etc etc. Look at a base ball pitcher? Same position…i.e raising your shoulder overhead and forward thrust etc etc. With a single blade you end up using your back, torso, and NOT the shoulder…

Plus a single blade is LESS tireing…less tireing means more comfort, and more effiecnt too. If your tired your not going to use a proper stroke.

Read the simple math below what I previously used:

Double Blade weight = 23 oz.

Single Blade weight = 7oz.

(I use a carbon fiber Zav now)

Note: the Double Blade(DB) is exactly 1 pound MORE than my Single Blade(SB)

I paddle about a 50 stroke rate per minute;

SO with a DB, in ONE minute I lift 1150 OZ.

With a SB in One Minute I lift 350 OZ.

So i lift 800 Oz of weight MORE every minute using my DB which is 50 POUNDS! (IN ONE MINUTE)

I typically paddle 10 hour days on trips.

So in a ten hour paddle day:

With my DB I lift = 30,000 LBS or 15 Tons more weight than my SB paddle in the coarse of a 10 hour paddle day. I use to be tired when i used the DB but not now. I have more energy to either continue to paddle or enjoy at camp etc. If you had to shovel 15 tons of dirt more than me will you be more tired? I would think so, in addition to the wear and tear on the shoulder muscles.

Plus the entra weight you have to push forward during WIND…with the double blade …pushing the exposed end against the wind. Its more work.

Again, you can do what you want. I switched so i am not tired, worn work, wearing my shoulder joint so i can paddle when im in my 80s’s

food for thought.

double blades causing shoulder injury?
I try to avoid discussions like this as it usually seems to be “the equipment I own, technique I prefer” is best, with those with similar equipment/technique chiming in to agree and put down those who differ. However, the certainty of the opinions expressed has made me rise to the bait.

I paddled canoes, solo and tandem, on ww and flat, for 30 years using single blades. I have been paddling kayaks also for five years and still enjoy paddling both.

Three years ago I fell on ice while hiking. A skilled surgeon needed 3 hours to put my shoulder back together. Now, if I paddle with a single blade my shoulder starts aching in a hour and gets real bad in 2-3 hours. A narrow double blade, with a flexible shaft, used with trunk rotation allows me to paddle all day. So, for at least me, a double blade is less stressful on shoulders when canoeing and kayaking.

Any paddler who is positioning hands above shoulders during the stroke is risking shoulder issues. Young racers who have conditioned their bodies can usually use a high angle stroke. For the rest of us using double blades, as we get older, a lower angle stroke is easier on our bodies. Trunk rotation when using double blades is also desirable technique, and for me with my shoulder issues absolutely necessary.

While freestyle paddling interests me, and I’ve dabbled with it, I’ll never be able to do much with my old body. However, to state that only single blade canoeists can make their craft dance is wrong. I have see Nigel Foster make a kayak dance. I watched Karen Knight do a freestyle demonstration in her Flashfire and then climb into a kayak and repeat the same moves with the same grace. Of course they are both superior paddlers.

A thought- My kayak paddles are Greenland and Aleutian style. So with 1/2 of a wooden blade in the water providing flotation the effective weight would be reduced somewhat. I think the math would have to be redone to compare those paddle weights with single blade weights. Anyway, without math, they did work for a few thousand years for people who’s life depended on them.

Use the equipment that works for you and realize that there is never an absolute- even if single blades were truly superior for whatever reasons, for at least this old guy (62 with a reconstructed shoulder) a narrow, flexible shaft double blade is less stressful on my shoulders.


I have a double blade but hardly
use it. I decided that if I wanted to be a better paddler, I should stick with the single blade since I’d soon forget the basics when I’d switch back from a double. I kind of feel that I’d be better off just getting a kayak if I wanted to use a kayak paddle. I find that paddling with a single efficiently is a challenge that I enjoy so just gave up on the double blade use.

I have a single blade but hardly use it.
I’ve paddled so many years with a double that it feels funny to paddle with the single. So i got a canoe designed to be used with a double.

Both Types Have Their Place!
I have found that single blade and double blade paddles each have uses in various conditions and in different types of canoes. To say one is to be used in exclusion to the other is not rational.

I own a 16’ Navarro Loon Touring Canoe and have a custom made spray cover for use in rough water and high winds. I use a double blade kayak paddle when in rough water and high winds, and a single blade straight or bent paddle for all other times. My advice! Use whichever paddle feels most comfortable for the type of conditions and canoe you are using!

I take both on extended trips.

I never did much dancing…
but I’ve been told I have great style and beautiful moves paddling my solo canoe, with a single blade. It is so much fun.

my take
well hell, not much i can add that hasn’t already been said here. there seems to be every reason to use both or either type of paddle. for full out forward speed and efficiency, sure, a kayak paddle is the ticket though.

what is really cool about a canoe paddle is the fact that the upper hand is horizontal on a butt end. the pear, or t grip is just so nice to use and to control blade pitch with. i’m a dedicated paddler, both canoe and kayak, and i love em both. when i get into my canoe, after much kayaking, which is the norm for me now, i just love the feel of a canoe paddle, and the different sense, and ease on my wrists that the butt end provides.