Solo Canoe Paddle choice

Hi. I have just bought a Swift Osprey that I intend to use primarily for daytrip leisurely lake paddling in the Adirondacks. I have had some tandem whitewater canoe experience where I had used a fairly broad, rectangular shaped paddle blade. In choosing a solo paddle now, I’m not sure if I should be looking at beaver tails/otter tails, or if something more like a Mitchell Ultimate would be a better choice. I mostly want to tour, but might want to play around with some freestyle strokes as well. Does anyone have any thoughts on paddles to fit this description.


I recommend keeping a double-bladed
canoe paddle on board for when conditions get rough or you need to make time. Mohawk Canoe always has them, direct sales from the internet.

You dont need a double necessarily
though a 240 will work in an Osprey. As you alluded to FreeStyle sort of touring, you will be kneeling at least some of the time and want a straight shaft paddle.

Mitchell Surreal is a favorite as well as the Grey Owl Freestyle. Both are two hundred though. A more economical but still useful paddle is the Bending Branches Espresso ST. Its about a hundred.

The Osprey like other dedicated solos responds best with a wider blade than an ottertail. A beavertail is OK but off hand I cant recall any makers of good beavertails. Most of them seem really clunky. Maybe someone else can help.

For the spare, if its not a double I use a Zaveral bent shaft. That gives me a straight blade for sitting and a bent for sit and switch. With practice you can really get going with sit and switch…to get you going in conditons where you would otherwise be looking for a double blade.

You might also just try what you already have as it sounds like a Sugar Island shape. However if its got a T grip you will like a pear shape better for touring. T grips and J strokes seem to be an ouchy match…the grip kind of digs your palm.

Otter or Beaver
I think an otter or beaver would be a good choice for a more traditional design for use with a solo canoe. There are a lot of really nice hand crafted canoe paddles on the market. Take a look at Badger Paddles, made up near where the Swift boats are made. I also like the Mitchell Sureal for its fine edge, Zaveral Z Medium for the weight and Bending Branches Espresso for value.

I use a ZRE
I have a medium weight, straight shaft. I have been using it exclusively for three or four years. I had a Grey Owl wooden paddle that I used before that. Personally, I don’t care for double bladed or bent shaft paddles.

You’re getting a wide range of advice,
but your core need is for a high quality paddle to go with a high quality boat.

You need to decide whether you will be kneeling most of the time, or sitting. If you prefer sitting, maybe you would like to use a bent shaft for its efficiency.

If you prefer kneeling, then a longer straight shaft will suit.

Once you know what you will be doing, you might talk to the folks at Mitchell directly. They can help you with blade style and shaft length.

Factory, Custom
For kneeling, you’ll want a straight stick. The best factory paddle for kneeling solo canoe is the appropriately sized Gemini from Cricket. Looking to scrimp?, find paddles that look like it, with double cambered blades. Mitchell, BB and FoxWorx have workable numbers, and the Raven Carbon is pretty nice if the grip is weighted.

Custom straights are best from Dog Paddle design. Once you’ve fogured blade size, shaft girth and length out.

You’ll probably also sit some, so you’ll need a ~ 12 dg bent. Look to FoxWorx, BB, Mitchell, Cricket or ZRE. Smaller blades require higher cadences but move the boat along faster.

All those animal tail things are mathoms from an age when paddler made their own out of a tree. We don’t do that since the invention of waterproof glue, so those historical relics belong on a wall, preferable someone elses’. They inhibit horizontal recovery and cross strokes, so do not work for modern solo technique.

I don’t think so
Mohawk paddles are not made or sold by Mohawk Canoe.

I assume this is what you are referring to:

An offer, Charlie!
“so those historical relics belong on a wall, preferable someone elses’”

I have wall space, if you have too many animal-tail sticks cluttering up your abode. :wink:


Thanks Jim
But I’ve only one left, a Ray Kettlewell that I’m keeping 'cause he’s such a neat guy.

I gave away a couple, and halved and burned a couple.

Crickets look good…
Hey Charlie,

Thanks for mentioning…

About 95% of the time I agree with Charlie Wilson. Of course, there is that one in 20.

Solid Cherry from Redtail is my pick, and they aren’t too expensive. An excellent modern/traditional paddle is the Sawyer Northwoods ottertail.

Unless you like to golf with one club, paint with one brush, and drive a car with one gear . . . you’ll want a few paddles. On trips I like to take a traditional ottertail and something like a Aquabound plastic one for the rough stuff. Out for a day trip I’ll usually bring the ottertail and maybe a beavertail in a different length, or maybe a bent shaft racing paddle.

Second the ZRE Straight
That’s what I use for touring and Freestyle in my Osprey as well as other hulls.

The only times I go to something else is when the rocks get too close to the paddle or the water gets white. For those I use a BB Traveler or a Mitchel Premier.

also their design is less than efficient

– Last Updated: Jan-04-11 9:47 AM EST –

for small solos like the Osprey

Small solo canoes need a wide paddle to keep them turning or to get them turning well as they lack the mass that helps a turn going. Wide laminated blades have a long lever arm to transmit turning forces very well. This is an advantage in solo.

Not so in tandem where wide blades are a literal strain if your technique is a little off. There wide blades are best for sit and switch or rivers.

I do like ottertails in tandem or for soloing a tandem. I have lots of animals in the paddleshed and on the wall; some are works of art..(yes they should be used more). Two of my favorites are one of my three Kettlewells and a handmade Gil Gilpatrick beavertail paddle with a canoe scene burned on one side and the Allagash canoe route burnt on the other.

You never can have enough paddles. Just as a chef cannot have one knife. Since you already own a wide paddle(and having a spare is wise) get an animal tail and see the difference in how the Osprey performs with each.

We have had people show up at FreeStyle Symposia with animal tails.Because there are lots of people with lots of paddle toys there is ample chance to try out paddles. By day two the animal tail is on the shore.