solo paddling

I have been wondering lately if using a kyak paddle will give me an advantage when paddling a canoe solo against the wind, or up swift current. Will this help my speed and tracking ability?

How good are you with your single paddle?

When I paddle my canoe, I leave my paddle in the water longer and steer as I pull the paddle back for ward (Canadian stroke) for another power stroke. This, for me, is more efficient and takes less correction than when I am paddling my sea kayak in the same wind conditions.

Speed, yes; tracking, it depends
You can definitely go faster with a double-blade. With a double-blade, I can make my Vagabond go at single-blade sprinting speeds for a prolonged time (rather than just a short sprint), and top speed with the double is significantly faster. The effect on tracking is not as easy to answer, because if you are a decent paddler, tracking when using a single isn’t usually a severe problem. In tough conditions though, you’ll probably find it easier to control your direction while maintaining forward power. This all makes it sound like there’s no good reason to use a single-blade in the first place, but that’s not true. I prefer a single-blade if I can make it do the job, and I’ve only used a double-blade for about 15 minutes over the course of this whole paddling season.

not worth it
Yes, it might help, but it’s not worth it for the ribbing you’ll take from traditionalists like me - “half the blade, twice the paddle”; “if it were easy they’d call it kayaking”; “kayaking is canoeing for dummies”; etc.

I don’t mean all that. But there is a lot of pleasure to be had by learning how to do lots of thing well with a single blade. If you stick with single-blade techniques, you’ll probably impress yourself.


Learn to paddle a canoe with a canoe paddle, and learn to paddle a kayak with a kayak paddle, and enjoy propelling each with the strokes that go with each.

I guess I am a purist and always will be and proud of it!



solo canoes single blades
Using a kayak paddle in a canoe is an aberration and a crutch. Better to learn proper stroke technique with the single.

upstream advantage
I use my solo canoe for fishing in steams and rivers. I typically use a single paddle while manuevering downstream, but for heading upstream and fighting current the double blade is more effective.

Too funny
The answers you are getting I mean.

The best answer is that you should try it and see what YOU think.

My preference is for the single blade straight shaft so I must be a REAL traditionalist…

Only this year I got a single blade bentshaft and have been trying to get better at sit & switch which is sort of like kayaking with half a paddle. In my Opsprey I can go faster switching than I can with a J stroke but so far I don’t have as good control, particularly paddling into the wind. I’ve had some luck with a kayak paddle for that but it seems to agravate my tennis elbow so I haven’t done much with it.

I think in a hard tracking boat like some of the longer Wenonah’s sit and switch is the only way to go.

I got a big old Mohawk double for paddling my 16’ Mad River Explorer solo. That boat is a bear to solo in the wind and the double comes in quite handy. I do switch to a single to run that boat through rapids because I get better control.

Sorry for rambling on. The bottom line is that some folks are happier using singles. Some like doubles. Some like both. Some of it depends on the boat you are in and the conditions you are paddling in.

So try it and see.


My experience
My experience has been when conditions are good, the double blade paddle will need fewer corection strokes (notice I didn’t say will track better) and I think you can travel faster though (perhaps) for a shorter distance.

However, when things get rough – paddling into the wind and waves, for instance – the single blade comes out. I have better control and more effective strokes with the single. I have a more effective brace.

For those that talk “tradition” of the single blade, it should be noted that the most popular blade at the turn of the (last) century was the double blade. The era of Rushton and Nessmuck. There is a lot of history for propelling a canoe with a double blade. Remeber, too, that there is a difference between a double blade canoe paddle and a kayak paddle.

Single, of course
The late, Verlen Kruger said that propelling a canoe with a single blade paddle was more efficient than using a double blade paddle. The argument he made based itself of that you get a small break from work in each stroke.

I think his experience, his milage, and the trips he took, and his solo canoes speak for themselves.

On a personal note, I can lazily push my full loaded Magic at 3.7 to 4.0 mph with a ZRE bent shaft carbon paddle. This is plenty fast to keep up with the kayaks my friends paddle. And it’s just a normal cruising pace, when I kick it in I gain .2 to .3 mph.

Plus with a single blade you have much more control over moving your boat. I have a friend, a kayaker, who is envious about how I can move my canoe with a single blade. I showed him that I could do that same in his kayak with a single blade. Told him he should switch.

I’ll be using a double paddle on my solo canoeing trips. Paddle your own boat and use what you want.


– Last Updated: Oct-05-05 4:13 PM EST –

It should be further noted the canoes of Nessmuck and Rushton were small (9-10'), had shallow depths and narrow beams. Not the long wider canoe of today. They sat on the bottom in the bilge not on seats.

The canoes made by Placid Boatworks are made for the double blade. But even then I preferred to use a single.

Double/single blade
I’ve heard/read/observed the following in my years of paddling canoes:

Doubles work best with low center of gravity or “sit-on-butt” style canoes – like Wee Lassies, etc.

Doubles can help you propel your canoe forward in a straight line (more or less) with less skill required than a single.

Obviously every stroke with a double is an extended broad sweep so the straight line part is relative… it’s actually a quickly counteracted zigzagging motion.

Some people claim an advantage with a double while paddling into strong wind.

Others claim an advantage with a single while paddling into strong wind (these people have mastered underwater recoveries and advances strokes).

Since a double is used more horizontally than vertically some claim an advantage to a double in thin water (for obvious reasons).

The learning curve is short with a double – there ain’t much to it (well, there is torso rotation, but that should be learned with both styles of paddles).

Singles can easily take a lifetime to master.

Doubles make more noise than a single (if the single paddler is skilled).

Doubles drip more water into your boat than a single.

A skilled single paddler can paddle all day with a dry boat and lap (WW and/or wave action not withstanding of course).

A skilled single user can move/spin his/her canoe with a myriad of different maneuvers not possible with the less controllable double.

Some people can dance with a canoe using a single – never heard that said about a double.

Some people snicker at the idea of dancing with their canoes. These people will never “get it”. Their loss, not mine.

Which is more “traditional”? Hard to say. The English in the 19th Century (after McGregor) favored doubles. Doubles were also very popular in the Adirondacks and other parts of the East until early in the 20th Century more or less (and have been regaining popularity recently). So there IS a tradition for the use of doubles. I can certainly be wrong, but I know of no tradition for the use of doubles among native people in the North Country in their open bark canoes (if someone can enlighten me otherwise I’m all ears). One could say the use of a double in an open canoe is a relatively modern “white guy” thing.

In the end the use of a double or a single is of course up to the individual paddler. Few of us (probably none of us) earn our living with the blade – we do this to enjoy ourselves. Do what you like.

My opinion
Use what you like–just paddle.

It’s just not natural
I’m sure there’s something in the Bible about it.

Learn to drive with a manual
… and you’ll always be able to jump in an automatic.

Solo paddling thanks
I appreciate all the replies to my posting. I do have something to think about.


One more thought
Lot’s of folks (including myself) have said there is more control from a single than a double.

For me that’s only because I’ve spent far more time on single blade technique than double.

I submit that while the T or palm grip makes fine control easier and many double bladers never bother to learn, a skilled paddler can do anything with a double that can be done with a single.

Sucker’s still going to drip on you but otherwise…

“Whatever gets you through the night.”