straight shaft paddle length

I use a 52" bent shaft with my Wilderness solo. What length should I use for a straight shaft canoe paddle? Will use in sitting position.

Based on the bent length

– Last Updated: Mar-15-16 8:49 AM EST –

probably 55" or 56" BUT there is a much better way to determine the proper length. First off, it's the shaft length that matters most. You could have several paddles that vary significantly in overall length but are all correct for you, because the shaft lengths are the same. The reason is the blade, ideally, is fully or nearly fully submerged during the power portion of the stroke.

The best way to determine the correct length is to get into your canoe, in the position that you are most likely to be in when paddling; kneeling if that is your preferred position or sitting if that is the case. Take any paddle, grip it as you normally would and place the blade in the water, just forward of your hip. The blade should be submerged to the throat level. Your grip hand arm should be approximately level or angled upwards slightly, from shoulder to grip. Measure the distance from the water surface to the top of the grip. This is your shaft length.

Some folks prefer a blade that is an inch or two longer or shorter. Those who do a lot of cross maneuvers generally prefer longer, for better reach.

Wealth of information
Available in the Pnet archives.

Let your fingers do the walking.


Shaft length is not the only key. Long
narrow blades need a different shaft length than short, wider blades. So you need to know what style blade you intend to use.

If you use a shorter, wider blade and paddle rapids, I would suggest a 56 or 58 if you are of average height. I’m 6’ 5" and I use 61" paddles with 22x8" blades.

I think we are into splitting hairs so
to speak.Sure there are a variety of tweaks but for most flat boat rec paddlers non whitewater Marcs solution works the best.

An ottertail which is skinny does not need a shorter shaft than a lollipop shape blade per se but Canadian Style which usually uses an ottertail requires a very short shaft. Us

ually two feet or less. Its about body position.

good to have you back EZ

straight shaft paddle length

– Last Updated: Mar-17-16 11:15 AM EST –

Few things to add, I'm 6' 3", will be looking for a 8X20 blade, paddling lakes. Would like to add some different strokes, something my bent shaft does'nt offer. Thank you all

If you are proportional torso
to leg length start looking at blades with 37 inch shaft… ie in your case 58 inches overall

straight shaft paddle length
Can I go with 56" if seat is lowered ?

All paddles transfer force better when within a +/- 15 degrees of square to the stroke. For straights this is pretty far forward, starting forward of the knee. Hence, kneeling, which allows torso ritation from to knees and enhances forward reach to the catch, is the preferred stance for straight blade paddles.

Sitting reduces torso rotation and forward reach because the rotation starts at the Ishial spines; the bent paddle moves the +/_ window aft, nearer to the paddlers body to be within comfortable forward reach.

That said, Marc O, above has suggested a method of fitting shaft length to paddler torso in a specific hull with specific burden. I’d suggest a little longer because Marc is achieving perfection late in the stroke, That will allow the blade to ventilate, suck air down it’s backface at the catch which robs power.

I just posted an approximation
your seating or kneeling position in the boat does have a lot to do with it.

If you have a boat and water and a paddle of any kind, just sit in the boat and place the paddle in the water as if you were mid paddle stroke. The wet part does not count. Measure the dry part.

You can use closet rod too or any straight stick of any sort.

the first time I heard one that made any sense to me.

Paralysis of analysis…
Keep it simple…sometimes the first is the best. Back in the day (1960’s), when I was in scouts, the rule of thumb was (while standing) the paddle should reach your eyes for rear paddler and your chin for front paddler. Still makes for an affective stroke in the new millennium, even without applied technology…go figure?

That measurement system is pretty old timey. The longer stern paddle was to allow the J to be placed further aft, but the longer shaft upsets a tight cadence with the bow paddler. The boat is always in yaw, etc.

We want fitted paddles of similar length to encourage precise cadence. Paddlers in cadence with hands stacked across the rails, i.e. vertical shafts, using short strokes to prevent the stern from carrying the blade behind the body seldom need corrective J. And, without the cyclical yaw and drag of J correction the boat flies.

that that notion is old time. Its not that new is always better but consider.

In the 60’s the canoe stroke was to be long and carried way back, especially for the stern paddler to steer well.

Along some decades later some smart paddlers figured out that to carry the stroke too far back inevitably induced a stern sweep that the stern had to counteract with a harder J. It worked. But it was WORK! So the stroke was shortened which minimized yaw and the need for a hard correction stroke.

Now shaft length desired shortened!

Years ago long paddle shafts were de rigeur. Early Duffeks had the top hand over the head. Some paddlers figured out that was not shoulder safe. And the top hand dropped so that when you are in the canoe the grip hand should not punch you in the nose but hit you lower. At least the shoulder is safe.

That’s a Good Question
About 25 years ago, I ordered a 54 inch long Barton straight shaft carbon paddle to compliment the 51.5 inch long Barton 14 degree bent shaft paddle I already owned. I used both paddles to propel my solo outrigger canoe sitting down: using the bent shaft with the rudder on and the straight shaft with the rudder off. The advantage of the straight shaft was that both sides (front and back) of the blade were power faces, which made paddling only on one side more relaxing, since I alternated the power face on every stroke, using a wet recovery in moderate ocean chop.

Years later, when Sawyer came out with their wooden quad bend Mantra paddle, I bought the 54 inch long one. A week later, I ordered a 56 inch straight shaft version, so I could test out how well the backside of the paddle performed as the power face. The results were amazingly smooth and easy, considering the unique design of the Mantra blade (double dimples and bent tip).

Basically, when it comes to straight shafts, I prefer them longer (2 - 6 inches). Perhaps a (non-bent) telescopic SUP paddle for a short person might work?

Call me old school…
…but sometimes technology takes all the fun out of what could have been a really enjoyable experience. Constantly applying “new technology” to outdoor sports has actually eliminated much of the challenge that made them an adventure. I expect to see “Paddler 2.0” soon…a robotic front paddler that is programmable depending on what class whitewater you’re confronting. Get the picture ?? LOL !! Just sayin’…

dubious assumption about history
1960 is not that long ago, because a long time before that (hundred years or so), paddles were probably shorter.

Possibly at some time in the development of canoeing some people made a mistake regarding paddle length or just made some things up (as people often do) with the result that paddlers started to use too long paddles. And as a result some ‘old’ school paddle techniques are actually an adaption to those too long paddles-- which if you learned to paddle that way may make you uncomfortable with the ‘right’ length paddles. I know it took me some years to go from a 72" long slalom paddle to the 52" bent-shaft paddle I now use most of the time.

The problem with all those ‘dry’ paddle length formulas is also that they are often incorrect or only applicable to a certain kind of paddling, sometimes unnecessary complicated and their relation with actual paddling is often dubious, to say the least.

Also blade length can make a difference, which is probably best llustrated with a picture: