Canoe Paddle Sizing for Tandem Paddling

by Kimberly Dyke
The right size makes all the difference when it comes to canoe paddles.

The right size makes all the difference when it comes to canoe paddles.

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Whether you are planning on a relaxing afternoon paddling across a peaceful flat water lake or an exhilarating race through whitewater rapids, it is important to have the proper size of paddle for tandem canoeing. Simply standing next to a paddle cannot determine the size you will need for optimal comfort, speed and strength. Instead, you should take the time to follow a few simple steps to choose your personal canoe paddle size, weight and shape. Then, simply hold on tight when the rapids come and you are sure to have an unforgettable outing.


The length of your canoe paddle is important, as a paddle that is too short will result in a day of awkwardly and uncomfortably leaning to one side to reach the water. One way to determine the length you need is by kneeling in a paddling position on the floor and measuring the distance from the floor to your nose. That distance plus the length of your paddle blade will give you the total length you will need for your canoe paddle. You can also test the paddle length while sitting in your canoe, noting that a wider tandem boat requires a longer paddle to reach the water comfortably.


Keep in mind that the more your paddle weighs, the more tired you will become while paddling. Most paddlers choose a paddle material that will be light enough to use while still providing strength with each stroke. Wood is the most common material used to make canoe paddles, as it stays warm and absorbs shock. Fiberglass is a more flexible material, more expensive and is a good choice for whitewater paddlers. Aluminum paddles are less expensive and are an excellent choice for beginners or as a spare paddle.


The size and shape of your paddle blade is also important when picking out your canoe paddle. Large and wide blades yield more powerful strokes but can also require more effort. Small and narrow blades are easier to paddle with, but your stroke will lack force. When in doubt, start with the average 8-inch by 20-inch blade and decide which blade works best for you.


Canoe paddle grips are available in a T or palm shape. For a more natural feel, many paddlers select the more comfortable palm grip to canoe on still water. A T-shaped grip allows a paddler to have more control of the paddle and is easier to hold on to in rougher whitewater. T-shaped grips are usually easier for children to hang on to when canoeing as well.

About the Author

Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.

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