Enjoying a canoe is hard to imagine without a good paddle. It’s an inseparable part of canoeing equipment, with an important task of propelling and steering the boat. The differences in materials, weight, and design of the paddle will shape your experience on the water.

For optimal paddling performance, it’s important to get the right paddle length and weight. This might get a bit tricky without the right guidance, so we’ll do our best to give you all the info you need when choosing. We’ve also hand-picked ten of the best canoe paddles available if you’re looking for some quick recommendations.

How To Choose A Canoe Paddle – Buying Guide


Paddle Material

To find a balance between weight and performance, canoe paddles use many different materials in their construction. The most common ones include wood, plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Regardless of which material you choose, the paddle must be strong enough to withstand water pressure (and an occasional bump).

Wood: This is probably the most attractive material for a canoeing paddle, but it’s also the heaviest (problematic when covering longer distances). In addition, every wood for canoe paddle needs to be treated with a varnish to ensure durability.

Plastic: A great choice for paddle blades and handles, plastic is very strong and rigid while keeping the weight low. It’s often used in combination with aluminum.

Aluminum: It’s the lightest material for a paddle shaft and an incredibly popular option for all lightweight canoe paddles. As a bonus, it’s very resilient to hits and completely corrosion-resistant.

Fiberglass: If you’re looking for an alternative to plastic paddle blades, fiberglass is an excellent option. It’s very strong and makes the blade highly responsive. However, it costs more than plastic.

Carbon Fiber: When talking about the strength to weight ratio, carbon fiber takes the prize. Despite being incredibly light, it delivers a powerful stroke which is why it’s popular in racing canoe paddles. Unfortunately, it’s very expensive too.

Shaft Shape (Angle)

Besides providing structural strength, the shaft can also impact the performance of a paddle. As you’ve had the chance to see in the reviews, shafts can be straight or bent.

A straight shaft is more common and generally performs better in faster-moving water. On the other hand, a bent shaft is much better for cruising across flat water, as it emphasizes stroke efficiency.

Blade Design

The blade of the paddle is the part that pushes you through the water. The blade shape plays a large role when discussing paddle performance. For example, a long and narrow blade gives optimal propulsion in flat waters (like lakes), while a model with reduced blade length works best in shallow water and rivers.

Length of the Paddle

If you want to get the most of out every stroke, your paddle needs to have proper length. This is related to your height – a taller canoeist should get a longer paddle and vice versa. Doing this will ensure that you have the right angle when using the paddle, so you don’t waste energy.

Another factor to consider is boat width. If you’re a single paddler in a wider canoe, you might need a longer paddle to reach both sides. A shorter paddle won’t get submerged properly, while a paddle that is too long might be difficult to handle. One solution here is getting collapsible canoe paddles that will allow you to adjust the length perfectly.

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Handle and Grip

The grip of the handle determines the precision and control you have over your stroke. There are two standard options – a T-grip and a Palm grip.

As its name suggests, a T-grip is shaped like the letter T and allows you to wrap your fingers around it. This gives you more power and precision, so it’s great for beginners and fast water. A palm grip is rounded, more comfortable, and a better choice for flat water.

Weight and Performance

While you might think that a heavy paddle is faster, this won’t be true if you can’t handle it properly. For this reason, we advise that beginners get a lightweight canoe paddle that won’t make the arms tired quickly. This will allow you to perform the stroking motion properly and result in better overall performance.

Canoe paddles usually weigh between 1 and 2 pounds, but even a few ounces can make a big difference after several hours on the water.

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Q: How Do I Choose A Canoe Paddle?


Two factors are important when choosing a paddle – length, and weight. You should choose the length based on your height so that both the blade and the grip are in the right position when stroking.

As for the weight, the best canoe paddles are light and won’t cause arm fatigue quickly. Carbon canoe paddles are best in this regard, but they can also be pretty expensive.

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Q: How Tall Should Your Canoe Paddle Be?


With the correct paddle length, the top hand (the handle) should be at nose height while the paddle throat is at the waterline. To measure the length outside the water, kneel on the floor and hold the paddle upright with the handle on the ground. If the length is right, the throat should be in the area between your nose and chin.

Q: How Do You Hold A Canoe Paddle?


Holding the paddle properly will result in more powerful strokes with less arm strain, so it’s good to pay attention to the technique.

The top hand firmly grabs the handle and provides precision and control. The bottom hand goes on the shaft, in a position that is at least a foot above the throat (the point where the shaft and blade meet). This position provides power to the stroke, while holding it lower or higher might cause difficulties while paddling.

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A well-made paddle is an essential piece of any canoeing adventure. Because of this, taking your time to choose the best paddle for canoe will make all the difference on the water. We hope that you’ve found the information in our reviews useful and that you can pick out a paddle that will make the time you spend on the water more enjoyable. 

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