how to measure
So.. how long should my canoe paddle be?
There are many different paddles out there with different shaft/blade proportions.
People also have personal preferences based on what they're used to and what feels comfortable to them.
There is no right or wrong.
However this guide is based on what works best with OUR various paddle blades.
And it's also based on the recommendations of canoeing legend Omer Stringer.
Experts are interested in paddling efficiency for better performance.
This happens when you have the ideal distance between your hands on the shaft and use the paddle as a fulcrum.
There is a traditional wisdom that says the grip of the paddle should come to somewhere between your chin and nose.
This may get you into the right zone... but not everyone is exactly proportional to their height.
And remember, your legs don't enter the equation because they're folded under you in the canoe.
More important are the width of your shoulders, the length of your arms and the length of your torso.
The formula is pretty straightforward.
Find your shaft length, then add it to one of our blade lengths.
*All of Bruce's paddles are tweaked if necessary to make sure that the paddle is always balanced properly overall.
Again, this kind of precision can only come when each paddle is completely carved by hand from a maker with skill and experience.
Here's what to do...
Grab a broom or something with a long shaft.
Position yourself in front of a mirror.
Grip the broom shaft as if it were a paddle but with the palm of one hand flat against the end and the other hand wrapped around the shaft further down.
Raise the broom horizontally and rest it on the top of your head.
Slide the hand wrapped along the shaft until:
- Both forearms are bent inward from elbows at just under 90° - actually closer to 87°.
- Head is centred perfectly in the middle between your hands.
Lower the broom maintaining your grip on shaft.
Pretend the broom is actually a paddle.. take a few "strokes".
The hand placement should feel comfortable for your upper body if you followed the instructions.
Measure from end of the broom (1st picture)..
to outside of your lower hand (2nd picture)..
which shows 32" in this case.
This is your shaft length.
Our Blade Lengths
Bruce Smith Classic 27"
Modified Ottertail 27.5"
Morning Mist 29"
Your shaft length + the blade length of your choice = paddle length
- We rarely recommend going shorter than 56" (unless exclusively soloing) as it's difficult to reach the water over the edge of the canoe, especially from the bow.
- You can refine the overall length by 1/2" - 1" if you almost exclusively solo or style paddle (shorten) or trip or always sit in the bow (lengthen).
- If you can't measure or estimate on your own because the paddle is a gift - provide us with the following information about the person and we'll help determine a good length:
- Gender (optional but often helpful)
- T-shirt size (optional but often helpful)
- Height (estimate if unknown)
- Shoulders (wide, average or narrow)
- Arms (long, average or short)
- Torso (long, average or short)